We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

“But if this really is the moral equivalent of war then history teaches us that wars can be won on the battlefield but lost on the home front, and just as nations have been defeated because they ran out of food or a revolution broke out, so the Government’s strategy could collapse because the millions of civilians stuck indoors lose patience.”

Tim Stanley

76 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • APL

    ” is the moral equivalent ”

    Really?

  • Mary Contrary

    When people say something is “the moral equivalent of war”, they’re obviously not talking about the moral status of the thing allegedly under discussion. It is obviously nonsensical to talk about the morality of the Coronavirus.

    When people call something “the moral equivalent of war”, they mean their demands for extraordinary measures, almost invariable a massive extension of State power and coercion, is as morally justified by this thing as it is by war.

    I think we all know this.

    I also think it is worth making this explicit, however. It is interesting, and useful, to be able to identify those whose only thought in such times is how to grab more power. Anyone using the term “moral equivalent of war” reveals themselves as such a person.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “It is obviously nonsensical to talk about the morality of the Coronavirus.”

    Why? Can the natural world not contain evil?

    “When people call something “the moral equivalent of war”, they mean their demands for extraordinary measures, almost invariable a massive extension of State power and coercion, is as morally justified by this thing as it is by war.”

    Do you think we only fight wars because we’re made to? Or do we do it because we all recognise the threat, support the extraordinary measures, *choose* to act, give our consent? Was fighting socialism wrong?

    They have no power without our consent. They don’t have anything like the state aparatus of control to coerce our cooperation. If everyone tomorrow was to say ‘sod it’ and go back to work, there’s nothing a thin line of coppers could do. They can’t even keep on top of ordinary crime from a handful of burglars and malcontents! How are they going to arrest the entire population?

    Now, they could possibly *build* such an apparatus, and they could possibly use the crisis and people’s dangerous non-conformity in the face of the emergency as a justification for doing so. That would be a lot more dangerous. But so long as people comply voluntarily, they’ve got no excuse for building any more powerful police force, and that means the power stays with the population. We only stay under lock-down because we choose to. The measures stay for only as long as most of us are convinced they are justified.

    “War is the continuation of politics by other means”, as Clauswitz said. The aim in war is to break the will of the people to fight. No government can fight a war without the willing support of their own people. No prince may govern without the consent of the governed. The US lost the Vietnam war not because the Vietnamese beat them, but because the American people did. They didn’t support it.

    So this is what people mean when they compare it to a war. They mean that the people, seeing a major external threat to their society, are united in support of the extraordinary measures needed against it. It is indeed a dangerous situation for liberty. There is indeed a risk that politicians can use the crisis to seize extra powers, and not give them back. Society is trading that risk off against the external threat. But we can’t ignore either – we always have to balance the risks against one another.

  • Stonyground

    There is a story at OOL about an MP bumping up against petty minded officialdom. Julia M is hoping that he might learn something from the experience.

    https://4liberty.org.uk/2020/04/06/lets-hope-you-remember-this-in-the-coming-months-tim/

  • APL

    NiV:

    “Can the natural world not contain evil?”

    Does the covid-19 virus have malign intent?

    Was the volcano that obliterated Pompeii and all its inhabitants, evil?

    We’re given to believe, it killed sixteen thousand people in one day.

    But in my opinion, with the information to hand, neither covid-19 nor Mount Vesuvius are or were evil.

  • bob sykes

    In the US, the stock market is still down 30%, and there are 30 to 40 million people out of work. The Second Great Depression is upon us. Conditions in Europe and Asia are worse.

    The US lockdown will end, and sooner rather than later, because Americans will decide that a few million dead are a price worth paying in order to have jobs, income, homes and food.

    Yes food. Or don’t you remember soup kitchens and bread lines. Brits especially should. You had food rationing until 1953 or 1954.

    The First Great Depression lasted in America until 1940, when the war build up began. That’s 11 years. If the US lockdown doesn’t end by summer, we are looking at another lost decade, and maybe a world war or American Hitler.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Does the covid-19 virus have malign intent?”

    Is malign intent necessarily required to be evil (the road to hell is paved with good intentions, they say), and why can we not say selfish genes have ‘intent’? Can a good person with the best of intentions do something bad?

    It’s one of the curiosities of modern morality that it apparently only applies to humans. Ask a vegan whether it is morally wrong to eat meat, and they’ll be unambiguously emphatic, but ask them if that applies to lions and tigers and other carnivores, and they’ll say it doesn’t apply. Why? We’re animals, too. We’re a part of the natural world.

    SARS-CoV-2 is a much more distant relative of ours, but in a way it’s the same as the lions and tigers – it’s a lifeform out to promote its own reproductive success at the expense of other lifeforms. Why can’t we apply the same rules?

    I think in ancient times, humans did indeed ascribe morality to the natural world. They’d have maybe personalised it as a volcano god or spirit, but it’s the same feeling. Predators were judged in moral terms – the cunning fox, the voracious locust, the ‘big bad wolf’! It’s not impossible in principle, it’s just not the way we do it nowadays.

    The philosophers speak of consequentialist ethics (you judge the morality of something by its consequences), deontological ethics (you judge by whether it follows rules, rights, and duties), and virtue ethics (judging by intentions and moral character). It depends on your definitions.

    Sorry – that’s a sideline distraction. It was just a throwaway thought.

  • Rob Fisher

    NiV: you’re arguing about semantics. There’s rarely anything to be gained by it. Humans are able to decide to change their behaviour. Lions less so. Some sort of language to make the distinction seems useful.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “NiV: you’re arguing about semantics. There’s rarely anything to be gained by it.”

    Only insight. 🙂

    “Humans are able to decide to change their behaviour. Lions less so.”

    Humans often don’t, and seem unable. Lions sometimes do.

    All life is capable of learning. Even selfish genes.

  • NickM

    I’m with APL here. Ascribing moral qualities to natural phenomena is very odd.

    And I’m very surprised to hear it come from the keyboard of NiV who is generally one of the more scientifically minded commentators in this neck of the woods.

    I recall from A-Level biology a quite interesting discussion as to whether or not viruses were actually life forms. And yes, that is very debatable. Yeah, they reproduce, but that’s about it. That’s a necessary condition to be considered alive but is it sufficient? This is a very difficult question. Is a seed alive?

    If it isn’t alive then there is no way you can ascribe any moral qualities to it. As you go up the scale of life… Well, we’ve all known nasty dogs and very lovable ones but nematodes? And nematodes can cause some very nasty diseases but are they evil the way Reinhard Heydrich was? I suggest that is a question that is unanswerable because it doesn’t even make sense.

  • APL

    NiV:

    “Is malign intent necessarily required to be evil”

    Was the eruption of Vesuvius in 79AD evil?

    NiV:

    “Can a good person with the best of intentions do something bad?”

    Does the good person who acts with the best of intentions, and where the outcome is evil, act with malice? I think not, stupidity, perhaps, thoughtlessness maybe, but not malice.

    NiV:

    “I think in ancient times, humans did indeed ascribe morality to the natural world.”

    When you understand a thunderstorm as the gods in dispute, yes. Maybe some of us have moved on a little since then.

  • NickM

    BTW,
    I wrote the a while back. It took a while to hitting “post”.

  • Mr Ed

    I think that there is a bit of (possibly unintentional) trolling going on here, if not it’s perhaps primitive animism; there is a legal term in Great Britain ‘Beyond reasonable argument’.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “I’m with APL here. Ascribing moral qualities to natural phenomena is very odd.”

    Humans are natural phenomena, in my opinion. 🙂

    “And I’m very surprised to hear it come from the keyboard of NiV who is generally one of the more scientifically minded commentators in this neck of the woods.”

    I appreciate the compliment!

    Have you come across the ‘Appeal to Nature’ fallacy, sometimes called the Naturalistic fallacy? That asserts that anything natural is thereby automatically good. Or Vitalism, that there is some magic ingedient in life that distinguishes it from the rest of the inanimate natural world, following the laws of physics?

    I, on the other hand, make no distinctions between man and nature. Man is natural. And so is the mind. The human mind is fundamentally a very big, very powerful information processor, but information processing is not confined to human brains. Other organisms do it too, to a greater or lesser extent, and even the ‘inanimate’ is capable. Humans operate according to the laws of physics, so if morality is to mean anything real, it has to apply to physics, too.

    Genes process information, too. They ‘sense’ the environment, in that they find out what survives/reproduces, and solve problems to achieve that aim. They use a ‘genetic algorithm’ paradigm. There is a very slow and limited form of ‘intelligence’ there. And as such, I see no reason to treat it any differently to other information processing systems. It’s a difference of degree, not kind.

    I don’t take it too seriously, mind. It’s just a philosophically interesting example of a different way of looking at things. I find it a useful exercise to broaden the mind. 🙂

    “Was the eruption of Vesuvius in 79AD evil?”

    In the consequentialist version of ethics, it could probably be fairly described as ‘a bad thing’! That’s a value judgement. In virtue ethics, no, it isn’t. In deontological ethics, we could possibly argue that it is breaching health and safety law, emission of toxic gases, arson, damage to property, etc. But there would no doubt be a question over whether the courts have jurisdiction. Volcanoes are not normally citizens of the state. 🙂

    My initial point was actually about the consequentialist/virtue distinction. Utilitarian ethics is consequentialist, so I tend to lean that way. But the position that nature cannot be immoral is founded on virtue ethics, and moreover, the assumption that only humans can have intentions and virtues. I was just saying there are other ways to look at the world.

  • John B

    If it is the moral equivalent of war, or war declared as in France, and wars have been fought where it was morally justified to fight and kill those who wanted to take away your liberty, freedom and basic Rights, (frequently used as moral justification for war) then….citizens, you know what to do… morally.

  • APL

    NiV: “In the consequentialist version of ethics, it could probably be fairly described as ‘a bad thing’!”

    But it was just expressing itself, you meanie.

    NiV: “But there would no doubt be a question over whether the courts have jurisdiction. Volcanoes are not normally citizens of the state.”

    It resides in the State of Italy or as it was then, under the dominion of Rome.

    And the court could of course, send its bailiff to evict the lava for contempt.

  • NickM

    “Have you come across the ‘Appeal to Nature’ fallacy, sometimes called the Naturalistic fallacy? That asserts that anything natural is thereby automatically good.”

    Of course I have! It is of course utterly bunkrapt. Natural = neutral in my book. But that is in a moral sense. There are different meanings of “good”. If I were to say vitamin C is “good” (in moderation, obviously) I’m saying something quite different from saying a VW Golf is a “good” car or my next door neighbour is a “good” woman. Three different meanings. Conflating them is probably at the heart of the naturalistic fallacy.

    Much the same can be said about “bad” of course. A “bad” car is one that breaks down a lot. This doesn’t imply it is morally deficient in the way that saying Reinhard Heydrich was a “bad” man. The later is most definitely a moral judgement and quite different from saying he was a “bad” table-tennis player*.

    So, yes, Vesuvius blowing up was “bad” but in a totally different way from the actions of 19 evil bastards on 9/11 being “bad”.

    I don’t believe only humans are capable of moral “good” or “bad”. I think there is a spectrum. A tidal wave is not a moral entity no matter how destructive it is. Neither is a pleasant summer day no matter how lovely it is for a BBQ. Humans of course can be good or evil and I’d say the same for animals to varying degrees. We’ve all known friendly and helpful dogs and also dogs that are right nasty bastards. I think some level of moral judgement is not out of order with respect to dogs. You’d push it over nematode worms but you catch my drift…

    *I neither know nor care about whether he was any good at that game.

  • NickM

    One problem with consequentialist ethics is you aren’t actually judging the action unless you are absolutely sure what the outcome will be. And how far down the line do you go with that? Is cheating someone out of a small sum of money a good act if it makes them more cautious in the future and therefore they avoid falling victim to a much larger con?

  • Nullius in Verba

    “One problem with consequentialist ethics is you aren’t actually judging the action unless you are absolutely sure what the outcome will be.”

    True. There’s always a cascade of hidden consequences. Part of doing good is finding out what the risks and consequences are, and we are of course imperfect at it. But it’s not enough to merely intend good. Socialists often intend only good – the problem being that their fundamental misunderstandings about economics and human nature result in horrific consequences, and then their attempts to fix things and get them back on track make them worse. Socialism is still an evil, even when sincerely intended to do only good. People can be mistaken, and do evil with no malign intent.

    But yes, I believe it is a recognised issue with consequentialism.

  • Alsadius

    Leaving aside the moral philosophy, I find it really weird that people think the economic losses this causes will go on for a decade. There’s only really been one crash in history that bad, and it was caused (more than any other single factor) by a tariff war that crushed the life out of international trade and kept crushing. Trade today is probably still at a higher level than in the early 30s, it’s freer even with the coronavirus restrictions (and infinitely freer in normal times), and the secondary causes of the Depression (bank failures, massive deflation, gold confiscation, stupid proto-Keynesian policies, etc.) are mostly things we’re pretty good at avoiding these days. This will probably be the fastest recovery in living memory, because nothing is actually wrong with the economy – we’re just putting some parts of it on ice for a while.

    Once you get away from predicting catastrophe and begin to have some faith in the private sector, the economic impacts don’t look as bad as the above comments suggest. We’re not losing our homes, most workplaces will re-open once they’re able, we’re still going to have food and clothing, and a lot of people (myself included) are still working more or less the same as usual.

    There’s going to be some hangover, of course. The travel industry will likely be below-trend for a few years, some entertainment/restaurant/etc. businesses won’t be able to weather the closure even with bailouts, and so on. And of course, all this new government debt will need to be paid off, so I’d expect the odd tax hike and/or spending cut too. But after the coronavirus restrictions are lifted, it’ll be less harmful than 2008 in terms of effects on the economy. Possibly even less harmful than the dot-com crash. It’ll suck in truly legendary fashion until then, but there’s no reason to think the recovery will be a decade long.

  • NickM

    NiV,
    “Socialists often intend only good…” – that is very debatable. Especially the “good”. When we are talking about something as complicated as society/economics/stuff-like-that define “good”. Quite a few on the left are so obsessed with ‘equality’ (however defined – yet another complication) that they’d prefer everyone living in abject poverty as long as it’s everyone. Now I vastly prefer that not being the case so is even the intent good? It depends on deeper philosophical assumptions or principles.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Features of nature (tidal waves, volcanoes, bugs, etc) are not evil. Evil is comes from human intent and action following from that intent. It is about hatred of goodness, of achievement, of values, of life. To talk about inanimate matter as being evil is a nonsense. Equally it is silly to say that “life is tragic”, as even someone who is quite sensible such as Jordan Peterson likes to say. No it fucking isn’t. Nature just is. What is tragic is when people refuse to deal with reality and use their brains to make sense, to build and create good things.

    Why is this important to get this clear? Because language matters. Fuzzy thinking begets fuzzy action.

  • NickM

    “People can be mistaken, and do evil with no malign intent.” – that is also debatable. Would that include now utterly discredited medical treatments? Was bleeding people for gunshot wounds evil or just wrong? I just don’t think you can take intent out of judging anything as “evil”. For sure, bad things have happened as unintended consequences but…

  • NickM

    I wrote my 5:26pm comment before reading JP’s comment. Suffice to say, though, I thoroughly concur with JP. Evil cannot exist without an agent deciding to do it. A supernova could utterly destroy a sophisticated and enlightened civilization (and somewhere in the Universe there is a good chance that has happened) and whilst of course that is bad but it isn’t evil. Unless you believe that a massive star decided to blow itself up out of sheer spite over it’s envy of the achievements of the folks on an orbiting planet. I have an MSc in astrophysics and oddly enough the subject of “Massive Stellar Strops” (MSSs) never came up. Gravitational core collapses did but never MSSs.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Quite a few on the left are so obsessed with ‘equality’”

    Those aren’t the ones I’m talking about. I mean the nice-but-dim ones. They care about the poor, the sick, the homeless, and the unemployed, they donate to food banks and charities, they’re unhappy to see some people with far more than they need, while other good people they know work incredibly hard but are still desperately poor and have to go without. They natter to the lady behind the counter in the shop who is struggling to feed the family on a minimum wage, the neighbour’s teenage son who can’t find a job, the elderly neighbours who can’t afford to heat the house properly in winter, who are shorting themselves of food in order to feed their cat. They never think about questions like “How are we going to pay for this?” – their thinking doesn’t get that far. They’ve a vague idea that ‘the government’ will provide, but they don’t understand exactly where the government gets it from. They think it’s from rich people who already have more money than they need, and that’s fine by them. They don’t understand how those rich people are *using* the wealth to create jobs, food, goods of all sorts, to keep the whole thing running, or what the consequences are of taking it away. They are ‘zero-sum’ thinkers – they believe there’s a fixed amount of stuff to go round, and if some people have more, that means other people have less. They are protectionist about the labour market – they think shielding their jobs and industries against cheaper competition will raise wages and make them richer. They believe that price controls (rent controls, minimum wage, etc.) will make goods more affordable, at no cost to the economy. They are profoundly ignorant economically, but not in any way of malign intent.

    It depends how you define “good”.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Unless you believe that a massive star decided to blow itself up out of sheer spite over it’s envy of the achievements of the folks on an orbiting planet. I have an MSc in astrophysics and oddly enough the subject of “Massive Stellar Strops” (MSSs) never came up.”

    🙂

    I have a vague recollection of a sci-fi story about advanced alien intelligences being implemented in the plasma currents and magnetic fields of a star, and them triggering a massive solar flare to fry a planet. Don’t remember the details, it was decades ago. Intelligent stars is not something I’d rule out, out of hand, in an infinite universe.

    And I recall a more recent one about alien intelligences living in the turbulent flows of a fluid – vortices and twists and knots of fluid performing computations – possibly living in the deep oceans or the atmosphere of Jupiter or the sun. I don’t think they ever located them in the story.

    It’s an old(ish) question – if you had a human-level AI running on a computer, would it be moral to turn the power off?

    What constitutes an agent? Can genes act as an agent, in that sense?

  • Nullius in Verba

    Oh, yeah. And the same problem from another perspective.

  • APL

    Professor Knut Wittkowski

    “I am not paid by the government, so I am entitled to do science. [ .. ] If there had been no intervention, the epidemic would have been over.”

  • Nullius in Verba

    Is that the same Knut Wittkowski who published this paper?

    Predictions for COVID-19 in North America
    From Table 1, SARS-CoV-2 has arrived in the U.S. almost a week after it arrived in Europe. The incidence is still low (currently at about 55/M/d) and is likely to continue to increase until early April. If incidence in the U.S. were to peak at about 75/M/d, as in Europe as a whole (Fig 4b), one would expect new cases to peak at up to 25,000 per day and the cumulative incidence could reach 600/M (3 times the number of cases per million people in South Korea to account for a longer course because of the size of the countries) or a total of 200,000 cases, and, at 2% lethality, about 4,000 deaths, about four times the currently reported cumulative number of 1,079. These are conservative estimates, because only 1% of cases died in South Korea over the course of the epidemic and both countries have a similar proportion of people older than 65 years (14% vs 16%) On the other hand, the numbers could double if the SKII strain should have hit the US earlier. A number of 4000–8000 U.S. death over the course of the epidemic compares to an expected number of 16,000–78,000 influenza deaths per season from pneumonia and respiratory/circulatory complications alone, which also occur predominantly among people at 65 years of age and older.(Rolfes 2018). The precise number of people dying depends on (a) which virus strain got to the US first and (b) how early people are being treated against severe complications (e.g., pneumonia).

    Hmm. Either 4000, or 4000-8000 deaths in total. That’s very good news!

    I’m not sure – am I misinterpreting that? I’ve only skimmed the paper briefly, but that stood out as easily testable.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    NiV, others. Consider if someone said the following: “The volcano that buried Pompei was a great evil.”. Only someone believing in a Divine agency to create said volcanic eruption could really concur. As a fact of nature, its is neither good or bad.

    Shit happens. That’s it.

  • Alsadius

    APL: That’s ridiculous. Even if we were actively trying to infect everybody we’d still be in the growth period right now. Unless he thinks there’s a few billion secret cases, there’s no way this makes mathematical sense.

    Regarding NiV’s linked paper from the same prof, he predicts 4000 deaths. The US is already at 10,516 deaths. He predicts a peak of 25,000 cases per day, they’re already well over that. He published that on March 28th, it’s been 25k+ since March 31st. (the current peak is 34,196 on Apr 4th, which is the last full day of data, but it’s still rising). He is way too optimistic to be trustworthy here. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/

  • APL

    Alsadius: “I find it really weird that people think the economic losses this causes will go on for a decade.”

    Neil Ferguson: “We will be paying for this year for decades to come ..” ( during testimony to UK Parliament ).

  • Alsadius

    Paying for it, sure. Most governments that existed at the time are still paying for 18th century wars, in some sense. But that’s a discussion of deficit financing, not a discussion of a decade-long economic collapse.

  • Paul Marks

    COVID 19 is a deadly disease, it sometimes will need to be treated with medicine – either existing medicines (such as the ones the President of the United States has suggested) or new ones – which are being researched in the United States, Israel and other nations.

    More than five thousand people have already died of this disease in the United Kingdom, and now the Prime Minister is seriously ill – obviously everyone (with the possible exception of “Prime Eye” which has viciously mocked his illness) hopes he recovers.

    Hanging about waiting to die is not a “strategy” – the Prime Minister and all the other people who have developed a very serious disease need MEDICAL AID.

    No more waffle about “herd immunity” – the Prime Minister and other people who are seriously ill need MEDICAL AID.

  • NickM

    NiV,
    I dunno your background but mine involves a lot of fluids (and not just from the pub). Anyway – turbulence is complicated, as is cognition but this doesn’t mean they are related. After all the Navier-Stokes equations can be written on a Post-It but that don’t design a jet fighter now does it?

    Human (and indeed animal – up to a point – for caveats see prior comment of mine) behaviour is complicated but that would appear to stem from a complicated source – the brain is complicated. Turbulent systems (or fractals, or the circular restricted three body problem, or chaotic systems in general) are interesting because they produce Hellish complexity from great simplicity. They are different things from complication begat from complication.

    As to turning off the sapient computer… All of mine have names. Female names (apart from my Kindle Fire) but that is like naming ships or aircraft. If I ever thought they really conscious (whatever that means) then taking a hammer to ’em would be moider most horrid but turning them off is just like putting the kids to bed. Anyway we are a very long way from this being anything beyond an academic issue.

    Having said that. Anyone who fucks with my Thalia will spend their final hours shrieking through their nostrils and duct-taped to a garden chair in a windowless shed in Cheshire whilst I use a Breville for porpoises it was not exactly designed for.

    But that’s just my latent sociopathy and a more interesting question is “What is an agent?” I regard an agent as something that does something for a reason that it understands. Hitler invaded (Godwin!) Poland for Lebensraum. A virus just does it’s thing. You might as well ask the same thing about an alarm clock or thermostat. It’s about choice. Hitler decided on that policy – the alarm clock doesn’t have that luxury.

    Being able to choose is what makes us human and defines good and evil. Not being able to choose is what makes computers so useful – they complement us by being so different. Choice is the difference between agency and pure mechanism. Whether a computer (or a DNA strand or whatever) could be actively choose anything beyond its programming is a very moot point. I think no. We are simultaneously blessed and cursed with this. That we don’t understand this is because we simply can’t take ourselves apart with ourselves. I know every bit of my Thalia (almost literally) and maybe some hyper-smart alien (or whatever) could do the same with me but I doubt I’d ever understand the “scientific” explanation of why I love Blondie but can’t stand Bros.

    I’m not saying there ain’t a scientific explanation to the last point but I am saying that if there is one it is not accessible to us lesser beings.

  • Nullius in Verba

    Morgan Stanley projected the economic impact on GDP here. All the usual caveats about economic projections apply – I think they may be underestimating the duration of the pandemic, but we’ll see.

  • APL

    Paul Marks: “No more waffle about “herd immunity” – the Prime Minister and other people who are seriously ill need MEDICAL AID.”

    Do you think for half a femptosecond Paul, the Prime minister isn’t getting the best available medical treatment?

    Probably better than you or I would get.

  • Mr Ecks

    You are talking tripe Paul.

    The figures you quote aren’t more than a bad winter flu–and likely some of it is that given the crap way that these deaths are counted.

    It is Johnson’s situation that seems to have lots pissing their pants –like some kind of Lady Di phenomenon.

    If we had never heard the word coro the death rates would be little out of the ordinary bad flu year and the PM wouldn’t have been shaking hands with groups of potential flu carriers. MOST PEOPLE WHO HAVE HAD IT HAVE RECOVERED AND MOST WONT EVEN GET IT. Two thirds of England didn’t get the far worse Black Death without any help whatsoever.

    Hopefully Johnson will be ok. But as much as I wish him well only fools will allow the economy to crash because a big name cleb has fallen foul of the virus.

    Do those talking of lockdown to October have some sort of nitwit idea human life is sustained on this planet by manna dropping from above? 95% of the world’s economy shutdown for 6 months equals 90% of the human race dead by my count. So we are going to have to step out into the street and face down this Puny fucking Plague or die anyway. Better get stared while we still have an economy to save.

  • Paul Marks

    APL – I hope that the Prime Minister is getting all the medical aid he needs.

    What you do not seem to grasp is that there has not even been much public discussion of possible medical treatments in the United Kingdom.

    It is more than just putting a person on a ventilator and hoping they recover – sometimes that does indeed work, but sometimes it does not.

    Sometimes a person needs MEDICINE – either existing ones, or new ones.

    I have explained this as simpler as I can – it is not a complicated point.

    The British approach seems to be downplaying the use of medicine in dealing with very serious disease.

    More than five thousand people have already died here – this is NOT the time for silly political point scouring about “probably better than you or I would get”.

    The government are NOT evil (even I who have personal reasons to hate them do NOT believe that)- it is not a question of “better than you or I would get” with the government leaving other people to die whilst they get special treatment that other people do not get. It is a matter of a mistaken POLICY.

    Mistaken – not evil.

    Policy should be concentrating on curing the disease – not just waiting for it to go away.

    And policy has not been about CURING it – that is not where minds have been concentrated.

  • APL

    NickM: “why I love Blondie but can’t stand Bros.”

    I was going to be vulgar, but suffice it to say ‘Bros’ lack some anatomical details that give ‘Blondie’ the edge. Your programmed response to such stimuli has left enduring neural pathways. ( I think fair to say that men of a certain age think of Debbie Harry as ‘Blondie’ rather than Gary, Clem, Chris and Jimmy.

    “However, strong monetary and fiscal policy responses under way could set the stage for a second-half rebound.”

    Translation: If you lost money in the first quarter. You might if you time it right, get some or all of it back in the autumn.

    Or,

    Print, print, print, print, print, print, print, print.

    It is an irony that the governing-financial complex’s response to a credit bubble deflation, is to throw more cash ($2T) at the problem. We’ll see.

    Paul Marks: “is that there has not even been much public discussion of possible medical treatments in the United Kingdom.”

    On the contrary, I think the BBC, the organisation you might think that would lead the way with a sensible public discussion, has instead been in the vanguard of stirring up panic. An atmosphere hardly conducive to a reasoned discussion.

    Paul Marks: “The British approach seems to be downplaying the use of medicine in dealing with very serious disease.”

    I disagree, and have laid out my reasons loads of times in over the last few days.

  • Paul Marks

    APL – obviously I am not going to defend government economic policy, not in United Kingdom, not in the United States, not in Japan, and not in many other places.

    The general line of economic policy response to the crises has been awful – I totally concede that point to you Sir.

    My point is a medical one – all attention should be concentrated on actually curing the disease. Not a passive, hide and hope it goes away “strategy”.

    And I repeat a point I have often made – I do not believe that elected politicians have made any of the key decisions in this country.

    This whole line of policy has been decided by the unelected government – J.S. Mill style administrators and “educated experts”.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Anyway – turbulence is complicated, as is cognition but this doesn’t mean they are related. After all the Navier-Stokes equations can be written on a Post-It but that don’t design a jet fighter now does it?”

    True. But I think the question is whether you can build something equivalent to a universal Turing machine out of it. The game of ‘Life’ invented by Conway is even simpler, but you can perform any computation with it you can with a Turing machine. You can even make one in Minecraft. It only takes very simple forms of non-linearity. ‘Fluidics’ is a subject may be of some interest.

    Whether it can actually be done with the pure Navier-Stokes equation in open fluid, I don’t know. It was sci-fi, after all. They can just make it up. But I’d not bet against it.

    “Anyone who fucks with my Thalia will spend their final hours shrieking through their nostrils and duct-taped to a garden chair in a windowless shed in Cheshire whilst I use a Breville for porpoises it was not exactly designed for.”

    Let me guess, you’ll feed them Marmite toasted sandwiches?

    “But that’s just my latent sociopathy and a more interesting question is “What is an agent?” I regard an agent as something that does something for a reason that it understands.”

    The next question obviously being “what is ‘understanding’?” I have my views, and I don’t think it’s a trick only meat can manage, but maybe that’s a bit off-topic.

    “A virus just does it’s thing.”

    A virus, maybe so. Although I’d not want to make any bets on what information processing a nanomachine clearly modelled on a Turing tape is capable of either! But genes are capable of problem-solving. The gene is the designer, the coputer it runs on is evolution, the virus is the tool it uses to achieve its goal. If genes are not intelligent, how does the appearance of deliberate design occur? Can neurones ‘understand’ anything, either?

    “You might as well ask the same thing about an alarm clock or thermostat. It’s about choice.”

    Thermostats make a choice!

    “Not being able to choose is what makes computers so useful”

    Perhaps we need to define what we mean by “choice”, too? Do you mean can go down one of several paths depending on input, or can go down one of several paths depending on randomness, or can go down one of several paths depending on stored memories, simulation of the environment capable of making predictions, and internal goal-maximisation? Or vitalist magic? Does the question even make sense in a deterministic universe? It’s a tricky question.

    “Whether a computer (or a DNA strand or whatever) could be actively choose anything beyond its programming is a very moot point. I think no.”

    Can a human? Can humans do anything that the neurone wiring in their brain wouldn’t allow? How do you think that works?

    “but I doubt I’d ever understand the “scientific” explanation of why I love Blondie but can’t stand Bros.”

    Aesthetics is generally about data compression and pattern recognition. Blondie has more complex patterns. But that also is rather off-topic!

  • Alsadius

    Mr Ecks: For reference, Italy had 647,000 deaths in 2019, or about 1770 per day. The peak coronavirus death day for Italy was March 27th, at 919 deaths. That would be about half as many as the baseline rate – a clearly observable jump, far outside the norm. It’s been trending downwards since, to 681 for the last complete day of stats, but of course that’s after about a month of extreme social distancing. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/italy/

    Also, it seems like Italy is only counting confirmed cases in their death tolls. Because their testing infrastructure is overwhelmed, they’re only testing people with severe symptoms in the hardest-hit regions, which is why their death rate is a rather ludicrous 42%, compared to the 1-2% that most regions get if they test broadly. There’s some estimates that the true death count is about 4x as high, though, which would mean that at peak about twice as many people were dying from coronavirus than from all other causes combined. And again, this is *after* implementing distancing rules. I can’t find a really solid count for Italian flu deaths annually, but it looks like about 72,000 per year in Europe, which would be in the ballpark of 6000 a year in Italy if it’s proportional to population (http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/communicable-diseases/influenza/seasonal-influenza/burden-of-influenza). Covid-19 has already killed 16,523 people (again, limiting ourselves to confirmed-case deaths), which makes it almost 3x as bad in one month as the flu is in a year. There’s been over six thousand deaths, a year’s worth of the flu, in the last *nine days*.

    I don’t know the true numbers. Nobody does, really. But you do yourself a disservice if you compare daily stats for a very new disease to annual numbers. Look at the annual numbers after it’s been around for a year. Until then, compare the daily numbers.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Mr Ecks, you can keep repeating ad nauseam that this is just a bad flu season, but it’s getting tiresome now. It plainly is a category more serious than that, although I hope the virus turns less deadly longer term. We are in April and it’s getting warmer, and I don’t recall the flu felling swathes if elderly people at Easter time like this.

    That doesn’t mean indefinite lockdowns are justified. But this plainly is very serious.

  • APL

    Johnathan Pearce: “But this plainly is very serious.”

    If our metric of ‘very serious’ is – How loudly the BBC screams in pursuit of it’s left leaning agenda, the NHS being it’s primary instrument against a Tory government.

    Then yes, it’s very serious.

  • Mr Ecks

    The figures don’t justify your claims Mr Pearce.

    Because very few are recording actual coro deaths . Death still comes for the mostly old and elderly and ill all year around. Does sunshine chase all flu etc away like vampires? It might but we won’t know while figures are being miscounted as coro death regardless.

    Johnson’s illness–ie prob number 2 UK sleb after the Queen–is nationally as well as personally unfortunate as it will provide more emotional ammo for the doom-mongers. Hopefully he will soon be well again. He is the best of a VERY bad lot.

    If you don’t like my repetition of the truth as I see it–I suggest you stop reading my posts. That is the standard human way of ignoring inputs that don’t suit.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “The figures don’t justify your claims Mr Pearce.”

    They do, and we’ve explained several times why. You will need a better argument if you want to convince us.

    But for what it’s worth, I don’t have any problem with your comments. If it makes you feel better to tell yourself that, I’ve no wish to deny you the comfort. We’ll have to wait and see if you’re right, probably we’ll find out in the next few weeks.

    “If you don’t like my repetition of the truth as I see it–I suggest you stop reading my posts. That is the standard human way of ignoring inputs that don’t suit.”

    I seem to recall a few occasions when you got slightly irritated at me for my repetition of the truth as I see it. (Hard to believe, I know!) Happy to see the new live-and-let-live attitude. 🙂

  • Alsadius

    Seems like my post with links is trapped by an auto-moderator, so I’ll post the same thing without citations. (Numbers are from yesterday, FWIW)

    Mr Ecks: For reference, Italy had 647,000 deaths in 2019, or about 1770 per day. The peak coronavirus death day for Italy was March 27th, at 919 deaths. That would be about half as many as the baseline rate – a clearly observable jump, far outside the norm. It’s been trending downwards since, to 681 for the last complete day of stats, but of course that’s after about a month of extreme social distancing.

    Also, it seems like Italy is only counting confirmed cases in their death tolls. Because their testing infrastructure is overwhelmed, they’re only testing people with severe symptoms in the hardest-hit regions, which is why their death rate is a rather ludicrous 42%, compared to the 1-2% that most regions get if they test broadly. There’s some estimates that the true death count is about 4x as high, though, which would mean that at peak about twice as many people were dying from coronavirus than from all other causes combined. And again, this is *after* implementing distancing rules. I can’t find a really solid count for Italian flu deaths annually, but it looks like about 72,000 per year in Europe, which would be in the ballpark of 6000 a year in Italy if it’s proportional to population. Covid-19 has already killed 16,523 people (again, limiting ourselves to confirmed-case deaths), which makes it almost 3x as bad in one month as the flu is in a year. There’s been over six thousand deaths, a year’s worth of the flu, in the last *nine days*.

    I don’t know the true numbers. Nobody does, really. But you do yourself a disservice if you compare daily stats for a very new disease to annual numbers. Look at the annual numbers after it’s been around for a year. Until then, compare the daily numbers.

  • Mr Ecks

    Your consistent determination to assert the rightness of your mostly poisonous SJW views–often supported by your beloved pseudo-mathematical twaddle– over on Tim Worstall did lead to numerous battles NiV. I remember them almost fondly along with your utter determination to have the last word about nearly everything.

    The robust and often acrimonious nature of debate over at Tim’s –who fortunately has no be nice type rules–is I suspect the reason you have largely migrated over here to Samizdata.

    I don’t accept and never will how bogus and bloated figures provide a basis for your crappy calculations.

    As for live and let live–it was simply my way of assuring Mr Pearce as politely as I can that I won’t be accepting any supposed primacy of his opinions over mine.

  • M,r Ecks

    Alsadus–As far as I know the Italians –like the UK are counting nearly every death as coro.

    Only if these coro deaths are additional to normal yearly deaths do the numbers take on any bigger significance.

    If part of the normal daily deaths are being diverted to go under the coro banner then the fear-inducing calculations are bogus. Fear compounds fear and “estimates” show death rate x4 higher. Do they indeed.

    The reasons for Italy’s far worse state have been gone over enough on this blog. And also the likelihood that FAR more Italians have had and got over/not noticed this virus than any figures show. Which would reduce the numbers of dead back to a more proportional level.

    Meanwhile economic collapse which has far greater potential for deaths approaches. And as for lockdown–it can’t last –so we will have to take our chances soon anyway. Or starve.

    Not to mention the potential for a 1930s –or WORSE– mess to cause world conflict and more than just rumours of wars.

  • Nullius in Verba

    They were never SJW views, and mathematics isn’t twaddle. But you are of course entitled to your opinion.

    And I was never bothered about Tim’s lack of ‘play nice’ rules. As far as I was concerned, it made rational arguments look even better by contrast, and it gave away all sort of information about people’s real motivations and sensitive spots. It was useful.

    I left because I realised I found the company deeply unpleasant. They were getting increasingly nasty, and increasingly obsessed with identity politics, and I didn’t feel I had any common ground with them. They had shifted from a fairly liberal group mainly interested in free markets and sensible economics, to an obsessive virtue-signalling SJW-like fountain of intolerance, bile, and hate directed at whatever identity-politics groups currently offended them. The sensible economics faded more into the background, and the identity-politics became the main occupation. And I don’t like SJWs, of any species. A shame. Tim used to be good.

    “As for live and let live–it was simply my way of assuring Mr Pearce as politely as I can that I won’t be accepting any supposed primacy of his opinions over mine.”

    Exactly:- live and let live. 🙂

  • Mr Ecks

    Your memory is considerably distorted in your favour NiV–but since this is PdeH’s blog I’ll say no more on the matter.

  • Alsadius

    Mr Ecks: Lombardy, the worst-hit region of Italy, had just shy of 100k deaths in 2018, or an average of 272 per day. The worst coronavirus day in Lombardy was 541 deaths, by official stats. (And per my comments above, there’s suggestion that it’s a lot higher unofficially). When you have twice as many deaths from one cause as you usually get from all causes combined, it’s not just a matter of how they’re counting things. To sanity-check, I ran that through a quick binomial calculation – a 1/365 chance of falling on a particular day, times 99542 cases, should give 272 on average. There’s less than one chance in a million of getting even 360 in a day by random “luck”. 541 is less likely than winning the lottery on a day you’re hit by lightning twice.

    And again, this isn’t an uncontrolled virus. There were towns in Lombardy on lockdown as early as Feb 22. Italy implemented a national lockdown on Mar 9. These numbers were from Mar 27. So after a month of seriously clamping down on normal human activity, they still had twice as many deaths from coronavirus alone as they normally get from all causes.

    Again, don’t look at zoomed-out statistics here. Normally I advocate it, but the numbers on a national or global level include a lot of areas with no widespread infections as of yet. If you look at what this virus does after it actually takes hold, it’s pretty damn scary.

  • Mr Ecks

    So as ALL deaths are now classed as coro you have approx 270 deaths over and above the expected daily total of aprox 270.

    NOT 540 ACTUAL deaths from coro. They can CALL them coro deaths –but that does not mean we should treat them as if they are.

    So Italy:

    1–100,000 illegal Chinese tat-factory workers courtesy of CCP wandering around for months before Coro recognised. Regular supplies of infected via plane and “New Silk Road”. Lots returning from Chinese New Year February home visits.
    2- More extended families with old folk in the house.
    3–Kissy-kissy culture.
    4- It now seems obvious there was a complete lack of preparedness and an Italian style even-more-shambolic system than elsewhere.
    5 Already a TB epidemic in N Italy. Already an increase in Pnuemo this winter.
    6–Now seems that assorted drugs including ibuprofen and various heart/diabetes drugs may increase susceptibility to coro. And zinc deficiency mimics many of the coro symptoms. Zinc is part of the Hydroxycloroquine/Azith/ZINC treatment used with great success in a limited number of trials.

    The above list has had the mis-counting and the likelihood of many more Italians already having had coro removed from it.

    Quite possibly enough to account for the excess figures.

    In a way it doesn’t matter because the lockdown will have to end soon or we will have many more causes of death to concern us than the virus.

  • Alsadius

    0) Even if you’re right that they’re counting literally every death, that’s still twice as many deaths as usual. Something screwy is happening.

    1) Yes, people move around in the modern world.
    2/3) Yes, human contact is also a thing.

    4) Italy is ahead of any more-functional country, but not that far ahead. In terms of deaths per capita, Italy is at 273/million population. Belgium is 176(where Italy was on March 29th), France is 137(March 26th), the Netherlands at 123(March 25th), and Switzerland at 91(March 22nd).

    Let’s also look at the timelines here. Italy got its 100th case (the usual starting point for most graphs) Feb 23rd, Belgium March 6th, France Feb 29th, the Netherlands March 6th, and Switzerland March 5th. So Belgium took 31 days to get here, to Italy’s 35 to get the same distance. France was 37 days to Italy’s 32. The Netherlands were 31 days to Italy’s 31. Switzerland was 32 days to Italy’s 28. So Italy performed a bit better than the Belgians, the same as the Dutch, and a bit worse than the French or Swiss. That doesn’t look like the pattern I’d expect if it’s a simple question of organizational competence.

    5) How big of an increase? If it was 10% over trend, that’s nothing like what we’re seeing. Flu and pneumonia normally causes about 2% of deaths. (US numbers, but I’m sure it’s similar across the developed world). At minimum, coronavirus is causing as many deaths as everything else combined in Lombardy, or about 50x as many as normally die from flu. Was the Italian flu season 5000% worse than usual?

    6) Yes, the fact that treatments might work is very promising. Being able to scale them up will help reduce the death toll. But that still requires a massive crash program to get enough for the world, which is not trivial at all.

    7) You underestimate people if you think we can’t handle this for long periods. We can, and we will. I hope it’s over as soon as practical, but I don’t expect that to be soon. Right now, there’s a decent chance that kids won’t be going back to school in September, IMO. But even if that’s the case, we’ll get through, just like generations before us did. I hope I’m overly pessimistic, but we’ll see.

  • Mr Ecks

    If you think –what?– 90-95% of the world economy can shut down for 6 months without killing 90% plus of mankind then I suggest you are mistaken.

  • NickM

    I have to stick up for NiV (even though that isn’t necessary – I have to say my piece for my sake). NiV has never struck me as having any SJW views and is certainly not one to talk “twaddle” in terms of mathematics. Oh, and I also happen to agree with NiV’s take on Tim’s site.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Alsadius: there is no point in arguing with Mr Ecks, just as there is no point in arguing with that other commenter (whose name i forget) who said that the US economy suffers more under the lockdown than it would suffer from a few million deaths due to the virus. (I mean the virus from Wuhan, China. Heh!)

    A few million deaths is more than all American deaths in all American wars, combined.

    Meanwhile, you might ponder the following facts.

    Today, total deaths in the UK reached 6,227.
    It took 10 days to go from 1K deaths to 6K deaths; or in other words, 5K people died in the last 10 days from the Chinese-Wuhan virus in the UK.

    In Italy, it took 11 days to go from 1K deaths to 6K deaths. The deaths actually increased a bit more slowly in Italy than they are increasing in the UK.

    Today, 854 died from the Chinese-Wuhan virus in the UK. That is the largest daily death toll, but almost certainly the record will be broken by the end of the week.

    WRT Italy you might also be interested in my comment in another thread, with links (one in Italian, one in English: my comment summarizes the link in Italian).

  • Mr Ecks

    This debate is becoming sterile but one more time.

    You airily dismiss as “people moving about” one hundred thousand potential Chinese disease carriers many from the source of the problem. Since now seems likely coro has been around since poss Oct 19 then vast numbers in N Italy may have had infection via this source. With fresh draughts down the “Silk Road” almost daily.

    Perhaps the disease is spiking–it is a new flu after all and Hong Kong and other flus have killed lots before–but not enough to shut the world over.

    You terrify yourself with 270 people =5000% worse flu. Even if it were true–why has this mass killer–free since Nov –poss Oct –last year failed to infect or even make badly ill the vast majority of those exposed to it for 3 to 4 months before the panic kicked off? Where are the mass deaths–or any level of deaths much save amongst the most vulnerable? Did any of the great Plagues only manage a high total amongst the old and ill?

    It isn’t going to cause mass deaths –and in any case far less deaths than a world shutdown.The fact that you think closing the world economy for 6 months is a minor matter–or even possible without the end of the modern world and resulting mega-death–suggests your grasp of the realities of our circs are not as profound as you think.

  • Mr Ecks

    NickM–I could argue the point re NiV and your own claims –but –as I said–this is PdeH’s site. Not fair to xfer old aggro and debates that are nothing to do with Samiz.

    Snorri–if you wrongly count all deaths as coro then the numbers show a frightening increase. But 854 is still only half of the 1680 average days UK death total. And we again have no idea if coro killed them.

    Your claims that more Americans will die from coro than all US wars are once again claims that it will infect 100% –something no disease has EVER done.

    And with you seemingly sharing Alsadus’s belief that the world economy 90-95 % out of action is no big deal you also appear to have an entirely unrealistic grasp of the human condition.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “If you think –what?– 90-95% of the world economy can shut down for 6 months without killing 90% plus of mankind then I suggest you are mistaken.”

    All the economic projections I’m seeing predict about a 3% drop in GDP for 2020 if it’s over fairly quickly, by summer, and about 6% drop in GDP if it takes longer. For example.

    NickM,

    Thanks! It’s appreciated.

    “Alsadius: there is no point in arguing with Mr Ecks”

    I often find it useful for prompting me to check things that everyone else would take for granted. I have no expectation of persuading him of anything, but he can sometimes provide a useful source of questions and challenges to prompt discussion.

    When Galileo presented his arguments for the Copernican solar system over the heliocentric one, he used a Socratic dialogue where three characters called Salviati, Sagredo, and Simplicio debate and argue the different positions. Salviati presents the Copernican system, Sagredo is a layman who is to be convinced, and Simplicio presented the various objections and claims of the Ptolemaists for Sagredi to knock down. One of the major reasons Galileo got into such hot water with the Church was casting the Pope’s arguments into the mouth of a character called ‘Simplicio’! However, it is generally a useful role in any debate.

    As JS Mill said of this: “So essential is this discipline to a real understanding of moral and human subjects, that if opponents of all important truths do not exist, it is indispensable to imagine them and supply them with the strongest arguments which the most skilful devil’s advocate can conjure up.”

    One could perhaps wish for a more skilful devil’s advocate 🙂 , but I certainly see systematic and determined scepticism about absolutely everything as a positive thing. Free speech, you see?

  • Mr Ecks

    Ah NiV–There never was a master of smug, patronising and wrong as adapt as you.

    As for 3% drops etc. Wrong at both ends of the issue. KPMG–Oh well if you are giving the infallible as your references.

    10 million on the US dole already for sure and some have put it as high as 47 million.I would tend to think that a little high just yet but since the MSM leftists are still calling for even more destructive additions to the lockdown then the usual pack of liars are still on the other side of the issue. So maybe. The longer its stays on the more damage done.

    I hope your tiny % are correct NiV. As I have no wish to live the scant years left to me in the middle of the Greater Depression. But unfortunately no matter how large a shadow is cast by your conviction of your own rightness–reality usually turns out to be even more self-willed than you.

  • Alsadius

    Ecks: We’re shutting down perhaps 10-20% of the economy. Huge swathes are unaffected – most white-collar jobs are working from home (myself included), a lot of factories are still running, agriculture is largely unaffected, and so on. Really, we’re losing any in-person entertainment (cinemas, amusement parks, nightclubs, etc.), travel, and retail is cutting hours. There’ll be a few other odds and ends – probably some plastic toy factories are shutting down too(but not food or basic clothing or medical equipment), a lawyer friend is low on stuff to do with the courts shut down, stuff like that.

    If we’d done something like this 40 years ago, your numbers might be right. We couldn’t have sustained this in 1980. But the internet has revolutionized quarantine. I leave my home once every two weeks for groceries, and I could even skip that if I wanted to and get them delivered. But I’m still working my full hours, buying basically all the same things I’d normally buy, and otherwise interacting with the economy almost the same as usual. In order to kill ~90% of humanity, we’d need to see farmers refusing to plant crops, fishermen refusing to fish, and so on. That kind of famine would be as lethal as you imply. But naturally, they’re all considered essential, and are working through it. (If we were shutting down farming over this, I’d be on your side, but we’re not.)

    Also, can you please offer some kind of citation for this bizarre “they are counting literally every death as coronavirus” claim? It matches neither the numbers we’ve shown you, nor the numbers you’re citing (if every death was being counted, presumably the UK numbers wouldn’t be half the usual death count), nor the trend lines in the data, nor basic common sense as to how doctors count deaths.

    Regarding people moving around, obviously it was travel between China and Italy that spread the disease. But you seem to think this disease is nothing, so you presumably wouldn’t favour closing borders over it. And without that, the question of how it moved halfway around the globe seems a bit irrelevant.

    And yes, 5000% worse – I didn’t have that number before writing the above comment, but it was clearly some ludicrously high value. Anyone looking at the data at all knows it’s not just a flu. On average, about five people in Lombardy a day die from the flu. That’ll vary seasonally – it might be 20/day for three months of the year instead – but it’s in that range. Coronavirus killed 541 in its worst day. Even if you take out the 272 who’d normally die of heart attacks and car crashes and say they’re all being filed as coronavirus deaths, that’s an extra 269. 269 is 5280% more than 5.

    As for why it took this long, that’s how exponential growth works. Particularly for a disease that takes about two weeks to get contagious. Six months, at two weeks per generation, is only 13 generations. If the number of people triples every generation, one case six months ago would be just shy of 1.6 million today. The confirmed case count globally is just shy of 1.4 million, and of course we have a lot more than that who just haven’t been tested (in many cases because their symptoms are mild, or whatever).

    Let me close with a question: What would it take to make you think that this was the real deal?

  • Mr Ecks

    1.6 million dead people Alsadus. Not a small number of the vulnerable.

    Also 126 million Americans have had flu this winter. Not 1.6 million who–in roughly the same time period- have mostly–ie the vast majority– had a “deadly pandemic” and not died.

    Don’t know exactly where I saw this every death as coro etc but I have seen it in sev sources. I’ll have a look –tomorrow –enough for today.Can you tell me how they are deciding who died of what? Are they using precious test kits–not all that accurate anyway–to test people already dead and beyond help?

  • APL

    ONS figures for England and Wales for the week ending 20th March.

    They have obligingly broken out those where COVID-19 has been mentioned on the death certificate.

    Week 13,
    1534 (1514) All respiratory conditions. ( Prior week )
    #539 (#103) COVID-19 related as the primary or a contributory CoD ( Prior week )

  • Mr Ecks

    Forgot to answer the lockdown bit.

    Loads of office workers aren’t needed for transactions that aren’t happening or will soon cease happening because millions aren’t being paid. Then the knock on effects begin. The world cannot work just over the internet. What are you gonna pay the farmers with –with no job? Are they going to take gov scrip to send food parcels to the penniless? Funny money won’t do it.

    Remember the world is afloat in debt–if that lot is crashed–the effects will be Depression for sure.

    Maybe it will hold together better than I think. But that is a one time thing and only if not continued for too long. There will be no second bites of the cherry and lots of Hell is coming. 3 to 6%–I think not.

    But we’ll see.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    I’ve provided Spain’s data before.
    https://www.unz.com/isteve/excess-deaths-in-spain-graphed/

    Clearly, this is not enough to convince somebody who refuses to face facts. As Orwell said, to see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.

    Here’s another data point:
    https://www.unz.com/isteve/bergamo-province-saw-deaths-sextupled-in-march-2020-over-march-2019/

    A sixfold increase in all-causes deaths in Bergamo. Now where could this huge spike come from? Old people suddenly becoming suicidal? A rash of invaders from outer space? Car drivers becoming blind? Food running out? Water contaminated with trace toxins?

    Or maybe, just maybe, a virus roaming around?

  • Alsadius

    Ecks: Well, if it keeps growing at this rate, you’ll have 1.6 million dead in about a month. And I don’t know about everywhere, but the US at least has been testing dead people, because it’s important for contact tracing and generally keeping a handle on how it’s progressing. Given they had one of the worst test-kit shortages at the time I heard this, I’d be surprised if other nations weren’t following suit. (FWIW, I agree that nothing we have is super-accurate. But it’s the best data we’re going to get for quite a while, so we use it and keep its limitations in mind.)

    APL: That’s the week ending March 27th, but yes. For reference, that’s up to 3,584 in the last week (for the UK as a whole, I don’t have England & Wales numbers for that). The highest week for England & Wales respiratory illness prior to that in 2020 was 2477, for the week ending Jan 10th. The worst week for total deaths in England & Wales was 14,058 from all causes, also in the week ending Jan 10th. So coronavirus is roughly a quarter of all deaths happening in the UK right now, give or take. And, yet again, this is with extreme social distancing in place for several weeks now.

    Thanks for the data set.

  • APL

    Alsadius: “That’s the week ending March 27th, ”

    Yes, my mistake.

    Alsadius: “Thanks for the data set.”

    My pleasure.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Clearly, this is not enough to convince somebody who refuses to face facts. As Orwell said, to see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.

    Do tell!

    A sixfold increase in all-causes deaths in Bergamo.

    WRT Bergamo it is also interesting to compare it with Lodi, to see whether lockdowns work:
    http://www.biotecnologi.org/istayathome-works-yes/

    NB: that is a comparison between lockdown vs no lockdown.
    But it is not a binary choice.
    As i said before, i believe in the Pareto Principle. It seems extravagantly optimistic that 80% of the reduction in R0 can be achieved with 20% of the lockdown, but it is not extravagant to hope that 67% of the reduction in R0 can be achieved with 33% of the lockdown.

  • Mr Ecks

    How many of these deaths are young able-bodied folk? They will have to join the party if your supposed “exponential” growth is to keep going will they not?

    And if lockdown will produce 1.6 million deaths in a month–what good is it anyway? Unless you trying to claim that no lockdown equals an “Omega Man” scenario?

    Most people won’t get it and most of those who do wont die–esp if we start using the drugs we have. Which we can’t in the UK because this PHE Chris Fuckwitty bloke prefers bureaucracy to giving the dying a chance with the chloroquine treatment..

    If millions are going to die WITH the lockdown –dump it and lets get back to work.

  • Alsadius

    There’s nothing “supposed” about it – if you plot it on a logarithmic scale, it’s close to linear. That is literally exponential. Each day is a fixed factor of the previous day, plus or minus some statistical noise.

    Young and healthy people don’t make up a large portion of the dead, it’s true, but “Oh, it’s okay, I didn’t like my parents all that much anyway” isn’t really an attitude that’ll win you many friends in life. There’s more than enough old people in the world to let the numbers keep growing well into the tens of millions dead, if we don’t stop it somehow.

    If lockdown would produce 1.6 million dead in a month, it’d be worthless. But of course, it won’t, because that’s an insane assumption. I could believe hundreds, from domestic abuse, isolation-induced suicides, and so on. I won’t pretend that number is zero. But millions? How on earth do you think that will happen? You keep suggesting these sorts of gigantic death tolls for the lockdown, but I have no idea what you think is going to happen to create those. Are we going to all give ourselves Ebola just to keep from getting bored?

    Quite a lot of people will get it, unless we keep isolation going long enough to develop a vaccine. The Spanish Flu a century ago infected about a quarter of humanity, and that was somewhat less contagious, far more lethal(so distancing would be more strongly favoured), and it happened in a society that was significantly less interconnected than ours. And yes, the fatality rate isn’t a majority of cases, even among the vulnerable. But 7.8 billion people * 25% infection rate * 1% death rate = 19,500,000 dead. Under those assumptions “most” won’t get it, “nearly all” who get it will survive…and it’ll still kill more people than the Holocaust. I can work from home for a year or two if it’ll help avoid that fate.

  • Paul Marks

    Right or wrong such people as the Governor of South Dakota clearly explain their policy and their reasons for choosing to follow this policy. They may be mistaken, but they present a reasoned argument.

    And in the United Kingdom the powers that be repeat slogans and organise mass clapping events. Perhaps that is unfair of me – but it is what it feels like.

    I, like lots of other people, got a letter and leaflet from the government today.

    I will not say it was all useless – that would be unfair, that would NOT be true. There is some information of use in the letter and the leaflet.

    But it is not really setting out a reasoned argument – it is little more than what has been endlessly repeated already.

  • APL

    For those advocating ever more authoritarian measures, it appears that even their most totalitarian wet dream of a lock-down hasn’t worked.

    Paul Marks: “And in the United Kingdom the powers that be repeat slogans and organise mass clapping events. Perhaps that is unfair of me

    I don’t think so.

    If there is an exponential curve involved, it’s the decline of the British population since Blair hopped on the Diana bandwagon.

  • Rob Fisher

    Mr Ecks: “The figures you quote aren’t more than a bad winter flu–and likely some of it is that given the crap way that these deaths are counted”

    I think we are likely to disprove this when the next update of this document is released, a week from now: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/deathsregisteredweeklyinenglandandwalesprovisional/weekending27march2020

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