One possible criticism of the translation of learning losses to income losses is that it is overstated, because part of the income gain from schooling, as George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan has shown, is from its “signal” to employers rather than any real learning. But there’s also good reason to believe that the losses due to the shutdowns might also be understated. Governments canceled children’s sports, forbade them from playing in parks, and forbade them from hugging or even being around grandparents. These bans and prohibitions almost certainly reduced children’s social skills. That reduction will probably hurt future earnings when those children are adults. And this leaves out the reduction in mental health, which, according to the literature, could be substantial.
How can that be? The main reason is that lost income is closely linked with lower life expectancies and death. Lower incomes cut back on how much people spend on health care, healthier foods, or safety products in general. A recent article by James Broughel from George Mason University and Kip Viscusi from Vanderbilt University found that “each loss of $1 trillion in income will lead to about 9,200 deaths.” Therefore, the $2 trillion in lost future income for American children can be associated with over 18,000 (early) deaths in the future.
Unfortunately, the 18,000 figure discussed above may just be a lower bound for how many people the lockdowns killed because school shutdowns were not the only cause of lost income. Many parents lost income because the lockdowns essentially locked them out of their jobs. This lost income hurt the children also.
What makes these projected deaths even more depressing is that the school shutdowns failed to save lives on the front end. Researchers now have over two years of data to analyze the impact of the school shutdowns on community spread. A standard methodology is to compare areas that reopened (or shutdown) earlier in comparison with those that didn’t. What do these studies find? Articles in leading medical journals such as Health Affairs and JAMA show little to no impact of the school shutdowns on community spread. That’s an inconvenient truth to a society that placed so much faith in shutdown proponents at the pandemic’s beginning. So the bottom line is that school closings will cost a lot of lives, but saved few or none.
The school shutdowns will go down as one of the most misguided policy decisions in our lifetime. Dr. Fauci may believe that the shutdowns didn’t harm anyone, but the facts say otherwise.
(DBx: The lockdowns, restrictions, and hysteria of 2020-2021 – some, in some places, continuing still in 2022 – were such an unprecedented battering of society that any numerical estimates of consequence drawn from past ups and downs of real incomes are, in my opinion, likely to underestimate the long-term damage that humanity is destined to suffer as a result. I sincerely hope to be proven wrong.)
This was shortly after the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo had claimed that any severity of measures against the coronavirus was worth it, if they saved just one life. Across the world, national leaders constantly repeated the mantra of “following the science,” meaning the whole of society should be managed based on the advice of experts in a narrow field of medical science, focusing on suppressing or even eradicating a single disease. An ethics professor I interviewed in late 2020 said it was morally right to brush aside all concerns of collateral damage because we were “in a pandemic.”
When almost the whole world loses sight of the common goal of human society, and the elimination of a single problem, in the end a rather unimportant one, takes precedence over everything else, thus becoming the goal – a distorted and absurd one, a disastrous and ruinous one for sure – this is an indication of a fundamental loss of common sense.
Pointing to Covid restrictions as an example, Le was critical that her western Sydney community was subjected to more harsh conditions by the state government than wealthier areas in the city’s eastern suburbs during the 2021 lockdowns.
“We weren’t allowed to travel beyond a 5km radius from our homes. We were told to get travel permits. We were forced to get tested every three days. We had helicopters flying around our area, as well as police on horseback and men in uniforms knocking on people’s doors,” she said.
“The last time I looked, a government that takes away individuals’ liberty to choose how they want to live, work and raise families was called a communist dictatorship, a political system that my family and I escaped from.”
It is not okay: lockdown proponents are going to need to come to terms with the social harms they caused. It is going to be uncomfortable & difficult.
Chile has been a development success story over four decades since it adopted free-market reforms and its 1980 constitution, which has been heavily amended. But that success has also made the country a target of the domestic and international left.
You don’t have to be a social scientist to notice the rough correlation: By and large, societies where economic freedom is strong are nicer places to live. Those with little or no economic freedom tend to lack civil liberties as well. When citizens’ economic rights aren’t protected, neither, as a rule, are their rights to freedom of speech, conscience, and democracy. More often than not, the poorest, saddest, dirtiest, and most dangerous places on the planet are also places with little or no economic freedom.
That, at any rate, is a layman’s take. But is it borne out by scholarly analysis?
To answer that question, economist Robert Lawson undertook a meta-survey of every research paper published in top-ranked academic journals over the past quarter-century that cited data from “Economic Freedom of the World.” There were a total of 1,303 such papers, all of which were listed in the Social Science Citations Index, a leading database for social science literature in dozens of disciplines. The papers were written by scholars from many fields, representing all points on the ideological spectrum. Lawson, a research director at Southern Methodist University and a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute, sorted the papers into a dozen broad areas of interest, such as Immigration & Travel, Income & Productivity, Economic Growth, and Human Rights & Social Development. Then he coded each paper by its findings: Were the outcomes positive, negative, or uncertain?
Results? Of the papers analyzed, “just over half, 50.6 percent, found economic freedom was related to ‘positive’ outcomes while only 4.6 percent found ‘negative’ outcomes.” (The rest were too mixed or uncertain to assess.) In one area after another, more economic freedom generated more good results: “increased immigration and tourism . . . increases in income or productivity . . . increased entrepreneurship and innovation . . . reduced conflict . . . increased investment . . . reduced unemployment . . . improved human rights . . . increased trade . . . reduced corruption . . . improved environmental outcomes . . . reduced inequality.”
Lawson’s conclusion was that whether economic freedom “works” isn’t a matter of political or national preference. It is a question with an empirical answer, and the answer is yes.