Some Covid Links

by Don Boudreaux on February 6, 2022

in Country Problems, Current Affairs, Hayek, Media, Myths and Fallacies, Risk and Safety, Science, Truth-seeking & ideology

Daniel Hannan writes that “[i]t was lonely opposing the first lockdown, but the day will come when no one remembers backing it.” Two slices:

Did you oppose the Iraq war? Good for you. It seems bizarre, 19 years on, that anyone ever thought it a good idea to spend a trillion pounds, kill hundreds of thousands of civilians and turn millions more into refugees, only to end up destroying Western prestige and creating more extremists in the region than before.

I have to ask though – forgive my being so blunt – whether you are quite sure that you were against it at the time. You see, according to YouGov, 66 per cent of us backed the invasion when it was launched. Then the disasters began – the civilian casualties, the Abu Ghraib abuses, the rise of Islamic State – and people started to edit their memories. Asked the same question by the same pollster in 2015, only 37 per cent admitted to having backed military action in 2003.

Something similar, I have no doubt, will happen over the lockdowns. As the dreadful health and economic costs bite, few will recall having supported the closures. Just as most Frenchmen over a certain age remember backing the Resistance, so most Brits will remember being lockdown sceptics. Psychologists call it “hindsight bias”.

We are not there yet. Many cling, with a tinge of desperation, to the notion that their sacrifices were worthwhile. Admitting that the cancelled weddings, the ruined businesses, the lost education, the NHS waiting lists and the national debt were incurred in error, that we narrowed our children’s lives for nothing, is not easy.

Still, the evidence keeps piling up. A meta-study of 24 surveys, reported in Wednesday’s Telegraph, found that imposing a compulsory lockdown, as opposed to trusting people to use their common sense, reduced the mortality rate by just 0.2 per cent. Think about that. Around 52,000 lives were lost in Britain in the first wave. If these figures are correct – and the researchers from Johns Hopkins and Lund universities have done a thorough job with a huge dataset – then the most extreme curtailment of freedom in modern times saved perhaps 100 lives.

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Back in that sun-drenched, terrified, illiberal spring [of 2020], no dissent was permitted. Even to point out that an alternative approach was possible – and visible in Sweden – was to court vilification. When Toby Young wrote that we habitually did put a value on human life via the recognised formula for calculating quality-adjusted life-years, that we used it whenever medical interventions were proposed, and that we should apply the same test to lockdowns, he became a national hate figure, howled down as some sort of eugenicist.

The odium was overwhelmingly one-way. Lockdown sceptics did not respond by accusing their opponents of aiming to destroy children’s education, or of being indifferent to mental illness, or of wanting others to die of cancer. Nor did they accuse them of being “anti-science”.

Yet it soon became clear that the science on which the lockdowns were predicated was incorrect. Supporters of the closures had predicted a catastrophe in Sweden. By imposing only mild restrictions, the authorities had, according to most international observers, condemned their people to mass fatalities.

In fact, cases peaked and declined in Sweden more or less in line with everywhere else. In other words, the original justification for the lockdowns had been falsified as early as April 2020. But by then people were invested in their sense of sacrifice. The closures were maintained, but the justification kept having to be amended. “Flatten the curve” became “wait for a vaccine”. When the vaccine arrived, it became “keep the pressure off the NHS”, then “stop new variants”.

GMU Econ alum Byron Carson offers some Hayekian lessons for public health.

Bret Swanson explains “how a war on ‘misinformation’ led to a coronavirus tragedy.” Four slices:

Spectacular falsehoods, deep truths, and Canadian truckers are finally piercing the long-impervious Covid storyline.

When a justice of the Supreme Court on January 7 asserted that 100,000 children were hospitalized with Covid-19 “in serious condition, and many on ventilators,” it reflected the ill-informed panic that’s driven policy the last two years. In fact, CDC data showed just around 3,200 children were hospitalized while Covid-positive, few were in serious condition, and almost none were on ventilators.

The episode was just the latest false droplet in a flood of erroneous Covid-speak. We’ve known since near the beginning that young people are not at serious risk; lockdowns don’t halt the spread and do far more harm than good; and an array of cheap, safe, long-approved generic drugs often stop the virus dead in its tracks when taken early. Yet each of these central facts was suppressed by a sprawling array of old and new media, digital platforms, captured medical journals, non-profit scolds, and public health spokespeople claiming omniscience.

It turns out Canadian truckers listening to Joe Rogan know more than many “experts.” Had the truckers been in charge the last two years, the world would probably be healthier, and freer.

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The total bamboozlement of the nation’s policymakers, journalists, and, sadly, too many health professionals, reveals something far more systematically askew. The war on misinformation has achieved the exact opposite of its stated goal. Clamping down on unapproved outside voices has exacerbated groupthink, concentrated risk, and amplified mistakes to epic proportion.

Nowhere has the insulation from reality been more hermetically complete, and more devastating, than the non-discussion over vaccines. On Twitter last week, a smart, thoughtful economist showed just how behind the curve much of the intelligentsia is. Stanford’s Jay Battacharya had been arguing against vaccine mandates and travel requirements because “the covid vaccine does not stop disease spread.” “I don’t follow your logic,” the economist replied. “If the vaccine keeps us from getting infected, why wouldn’t it reduce spread, too? The CDC disagrees with you: ‘COVID 19-vaccines are effective and can lower your risk of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.’” This was January 22, at least seven months after we realized – first in Israel, then the UK, then everywhere – the extremely short durability of the vaccines, especially against infection.

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Even enthusiastic vaccine backers now acknowledge the substantial risk of myocarditis, especially though not exclusively among young men (see Chua, et al.; Patone, et al.; and Sharff, et al.). Heart inflammation, which often leads to longterm heart failure, however, is just the tip of the vaccine injury iceberg. We now know the Spike protein, which the vaccines instruct our cells to produce in variable and unknown but often large quantities, is toxic. And that it doesn’t stay in our shoulders but may travel and express in organs around the body. Here is a non-exhaustive list of hundreds of scientific papers explaining the pathophysiology, and case-studies documenting specific instances, of a wide array of Covid-19 vaccine injuries – cardiovascular, neurologic, autoimmune, reproductive, oncologic.

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Now, instead of apologizing for its early lockdown advocacy, Johns Hopkins’ Center for Health Security is doubling down, launching a new “Environment of Misinformation” project. NewsGuard just signed a big contract with the American Federation of Teachers to ensure our schools only access approved “news.”

The war on misinformation is a conceit. The illiberal fantasy class, which happens to be in charge, is crippling America as an idea and a nation. It is frustrating pluralistic entrepreneurship, speech, and discovery worldwide.

University of Calgary professor Jaana Woiceshyn explains the importance of freedom. A slice:

While it is true that we can survive physically (if spared serious disease) even when locked up in our homes and barred from working, such incarceration is not living a life. Living a life consists of pursuing and achieving values: productive work; health; meaningful relationships; wealth and all the material values it affords, from food and shelter to tools and technologies that make life more enjoyable; and art and recreation.

Wall Street Journal columnist Holman Jenkins reports on the dysfunction in China’s government that fuels its drive for zero Covid. A slice:

The end is not nigh for China’s zero-Covid experiment, however much some hope for a change after next autumn’s party congress. Australia is the nearest parallel, having shifted from zero Covid to “living with” the virus. Australia has a political system that allows for regime change; its voters can select scapegoats for the surging cases and deaths now challenging its health care system. The Communist Party has no such mechanism. Disease surveillance is rapidly mutating into dissent surveillance. China’s economy, which helped keep the world supplied with manufactured goods during its Covid fight, is now becoming a drag on the global recovery because of domestic lockdowns. Look for China’s propaganda to become even more militant in trying to portray Covid as a foreign conspiracy.

Robert Higgs will not be surprised by this report in the New York Post:

There’s good news, and then there’s great news: COVID cases are down more than 90% from the first week of January. Hospitalization rates are down, too. The trendlines are all excellent, with New York state’s overall test positivity rate down to 4.4% from its recent high of 23%.

Omicron is plainly on the way out, as fast as we said it would go. [New York] Gov. Kathy Hochul agrees: “Just like the snow is melting,” she said Tuesday, “hopefully these numbers will continue to melt away.”

Will the increased restrictions she and Mayor Eric Adams put in place also melt away? Omicron prompted or accelerated policy shifts on the way “up the curve” — the mask-or-vax mandate, for example, from Hochul, and then-Mayor Bill de Blasio’s private-sector-employee vaccine mandate. It has not yet prompted a similar rethink on the way down.

City and state policy on COVID has been, mostly, a one-way ratchet.

The Telegraph‘s Science Editor Sarah Knapton reports on a new paper by ‘scientists’ in Britain – a paper in which the authors reveal, with their policy recommendation, their Covidocratic authoritarianism. A slice from Knapton’s report:

Vaccine passports will do little to stop coronavirus transmission at festivals, but should still be considered anyway to increase uptake in young people, scientists advising the Government have said.

A newly released paper by the Environmental Modelling Group (EMG) shows that researchers admit that vaccine passes have a “limited impact” on the spread of the virus because even vaccinated people can have breakthrough infections, and immunity wanes over time.

However, they argue that they could be used as a “policy lever” to improve the number of young people being vaccinated.

Noah Rothman criticizes Progressives’ good-news hesitancy. (DBx: This affliction is much worse and more inexplicable than vaccine hesitancy.)

Jay Bhattacharya tweets:

The risk to healthy children of severe disease from covid infection is small. It is unethical for public health to obscure this fact, to scare parents, with an aim of manipulating their decisions. Informed consent requires telling the truth.

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