Matt Yglesias writes, When the Great Barrington Declaration urging a return to normal behavior came out, we were just months away from vaccines being widely available, and that fact was quite foreseeable. The cost of delaying some things by several months would have been pretty low. . .
I'm coming to the conclusion that it's a mistake to attribute most of the bad decisions of politicians and administrators to "mediocre intelligence".
In fact, "intelligence" is practically fetishisized on all directions of the political spectrum (and my saying it's relatively unimportant will be seen as heresy at some level). But... here's a brain teaser for all you smarty-pants:
If your IQ is 100, 2+2=4.
If your IQ is 135, 2+2=4.
The person with the 135 IQ doesn't do any better at coming to the conclusion that 2+2=4 than the 100 IQ person.
Despite how they may flatter themselves by thinking they're dealing with "complex" and "difficult" problems, the overwhelming number of calculations that almost everyone makes are of the blindingly obvious "2+2=4" variety.
To wit... look at the conclusions Arnold reached a few weeks into the pandemic. He reached them, I reached them, you reached them, everyone reached them. They didn't take any special intelligence to reach.
The failure to head these conclusions (and most other problems in life) and act accordingly isn't a matter of intelligence. It's a matter of psychology and incentives. The dominant characteristic of today's Midwit isn't a crippling lack of intelligence, it's irrational fear and the ability to externalize most of the costs on others.
Matt Yglesias writes:
"When the Great Barrington Declaration [GBD] urging a return to normal behavior came out, we were just months away from vaccines being widely available, and that fact was quite foreseeable. The cost of delaying some things by several months would have been pretty low [...]"
1) Yglesias asserts that the GBD urged a return to normal behavior. This is a half-truth. The GBD makes a case for focussed protection of vulnerable demographics:
"The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection. Adopting measures to protect the vulnerable should be the central aim of public health responses to COVID-19." (GBD)
2) Yglesias asserts that it was quite foreseeable, when the GBD was published, that vaccines would be widely available soon ("just months"). This is questionable. The GBD was published on 4 October 2020, five weeks before Pfizer communicated, "Pfizer and BioNTech Announce Vaccine Candidate Against COVID-19 Achieved Success in First Interim Analysis from Phase 3 Study" (9 November 2020). In early October, did experts, public health officials, policy-makers, media, or the median voter have good reason or evidence to forecast that vaccines would soon be widely available? Show your homework.
3) Yglesias retrospectively asserts that continuance of restrictions/closures through Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 would have had pretty low costs. This, too, is questionable. See the articles, listed below, which identify major costs in most restrictions/closures before the advent of vaccines. Two of the articles were written at approximately the same time as the Great Barrington Declaration, and thus reflect the state of knowledge at the time, about costs of restrictions/closures.
-- Tomas J. Philipson (U. of Chicago; former Acting Chair of the CEA), "An Economic Evaluation of Covid Lockdowns: The costs of prevention efforts have outweighed those from the direct effects of the virus itself" WSJ (19 January 2022):
-- Phillip Magness (AIER), "The Failures of Pandemic Central Planning," SSRN (1 October 2020):
-- Eric Budish (U. of Chicago), "Maximize Utility subject to R ≤ 1: A Simple Price-Theory Approach to Covid-19 Lockdown and Reopening Policy," NBER (April 2020, revised November 2020):
Sorry, Arnold. You don't need to resort to a fancy conception of public health officials (much less to anything that Matt Yglesias or Tyler Cowen have written about them and the pandemic --both lied about GBD) to understand what they have been doing and will continue doing. I share with you and your readers this new El Gato Malo's column based on the simple Public Choice idea of incentives:
Regarding GBD, please talk to Don Boudreaux.
That original essay from April 2020, which I have kept bookmarked now for almost 2 years, held up pretty well. I disagree with one point in this one- I don't think your prediction for the vaccines was actually wrong. Most of the people, who were putting hope in lockdowns, masking, and distancing in order to reach the point of vaccine availability, believed the vaccines would be sterilizing and would end COVID being a threat at all. The actual reality turned out to be that they are no more effective than flu vaccines, and probably less effective given they target a single protein. In short, we are going to end up in exactly the same situation vaccine or no vaccine. The people for whom the vaccine would be most effective are exactly those for whom the vaccine is likely to induce the weakest immunity effects- old and frail people- something we have long known from the history of flu vaccinations. The one benefit that might have been worthwhile, vaccination of healthcare workers and other care givers that deal directly with the elderly and sick seems to not have been terribly good either given the vaccines aren't sterilizing at all.
The one part of that old essay that was actually wrong was the one about masks- the masks didn't do anything measurable. All the data demonstrates this conclusively.
The thing is, both sides can agree on the basic issues, but differ on solutions.
The elderly and immunocompromised are most at risk?
Solution 1 - Force masking on EVERYONE. When the vaccine becomes available, rather than reward those who took it by allowing them to live their lives without masks, insist that they wear them until some unspecified number are given the shot (or, shot plus some unspecified number of boosters). Make this solution even worse by insisting that college students - even if attending at a distance - receive their shots.
Solution 2 - Encourage the most at risk to get the shots. Mask them and keep at a distance, but allow close family to visit (their decision whether to get a shot or not, and to mask or not). For everyone else, it's their decision. Individuals can be made to either wear a mask, or to receive a shot - not both - for most public accommodations.
Patients may ask medical personnel to take off a mask or to wear a clear shield, if hearing is an issue. No penalty against medical or nursing personnel may be imposed, if that is the patient's request. All hard-of-hearing and deaf people have the right to see people's unmasked faces in businesses and government offices, virtually, if necessary.
That's it, folks. If you fear unmasked contact with people, feel free to stay home. The rest of us should not have to accommodate your mostly-exaggerated fears.
I think this is a problem at the institutional level and not at the individual level. We have embraced a world of mid-whit institutions. Thus, we have mid-whit performance. Lee Kwan Yew worked mightily in his development of Singapore to avoid institutional sub-optimal performance. Arnold and Tyler have been beating around the bush simply not admitted that our institutions have failed us with their mid-whit ways. Therefore, the real solution is to first accept where we are and then to embark on a nation wide reform of our institutions such that they are all on the top globally. Call it project “Singapore.”
It can’t be that hard. Scoring is easy. Defining the goal is easy. Selecting top performers to lead and paying them well is easy. Simply starting is hard when the US and its media want an apocalypse and not an utopia. It’s all about tear it down, how about, build it up? Is being number one so shameful? Onward! This is a marathon not a sprint.
Though Yglesias writes that “we were just months away from vaccines being widely available, and that fact was quite foreseeable,” I must admit that the fact was not foreseen *by me*: Like Arnold, I was skeptical about vaccine development. But actually, vaccines had already been developed, and had just not been fully tested, and so not approved. I did not know this, but professionals in public health should have foreseen the early arrival of vaccines, and should have understood the significance of this development for pandemic policy. And, of course, once the vaccines were approved and administered, we could adjust our thinking about policy without needing much input from *public health experts*.
The GBD was too kind. The harsh reality is while humans have greatly tempered the unrelenting forces of nature, nature still wins. All epidemiology surveys have shown the virus is everywhere. The idea of sheltering and / or protecting the vulnerable as if this was just a matter of prioritization, is easier said than done.
This reality ties into the question of masks. The data of the past 18 months shows fully compliant community masking has not changed Covid outcomes. And when students are tested it is found they are mostly already exposed and have developed immunity to the virus, whether they masked or not.
In other words, it is not just that the past two years have been health hygiene theater. It is that the vast majority of people were or would be infected despite this charade, and yet authorities would persist the charade because experts" refused to acknowledge natural resistance was on off-ramp.
What should have been operation warp speed was finding and implementing useful therapies. Once it was observed that containment was futile - and we knew this in March - the premise of lockdowns and community masking was destroyed. Officials should have acknowledged that everyone would be exposed to the virus and the best defense was a strong immune system and proper treatment.
Alas, here we are two years later having learned many things from direct experience, yet many Covid diehards refuse to stop doing the things that we know don't work.
Dutch insurer Aegon, which does two-thirds of its business in the United States, said its claims in the Americas in the third quarter were $111 million, up from $31 million a year earlier. U.S. insurers MetLife and Prudential Financial also said life insurance claims rose. South Africa’s Old Mutual used up more of its pandemic provisions to pay claims and reinsurer Munich Re raised its 2021 estimate of COVID-19 life and health claims to 600 million euros from 400 million.
Insurance companies are slowly coming to realize the truth about covid vaccines, even as the complicit, murderous mainstream tries to cover up the accelerating deaths. The death signals now emerging in the finances of insurance companies can’t simply be swept under the rug, and given that a 258% increase was recorded for Q3, 2021, it begs the obvious question: How much worse will this be for Q4, 2021? Or Q1, 2022?
On any “normal” (pre-covid) day in America, about 7,700 people die. If those deaths rise by 100%, that means an extra 7,700 people are dying each day. Multiply that over one year, and it’s an additional 2.8 million deaths. Note this is for merely a 100% increase in deaths.
Aegon is reporting a 258% increase in payouts on life insurance policies. Although Aegon doesn’t insure the entire country, obviously, this data point should be raising alarms among those people paying attention. If we start to consistently see something like a 200% increase in all-cause mortality, that would mean an extra 15,000+ people are dying each day in America. That’s a vaccine holocaust playing out in real time.
Truth be told, we’re probably at that point right now. The data sets just haven’t caught up yet with the reality of what’s happening in February, 2022. Cancer death rates have almost certainly doubled in 2021 and are headed for even higher numbers in 2022, but the cancer industry — dominated by pharma interests — will of course bury the numbers as long as possible to avoid anyone asking questions of why so many people are dying from cancer all of a sudden.
The answer is obvious: It’s the mRNA vaccines.
Vaccines don't reduce the risk of doing stuff, they raise the risk. For instance, a 49 year old New Mexico Senator took the vaccine, causing a stroke, and he won't be able to do his job for about 4 months. Vaccines caused thousands of deaths and millions of injuries, likely outweighing and benefits that might have but probably did not accrue. This is most clear in Israel and Australia where the vaccines have wreaked enormous havoc much greater than in places like Uttar Pradesh and Nigeria where vaccines were not used.
But it really does not take intelligence beyond "midwit" level to do cost benefit analysis.