Tag Archives: covid-19

What proof is there that Covid-19 lockdowns prevent more cases than they cause?

2013-updated_scientific-method-steps_v6_noheaderAs the economic pain from shelter in place orders manifests itself, protests are erupting in many states against what I previously called the absurd proposition of Covid-19 lockdowns. Indeed, as the knock-on effects of these severe disruptions begin to emerge, tensions are going to go much higher.

Supporters of reopening the economy make many arguments, including that the threat of Covid-19 is overstated and that the government “cure” will be worse than the disease. Their opponents smear them as “anti-science,” ignorant rubes. But that begs the question: where is the science supporting the theory these lockdowns have prevented more infections than they caused? I don’t see it; nor do I expect I will.

To be clear, the pro-lockdown crowd, which includes politicians, public health officials, and much of the media, have not necessarily said there will be less cases overall because of the lockdowns. They have said the lockdowns will “flatten the curve,” meaning not as many people will get a severe illness from the virus at the same time. This, they argue, will prevent hospitals being overwhelmed with more cases than there are beds at the peak of the infection cycle.

This is certainly a plausible theory, but that is all it is. One can also construct a plausible theory that the lockdowns have caused more cases during their durations than if they hadn’t been ordered at all or if they only applied to high risk people (elderly, people with underlying conditions, etc.).

How? Well, the CDC says that prolonged exposure to the virus increases one’s chance of contracting it. Therefore, anyone ordered to stay in their homes with people already infected had a much higher chance of being infected than if they or the people they were confined with went to work every day as usual.

We now know the virus was present in at least two people who died as far back as early February, long before the first shelter in place order in any state. We also have strong evidence that far more asymptomatic people have already been infected with the disease than previously thought.

A study by Stanford University concluded there may be as many as 81,000 cases  in that county, with only 1,094 reported. A separate study of 397 residents of a Boston, MA homeless shelter showed a similar result. 146 of the 397 tested positive for the virus. 100% of them were asymptomatic.

The pro-lockdown crowd has interpreted these facts predictably – lockdowns must remain in place because people who don’t even know they have the virus may spread it.

But there is another, glaringly obvious conclusion to be drawn from these studies and the knowledge the virus has been here since at least early February. Lockdowns are forcing uninfected people to have prolonged exposure to infected people.

That’s not to say the lockdowns don’t prevent more infections than they cause. There must be some number of people who have avoided infection by staying in their homes and not going to restaurants, bars, work, etc. But there is just as surely some number of people who became infected because of the lockdowns. Evaluating the lockdown policy depends at least in part upon which of those numbers is larger, as well as the damage done by secondary negative effects of the lockdowns.

Here is the problem. No politician or public health official is interested in that second number. They’ve made their decisions and there is zero incentive for them to have any intellectual curiosity about their validity. On the contrary, they would face public lynching, literally or figuratively, if it turned out their policies not only wrecked the economy but achieved the opposite public health results they intended.

Yet, anyone who believes in science should be demanding rigorous proof that these lockdowns didn’t cause more infections than they prevented while they were in place. And anyone who believes in individual liberty must put the burden of proof on those who would infringe upon it, not on those who merely seek to exercise their inalienable rights.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

The absurd proposition of Covid-19 lockdowns

brand-quarantine-coronavirus-CONTENT-2020

Among the most glaring deficiencies of cherished ideals like democracy and “the rule of law” is they allow the dumbest policies to be enacted with the consent of but a tiny percentage of people with IQs above 100. And most of that tiny percentage have ulterior motives.

Boy, are we ever feeling that pain now.

Somehow the American public has accepted without question the bizarre proposition that asymptomatic people must prove they don’t have a disease before exercising most of their rights. That is the reasoning behind locking down all of society until widespread testing or a vaccine is available.

Liberty is dead until this evil notion is banished.

On the contrary, it is the responsibility of people at high risk of being seriously affected by this virus to protect themselves or be protected by their loved ones. They don’t have a right to lock up the rest of the world in a futile attempt to avoid all risk.

Not possessing this power individually, they can’t possibly delegate it to a government, even if you believe in that hogwash popularly known as representative government.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

The Government Declares War on Market Prices Just When We Need Them Most

Price Gouging Summed UpMarket prices are the foundation of civilization. They are the signal that tells producers how much of any one thing to produce. They tell consumers how much to consume or whether to consume a product at all. The reason retailers don’t normally throw away eighty percent of their stock is because market prices tell them how much to have on hand at any one time to meet current demand.

When they miscalculate and buy a little too much, they still don’t typically waste their stock. They put it on sale and meet the demand at a lower price.

To the extent the market is allowed to set prices, producers generally produce what consumers want to buy in the quantities they want to buy. When all supply is consumed and large amounts of consumers are not left with unmet demand, it is referred to as the market “clearing.”

The government is always and everywhere at war with market prices. Regulations creating barriers to entry limit supply, artificially inflating prices. Price controls, including “anti-price gouging” laws override market prices, creating shortages. Subsidies to producers (farm subsidies, for example), allow producers to limit supply, artificially inflating the price.

Federal Reserve monetary inflation juices up demand, both on the consumer side and the producer side, creating overconsumption, low savings rates, malinvestment and imprudent debt. This ongoing war on the market price of money, a.k.a. “the rate of interest” does all sorts of damage in the real economy. It directs companies to borrow money to expand production of products for which there is no real demand. That in turn sends workers into these zombie industries.

Even without an external problem like the coronavirus (and the much more harmful government response to the coronavirus), bubbles created by monetary inflation eventually pop. Then all the malinvestment is exposed, the imprudent debt defaults, and the workers employed in unprofitable ventures get laid off. This is the market telling everyone where the mistakes were made.

Right now, we have two economic crises at once. We have state governments literally ordering people to stop producing goods and services in an attempt to combat the spread of the virus. Whether that is the best course of action is a subject for a different time. That it is doing massive economic damage is indisputable.

That damage has caused a second crisis: it has popped the economic bubble blown up by the Federal Reserve over the past twelve years. The market is responding by trying to adjust prices to their market levels. It is lowering the artificially high prices of stocks. It will lower the artificially high price of real estate. The price of oil has fallen both because of the anticipated reduced demand and the increased supply from Russia and OPEC increasing their oil production.

But not all prices are falling. Given the surge in demand, the market is trying to raise the price of items like toilet paper, certain medical supplies and other essential items.

All these price adjustments by the market are essential for our well-being. They are the cure for the economic disease caused by the government response to the virus and the previous twelve years of monetary inflation and artificially low interest rates.

What is the government doing in response? It is escalating its usual, conventional war on market prices to a nuclear war. It is punishing suppliers of essential goods for raising prices. It is ramping up monetary inflation to historic levels to keep stock prices artificially high and unprofitable businesses alive to go on producing products for which there is no demand. At a time when market prices are more essential to our survival than ever, the government is doing more to override them than ever.

This is not an academic theory that only works on a graph in a classroom. This plays out before our very eyes in the form of essential goods not available to us at any price.

Why is there no toilet paper available? Ask most people and they will say it is because of “hoarders.” These are people who bought far more than they needed in anticipation of future shortages. The people who arrived at the store after the toilet paper is sold out vilify them. Others might just call them prudent.

The same people who vilify hoarders also vilify “price gougers.” They don’t seem to grasp the obvious cause/effect relationship here. If it weren’t for artificial limits on price, i.e., “anti-price gouging” laws, the price of toilet paper would rise dramatically with the surge in demand and the so-called hoarders would not be able to buy nearly as much. That would leave far more for everyone else. The toilet paper market would find the optimal price level where the greatest number of people could get what they need.

We may be able to laugh off the shortage of toilet paper, but when it comes to food, water, medical supplies and other important items, shortages are no laughing matter. Why are there not enough ventilators right now? Because government regulation raises the price of entry into the market and lengthens the lead time for new production. If not for these artificial barriers, hundreds of new ventilator producers would seize the opportunity to enter the market and sell ventilators.

Instead, the government is considering ordering companies who make related items to make ventilators instead. That will only result in less efficient production of ventilators and shortages in the products those manufacturers would otherwise produce.

This is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the government overriding market prices. Every economic policy the government undertakes is at its root an attempt to do so. Every single one makes us poorer than we would be if the government did nothing.

The free market doesn’t produce perfect outcomes. It’s an imperfect world. But a free market produces the best possible outcomes in the real world of scarcity and occasional disasters. Prices are the lifeblood of the free market. They are what make it produce the best outcomes. Every time the government overrides market prices, it makes things worse – in most cases, unfortunately, to thunderous applause.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

The State and Federal Governments’ Coronavirus Response Will Dwarf Economic Damage Done by FDR

depression-1During the 1930s, FDR managed to prolong the depression he inherited for over a decade by unleashing a vast array of wrongheaded economic interventions on an economy trying to correct itself from the malinvestments that occurred during the 1920s.

Whenever a financial bubble pops, prices fall from their artificially high levels, seeking their true, market level. This is the market’s way of liquidating the malinvestments and imprudent debt that resulted from prior central bank monetary inflation, which artificially raised prices and lowered the cost of borrowing and investing.

Many of FDR’s New Deal interventions proceeded from the economically idiotic belief that preventing prices from falling would help. So, for example, he used taxpayer funds to pay farmers to produce less crops at the same time many were going hungry. By lowering the supply of crops, he hoped to raise their prices.

But he never ordered people to produce nothing at all.

Today, the federal and state governments are doing just that, albeit for supposed public health reasons rather than economic ones. State governments are in many cases ordering most of their populations to stop producing anything whatsoever, while the federal government promises to reimburse their losses.

Reimburse them with what money, you ask? Good question.

Regardless, the economic devastation that will result from this economy-wide shutdown will dwarf the damage FDR did during the so-called “Great Depression.” If simply limiting production caused a decade-long crisis (and it really didn’t end until after WWII), ceasing production altogether will obviously be worse. How much worse depends upon how long the insanity lasts.

As far as that is concerned, never underestimate a government.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.