Writing in today’s Wall Street Journal, University of Chicago economist Tomas Philipson reports about Covid-19 that “[t]he costs of prevention efforts have outweighed those from the direct effects of the virus itself.” Two slices:
As President Biden’s first year of handling the pandemic comes to a close, many of his most ardent critics are pointing to the ugly numbers: More Americans have died from Covid-19 under the current president than under the previous one, despite the prevalence of vaccines and the development of other medical innovations. But as the pandemic’s progression has made clear, public-health officials should aim to do more than merely minimize the spread of disease. They should seek to reduce the total harm caused by both infection and heavy-handed attempts to prevent it.
Reducing the incidence of disease isn’t necessarily desirable if excessive prevention, in the form of lockdowns or school closures, is more costly to society than the damage done by an illness. We don’t close highways to minimize accidental deaths, despite the existence of dangerous drivers. Yet this is exactly what we’re doing when the government intervenes to limit the spread of communicable diseases by, for instance, mandating vaccines that don’t prevent transmission.
Joe Biden accused President Trump during the campaign of getting Americans killed by refusing to clamp down completely on all economic activity. But the evidence shows that the U.S. experienced lower total harm in 2020 than did the nations of the European Union. Now that he’s been president for a year and presided over so many Covid deaths himself, Mr. Biden surely understands how difficult it is to contain the spread of a highly contagious respiratory disease. He should make the reduction in total harm his administration’s objective now—and that includes the harm done by lockdowns, school closings and unproductive restrictions on economic activity.
Boris Johnson, testing the limits of a credulous public’s credulity, claims that he was unaware that his May 2020 garden party at Number 10 Downing Street during lockdown was in violation of any rules. (HT Phil Magness)
(DBx: I wonder if the previous two links are in some way connected with each other….)
And on England see also here.
My favorite line comes at about the 14:35 point in response to Sayers’s question about whether it was strange to see the tremendous attacks on people who talked positively about mainstream concepts like herd immunity.
Cohen replied, “If you mix politics and immunology or health sciences, at the end of the day you get politics.”
Well, being killed because roads are left in treacherous condition is, after all, acceptable in comparison to becoming infected with the coronavirus – or so the post-2019 ‘public-health’ and elite narrative implies.
People with strong freedom tastebuds took an especially hard beating during the pandemic, having to dodge mud slings like “selfish idiot” and “freedumb lover” from both the press and online social justice warriors. But seen through the lens of moral foundations, freedom carries no less value than any other moral inclinations. It’s just one of several moral aptitudes. It’s like a craving for the open sea or for craggy mountain peaks: only those who share it can fully understand its appeal.
The salience of freedom on my own moral palate took me by surprise. Like UK journalist Laura Dodsworth, author of the Covid-themed book A State of Fear, I discovered that “I was more frightened of authoritarianism than death”. I recoiled against the moral universe that pervaded the lockdowns, a universe that reduced freedom to getting a haircut or a sandwich at Arby’s. I also saw my passion for freedom as a form of caring – namely, caring about preserving the liberal democratic values that the human family took so many centuries to cultivate.
Christian Britschgi writes about new research that finds that the part of Australia that suffered the harshest Covid restrictions – that part of Australia, which includes Melbourne, inside of what Australian officials themselves call the “Ring of Steel” – experienced relatively steep declines in real-estate values. A slice:
In a paper uploaded to SSRN last week, Deakin University professors Chyi Lin Lee and Jian Liang, and Qiang Li of New South Wales University exploit the policy differences on either side of the Ring of Steel to tease out the monetary value people placed on not living under a COVID security state.
These researchers used a database of home sales and rental transactions to measures changes in home values and rents in suburban communities located within a few kilometers of the Ring of Steel boundary during the successive stages of Victoria’s lockdowns.
Focusing on home sales and rents in suburban communities just a few kilometers from the Ring of Steel, researchers said, helps them filter out price declines that would have come from a general fall in demand for dense urban living within municipal Melbourne during the pandemic.
During Victoria’s first March-to-June lockdown—when the whole state was subject to the same restrictions—these researchers found no statistically difference in the change in home prices and rents within 2.5 kilometers of the Ring of Steel boundary.
But during the second lockdown between July and November 2020—when the Ring of Steel was established—home sale prices within the boundary dropped by 1.8-3.1 percent when compared to home sales outside of it. Researchers found a similar divergence in rents.
This divergence in home sale values and rents grew to 6.3-7 percent from November 2020 to January 2021, when the Ring of Steel was lifted and public health restrictions were eased in both areas.
Liang, Lee, and Li argue that this reflects peoples’ continued worry that a harsh lockdown would be reimposed in the metropolitan Melbourne area.
“These findings indicate that the residents perceive that the area within the Ring of Steel faces a higher risk of lockdown restrictions,” they write. “The perception of lockdown risk drives demand from the area with a high lockdown risk to that with a low lockdown risk.”
Their paper notes that government officials repeatedly stressed the importance of Ring of Steel as a pandemic fighting measure, which they say contributed to the perceived fear that more lockdowns would be on the horizon.
Using this decline in rents, Liang, Lee, and Li estimate a weekly cost of public health restrictions within the Ring of Steel at $14 to $34 million. That figure, researchers note, is likely an underestimate given that areas outside Metropolitan Melbourne were not totally free of public health restrictions.
(DBx: This fact – similar to patterns of migration within the United States – is strong evidence against the notion that Covid tyranny serves the public welfare by controlling a negative externality.)
A study by researchers at Michigan State University found that when governors left it up to districts whether to have in-person education in the fall of 2020, the “decisions were more tied to local political partisanship and union strength than to COVID-19 severity.”
This despite the fact that politicians already knew children were less at risk for COVID.
Follow the science? More like follow the political science.
As the genuinely terrified emerge from their trance, and register the chasm that lies between the catastrophe they were duped into believing in, and in whose name their liberties have been trampled on and their society spavined, and as the really rather modest threat the Covid virus actually posed becomes retrospectively clearer, they will allow themselves to start asking questions they should have asked in March 2020. And as the faux-terrified (who were responsible for terrifying the genuinely terrified, and revelled in the sense of importance and power it gave them) begin to realise that the jig is up, and that the finger of blame for the immense damage they have caused is beginning to veer towards them, we will see a similar repudiation of everything that has been most dear to the Covidistas – the pointless lockdowns, the fatuous, performative mask-wearing, the compulsory vaccinations.
(DBx: To anticipate likely negative reaction to the above description of Covid-19 as posing a “really rather modest threat,” I remind you that everything is relative. I do not believe that the threat posed by the SARS-CoV-2 virus was really rather modest relative to the pathogens that ‘normally’ circulate through the human population; the threat posed by this coronavirus was substantially higher. But this threat was highly concentrated on the very old and ill. For most human beings this threat was indeed, while real, really rather modest. Furthermore, the actual threat posed by Covid really was, and remains, modest relative to the predictions of Covid suffering and death – predictions recklessly issued by ‘modelers’ such as Neil Ferguson, and tragically swallowed by gullible people, including many government officials.)
In March 2020, the narrative of the western world suddenly shifted to pathologically pursuing the futile goal of controlling a respiratory virus as China claims they’d done. Reversing that shift, and properly diagnosing its cause, is crucial to the survival of freedom.