Coronavirus

Economic Lessons From COVID-19

What the pandemic has re-taught us about the perils of planning, the power of incentives, and the complexities of externalities.

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One of the most important things economists can do in a pandemic is not forget what we know. We know that central planners don't have enough information and insight about the lives and activities of 330 million people to plan those lives in a thoughtful way. We know the problems that emerge when you distribute something valuable by giving it away. We know that government officials face bad incentives. We know that externalities pose problems for the straightforward "leave it to the market" viewpoint, but that large government interventions create new problems. In the rush to make pandemic policy, too many of these lessons were cast aside.

Central Planning

One of the most important controversies of the 20th century was the economic calculation debate. In his 1922 book, Socialism, Ludwig von Mises argued that without markets, central planners would not know how to "calculate." Specifically, they wouldn't know how many of various goods to produce, how to produce them, and whom to allocate them to. In the 1930s and 1940s, Mises' student Friedrich Hayek advanced the argument by noting the ways an economy depends on dispersed information that exists in the minds of millions of people. This information about individuals' "circumstances of time and place," he wrote, could not be captured by a central planner. Hayek's most famous contribution to the debate was his 1945 article "The Use of Knowledge in Society," published in the American Economic Review. That article led modern Hayekians to use the phrase "local knowledge" as a shorthand for Hayek's "circumstances of time and place."

By the end of the Cold War, most economists—even some socialists—were acknowledging that Mises and Hayek had won the debate: The Soviet planners had failed because they had embarked on a task that could not succeed.

But in the COVID-19 era, a lot of policy makers have let this lesson slip their minds. While few have advocated full-blown state socialism, many have forgotten the more general truth that officials don't have enough information to make detailed plans about people's lives.

Take Gavin Newsom, the first governor to impose a statewide lockdown. The California Democrat listed 16 infrastructure sectors deemed so essential that they would not have to lock down. Restaurants, hairdressers, gymnasiums, and schools, not being among them, were compelled to close. So were large swaths of the retail economy. But Newsom did not base these regulations on a sophisticated understanding of what is essential and what is not. He couldn't. No one has that understanding, for the reasons Hayek laid out long ago. The list of essential industries came from an old script; it was not highly correlated with the relative value of various industries and was not closely based on risks of spread.

What was missing from the discussion is something known only in the minds of the humans involved: the value of what was lost. Measuring the loss of gross domestic product (GDP) doesn't quite do it, because the private sector component of GDP is valued at market prices but the value consumers put on goods and services typically exceeds the sticker price. (Economists refer to the value minus the price as consumer surplus.) Gatherings of more than a few people at funerals, for example, were prohibited; many mourners surely valued the gathering they had to miss at more than the ceremony's price.

Central planners tend to come up with one-size-fits-all policies even when the evidence shows a large range of "sizes." With the lockdowns, the most extreme instance of that may be the decision in various jurisdictions to close schools to in-person instruction. Even if, like me, you aren't a fan of government schools, they arguably create at least one large valuable service: day care. So shutting them down—while paying full, or close to full, salaries to public school teachers—took away one of the most valuable services the institutions provided, while shifting the costs onto parents.

Whether or not one ultimately agrees with it, one can understand the decision to close schools in March and April of last year. But as more data came out, it became increasingly clear that students ages 15 or younger had only a tiny risk of dying from COVID-19. The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that from January 1, 2020, to February 17, 2021, only 140 U.S. residents under age 15 died from the disease—just 0.03 percent of the overall COVID-19 deaths. During the 2019–20 flu season, according to the CDC, about 434 U.S. children under age 18 died from the flu. Yet no one advocated closing schools over that.

Of course, there is the risk of transmission from children to teachers. But teachers in Sweden, which avoided school shutdowns, had a slightly lower fatality rate than I.T. technicians. That comparison is relevant because many I.T. technicians can and do work from home, and probably did so increasingly after the worry about the coronavirus became widespread.

What about the risk of transmission from school children to their parents or other family members? If you've paid attention to recent protests in California and elsewhere, you'll realize that many families are eager to take that risk.

Moreover, the comparison between private schools and public schools is telling. In a January 2021 article in Axios, Erica Pandey notes that only 5 percent of private schools were "virtual" last fall, with presumably 95 percent being in person. That contrasts with the 62 percent of students in public schools who started school in the fall online. The difference is wonderful for the private school kids and tragic for many of those in public schools, but those with local knowledge and local control were most able to get kids back into classrooms.

The pathologies of central planning also played out with the COVID-19 vaccines. In early May, four economists—Susan Athey of Stanford, Michael Kremer of Harvard, Christopher Snyder of Dartmouth, and Alex Tabarrok of George Mason—wrote an op-ed in The New York Times titled "In the Race for a Coronavirus Vaccine, We Must Go Big. Really, Really Big." It advocated two major forms of federal spending for a vaccine. One, which they called a "pull incentive," was a commitment to buy 300 million courses of vaccine at a price of $100 per person. The second, which they called a "push incentive," was a guarantee of "partial reimbursement for production capacity built or repurposed at risk and partial reimbursement as they achieve milestones."

The authors didn't discuss how the vaccine should be distributed once the federal government paid for it. Presumably they wouldn't favor letting the drug companies sell a vaccine to the public after being paid by the federal government; that would have created an uproar. By default, their not mentioning distribution probably left most readers thinking they wanted the federal government to distribute the vaccine.

The good news is that the feds are not distributing the vaccine. The bad news is that state governments are deciding who gets it. Furthermore, no one pays for it, so we lack a price system. Without prices, there are huge lines to get vaccinated; people who barely value the vaccine sometimes get it ahead of people who value it a lot; and the incentive for those administering the vaccine to do so quickly is lower than it would be in a free market.

Could it have been different? Yes. On January 11, 2020, Yong-Zhen Zhang of China distributed the virus's genetic code; two days later, the Moderna lab in Massachusetts formulated one of the vaccines now being used. That was more than three months before the economists' article in The New York Times. So even without federal subsidies, Moderna would have been ready to sell the vaccine by the time it actually did so in late December. Then it could have distributed it to front-line health care workers and older people in nursing homes for, say, $20 a pop and sold doses to a lot of the rest of us for more. If the prices were too high for some people to afford, the government could have helped low-income Americans pay for the vaccine without involving itself in the distribution process.

The Food and Drug Administration's power to say no to drugs and vaccines that it thinks haven't been sufficiently tested for safety and/or efficacy is also a form of central planning. Without that power, we could have had the vaccine earlier. Even if the agency's power to "just say no" to drugs were restricted to its pre-1962 powers, when it could insist on safety but not on efficacy, we would have had the vaccine months earlier. That would have saved tens of thousands of lives.

Incentives

Another fundamental insight from economics—one that is arguably the basis of almost every other economic insight—is that incentives matter. Decision makers whose rewards are closely tied to the value their decisions create will tend to make decisions that create, or at least allow, a lot of value. They will sometimes fail, but they will try hard to make good decisions.

On the other hand, decision makers whose rewards are unrelated to the value of the decisions they make will make good decisions much less often. Even more perversely, if their decisions benefit only narrowly defined interest groups, such as government workers, their decisions might well destroy value.

Does this sound familiar? Consider Anthony Fauci's guidance to the American public early in the pandemic, from his perch on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, that there was no need to wear a mask. Later, Fauci conceded that this wasn't true; he had said otherwise, he maintained, to ensure an ample supply of masks for health care workers who needed them more than the average American. He didn't seem to take account of the damage that would do to the federal government's credibility.

Credibility is particularly important during a fast-moving pandemic. But Fauci would be paid the same $417,608 annually no matter what he said.

Moreover, the issue of incentives is relevant to the school opening issue discussed above. Private schools depend on tuitions and gifts to stay in business. Public schools, by contrast, get funded whether they teach in person or on Zoom. And public school teachers are typically paid full salaries even if they teach from home.

Externalities

The strongest argument for lockdowns is that when one person passes the virus on to another, he creates a "negative externality"—economists' term for a cost that someone imposes on others that wasn't accounted for when the person decided to act. The classic example is air pollution from a factory. The plant spews smoke into the air; it makes its way to tens of thousands of lungs; and, absent liability, fines, or agreements, the factory owner has little or no incentive to care.

If the factory's smoke entered the lungs of workers voluntarily laboring at the factory, though, that would not be classified as an externality. Whatever the lowest wage they would have been willing to work for in the absence of the smoke, that wage will be somewhat higher with the smoke. The factory owner can then decide whether it's cheaper to reduce the smoke or to continue as usual but pay higher wages.

Why do I note that caveat? Because what is sometimes described as a COVID-19 externality is not necessarily one.

Consider a customer going to a bar and knowing that there's a risk he could get infected. He has an incentive to take account of that risk. The other customers in the same position have an incentive to take account of the risk. The owner, knowing that some customers will be worried, has an incentive to take account of the risk. Private property helps "internalize" the externality.

It doesn't fully internalize it, because there are many bars, many restaurants, many gyms. So people leaving the first bar might spread the virus elsewhere, imposing a cost on patrons and workers at those other bars, restaurants, and gyms. But much of it is internalized.

In a recent paper, the George Mason economists Peter T. Leeson and Louis Rouanet note another way COVID-19 externalities differ from pollution. The polluter typically doesn't worry about the pollution that blows downstream. Many people, by contrast, do worry about being in contact with others and either infecting or getting infected by them. One need only look at the huge voluntary changes people made in their lives to see how important this factor is. Well before the first lockdown, Americans canceled trips and conferences and quit going to indoor restaurants and bars. On a smaller scale, people going about their business in town wear masks, and if they don't—and sometimes even if they do—they try to maintain a decent space between themselves and others, especially if those others are unmasked.

To the extent there is an externality, we should also remember a point made by Nobel-winning economist Ronald Coase: The person who suffers from pollution downwind from a factory would not suffer if he weren't there. That observation has led economists in Coase's tradition to the concept of "least-cost avoider." Economists tend to focus on the efficient outcome, and the efficient outcome requires looking at who has the lower cost of reducing or eliminating the externality. When people live near an airport, for example, the cheaper solution might be to have airplanes produce less noise. But it might instead be for homeowners to install double-pane or triple-pane windows.

In this pandemic, governments have chosen to prevent a huge number of interactions among people who are at low risk of suffering from the disease. Given that the risk of death by COVID-19 for older people with comorbidities is orders of magnitude higher than the risk for the general population, the lower-cost solution would probably have been for the elderly to isolate themselves.

That has a lower cost for two reasons. One is sheer numbers: It's easier for 40 million people to isolate than for more than 300 million people to isolate. The other reason is that elderly people with comorbidities are more likely to be retired or to work from home. So their loss from staying in their homes is low.

Moreover, it wouldn't necessarily require a mandate that the elderly isolate. They could do so if they wish, and most probably would choose to do so. But governments should not insist—as New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania did—that nursing homes readmit people who test positive for the virus.

Just as even paranoids can have real enemies, even optimists can have real grounds for hope.

I think almost all of us were surprised at how quickly most governors and many mayors moved to close down major sectors of the economy. This was a really large attack on economic freedom, the largest in my lifetime, and it happened within days. In most cases, executives did it with zero consent from legislatures. They used existing law to the limit and, some legal scholars say, beyond the limit. I doubt those officials typically thought in March 2020 that we would still be locked down in January 2021. But the lockdowns took on a life of their own.

Recall, though, an earlier anti-liberty episode that was not nearly as shocking as the lockdowns. In 2005's Kelo v. New London, the U.S. Supreme Court gave its blessing to a city government's use of eminent domain to expropriate property from homeowners and transfer it to a private entity, the New London Development Corporation. This sent shockwaves through the country. The Institute for Justice, which represented the losing side before the Supreme Court, has noted that the decision "sparked a nation-wide backlash against eminent domain abuse, leading eight state supreme courts and 43 state legislatures to strengthen protections for property rights."

Could we see a similar response to the lockdowns? Already there have been some moves at the state level to limit governors' lockdown powers. A bill that passed both the House and the Senate in Ohio would have limited the Ohio Department of Health's power to quarantine and isolate people, restricting it to only those who were directly exposed to COVID-19 or diagnosed with the disease. Similarly, in Michigan, the Senate and House passed a bill to repeal a 1945 law that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had used to impose the state's rather extreme lockdowns. Both bills were vetoed, but I doubt that will be the end of the story.

Even if it doesn't happen until this particular pandemic is over, there's good reason to believe that some state legislatures will want a say in future decisions. Whatever the case for letting governors move so quickly early last year, that case gets weaker and weaker the longer the lockdowns last. At some point, legislators just might roll back those powers. Or so we can hope.

NEXT: The State Department Fought To Allow ‘Ghost Gun’ Files and Won. Why Is It Still Trying To Remove Them?

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  1. We know that central planners don’t have enough information and insight about the lives and activities of 330 million people to plan those lives in a thoughtful way. We know the problems that emerge when you distribute something valuable by giving it away. We know that government officials face bad incentives. We know that externalities pose problems for the straightforward “leave it to the market” viewpoint, but that large government interventions create new problems.

    Who is “we”? “We” are gods, “we” can control the climate of the entire planet and the lives of 8 billion people, “we” have a solution for every problem in the world, if only “we” were given enough power.

    1. Wesley Mouch

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    2. A generation of kids raised on superhero films and comic books in which the Top Men either go back in time to solve their dilemma, or a new universe is created as a contrivance to wipe the slate clean of the problems in the old universe.

      Also known as bad writing.

      1. “…a new universe is created as a contrivance to wipe the slate clean of the problems in the old universe.”

        Wish fulfillment, for a generation steeped in critical race theory, that this society is irredeemably flawed by the taint of chattel slavery.

        1. Not the ass or the balls of slavery?

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  2. The most important economic lesson of the pandemic is that unlimited, unrestricted immigration is the only sensible policy.
    Remember when our hospitals got completely overwhelmed? That happened because Orange Hitler wouldn’t let in all those highly-skilled Mexican doctors trying to cross our border.

    #OpenBorders
    #(EspeciallyDuringAPandemic)

    1. SleepyJoe stopped travel from India. How racist is that?

      1. Not racist at all, since India is not a mostly-Muslim country.

      2. Is it because they have a slight Indian accent?

    2. That line of argument that we should let it doctors but not fruit pickers contradicts the market principles we are talking about.

      People move for economic reasons. If there is a demand for a certain type of labor, skilled or unskilled, they will follow that demand. If the government tries to centrally plan immigration by skill set it is no different than setting the production and price of toilet paper.

      1. “People move for economic reasons”

        Retarded.

      2. There are lots of reasons people move or don’t move. SOME people SOMETIMES move for economic reasons.

    3. God, you are such a bitch. Do you even have a penis any more or did you decide to finally cut it off because you can’t compete with the dreaded Mexican horde?

      1. “Do you even have a penis any more”

        This is one aspect of modern progressive argumentation I could do without — the tendency to link genitalia (or the size thereof) with courage and competence. Do you want to know who doesn’t have a penis or testicles at all? Actor Elliott Page, that’s who. And there’s certainly nothing “un-masculine” about their physique.

        #SomeMenHaveFrontHoles

      2. God, you are such a bitch. Do you even have a penis anymore or did you decide to finally cut it off because you can’t compete in the dreaded free market without big daddy government using other people’s money to support your helpless socialist ass?

        1. See one post above. Hiz can’t compete without an army of contractors protecting hem from MExicans. I don’t want to spend my money protecting losers from people who actually want to come to this country and work. Do you?

  3. Even if the agency’s power to “just say no” to drugs were restricted to its pre-1962 powers, when it could insist on safety but not on efficacy,

    A common, and understandable, misconception. Before the 1962 amendments, FDA was already considering efficacy in its determination of safety, because safety has no meaning except relative to efficacy.

    1. Because if efficacy cannot be shown, there is no justification for taking even an unknown risk? Yeah, I can see that.

  4. Most people can’t (or won’t) do math. “Quantities” of things like money are just feelings, biggish or smallish.

    Most people can’t connect related phenomena, like spending and the sources of funding. And they are helpless in judging value.

    Most people think of government resources as coming from others, or just magically forming from the ether. Spending is purely a political desire and decision.

    We are fucked.

    1. ^ Well said.

  5. “What was missing from the discussion is something known only in the minds of the humans involved: the value of what was lost.”
    No, what was missing in this whole thing and is still missing is LOGIC!

  6. “The Economic Lessons from Covid” are that you finally got That Orange Bastard out of office, and whatever price you had to pay, it was worth it.

    Now fuck off, and let people do what they want again.

  7. It seems to have gotten flushed down the toilet, but last Autumn, Newsom was forming a commission to ‘plan’ the re-opening of the economy to make it ‘more equitable’.
    You’d think a man in his position might have read a bit of 20th century history.

    1. If he tied environmentalism in with it he could call it the Green Leap Forward.

      1. Tom Steyer was slated to be part of the committee; a man who has made billions pushing ‘green’, and taking all the taxpayer money he can off of it.
        And then lobbying for more; imagine Exxon lobbying for petroleum subsidies.

      2. I hear it’s a 5-year plan.

    2. You are assuming he hasn’t. It’s quite possible that he knows exactly what he would like to be doing, as well as why, and how. He is as much a would-be dictator as I have ever seen.

  8. I’ve learned something from COVID-19 too: the same people that bitch and moan about the overregulation of pharmaceuticals that other people take (get your fucking Thalidomide pill and take it you weenie!) can’t be bothered to get a shot that will give them a Owie on the arm and maybe give them a headache for a couple hours. You poor whittle things, you.

    1. People making decisions for themselves. Amazing concept.

      1. Yeah, if you’re a afraid of a whittle owie on the arm so that you can protect a.) yourself And b.) other people from getting sick from a lethal virus you probably are a whiny bitch. That’s what I’ve learned.

        1. How many people have I spread covid to?

          1. How would you know?

            1. Using simple math and logic.

              1. It would give you probability not a count for an individual.

                1. I haven’t had it.

                  1. I don’t know why

                    “Conclusions and Relevance In this decision analytical model of multiple scenarios of proportions of asymptomatic individuals with COVID-19 and infectious periods, transmission from asymptomatic individuals was estimated to account for more than half of all transmissions. “

                    https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2774707

                    1. I haven’t had it.

              2. For all I know I spread it to a dozen people.

                1. That’s diabolical.

        2. Mommy said it was just fine, so steaming pile of lefty shit is more than happy to do whatever the master tells him to do. Are you wearing three masks now, steaming pile of lefty shit?
          Pay your mortgage, stay on your knees, fuck off and die.

          1. You seem upset Sevo? Better head to one of your loser 12 step meetings.

            What’s it like being inferior to the rest of us?

              1. What is … what Sevo waves every day.

    2. As a doctor I can tell you I had a lot of hesitation about taking a shot based on this brand new technology.
      Messenger RNA vaccines actually enter your cells and force your cells to manufacture a virus protein that is expressed on the outside of the cell.
      There are extremely limited safety studies on if this technology is indeed safe.
      Especially considering the extremely risk of death that I personally have even if I get coronavirus.

      Traditional vaccines inject you with either a dead virus, or part of a virus. Then your immune cells see this and react to it and produce antibodies.
      This technology has been proven generally safe since the 1700s.
      Although some people do get paralyzed from Guillian Barre syndrome and/or die from traditional vaccines.

      I went ahead and got the Pfizer vaccine, but I would’ve been much happier if it was a traditional vaccine like the flu shot I get every year

    3. “Why won’t they just do what I say!?!?!?!?! There should be a law!!!!!!!”

  9. Mises’ student Friedrich Hayek advanced the argument by noting the ways an economy depends on dispersed information that exists in the minds of millions of people.

    Except that this was not actually the reality re knowledge/information here in the US. The dispersed information that Hayek talked about gets incorporated into individual decision-making by the market and only the market because it only exists to that individual. Oversimplifying – markets cannot even work when everyone shares the same values. Trade does not occur when both the baker and their customer both believe that the bread is worth more than the price of it.

    Markets arbitrage differences in perception, values, etc. They do NOT arbitrage stupidity, ignorance, and fraud. Hayek’s article was called Use of Knowledge in Society not Value of Stupidity in Society.

    Every word uttered in the last year+ by the ‘just the flu’ folks is a form of fraud. A known lie deliberately sold in order to deceive others to change their behaviors from what would occur if they weren’t ignorant.

    The decisions about schools last year (March-May) were a form of precautionary ignorance. We KNEW then, based on even faulty Chinese data, that covid19 didn’t kill kids. But we had no idea whether a)there were long-term consequences for kids short of death or b)the virus had transmission characteristics where kids would be a major vector.

    After the summer, for this school year, there was enough knowledge gained so that the ‘keep the schools closed’ folks were also in the pure fraud mode.

    If you think 2020 was some lesson learned about markets v planning, then you’re wrong. The only lesson of 2020 is that Americans (or at least the polity and its institutions) is hopelessly fraudulent, stupid, and has little/no chance of change in future.

    1. Everything Is So Terrible And Unfair! ™, J.

      It’s a shame that there are so many stupid people out there, and that you’re so bitter about it.

    2. “…If you think 2020 was some lesson learned about markets v planning, then you’re wrong….”
      If you don’t, you’re a fucking ignoramus.

      “…The only lesson of 2020 is that Americans (or at least the polity and its institutions) is hopelessly fraudulent, stupid, and has little/no chance of change in future.”
      Poor little JFree; only HE knows what is good and worthwhile, and the world keeps laughing at him.
      What a pathetic fucking piece of shit; stuff your whine up your ass so your head and your PANIC flag have company.

  10. “from January 1, 2020, to February 17, 2021, only 140 U.S. residents under age 15 died from the disease”

    FROM the virus or WITH the virus? We need to make that distinction.

    1. WE would like to know that distinction. But THEY won’t differentiate that.

      1. That would be the job of the attending physician.

        1. When I worked at a state CDC during H1N1, it was the director of the CDC that assigned all flu-related deaths to that strain when it was other strains that were involved with most of the cases. And given the chicanery out of New York and nursing home deaths, I’d like to be able to know without agenda-driven top men making that decision.

          1. Are Johns Hopkins and all of the other public health and epidemiology institutes around the world in on the conspiracy as well? What would be the motivation?

            1. I stand by the statement that I’d like to see the unmassaged data. Motivations include additional funding, camera time (notoriety) and participating in imposing restrictions on others (power).

            2. “What would be the motivation?”
              Uh, federal funding?

          2. Do they fake the data for other diseases as well?

            1. I’m glad we agree that data has been faked. The article and topic are regarding covid. I related what occurred with H1N1 since I was present for that. We weren’t normally involved with infectious diseases but were conscripted during that declared pubic health emergency.

              1. No we don’t I am repeating your baseless allegation. There is nothing left to talk about I am tired of this. I am tired of these restrictions. I stopped reading the medical literature. I watched about India yesterday on TV and wanted to cry. I am tired of the lost year my grandchildren have had. I am tired that I could not travel to see my mother last year. I miss so many things in life and I want them back. I am worn out. I don’t want to argue about it anymore. It was a mistake to even talk about it.

                1. If you didn’t want to talk it about it more why make a bug emotional speech before stomping off? Anyhow, that is what occurred. If it doesn’t fit your paradigm that is your choice to ignore it.
                  My 2020 was very similar to 2019 except less traffic heading to and from work. As well as wearing a mask in some stores and around vulnerable folks.

          3. It is really irrelevant. Those numbers are all estimates. I don’t see the point other than it started as a conspiracy theory that hospitals were faking the numbers to get more money. Repeated by the president along with they are doing too many tests. That goes along with the PCR cycle theory mostly repeated by people who don’t know what PCR means.

            I don’t care really. It doesn’t matter now. You always get tin hats in any crisis.

            If we could get enough jabs in arms maybe we could get our lives back.

            1. The numbers where I worked were not estimates. They were a true count. As I believe they are now; have not seen “approximately X…”.

              Everyone here that needs a vaccine has had access to one for weeks. And some of us never gave up our lives.

              1. Chumby
                I’m glad you have that magic power.
                Your life hasn’t changed at all.
                While governor DeSantis here in Florida did a magnificent job and the lockdown was for a minimum period of time.

                My hospital still closed to elective surgery for two months.
                Since the operating room is where the hospital derives most of its profit, this had huge ramifications.
                All temporary, per diem, and contract nurses were immediately terminated.
                Our CRNA‘s were given an involuntary 25% pay cut.
                Everyone who worked at outpatient surgery centers got a 100% pay cut as they all closed.

                Thousands of people lost their jobs or had major pay cut and likely did not pay their credit card bills, or loans, mortgage or mortgages.
                And hospitals were declared an essential service and were open!

                1. But the teachers, police and judges all got full salaries.

                  1. The civil servants here that sat at home and Netflixed also got their paychecks. I think they should have been furloughed and the taxes used to pay them decreased.

                    A number of businesses here got slammed by the restrictions. The additional free money made it worse; a number of people were taking in more than when they were working and refused to go back when they could.

                    There will be future pandemics. And I think folks will not be any more prepared than this time.

      2. Do you question other diagnosis as well? Did he die from a heart attack or with a heart attack? Both are possibilities.

  11. Hayek was a pro-apartheid defender of aristocracy, in that special way people defend the habits of the generational wealthy because, clearly, they have the best taste. Don’t you smell the putrescence and cobwebs on your philosophy by now? It’s been rotting long enough.

    This magazine spent the pandemic advocating for more death in exchange for a GDP boost under a Republican president. I assume you don’t give a crap how much the economy tanks under a Democratic one, do you? All the better to prove yourself right with those very low standards you apply to yourself: “As long as things are going to shit, I’m right!”

    Meanwhile the commentators did what they always do: deny scientific facts they don’t like.

    What a useless bunch of morons.

    1. Those of us that opposed lockdowns supported folks choosing for themselves how much social interaction each individual wants to engage in. In other words, we are pro choice.

      1. Most people who opposed lockdowns were not remotely in favor of any meaningful ‘choice’ since they spent all their energy advocating for fraud about the disease itself.

          1. You can disagree about the policy (lockdown or nothing or whatever) and still understand what the disease itself (the object of a policy not the policy) actually is. But lying about the disease itself – for purposes of selling a prescription. That is fraud and that is what pretty much the entire R crowd did here for the entire last year.

            Differences of perception about or value of social interaction /= fraud.

            1. Explain regarding choice.

              1. Be prepared for a LOT of meaningless arm-waving.

                1. I don’t think it can.

              2. Choice requires knowledge of the options – not deceit about the consequences of the options

            2. “…But lying about the disease itself – for purposes of selling a prescription. That is fraud and that is what pretty much the entire R crowd did here for the entire last year…”

              Your newsletter; is it as full of shit as this claim?
              If so, stuff it up your ass to keep you head, your PANIC flag and your earlier steaming pile of shit company

      2. Perhaps you should read up on how airborne viruses work.

        1. Maybe you should crawl under a rock and stay there. Your health is not my concern.

          1. Having your own thoughts is not as painful as you think it is.

            1. That’s a reply to whom?

        2. ????very nice Shayari.i would preferably share this shayari.thanks for your article.
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    2. I usually describe OpenBordersLiberal-tarian’s First Law as it relates to Democratic politicians, as they campaign on an obviously insincere “eat the rich” platform. Here, though, we see how the law applies to rank-and-file Democratic voters.

      But Tony, you can stop pretending. The poor people who Democrats need to trick into voting for them? They probably aren’t visiting Reason.com. You’re free to admit the Democratic Party you support is, in fact, the party of multinational corporations, CEOs, billionaires, and Koch-funded libertarians.

      1. PS — “I assume you don’t give a crap how much the economy tanks under a Democratic one, do you?”

        Ummmmm, Koch / Reason libertarians overwhelmingly supported Biden precisely because we knew he’d promote a fantastic economy.

        1. If you are invested in anything other than the dollar, Biden has been a financial blessing.

          1. Inflation and deficit hawks are why investing is easier than it should be.

            I don’t think they emphasize enough in economics classes how much the market moves because of stupid people in large numbers.

  12. Democracy lasts until people realize they can vote themselves money from the public treasury. Which happened sometime last summer.

    1. Guess you could say that folks that traded working for money to voting for money have mailed it in.

    2. No, it lasts until a right-wing propaganda machine convinces enough white dudes that saving Dr. Seuss is more important than the consent of the governed.

      The Treasury already belonged to all of us. That’s what “public” means.

      1. The rant of the abysmally stupid.

  13. There are still 700 innocent US citizens dying every day from Covid19.

    1. Yes
      And this is a a country of over 330, million people. 700 is a minuscule number.
      And the great majority of those people are over age 70 or have comorbid conditions.

      Like the article said, it would’ve been better for those 43 million people to quarantine and mask in public.
      The rest of the population should’ve gone about their normal business.

    2. There are still 700 innocent US citizens dying every day from Covid19.
      I blame SleepyJoe.

  14. One thing they got right in 1918 that we got wrong: no lockdowns.

    1. One thing we got wrong was Wilson sent the men off to war anyway. The flu ravaged through crowded barracks and transport vessels. About 26,000 troops died from the flu. There were 116,000 combat deaths.

    2. There were some lockdowns in 1918.

  15. The lesson I drew from COVID-19 was that if so-called “price gougers” were free to charge what they want, we would have kept toilet paper, Lysol, rubbing alcohol, Hydrogen Peroxide, sanitizer, and much else on the shelves with no panic buyers backing up the truck.

    Meanwhile, it’s been 5 days since my second Pfizer shot and I’vm still alive. I showed off my bear arm to a Q-Anon-er in traffic and he spun off. Good thing I wasn’t eating pizza too. 🙂

  16. ‘m still alive and my arm was bare. I guess there’s no curing Reason’s lack of an Edit button.

  17. “but that large government interventions create new problems.”

    It’s precisely the lack of planning that creates these problems. The airline industry, for example, had nothing planned for the eventuality of a global pandemic. Had they the foresight to set aside resources to cope, the government intervention wouldn’t have been called for.

    1. the foresight to set aside resources to cope

      That is the origin of commodity-based money and writing and civilization and probably religion. The only way to settle in one place and move beyond hunter-gatherer is to store up surplus – first within one season and then longer-term.

      A lot of our problems today originate in forgetting that.

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  21. it is not just a matter of polyticy, it has to take into account the human side

  22. All the economic ruin blamed on the virus is misdirection based on the assumption that the rulers forced only what the M.D.s advised. But, who allows the initiation of violence, threats thereof, i.e., edicts? The populace. And those who resist, who think for themselves, who ask for clarification that authority cannot give? They are ignored, or worse, cancelled. The consensus is manufactured by authority (MSM), enforced by authority, for authority. Authority loves to use its sovereignty over the populace to see how far the populace can be pushed, how much crap they will submit to before they reach their breaking point, and how that will be expressed. Some do it by riots. Some by suicide. Some by open defiance. Are they finally finding their dignity, their self respect, their confidence, their bravery? Do they realize the pandemic was a Pan-hoax? Do they realize that coercive govt. is not moral or practical? Do they want to reclaim their sovereignty and self-govern? How long will it take to make the American Dream manifest?

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  24. Good piece but I want to quibble about one point. Henderson says that the value consumers place on goods “typically” exceeds the sticker price and this difference is called consumer surplus. But surely the consumer’s valuation of the good always exceeds the money price as a matter of logical necessity; if the consumer’s valuation did not exceed the price, no exchange would take place. Or am I missing something?

    Of course if I’m correct it just reinforces the author’s larger point that we can’t really measure the economic loss of intervention since the value of the foregone goods must be even greater than the loss of GDP measured in dollars.

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