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Difficult to Believe that Such An Essay Is Published In March 2023

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:


In the three years since much of humanity was panicked into unprecedented lockdowns, we’ve learned a great deal about measures meant to combat covid. Tom Frieden, however, apparently missed most of this learning (“What Worked Against Covid: Masks, Closures and Vaccines,” May 17).

Claiming that lockdowns worked, he links to three supporting papers. But the most recent of these appeared in July 2021. Since then, lockdowns’ failure to work has been amply documented, not least by Joel Zinberg’s, Brian Blase’s, Eric Sun’s, and Casey Mulligan’s February 2023 study. These authors find “that more severe government interventions, as measured by the Oxford index, did not significantly improve health outcomes (age-adjusted and pre-existing-condition adjusted COVID mortality and all-cause excess mortality) in states that imposed them relative to states that imposed less restrictive measures.”

Indeed, while Dr. Frieden correctly notes that the best measure of covid’s impact is excess mortality, he fails to mention how excess mortality in Sweden – a country which barely locked down – compares to that in other countries. Such a comparison (easily doable here) reveals results that are difficult to square with Dr. Frieden’s confident assertion that lockdowns worked.

A related error is Dr. Frieden’s failure to mention the Great Barrington Declaration’s proposal of Focused Protection – a policy that, contrary to the blind shotgun blasts that are lockdowns, carefully aims resources and attention on protecting those persons most vulnerable to covid. Dr. Frieden simply assumes that the only acceptable means of reducing transmission are lockdowns and masking. His maneuver here is as legitimate as would be the assertion that the only acceptable means of reducing drunk-driving fatalities is to outlaw alcohol.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030


Additional errors – and plenty of them – mar this essay by Frieden. But my letter is already too long.