When respected scientific experts sitting on prestigious governmental advisory committees warned citizens early last year that the only way to protect themselves against Covid-19 was to shut down their businesses and stay at home until public health officials deemed it safe to come out again, most complied, even at great personal and economic cost.
The result has been one of the most far-reaching and unprecedented social experiments of modern times: the systematic and mandatory paralysis of a large swathe of normal social activity, including schooling, work, leisure, and mobility. If this giant experiment had been run on a one-off basis for a few weeks, the impact might have been moderate; but as it morphed into “rolling” lockdowns, the cure became far worse than the disease.
The question is, what have been the fruits of this giant public policy experiment? Have lockdowns actually been vindicated by their net benefits?
In order to adequately address this question, we must be clear on one thing: the appropriate benchmark for assessing the merits of lockdown policies is not just their capacity to reduce Covid infections or deaths, but their capacity to advance the overall health and well-being of affected populations.
The predictable harms of lockdowns, which will have to be carefully documented and tallied over the coming months and years, are extensive.
They include the worst global recession, according to World Bank analysts, since World War II, and dramatic increases in poverty and unemployment (currently at 25% in Ireland, including recipients of Covid payments according to the Central Office of Statistics), which are known to bring in their train declines in mental and physical health. This is also resulting in reduced public funding for healthcare due to a depressed economy; and an increase in social inequality, as day labourers and contract workers are uniquely vulnerable to the economic shock of lockdowns.
Christopher Snowdon has now done what he failed to do in his original attack on lockdown sceptics in Quillette: he has engaged with the main plank of the sceptics’ case. Our central argument, as I explained in my reply to his article, is that lockdowns cause more harm than they prevent. I cited the wealth of evidence that lockdowns are largely ineffective, as well as the equally voluminous evidence that they cause social and economic damage. And I did my best to show that while some of this harm might be a ‘pandemic effect’ rather than a ‘lockdown effect’, the non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) that governments have made across the world have exacerbated this damage.
The idea that the alternative to lockdown is to do nothing – that sceptics’ just want to “let it rip” – is a familiar straw man in this debate, and not just when Piers Morgan gets on a tear. In one of the most influential papers produced by the modelling team at Imperial College – known colloquially as Flaxman et al and published on June 11th – the researchers argued that the lockdowns in 11 European countries, including the UK, saved 3.1 million lives. But that claim was based on the assumption that 95% of the populations of those countries would have been infected with COVID-19 in the absence of any NPIs. Setting aside the fact that pre-existing immunity to SARS-CoV-2 is almost certainly higher than 5%, it’s absurd to claim that people would have just carried on as normal in the face of a global pandemic if they hadn’t been ordered to change their behaviour by their governments. Indeed, this conception of democratic citizens – as mouth-breathing troglodytes who will march towards their own destruction without a benign state forcing them to act in their own best interests – is one Chris has objected to many times before.
No doubt Chris thinks this is a fatal concession on our part since if we acknowledge that voluntary social distancing measures work, how can we deny that involuntary measures work? Here, I think, Chris has misunderstood our argument. When we say that lockdowns are largely ineffective – largely, but not completely – we are not questioning the basic logic of germ theory. Rather, our contention is that the illiberal things governments across the world have done in an attempt to control the virus have not resulted in fewer people dying than if they’d taken a more liberal approach, i.e., one that respected our individual rights and our status as rational beings capable of carrying out our own risk assessments.
Source: Some Covid Links
The possibility of climate lockdowns is already being floated by some of our greatest thinkers. They see a confluence of global crises as an opportunity. The perfect storm caused by COVID-19 and the resulting global economic meltdown offers a chance to take what they see as bold and dramatic action to save the planet. The Biden administration will certainly use the consequences of COVID to push through some green legislation, but just as before, it will not be enough in the eyes of progressives. There must always be more.
Mariana Mazzucato, an author and a professor in innovative economics at the University of London, raised the prospect of climate lockdowns in MarketWatch last September:
‘Under a “climate lockdown”, governments would limit private-vehicle use, ban consumption of red meat, and impose extreme energy-saving measures, while fossil-fuel companies would have to stop drilling. To avoid such a scenario, we must overhaul our economic structures and do capitalism differently.’
(Don Boudreaux) Tweet
Have our rulers no decency or even awareness of reality? Lockdown tyrant Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City , danced with his wife on New Year’s Eve in an almost-empty Times Square . (Why do so many people still obey Covid-19 dictators such as de Blasio and Gavin Newsom?)
Wall Street Journal columnist Holman Jenkins is understandably mystified as to why so many people are discovering the lies and half-truths told about Covid only just now.
Official lying about things large and small has been a staple of Covid politics: the letters to college students threatening them with arrest if they don’t quarantine, the interstate travel “bans” that were never enforced, the death counts that swept up anybody who died of any cause while infected with Covid.
Arguably, it began on day one. I don’t go to the doctor for a cold or flu, and neither do 80% to 95% of you. This has implications: Once Wuhan hospitals were besieged with severe cases, it was a waste of time asking ourselves if the virus was here. It was here. The blocked flights, the testing of recent arrivals were so much hand-waving so our government could be seen doing something.
The mummery has served to swathe and dilute a message that politicians were unhappy to deliver: It would be up to us citizens to control Covid the best we can.
False beliefs about COVID that nonetheless have widespread adherence in the media, academia, and parts of the epidemiology profession:
– Large numbers of Americans refuse to wear masks (Reality: mask adoption has held steadily around 80% since July https://docs.cdn.yougov.com/cimt2pupbs/econToplines.pdf)
– Large numbers of Americans are skeptical of the vaccine (Reality: 75% of Americans indicate that they plan to take it in surveys – higher than most European countries https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-1124-9/figures/1)
– Large percentages of Americans believe in conspiracy theories about COVID’s origins or believe the virus is a hoax (Reality: most of these conspiracy theories only resonate among a tiny minority of the US population, which is about the same for most other countries https://docs.cdn.yougov.com/…/Globalism2020%20Guardian…)
– The reason the spring lockdowns failed is because not enough Americans followed directions and stayed home when they were told (Reality: US mobility patterns in the spring almost exactly matched Germany, the Netherlands, and several other middle-of-the-pack European countries https://www.aier.org/article/fact-checking-fauci/)
– The reason the spring lockdowns failed is because the US reopened too early (Reality: the US reopening was slower than almost every country in Europe except for the UK https://www.aier.org/…/did-the-us-lockdown-too-late…/)
– Trump opposed the lockdowns and ignored the epidemiology models (Reality: The federal government directly and explicitly adopted a policy based on Neil Ferguson’s Imperial College model on 3/16. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-01003-6… Trump also specifically touted Ferguson’s model and spent most of the year explicitly citing its projections to claim credit for lives it supposedly saved. https://www.aier.org/…/professor-lockdown-now-claims…/)
– Trump sidelined Fauci in favor of the anti-lockdown recommendations of Scott Atlas (Reality: Fauci has repeatedly and publicly credited Trump for following his policy recommendations. https://www.huffpost.com/…/fauci-trump-listened_n… Atlas did not even join the task force until August, and was constantly outnumbered by the Fauci-Birx-Collins faction after he arrived)
Source: Some Covid Links
(Don Boudreaux) Tweet In my latest column for AIER I argue that tyranny is normally recognized as such only from the outside, including from the future. When tyranny is in progress, very many of its victims do not realize what is happening to them.
As Sarah Hoyt observes, people often vote themselves into socialism, but they wind up having to shoot their way out.
Source: On the Sensation of Tyranny
I was asked to write an explanation or defense of the Electoral College, but I find I am unable to do so. The idea of the president being selected from a temporary body, beholden to no special interests, existing for a sole purpose and too briefly to be open to pressure or corruption, is too obviously wise, sage, fair and sound to need any defense.
Nor am I imaginative to invent serious objections to it. It has no drawbacks, no weaknesses.
There are those who argue that large but few states should domineer the smaller but many states merely make an assertion absurd on it face.
If it is said that the greater population numbers of the few large states gives their interests more weight than the less populated states who outnumber the few, on the grounds of democracy, it is sufficient to say that those same grounds, with equal logic, support the opposite: for the less populated states outnumber the few.
In reality, the Constitutional system gives the Senate more weight to the smaller many states and the House of Representatives gives more weight to the larger fewer states, and so the competing interests balance nicely.
However, as a courtesy to my readers confronted with specious argument against the College of Electors, it should be sufficient to quote from the Federalist Papers.
I am gratified to note that Hamilton has that same inability as do I: he can think of no serious argument against the provision.
Here follow words from a wiser pen than mine.
Source: The Electoral College
ROBIN HANSON: 2 Lockdown Cost-Benefit Analyses.
ANALYSIS #1: One the one side are costs of economic disruption. I estimate that a typical strong lockdown cuts 27% of econ/social value gained per unit time, relative to income. (Though some double this estimate when accounting for stress and mental health harms.) If lockdown last 4 months, perhaps on and off spread out over a longer period, that’s a total of 9% of a year’s income lost.
On the other side are losses due to infection. I estimate an average infection fatality rate (IFR) of 0.5%, and half as much additional harm to those who don’t die, due to other infection harms. I estimate that eventually half would get infected, and assume the recovered are immune. Because most victims are old, the average number of life years lost seems to be about 12. (Though time discounting and quality adjustment arguably cut that figure in half.) And a standard health-econ estimate is that a life-year is worth about twice annual income. Multiply these together and you get an expected loss of 9% of a year’s income..
The speed with which officials shuttered the economy appears not to be a factor in Covid deaths.
When I posted a link to his piece on Facebook, the universal response was, “of course lockdowns work. Look at the curve!”
Stanford scientist John Ioannidis finds himself under attack for questioning the prevailing wisdom about lockdowns.
THE MONUMENTAL FAILURE OF THE CDC. The lack of preparedness at every level of government (federal, state, and local) has nothing to do with a lack of funding or inadequate staffing. Instead, it has everything to do with governments’ bloat, mismanagement, cronyism, and poor focus.