This article by David Henderson in AIER.org, April 13, 2020, should be the rallying cry for those who think the lockdown has been oppressive to the poor and suppressive to enterprise most capable of fighting the disease, not to mention the unintended side effects of shelter in place living.
David R. Henderson, a research fellow with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and emeritus professor of economics with the Naval Postgraduate School, is editor of The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. He was previously the senior economist for health policy with President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers.
Salient points for your convenience:
- Shelter in place…measures are destroying one of the world’s strongest economies before our very eyes.
- The lockdown came. Since then, more than 16 million workers, over 10 percent of the labor force, have filed for unemployment benefits…because state governments are forcefully preventing them from working.
- Everyone is being told to adjust to a world in which we have lost much of our control over our life decisions.
The politicians claim that their spending is “stimulus,” but it’s not and it can’t be. A government cannot stimulate production that it has forbidden.
The only way to stimulate the economy is to liberate it. The people, all of us, need emancipation from the lockdown. And we need it now.
[Our leaders didn’t discuss it before the lockdown] No, these leaders just did it.
Why did they do it?
- This virus, we are told, has unusual characteristics that required it.
- Politicians are risk averse and feared not acting.
- Media howling played a big role in hyping (and misrepresenting) the predictive models.
- The public saw reports of large-scale death in certain locations.
- The uncertainties drove panic and an extreme response.
A perfect storm of all of the above.
…we need to reverse it. Those government officials based their decisions on a model of a disease that neither they, nor we, fully understood.
We’re pretty sure that social distancing works to slow the spread. But most state governments didn’t give voluntary social distancing more than a week to work.
People respond well to better information. That’s the whole idea of freedom: people adapt, even without coercion.
Now even Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health predicts that there will be about 60,000 deaths by August. This number is striking. Why? Because it’s virtually equal to the 61,000 U.S. deaths that the CDC attributed to the flu just two seasons ago.
To be sure, even when corrected for reality, if fatality rates end up similar to a bad seasonal flu, there are apparent differences between COVID and flu: the speed of transmission, the hot-spot pattern of infection, and length of hospitalizations. But these differences require an intelligent medical response, not upheaval.
If we open the economy, some people will be at a greater risk from COVID-19, especially the elderly. As of April 10th, 78% of verifiable deaths that the Center for Disease Control attributed to COVID-19 were people aged 65 or older. As an Imperial College London study from March 30th demonstrated, this disease is particularly deadly for one demographic. It kills an estimated 13.4% of patients 80 and older, compared to 1.25% of those in their 50s and 0.3% of those in their 40s. The sharpest divide between a temporary issue and death is the age of 70. The overwhelming majority of those who died had weakened immune systems due to preexisting conditions.
As for the overall case fatality rate – which is drifting ever lower – we do not know it because of the dearth of testing.
The disease has ravaged nursing homes. This demographic and these institutions should have been the focus of the concern and resources rather than allowing policies to crush the whole of society.
This disease should have been regarded as a medical problem with a medical fix, not as an excuse to test out the range of awesome powers of the state to trample freedom. We should stop making the “cure” worse than the disease.
We hear so much about the downside of letting people outside. Let’s consider the upside…
We get to live our lives again. Workers will feel productive and useful again. Americans can stop draining their bank accounts just to pay rent. We can reduce deaths from suicide, drug overdose, and worse. Families can be reunited. We can get back to ending poverty, which the World Health Organization says is the number one cause of death around the world. We can go back to allowing elective surgeries for cancer, for example, the delaying of which now could result in countless deaths. Surely this is a better use of hospitals that are empty while nurses sit at home.
If you add up all the suffering and death generated as a secondary effect of the shutdown, we are looking at carnage that could be in the same ballpark as COVID deaths. Emancipation now could in fact be a strategy for minimizing fatalities; it will certainly reduce overall social and economic disaster from the disease and the disastrous policy response.