≡ Menu

Focused Protection Impractical? Compared to What?

Here’s a follow-up note to a commenter at EconLog.


There are two different avenues down which we can and should travel to assess whether or not the Focused Protection advocated in the Great Barrington Declaration (GBD) is more practical than is the alternative – namely, lockdowns – against which the authors of that Declaration warned.

The first avenue is the narrow one of asking whether or not Focused Protection is more practical than are lockdowns at protecting against Covid-19. The second avenue is more broad; on it we ask if Focused Protection is more practical or less practical than are lockdowns at protecting society.

The authors of the Great Barrington Declaration wisely travelled down both avenues.

On the first avenue: Precisely because general lockdowns and mandates combat Covid by expending resources and attention indiscriminately, had the GBD’s recommended Focused Protection been followed, these resources and attention would have been marshaled more rationally. They would have been targeted at protecting the vulnerable rather than wasted, scattershot, on ‘protecting’ the great majority of the population from what is to them risks that range from small to minuscule.

You doubt that Focused Protection would have worked better than the alternative – lockdowns – against which it was recommended. For reasons that I explained earlier, I disagree with you that Focused Protection is the worst of the two alternative courses of action for protecting people from Covid.

But even if I’m mistaken on the narrow point – even if lockdowns are the better means of protecting humanity from Covid – the case that Focused Protection is the less practical of the two options is not yet settled. That is, even if lockdowns are the more practical means of protecting people from Covid, as long as humanity attaches any value at all to achievements other than reducing the risk of exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, lockdowns might nevertheless still be impractical as an alternative to Focused Protection.

How practical are prohibitions on factories, trucking lines, restaurants, and other businesses remaining open? How practical are the resulting disruptions of supply-chains – or what I prefer to call “the global supply web”?

How practical are government prohibitions on family gatherings? Prohibitions on people gathering to worship, to mourn their dead, and to celebrate their marriages and graduations? How practical are school closures and the attendant farce of pretending to ‘educate’ six and seven year old children – or even college students – over Zoom? How practical is it to prevent children from socializing and playing with each other? How practical are the prohibitions on travel, with some of these prohibitions even being intra-national? How practical is the quarantining of fellow citizens who are returning from abroad?

How practical is the more than 50 percent increase, in a mere two years, of the annual amount spent by the U.S. government (from $4.448 trillion in 2019 to $6.818 trillion in 2021)? How practical is the more than tripling of the U.S. government’s budget deficit from 2019 to 2020? And the still appallingly high budget deficit for 2021?

How practical is the steep increase in the money supply in 2020-21 – and the now-resulting rising inflation?

How practical was the playing, in 2020, of sporting events in stadiums filled only with cardboard cutouts? How practical was it to delay medical diagnoses and treatments for ailments other than Covid? How practical is it for many governments, including many in the west, to outlaw protests against lockdowns? How practical are the unprecedented vaccine mandates for the general population, and the accompanying treatment of the unvaccinated as untouchables?

How practical is the substantial increase since early 2020 of Covid-fear-fueled authoritarianism?

Even if lockdowns prove over time to save more lives from Covid than would have been saved from Covid by Focused Protection, this fact would not suffice to render lockdowns the more practical strategy than Focused Protection. Account must be taken of lockdowns’ collateral damage.

Compared to lockdowns, perhaps the greatest advantage of Focused Protection is that whatever collateral damage it would have caused would have been an invisible fraction of the collateral damage caused by lockdowns. This damage from lockdowns was caused precisely because the unprecedented pummeling that society has endured over the past 20 months is indescribably imprudent and frighteningly impractical.

It boggles my mind that, compared to the unprecedented and draconian course that most governments took in response to Covid, anyone can regard the alternative course of Focused Protection as impractical.