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

Throw whatever resources are required at protecting people actually at high risk (obese, diabetic, over 70, various known co-factors) rather than strangling civil society when vast majority have only a tiny risk of dying. Lock-down will end up killing far more (not to mention impoverishing vast numbers)

– Perry de Havilland, in answer to the question “what would you have done?”

79 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Valerie

    I wholeheartedly agree. I have been telling anyone who will listen that the Wuhan Flu response reminds me of the overreaction to children with peanut allergies. Since “Timmy” has allergies to said nuts, ALL of the children must be denied peanuts in the cafeteria, when the logical remedy would be to have “Timmy” eat his lunch elsewhere.

  • itellyounothing

    The turds in charge has known since April they will kill 200 thousand patients by shutting down the Non Covid portions of the NHS.

  • APL

    PdH: “Throw whatever resources are required at protecting people actually at high risk (obese, diabetic, over 70, various known co-factors) ..”

    Well, yes.

    I am interested in RBG demise. She had pancreatic cancer, and at 87 died of ‘complications related to pancreatic cancer’. That seems a reasonable enough account of her death. But odd, no mention of COVID-19

    I suppose it’s possible that in the middle of a COVID-19 scamdemic one 87 year old ( advanced years ) in all of the USA who had pancreatic cancer ( pre-existing condition ) didn’t catch COVID-19 too.

    Apparently, her family were allowed to congregate around her bedside as the curtain fell. We know this because the last thing she allegedly said was that she didn’t want her position filled by this president – attributed by her grand daughter Clara Spira.

    So, COVID-19 is either such a deadly threat should you find yourself in a care home and contract it, you are allowed no visitors, or it’s not, and you can chat with your grandchildren ( apparently advocating the hereditary principle that the American revolution was fought to abolish ) during your final hours.

    Curious.

  • Stonyground

    I’m a diabetic and I don’t want protecting thank you, I’ll take my chances. The odds on any given day are about six million to one in my favour. Every single day there are numerous things that could get me, I don’t worry about that I just get on with my life.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Philip Johnston in the Daily Telegraph has this brutal parody of Boris Johnson’s address to the nation last night, finishing with this zinger: Nudge theory was developed by the American academic Richard Thaler, who wrote a bestselling book on the subject and thereby influenced a generation of politicians forever on the lookout for a new gimmick. Among the successes of this approach is the pristine condition of the gentlemen’s lavatory at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, where patrons were previously judged to be overly reckless with their aim. To improve it, a picture of a housefly was painted on to the porcelain and the quantity of misdirected jet declined by 80 per cent. Some of us feel a bit like that fly.

    A few weeks ago BJ was urging us to go out, shop, take the bus and Tube and get into the office. Now he’s telling us that some people cannot behave so all this new freedom must end. It is like a madhouse: a new rule for every day, changed 180 degrees. And this is because he must follow “the science”.

    There is no plan B. Herd immunity is off the table because we mustn’t threaten granny. Last night Johnson explicitly ruled out the idea of focusing on protecting the vulnerable, saying it was not feasible (he did not really explain why that is). All is being wagered on the prospect of a vaccine, or possibly, that the bug gets less nasty over the next year or so, moving from being a rabid dog to a scruffy spaniel that occasionally shits on the carpet.

    And yet when I watched the ITN news yesterday evening, not one journalist or commentator put these sort of points, or even thought about these issues from a pro-liberty, pro-autonomy point of view. If anything, the meta-context of much of the broadcast media is statist/collectivist. Ministers are asked, aggressively, about what they are doing, or doing enough. Rarely are they asked if they should do less, and let the structures of civil society take their course.

  • Patrick

    A small historical story. The Victorians were awfully prudish – to the extent they put cloth over billiard table legs! It was they who decided to make the thing that is put on urinals to aim at a bee. Why? Because the Latin for bee is Apis. They could make the oh-so-funny quip ‘I need to go for Apis’ and pretend not to be saying what they were actually saying. Bizarre but true. That is why urinals have bees on them.
    Jonathan (or rather Philip Johnston) it was a bee not a fly.

  • Paul Marks

    Sweden got some things right, most importantly no “lockdown” or compulsory masks (whose role is to spread fear and be a sign of submission – they are a political thing), but Sweden also got some things WRONG – and that needs examining as well.

    There was little real effort to keep Covid 19 out of Nursing Homes and that has led to a lot of deaths – but, as far as I know, there was no policy to deliberately send infected people into the Nursing Homes by government order against reluctant Nursing Homes, in order to push up the casualty rate (by spreading the disease in a confined space among people very vulnerable to it) – as New York and some other Democrat States did (for some reason the “mainstream media” do not seem to be interested in this).

    Also Sweden neglected EARLY HOME TREATMENT.

    This is not just a matter of not treating people with the correct dosages of hydroxycholoroquine, zinc sulphate and azithromycin (the last being for NON Covid problems that the lungs may develop in their weakened state). It is also a matter of even denying basic OXYGEN to some old people and some people with existing conditions that make them vulnerable to Covid 19 (Full Disclosure – I am both, I am both old and have existing health problems that make me vulnerable to Covid 19).

    The death rate of Sweden is lower than Britain or the United States (lower than the United States – so please no stuff about “population density”), but it could have been lower.

    But remember some people will die regardless of what you do.

    Say I started to cough right now – and a doctor (perhaps Dr Z himself rising from his cancer bed in New York just to help me) rushed to my aid – giving me the correct dosages of hydroxychloroquine, zinc sulphate and azithromycin, and (if my condition developed anyway) giving me oxygen as well.

    I might still die – we are not immortal.

    What Western governments have done is sacrifice VAST numbers of lives (at least 200 hundred thousand people will die in the United Kingdom) to NON Covid illness – in an utterly hopeless effort to “stop the spread of Covid 19 in the general population” – which is just not possible.

    Western governments have also made ECONOMIC COLLAPSE inevitable – and that will also cost a vast number of lives (indeed people are already killing themselves – as I may have to in a few months), and vast numbers of people have turned to opiates – and that will also lead to their early death.

    Personally I believed that economic collapse was coming anyway – but it was possible that I WAS WRONG (we will never know now) – some Western governments (an obvious example being the British government – but it is not the worst) have done everything they can to artificially induce an economic collapse – with all the vast suffering and death that will bring.

    “But Paul – they did not do it on purpose” – perhaps not in March when it was “two weeks to flatten the curve” -but at this point what many Western governments are doing is, at least, Criminal Negligence.

    I will leave aside the matter of Agenda 21, Agenda 2030, Sustainable Development, the Great Reset – we all know the evil the international establishment are committed to (how much an individual politician, such as Mr Johnson, knows can not be firmly said – I can not see into their souls).

    But even if the intentions of governments were good (and they, most likely, were not good) the effects of their policies are leading to utter disaster.

    The Chinese Taoist philosophers argued that the hardest thing for a government to do is NOTHING – that Rulers often made things WORSE by their interventions, but that it was incredibly difficult for them to stop themselves from intervening.

    That is clearly true – good intentions make no difference at all.

    Let us concede, for the sake of argument, that a certain government has never heard of totalitarian “Agenda 21” and so on – that all its Covid 19 policies were enacted in GOOD FAITH.

    The Good Faith, the Good Intentions, make no difference at all to the results.

  • A small historical story. The Victorians were awfully prudish – to the extent they put cloth over billiard table legs! (Patrick, September 23, 2020 at 8:04 am)

    That’s a myth. An Englishman visiting the US in the later 1800s wished to mocked the greater prudishness of the US in some matters, so wrote a spoof article in which that comical-exaggeration portrayal of American mores was included (BTW piano stool legs, not billiard table legs, _if_ I recall correctly).

    Satire was escaping into urban legend long before the web.

  • Philip Scott Thomas

    Niall –

    That is directionally accurate. It was piano legs, rather then piano stool legs. But yes, it was meant as satire.

  • NickM

    Victorian legs… I’d heard it was done to protect them. Billiard tables and pianos being expensive things.

    Haven’t the Swedes just urged us to go for herd immunity in under 60s? Sounds good to me or at least better than the situation we’ve been in which is like being in a demented open prison where the governor changes the rules every five minutes completely arbitarily. I want my life back and I don’t want to see the economy totally fucked-over for a generation.

  • John

    My older brother advised me this morning that the latest update email from our 98 year old mothers care home stated that there had been 15 positive Covid tests which worried him somewhat.

    A closer read revealed that the total of 15 positives was for all homes within the group and their 18,000 residents. So less that one positive in every thousand elderly residents.

    That’s some pretty damned efficient shielding of the elderly going on there.

  • bob sykes

    What is amazing is how easily we were panicked and how quickly we submitted.

  • Alsadius

    If the disease is endemic, you can’t just cut large parts of society off from the rest. No barrier is that strong. The only decent way to protect people is to keep overall case counts low.

    My game plan, if it were up to me?

    1) Testing. Every plausible test system should be in use, with levels of confidence attached to each. In particular, fast tests and pooled tests should really be focused on. Even if they’re not as accurate as a two-day PCR test, it’ll let you catch things before a big gathering, annoy people way less, minimize unnecessary quarantine, and let the resources for the gold-standard tests be focused on probable cases.

    2) Tracking cases. My Covid phone app is a really good approach, where it’s automated and good for privacy (totally anonymous and no GPS, so it’s not tracking people in the senses we usually worry about).

    3) Challenge trials. Vaccines will save a hell of a lot of lives, and anything that speeds them up is good.

    4) A true “lockdown” made some sense in March, when we didn’t know much, but after a month or two, it’d done what it could do. Today, I’d try to restrict mass gatherings, especially indoors, but that’s about it. And with fast tests, you could even say things like “Try to limit to 10 people at an indoor gathering, or 50 if they all test first” without it being too onerous – that helps a lot with weddings/funerals and other such big parties.

    5) Even at the beginning, I was telling people to get “Covid buddies” – pick another family, with kids the same age range as yours (if applicable), and hang out with them. Just one family, not a group, if possible. Don’t change buddies mid-pandemic if you can avoid it, but having that extra set of people to watch kids, socialize with, or otherwise get out of your living room with, would be a real boon, at a minimal cost in disease spread.

    6) A lot of people have now had the disease, recovered from it, and are likely immune. Why aren’t they given some kind of preference in working front-line jobs? I’d make a point of hiring any recovered patient who wanted the job to do any manual labour needed for Covid hospital wards, in places where it’s common. We should be taking advantage of known immunity.

    7) Discussing all the risks, as a cohesive whole, and treating the public like adults. Sack any public health agency official who dissuaded people from using masks in March. Have a discussion that involves suicide, non-urgent surgery, economic damage, and Covid deaths all at once.

    8) Figure out which parts of society are most valuable per unit disease spread, and try to push policy towards keeping those open first and foremost. In particular, schools. Any plan where schools are closed should be reserved for cases where it’s spreading like wildfire and we can’t contain it.

    9) This is the one year where I don’t care about budget deficits. Spend a lot of money on unemployment benefits, even in ways I’d normally oppose, because this isn’t a normal situation. Years like this are why I oppose deficits normally – we want the flexibility that comes with not being already tapped out before the crisis even starts.

    I could probably add more, but you get the idea. Actually think about what’s happening, treat society like grownups, and focus on mitigation of all risks, not just the most obvious risk.

  • Victorian legs… I’d heard it was done to protect them. Billiard tables and pianos being expensive things. (NickM, September 23, 2020 at 10:27 am)

    I agree; IIRC the spoof was to suggest that the po-faced Americans did it lest the improper thought of a lady’s legs be prompted by seeing the undressed legs of a piano stool on which she sat to play.

  • If the disease is endemic, you can’t just cut large parts of society off from the rest

    I am suggesting a small part of society: whose who are particularly vulnerable and who actually want to be ‘protected’. I refer you to John’s comment above.

  • llamas

    My dear old Mum (90 yo) lives in a retirement community in the suburbs of a city in the Midlands. The community has about 100 residents and 30 staff.

    Zero positive Covid tests for residents and staff.

    No extreme measures have been put in place – masks for the staff, reduced contact, distancing, additional sanitizing, some services inside individual flats rather than in communal areas, limited access to outsiders. Regular testing for the staff. In other words, basic, common-sense, low-impact public-health measures, not-so-very different than what you would do for a bad flu season. With 100% success, to date.

    Now tell me the justification for measures so draconian that they require the threat of armed troops on the streets.

    Just think about that for a minute.

    The Prime Minister is threatening you with armed troops on the streets. And most of the nation simply shrugs and says ‘well, OK, then.’

    I’m minded to ask – just how far could the Government go in restricting your liberties before you finally say ‘no, wait a minute, that’s a bit much, really . . . .’

    Forced testing on the street, with immediate arrest and isolation for a positive test? Lock hospitals? Censorship of reporting on the illness and on the measures being taken to combat it? Forcible vaccinations? What would be ‘too much’?

    I’m just askin’. You’re letting them take away your fundamental liberties without a peep of protest. Good luck getting them back.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Alsadius

    Perry: That’s precisely my point. The smaller a portion you want to protect, the more aggressively you need to quarantine them. To keep nursing homes safe, you’d basically need to sever them from the rest of society – have the staff move in, no visitors, nothing. Because the fewer people you try to protect, the more it spreads society-wide, and the worse it gets outside the bubble.

    I’d rather keep rates low overall, without being too intrusive. It saves more lives, and it probably harms society less overall. And I think you can do that if you’re smart. (But very few people have been smart about this, sadly.)

    Llamas: Yes, armed troops is ridiculous. You don’t need to do that crap if you’re sensible. So far, the highest-ranking sensible person I know of is the president of Purdue University. (Who, in a saner would, would be President of the United States right now.)

  • Jacob

    “Throw whatever resources are required at protecting people actually at high risk”
    It is not the task of government to protect the people from disease.
    Each person and each institution (such as a retirement community) should take their own precautions.

    I like the reason the Swedish government gave for not imposing a general lockdown: “We (the government) don’t have the authority to do that under the Constitution”. It’s heart-warming to hear someone use such terms as “rights” and “Constitution”.

    All the other governments of the world have imposed lockdowns without it ever occurring to them that that there is a Constitution or a legal procedure that needs to be adhered to.

  • bobby b

    “It is not the task of government to protect the people from disease.”

    I’m sorry, perhaps I’m being a bad libertarian in this regard, but I would disagree with this. I think that this particular duty falls easily within a minimalist government role.

    Where I think we can agree, maybe, is that it’s the task of government to perform its functions competently and efficiently. It’s the lack of these two attributes that characterizes what we’ve seen so far.

    I want someone inspecting my beef at slaughter. That’s efficient. I do not want them breaking into my house and arresting me for rare ribeye.

  • Snorri Godhi

    There are 8 OECD countries that have had no more of a covid recession than Sweden, and nonetheless have had MUCH fewer covid deaths. Two of these countries have population densities higher than the UK.

    South Korea has had no lockdown, a recession a little over half that of Sweden, and one hundedth the deaths per million of Sweden.

    Japan has had the same recession as Sweden (a bit over 8%) and one fiftieth the deaths per million of Sweden.

    These are the countries that you should take as models.

    Having said that, Perry’s strategy makes sense. But i prefer a tested, successful strategy to an untested strategy that makes sense.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Or take Israel. 10% recession (and if the 8% of Sweden is acceptable, then i don’t see why 10% is a catastrophe) but only 1/4 or 1/5 of the deaths per million of Sweden.

    For comparison, the UK has had a 22.5% recession in the first half of this year.

    For South Korea, Japan, Israel, plus a bunch of other countries, covid-19 has been no worse than a bad flu season, at a cost not much greater, and often smaller, than Sweden has paid. These are the countries that you should take as models.

    But for Samizdatistas, apparently there are only 3 countries in the world: the US, the UK, and Sweden.

  • Snorri Godhi

    For South Korea, Japan, Israel, plus a bunch of other countries, covid-19 has been no worse than a bad flu season, at a cost not much greater, and often smaller, than Sweden has paid.

    To be precise, there are 10 countries which, like South Korea and Japan, have done better than Israel: less than 10% recession and less than 130 deaths/million. Most of these countries are in Europe and are no less densely populated than Sweden. (But are less densely populated than South Korea, Japan, Israel, and the UK.)

  • I’m 78, and whether or not I have pre-existing conditions would be a matter of opinion – I take a lot of pills, but keep on going somewhat normally. I’m retired, and a bit of a hermit, so I stay home most of the time. My sister is the same, though I haven’t checked her pill cabinet. Isolation is only a small problem, what with books and the internet.

    If I had a job, and needed to earn a living, that would be a very different matter. There are many people who need to earn a living in order for me to do this, and it would be good for me and the nation if they were set free (as it were).

  • Jacob

    “the task of government to perform its functions competently and efficiently”
    That happens in Utopia. On Earth – all governments are human and therefore fallible, and therefore – necessarily – incompetent and corrupt too.

    Snorri: don’t worry about Israel – we now have a bad outbreak, with the highest number of new infections per million in the whole world. The number of deaths is also climbing fast and bound to reach UK or US levels in a month or two.

    Comparing countries of the world is useless. We don’t know why the virus behaved differently in different countries. Attributing this difference solely to government policy is wrong. We don’t know this. Also – things change – while the virus didn’t hit Israel hard in March-April_May – it hit now. Could happen in other countries too. And nobody knows why infections are low in Egypt and Turkey or Greece – for example – or in Africa as a whole.
    AS to why Japan or Korea had low case numbers – maybe because they are small people, maybe because of their slanted eyes…

    One thing is certain about Israel – it had, and still has, a low number of deaths compared to known cases (0.6%). Same thing in Germany. Why this is so – I don’t know. Maybe health services are better – maybe – but it’s just a guess.

  • Jon Eds

    Steve Baker sent this letter to Boris. I would add that the same principles should be applied to global warming etc.

    https://twitter.com/SteveBakerHW/status/1284378971099013121/photo/2

    In my view Boris needs to go. The language he has used should not be used by any liberty loving conservative (or Conservative).

    But first he should fire Hancock for the same reason. A career politician if there ever was one.

  • Alsadius

    Be careful with recession numbers – you can report the same value quarterly or annualized, and get numbers that look wildly different. For example, a 10% recession quarterly is the same as a 34.39% recession annually, since (100%-10%)^4 = 65.61% = (100%-34.39%). And not all countries report the data in the same fashion.

    I don’t know what data set you’re using, but I’ll flag that as a point for possible caution.

  • llamas

    I talked to my brother in UK today about my mother’s situation – he lives a few miles from her. He was at her home today organizing something to do with cable TV.

    He made an observation that I had not considered, about her community and the fact that there have been no Covid cases, but also no excess mortality from other causes. Every single resident in that facility has risk factors for the disease, some have several, and some have many.

    But, he observed, the great majority of the staff are foreigners, mostly East European, but also Afro-Caribbean and Indian, with a smattering of working-class indigenes. The manager of the facility is a highly-educated son of Indian immigrants. Now, whether from a common cultural imperative, or by direction from management, the staff are spending an awful lot of time on social interaction – much more so than in ‘normal’ times. That means constantly calling on residents, sitting with them, arranging the trivia of daily life with them, arranging carefully-spaced group activities, and generally facilitating lots of contact and interaction. My brother tells me that there’s a card school of little old ladies on the second-floor landing that makes him grip his wallet every time he goes by them. And so on.

    He’s convinced that this activity a) keeps their immune systems ticking over and thus better-able to resist the disease and b) offsets isolation and loneliness and prevents the slow decline that typifies geriatric patients. He’s probably-right when he says that it’s silly to assume that there have been no vectors for the disease into the facility, and yet there have been no positive tests. But there’s also been no apparent increase in deaths resulting from the unusual regime. With a resident passing away every few weeks, any increase would be obvious by now.

    The Government’s restrictions almost seem like they are tailor-made to have the exact-opposite effects – to weaken immune systems, while maximizing social disruption and isolation, also limiting access to ‘normal’ medical treatment for the 1,001 other things that people get sick with and die of every day. Is nobody doing the basic epidemiological work to answer the fundamental question – is the cure worse than the disease?

    llater,

    llamas

  • Snorri Godhi

    Jacob:

    about Israel – we now have a bad outbreak, with the highest number of new infections per million in the whole world. The number of deaths is also climbing fast and bound to reach UK or US levels in a month or two.

    I see. But at least the increase is much slower than it was in Sweden.

    Note also that there is no increase, yet, in Japan or South Korea.

    Comparing countries of the world is useless.

    And yet, people on Samizdata compare Sweden to the UK several times a day. Is it OCD?

    Then when one points out that Sweden is, comparatively speaking, a shithole, everybody starts arguing that comparing countries is useless, or at least it is too early to make comparisons.

    We don’t know why the virus behaved differently in different countries. Attributing this difference solely to government policy is wrong. We don’t know this. Also – things change

    What i said.

    And nobody knows why infections are low in Egypt and Turkey or Greece – for example – or in Africa as a whole.

    Nobody knows, but anybody could make an educated guess by studying those countries.

    About Africa, there is little to study: all what you need to know is that hydroxy-chloroquine is used to fight malaria.

    One thing is certain about Israel – it had, and still has, a low number of deaths compared to known cases (0.6%). Same thing in Germany.

    That is an almost useless number, as it depends on the number of tests.

    Also note that this number seems to have decreased a lot. Over here, new cases have steadily increased since early August, and active cases are now the highest since April … and yet, there has been a single death after June 2. In April, we had 48 deaths.

    THIS is something that we cannot explain afaik. The superior performance of Japan and South Korea, and others, is something for which there are rather obvious explanations. Inter alia, the fact that, unlike the ChiComs and the Italian, British, and NY governments, they were never in denial. (And the Swedes were not in denial either, if i am not mistaken.)

  • Snorri Godhi

    Alsadius:

    I don’t know what data set you’re using, but I’ll flag that as a point for possible caution.

    I was aware of this issue, so when i learned that my country has had a smaller recession than Sweden, i did some DuckDucking and found this.
    Quarterly growth (or shrinking) data, seasonally adjusted.

    Since all data are from a single source, they should be comparable. (Of course, you might or might not trust data from Russia or China…)

    I added the figures for the first 2 quarters of 2020 in a column of a spreadsheet, put data on deaths/million in another column, and made a scatter plot. Sweden looks pretty bad, though i admit that the UK, Italy, France, and Spain look much worse than Sweden — when it comes to the economic cost. (And Belgium is worse also in deaths/million, but Belgium is more densely populated.)

    Of course, this is all preliminary. We’ll have to look at excess deaths (some of it from the lockdowns) when the data become available. And of course different countries will recover from recession at different speeds.

    But where is the caution that i expressed in the above paragraph, when people here compare the UK to Sweden??

  • Fraser Orr

    Were I president (god help us all) an idea I would have seriously considered is a PPE approach. This is back when we thought it was much worse than it actually was. But what I’d want to do is have people wear clear helments and simple coveralls with latex gloves. Doesn’t have to be industrial grade. Have a battery pack attached around the waist that blows air into the suit that is filtered. Have it rechargable over a USB port. Make it display a big ugly light when the filter is out to embarrass people into changing the filters. Maybe add a little audio equipment to make it easier to talk to people. No doubt your phone would have some accessory.

    With the air blowing in they would be cool and comfortable. You can make them really easy to use. When you walk in your house, step in a special bag to remove your shoes and helmet. Toss them in the laundry once a week.

    People wear it when they go out and there is basically no reason for them not to work, or do most of the things they do.

    It’d be weird at first but we would all eventually get used to it. Have private industry make them, and there would be all sorts of variants. Gucci gowns for the ladies, dinosaur and princess versions for the kids. HArdened ones for people who do physical labor etc. etc.

    The advantages of this are replete:
    1. People can basically get on with their lives, even if they looked a bit odd.
    2. It is a private solution, you don’t need gobs of government money (on top of the massive financial loss from lockdowns)
    3. It would be MASSIVELY cheaper than the nonsense we have now.
    4. It is reusable.

    This last one, to me, is the most important. People keep em in their closet, and so the next time a virus comes along the politicians can’t use it to take over the country and destroy people’s lives again.

    People would totally get used to it, and no doubt all sorts of clothing options would allow the transformation of the baggy suit into a cool fashion accessory.

    I don’t know if this is what I would have done were I President or Prime Minster, but I would have given it very, very serious consideration.

  • Jacob

    About Africa, there is little to study: all what you need to know is that hydroxy-chloroquine is used to fight malaria.
    That’s one guess, mostly biased. Not sure everybody takes HCQ, not sure if it has any effect.
    Also – no reliable statistics, no tests. Millions die in Africa each day (normal deaths) – nobody knows (or cares, or checks) how many and what they died of.
    Other guesses: Africa’s life expectancy is about 63 years. They die of other causes before the virus hits… that is they have a younger population. Maybe they have better immunity…
    And then – as far as I know – there are few obese people in Africa – obesity is a risk factor.

    The belief that doing an “in depth” study can reveal why outcomes are different in, say, Egypt, Turkey or Greece- this belief is a guess, I think it’s wishful thinking. The fact is – much is still unknown about this epidemic. Almost all commentaries and “expert” opinions are baseless.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Jacob: in my opinion, yours is a fatalist attitude; but thanks for the reply.

    Incidentally, i would like to do a similar analysis+comparison for US states, but don’t know where to find data about their recessions.

    It would seem that deaths/million are positively correlated to 2 factors: population density, and Democrat rule. But of course these 2 factors are themselves correlated.

  • Snorri Godhi

    See also this.

    Within the US, as well as among countries, there seems to be a Pareto/power-law distribution of deaths/million. (And i note that correlation is a dodgy concept when one or both variables have a Pareto distribution.)

  • Jacob

    The article you quote states that infections and deaths are not evenly distributed among US counties. Makes sense. Why would anyone expect and even distribution? I would expect a random or, better, an unpredictable distribution. Why do you expect the virus to follow any pattern?
    And there is also the time factor. Maybe counties that are relatively unhurt until now will be hit later. Summing up (or comparing) at one point in time is meaningless.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Jacob: as i said, a fatalist attitude.

  • thefat tomato

    It is a sixty minute game against COVID(60% herd immunity), the figure that needs to be known before making comparisons is the seroprevalence rate, without that it’s not possible to know where each country is in relation to the final whistle.
    WRT Japan, it has an intrinsic historical advantage with regards to the effective R number for flu generally (ie respiratory infections like SARS CoV2), reasons unknown.
    Europe is effectively a single climate therefore single flu pattern, the US, being so vast has two climates leading to overlapping flu patterns, which might explain the political polarisation of the issue, along with the comments @Snorri Godhi
    @jon eds: interesting about the failure of “experts”, although I would have used the term “academic”, i do not recall any industry “experts” weighing in on the covid19 situation

  • APL

    Jacob: “It is not the task of government to protect the people from disease.”

    Bobbyb: “I’m sorry, perhaps I’m being a bad libertarian in this regard, but I would disagree with this. I think that this particular duty falls easily within a minimalist government role.”

    I’m sympathetic to Jacob’s point of view. But I recognize the degenerate state of the West, where the State has already completely occupied areas of economic activity, it is simply not realistic to suggest the government should have no role in health care. However, whatever else you’d call modern ‘healthcare’ it doesn’t fit the description of minimalist.

    Jon Eds: “In my view Boris needs to go. The language he has used should not be used by any liberty loving conservative (or Conservative).”

    Johnson is in the Tory party but, like so many others, has no respect for the concepts of liberty or even Conservatism, he’s not a Tory. He’d be equally smugly satisfied with himself as leader of the Liberal-democrats or even Labour.

  • Jacob

    “this particular duty falls easily within a minimalist government role.”

    I would say it’s ok to have a government run CDC which tries to identify potential epidemics and gather data and keep track etc.
    It’s also ok for it to advise other organizations such as schools, governors of states or provinces, mayors, hospitals about the known dangers and possible protection procedures.

    It is wrong for governments to impose universal lockdowns or curfews, this is a bold and major violation of human rights.

    It would be ok for government to enforce quarantine of infected people – to avoid the further spread of the disease.
    It would be ok also to ban mass gatherings such as sports events or concerts. Maybe even travel bans – not sure about it.
    I’m also in favor of masks – it is a costless measure which seems efficient, but I’m against government enforcing it.

    It is mainly the general lockdown that seems to me obviously excessive and an abuse of power.

  • Sweden got some things right, most importantly no “lockdown” or compulsory masks … but Sweden also got some things WRONG – and that needs examining as well. (Paul Marks, September 23, 2020 at 8:12 am)

    I agree, but in some ways that makes Sweden a better comparison – a better control. If our government suddenly became more sensible in one respect, it would probably not become more sensible in all respects, so I would say to you (even more to Snorri) that while I like to hear of more successful freedom-compatible approaches, we should know the less-than-flawless outcomes because they are more like what our government will serve up to us if ever it starts listening to us.

  • Jacob

    “less-than-flawless outcomes”
    What are less-than-flawless outcomes? The question is: is the number of deaths the only or the most important criterion of success or failure? I think that human rights and personal freedom are more important.
    A balance must be found between the dangers of the epidemic and the protection of human liberties.
    Sweden’s approach seems much better to me even if their “results” were less than exceptional (were flawed).
    After all – it is not only results that we adhere to but also principles.

  • Broadly agree with Jacob about where the legitimate role for state is on this issue

  • Alsadius

    @thefat tomato: I suspect Japan does so much better on respiratory diseases because they kept the culture of wearing masks when ill after the Spanish Flu, and most of the rest of the world didn’t.

  • Paul Marks

    New York and New Jersey seem to have reached herd immunity – they have been stuck around 33 thousand and 16 thousand dead for quite some time now. But that is a very high number of dead – vastly higher than other places that hae reached herd immunity.

    They really had to work (and work hard) to get to that level of deaths.

    Dr Fauci said “they did everything right” – which is true IF (IF) their objective was to inflict the most economic harm possible (via lockdowns and so on) and inflict the maximum number of deaths – at-the-same-time.

    Will, for example, the Governor of New York be punished for his atrocities?

    Of course NOT.

    The media even made him a hero. Just as when he blamed power failures on the wicked capitalist Long Island Power and Light Company, the media never pointed out that it is STATE OWNED and is controlled by a board appointed by the Governor.

    No – it was noble Governor denounces greedy businessmen.

    There is no chance of Governor Cuomo and the other Democrat Governors being arrested for FORCING Nursing Homes to accept infected people, and then locking down the places so that the disease would spread among the old and already sick.

    The media also played their part in SMEARING early treatments – treatments that had been suggested as far back as March.

    Damage, both economic damage and human deaths, had to be MAXIMISED in the United States – as it is election year.

    As for Britain – the edicts are random and often contradictory.

    It is not ever worth writing much about the British edicts – as they are (and have been since March) a massive exercise of extracting the urine.

    But if the public finally wake up to this and start to say “NO” – Mr Johnson has his answer, the police and now the MILITARY.

    Mr Johnson is in no way unusual – under his comic persona he is a fairly normal establishment type. following the “advice” of officials is second nature to him.

    How far will that go?

    Will the officials order that the armed forces (as well as the police) use physical violence if the population resist Covid 19 restrictions? That would seem ABSURD – but then everything else the government has done has also been absurd. Crazed “Public Health” officials finally having the power to do anything like – all their control fantasies allowed.

    I hope that the 1922 Committee of Conservative Members of Parliament finally puts a stop to all this.

  • Paul Marks

    I have opposed the dictator of Belarus since 1994.

    I have opposed the dictator of Nicaragua since 1979 – yes 1979.

    They have both done a vastly better job than the governments of most Western governments – including the governments of Britain and most American States.

    What did they do?

    Nothing – nothing at all.

    Mr Putin’s RT sneered at the dictator of Belarus as a “Covid Dissident” because he was ignoring the virus (it is often forgotten that Mr Putin was also a lockdown person).

    In Nicaragua Daniel Ortega (the local dictator) seems to have been worried that if he launched some sort of insane “lockdown” his family might lose money on their cocaine sales – after all if the underage prostitutes were not working how could they pay him and his family?

    Mr Ortega’s Marxism has become quite flexible over the years and decades – so, after thinking about the situation, he decided to do nothing. He is not as energetic as he was when he was young (who is?), back in the days he was raping his underage niece and supervising the torture and murder of political opponents.

    I have now to say the obvious – it must be said.

    These two criminals (for that is what they really are) the dictators of Belarus and Nicaragua followed the CORRECT policy – not because they cared about their people (they could not give a toss about them), but it was the correct policy.

    Intentions do not matter in policy – results do. There are no vast piles of death bodies from Covid 19 in Belarus or Nicaragua (even if one believes the claims of the OPPOSITION their death rate is LOWER than here in Britain), and they have not created mass unemployment (disguised by paying people to do nothing) and bankrupted their countries.

    The opposition in Belarus (with the best of intentions) might well have destroyed their country with lockdowns and masks and on and on – before selling it out to the E.U.

    The opposition in Nicaragua might have acted like the democratically elected President of El Salvador – whose lockdown was so savage that it even shocked the Economist magazine (and you need to be really collectivist to shock the Economist magazine).

    “But Paul the rulers of Belarus and Nicaragua are evil dictators” – I know that, as I said I am AGAINST them and have been AGAINST them since 1994 and 1979 respectively. But their Covid non policy, most likely by accident, was correct.

    P.S. The President of Honduras seems to be interested in treating the sick. He enquired about what medicines to use to heal people.

    How very odd. Asking those sorts of questions would never occur to anyone in power in the United Kingdom.

    The international community were very shocked that anyone would ask such questions (what has curing the sick got to do with medicine?)- the Honduran person does not seem to understand that the virus is about “The Great Reset” (creating a new totalitarian society – “BUILD BACK BETTER”), perhaps his neighbour in El Salvador will explain it to him.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “The question is: is the number of deaths the only or the most important criterion of success or failure? I think that human rights and personal freedom are more important.”

    The question is: which rights and whose freedom?

    Do people have a right to spread disease? Do people have a right not to be killed by the negligence or indifference of others?

    Suppose a restaurant chef wants the freedom to not wash his hands after going to the toilet. Or the freedom to store Arsenic in his kitchen. Suppose that kills a lot of people. The number of deaths in such a case is not the only issue – rights and freedoms matter too. But are the rights of the restaurant chef the only consideration, or do his customers have rights and freedoms in this situation, too?

    In other words, are you only talking about *your* rights, or do you also count the rights of the elderly and ill?

  • In other words, are you only talking about *your* rights, or do you also count the rights of the elderly and ill?

    Am I correct that you wish to deprive the elderly and ill of their right to decide on the amount of risk they wish to take & place that decision in the hands of a politician?

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Am I correct that you wish to deprive the elderly and ill of their right to decide on the amount of risk they wish to take & place that decision in the hands of a politician?”

    No.

    I’m talking about the amount of extra risk of death one group of people is allowed to impose on others.

  • I’m talking about the amount of extra risk of death one group of people is allowed to impose on others.

    So if some of the elderly and ill decide they would rather eat out, have casual granny-sex & visit friends because they deem the risks/rewards acceptable, you agree there should be nothing stopping them, yes?

  • Nullius in Verba

    “So if some of the elderly and ill decide they would rather eat out, have casual granny-sex & visit friends because they deem the risks/rewards acceptable, you agree there should be nothing stopping them, yes?”

    If you’re talking about the risks/rewards *to themselves*, then yes. If someone takes a risk and catches a disease and dies, I don’t care. The issue I’m talking about is when they eat out, have casual granny-sex, and as a result give the disease *to other people* who end up sick or dead, without those others’ consent.

    I don’t care if a restaurant chef keeps Arsenic in his kitchen and thereby poisons himself. That’s his choice. But should he have the freedom to poison other people? What about the freedom of his customers to make an informed choice on how much risk they are exposed to?

    I don’t care if someone randomly fires a gun if the only person they’re risking is themselves. But should you have the freedom to randomly fire a gun into a crowd? Does your freedom trump their deaths?

    I agree, the plain number of deaths is not the right measure. Self-inflicted deaths don’t count. But in an epidemic you don’t just change your own exposure to risk by your behaviour, you change everybody else’s too. Are you only counting your own freedom (to eat out, to have granny-sex,…), or are you including the freedom and lives of everybody you risk infecting in the calculation, too?

  • bobby b

    “The issue I’m talking about is when they eat out, have casual granny-sex, and as a result give the disease *to other people* who end up sick or dead, without those others’ consent.”

    But if you go out in public during a time of Covid and interact and have (eww) “granny-sex”, haven’t you given your consent?

    Now’s the time for people at risk, or who simply feel at risk, to stay home. The rest of us – unfairly, maybe, but out of necessity – are going to continue to live our lives and generate income and keep the world going so those in hiding may continue to eat.

  • bobby b

    BTW, if anyone wants some casual reading, here’s a great Pennsylvania federal court opinion overturning the governor’s EO banning . . . well . . . ongoing life.

    https://www.scribd.com/document/476008199/Federal-Opinion#from_embed

    TLDR version: the time when it seems most acceptable to ignore the constitution is exactly when we should be most vigilant about it.

  • The issue I’m talking about is when they eat out, have casual granny-sex, and as a result give the disease *to other people* who end up sick or dead, without those others’ consent.

    Ah, so then I was correct when I assumed you wish to deprive the elderly & ill (& indeed everyone) of their right to decide the amount of risk they wish to take & place that decision in the hands of a politician, because you feel the externality of others getting infected cannot be managed via non-governmental risk assessment. Fair enough, not a view I agree with but not a crazy view. But you really should not have said “no” when the answer is clearly “yes” 😉

    However you are unwise to say:

    should you have the freedom to randomly fire a gun into a crowd? Does your freedom trump their deaths?

    when what you really have to say is

    should you have the freedom to randomly fire a gun into a crowd using bullets that hardly ever kill anyone who is not either under 65, obese or diabetic?

    And my view would be that perhaps people in those risk groups should consider avoiding crowds, but others should not worry over much.

  • Jacob

    As I said – it’s ok for government to impose limitations on those infected. They should be forced into isolation so as not the endanger other people.
    But you can’t impose limitations on ALL people just because you feel it is safer…

    You can ban drunk driving, but you can’t ban ALL driving because sometimes accidents happen and people get killed (35 thousand a year in the US). Forbidding people with alcohol in their blood to drive is a reasonable precaution. Forbidding ALL driving is not.

  • Paul Marks

    As Nullius knows well the lockdowns do not, over the full period of time, reduce deaths – indeed the death rate of the United Kingdom is higher (not lower) than all (all) the countries that did not lockdown.

    Vast numbers of people will die because of the policy of Nullius – and not “just” from the economic collapse (which it is inevitable now – it can be avoided), but also to the delays in treatment for NON Covid illnesses – delays caused by the policy Nullius supports, according to a report cited by the Daily Telegraph at least 200 hundred thousand people will die from the delays in treatment. 200 thousand people Nullius – that is a lot of blood on your hands.

    Turning to treatments.

    It is now clear that if given EARLY and in correct dosages, hydroxycholoroquine, zinc sulphate and (for NON Covid 19 problems the lungs may develop in their weakened state) azithromycinm, has some success – the treatment was suggested at the start and could have saved a lot of lives.

    However, a lot of people have died because this treatment was SMEARED – and therefore not used. One of the people who smeared it was Nullius.

    As for the British “official scientific advisers” – it now turns out that the most important adviser has sic hundred thousand Pounds invested in a VACCINE COMPANY. Thus his explaining his constant wild LIES about doom (vast numbers of Covid deaths) unless X,Y,Z measures are taken

    Silly me – I thought these Collectivists were pushing lockdowns and so on for ideological reasons alone – Agenda 21 “Build Back Better” and the rest of the totalitarian project.

    It turns out they also had a corrupt financial motive for spreading panic – indeed hysteria.

    Do you hold your breath waiting for any of these people to be punished – Nullius and co will not serve a day in prison.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Ah, so then I was correct when I assumed you wish to deprive the elderly & ill (& indeed everyone) of their right to decide the amount of risk they wish to take & place that decision in the hands of a politician, because you feel the externality of others getting infected cannot be managed via non-governmental risk assessment.”

    No, you wasn’t. Firstly, because while I’m in favour of people deciding their own risk, I’m not in favour of them deciding it for others. And secondly, there’s no necessity to involve politicians. We should all voluntarily restrain ourselves from imposing risk on others. Just like we all should voluntarily choose not to fire guns into crowds. How you deal with the people who nevertheless do is a separate question, not specific to this issue.

    38% of the UK population are over 50 (when the risk starts to rise) and 19% over 65. That’s a lot of people to isolate!

    “what you really have to say is should you have the freedom to randomly fire a gun into a crowd using bullets that hardly ever kill anyone who is not either under 65, obese or diabetic?”

    Firing a gun into a crowd hardly ever kills anyone! There are, say, 600 people in the crowd, and you only have 6 bullets. So that’s 1%, same as Covid-19. 99% survive unscathed. So no worries, right? Firing a gun into a crowd of 10,000 people is less dangerous than seasonal flu! What does being over 65, obese, or diabetic have to do with it? Are you arguing that it’s OK to kill such people? If we only shot fat people, or 70+ grannies, that would be OK?

    In an epidemic where R is greater than 1, each person you infect causes an ever expanding cascade of more infections. Eventually hundreds get it, and then it becomes statistically virtually certain that people will die. Any individual has a good chance of dodging the bullet, but if you spread it you’re still virtually certain to kill someone.

    “You can ban drunk driving”

    Why?

    Not that I disagree, but I don’t understand how you can say this and and disagree with the point I’m making. Doesn’t our freedom to drive drunk overide the number of deaths that result? Shouldn’t we argue that if everybody else just stayed off the roads, that the drunks could get on with it without risking anyone else?

    “As I said – it’s ok for government to impose limitations on those infected.”

    How can you tell who’s infected?

    And are you saying you can pull the trigger so long as you don’t know if the gun is loaded?

  • Paul Marks

    Jacob – you mirror the legal advice given to the Swedish government.

    As you know the head epidemiologist in Sweden opposed a general “lockdown” on medical grounds – and quite right to. But there was also LEGAL advice against a general lockdown.

    It it can be proved that a person has a deadly infections disease there may may) be a case for a lockdown against that particular individual, and if it can be proved that a particular business is infected with a deadly disease there may (may) case for a lockdown on that business. But a GENERAL lockdown of business enterprises with no specific evidence against a specific business would not pass muster in the Swedish courts.

    No civilised court should accept a general lockdown – it is an attack on a population and leads to many deaths (ironically the very thing the dishonest supporters of lockdowns pretend lockdowns reduce).

    Even if someone was deliberately spreading the virus – that would be an argument for a possible lockdown against that individual, a general lockdown is a legal absurdity (punishing a general population without a crime) – no decent judge would support it.

    The trouble is there is a great shortage of decent judges. What the Swedish Constitution says explicitly is implicit in such things as the American Constitution (14th Amendment) and in the Common Law tradition of both England and Scots Law – but modern lawyers have been malformed in most countries.

    That was very clear in the United States even in the 1920s when eight Justices out of nine supported a violent state attack against a woman who had committed no crime – Buck V Bell.

    Buck V Bell in the 1920s is the real “legal” justification for the general lockdowns that many American States have introduced.

    It says, in effect, that States may violently attack people who have committed no crime – as long as they chant “Public Health, Public Health, Public Health” as they violently attack people who have committed no crime as the Common Law would understand the concept of a crime.

    In case anyone screams “Anti Vaxxer” at this point – I am actually PRO vaccines, but (obviously) I am against using violence or the threat of it in this matter also.

  • Paul Marks

    In the dissent that Justice Butler did NOT write to Buck V Bell (he just dissented – he did not write a judgement) it should have said that the action of the Commonwealth of Virginia (their proposed violent attack upon a woman who had committed no crime) was a violation of the 14th Amendment – and that chanting “Public Health, Public Health, Public Health” makes no difference at all – as these words do not appear in the United States Constitution.

    But then many things that the Commonwealth of Virginia and other States did violated the 14th Amendment – as Supreme Court Justice Harlan tried to point out in the 19th century.

    Point for legal “nerds” – Justice Harlan (the first one) is the one Justice who both the modern left and the modern right admire, that does not mean that either side thinks that he was always correct (far from it), but both sides admire him as-a-man.

  • Jacob

    “How can you tell who’s infected?”
    Well – those who tested positive.
    Of course – you cannot know there aren’t infected people who have not yet been tested, (there are). But you cannot assume, either, that all people are infected. The great majority are not. We live in an imperfect world, with many unknowns. You must make some compromises and take some risks. There is no such thing as zero risk. Persons who wish to minimize risks have the option of staying home. But the state should not force ALL people to stay home (lockdown).

    You cannot assume that all drivers are drunk, you cannot assume that all gun owners are criminal or madmen and therefore ban all gun ownership. ( I know most countries forbid general gun ownership – and I think it is wrong).

  • Firstly, because while I’m in favour of people deciding their own risk, I’m not in favour of them deciding it for others.

    Those are mutually exclusive views. Either I have the option to mix socially or I do not because I am “putting someone else at risk”. If someone else is at risk, surely it behoved them to avoid crowds, not me. For both the at-risk person and me to do so is frankly a bit bonkers.

    And secondly, there’s no necessity to involve politicians. We should all voluntarily restrain ourselves from imposing risk on others

    I can’t make that risk assessment for you, it simply isn’t possible. So me not going out, to restrain myself, only makes sense if I know I am infected. And even that restraint is weighed against the fact that unless I am infecting obese diabetic granny, I am not putting most people in any serious danger. We are not talking Black Death here & magnitude matters.

    38% of the UK population are over 50 (when the risk starts to rise) and 19% over 65. That’s a lot of people to isolate!

    Not as many as you think (but it if they all *did* all want to be isolated, which they don’t, fine, so isolate them, vastly preferable to burning both the economy & civil society). I am over 60, but otherwise in good health, so I concluded that I didn’t need to isolate (and I was right, given I did indeed catch Chinese Bat Lung in March & recovered in two weeks). In fact, it was a less data driven risk assessment on my part back when I got it but we know a lot more in September than we did in March. My partner has what we now know is T-cell immunity, she didn’t get it in spite of me slobbering on her before I knew I was infected. And I got it but shrugged it off without needed treatment beyond a two week face-plant in bed. So, I made the right decision, no need to hide from this, I’ve had several vastly nastier tropical diseases.

    Firing a gun into a crowd hardly ever kills anyone!

    At this point your argument vanishes into absurdity & bad faith, so no value it addressing the rest of it.

  • X Trapnel

    At last. Criticism of government COVID-response policy. In The Guardian, no less.

    Criticism from a Civil Liberties perspective? Oh dear, no.

    Criticism from a point of moral principle? Tampoco.

    The criticism is that the latest vacuous official slogan has its three words in the wrong order.

    It takes a special kind of expert to get to the heart of what’s wrong with stuff so succinctly.

  • Fraser Orr

    I think it is interesting to compare the Covid thing to the STD panic during the 1980s. The emergence of one particularly deadly pathogen caused a deep re-examination of a lot of things. I’m not really sure where the law is on this, but what I certainly think is true is that if you have unprotected sex with someone knowing you have a dangerous STD then it is effectively assault with a deadly weapon.

    Which is why, I think, that if you breath on someone with a virus that has a very high chance of killing them, then that too is kind of like an assault. When I first started engaging in libertarianism I asked a prominent libertarian what their view was on Typhoid Mary. They hummed and hawed a lot and avoided the question. But to me it seems that a person in that unfortunate situation, who knows they are in that unfortunate situation is effectively committing assault/battery or some similar crime by being within breathing range. Certainly it has to be knowing, accidentally transmitting a virus is certainly not criminal.

    But, I think my solution is the best way to approach this, allowing liberty by giving people a way to go outside without assaulting others. Just as in the 80s we had to wrap up our little deadly weapons in a rubber suit, so too, if we wrap ourselves in a suit that protects anyone who might be infected by us, we can go about our business. And we can allow the power of private industry, financial incentives and competition to provide us with really cool and enjoyable suits to do the job. Plus, we can stick them in our closet for the next time a man from the government comes to use this excuse to try to rob you of your most basic rights.

    This seems to me to be a simple application of basic law, you aren’t allowed to deliberately do things that will hurt people, while maintain the precious freedom that our government petty tyrants in waiting are thirsty to take from us on whatever pretext they can dream up.

  • APL

    Perry de Havilland (London): “I am over 60,”

    All these years I’ve been labouring under the delusion that PDH is a sprightly young fellow in his prime 🙂 . Huh!

  • bobby b

    “All these years I’ve been labouring under the delusion that PDH is a sprightly young fellow in his prime.”

    For those of us who just keep on getting better, our “prime” starts in our 60’s.

  • Jacob

    our “prime” starts in our 60’s.

    Wait until you reach the 70’s.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Of course – you cannot know there aren’t infected people who have not yet been tested, (there are).”

    Right. So you can’t tell who is infected. So that rule doesn’t work to stop the epidemic spreading and killing people, which is the point.

    “But you cannot assume, either, that all people are infected.”

    We’re not. We’re assuming they *might* be infected.

    “We live in an imperfect world, with many unknowns. You must make some compromises and take some risks. There is no such thing as zero risk.”

    Right. And the same goes for freedom. One person’s freedom conflicts with another’s, so you must make some compromises.

    “Persons who wish to minimize risks have the option of staying home.”

    The same goes for drunk drivers, people firing guns into crowds, restaurant chefs poisoning the food, murderers, rapists, and terrorists. If you want to minimise your risk, you can stay home. You can’t ban *everyone* from drunk driving, firing guns into the crowd at Trump rallies, or blowing up airplanes. If you don’t want to get shot, don’t support Trump. Don’t raise the American flag. Don’t fly. Don’t go out. If you don’t want to get raped, don’t go out wearing that short skirt. Don’t go out alone at night without a male guardian. Wear an uglybag over your head so you don’t tempt anyone. It’s not for you to restrict a rapist from having a bit of fun.

    There is a common criticism of libertarianism from it’s opponents: that it is *inconsistent*, because absolute freedom implies the freedom for people to harm one another, to force their will on one another. Do we believe in the freedom to murder? To steal? To endanger other people? And the only defence you’re allowed is to make your home a fortress and hide in it?

    Can I say to you “Do what I say or I will shoot you!” and for the libertarian’s answer to be “We cannot abridge anyone’s freedom to shoot people. If you want to minimise the risk of being shot, you can always do as you’re told”?

    Libertarians usually answer that they don’t believe in *absolute* freedom, they believe in the Harm Principle. That the only justification for society to interfere with the freedom of any individual is to prevent non-trivial harm being done to others, without their informed consent. Society can legitimately ban murder and theft and rape because it harms others. Society can legitimately ban people from putting others at risk through drunk driving, even *before* they’ve killed anyone, to *prevent* harm being done to others, not merely punish it after it’s been done. And even then, it’s usually a matter for compromise between competing freedoms. The whole basis of this philosophy is that absolute freedom has to be traded off against harm and the risk of harm, because part of freedom is being able to do what you want to safe from harm.

    That doesn’t mean to say we’ve got the balance right, or we’re doing it in the most effective and minimally intrusive way we could. All I was saying is that there is a balance, with the freedom of people to act in ways that put others at risk set against the freedom of others to live free of risk. You can’t simply ignore or dismiss the latter.

    I know authoritarians don’t believe in it, but I don’t see why it should prove so controversial on a libertarian blog.

    “Either I have the option to mix socially or I do not because I am “putting someone else at risk”. If someone else is at risk, surely it behoved them to avoid crowds, not me.”

    Either I have the option to fire guns randomly into the crowd at a Trump rally, or I do not because I am “putting someone else at risk”. If someone else is at risk, surely it behoved them to avoid crowds, not me?

    If the risk of going to a Trump rally is getting shot, and people know that, and do it anyway, I’ve got no criticism to make of those choosing to take their own risk. I’ve no wish for politicians to ban them from doing so. But the people who are putting other people at risk? The whole basis of the Harm Principle is that preventing people putting others at risk is the only possible justification for coercion.

    “So me not going out, to restrain myself, only makes sense if I know I am infected.”

    No, it only makes sense if you know you *might* be. “Risk” is about probability.

    This was precisely Professor Ferguson’s argument when he got caught breaking the lockdown. He’d already had the virus, been tested to confirm it, and recovered from it. So he was likely to be immune, and therefore not at risk of infecting anybody. He was wrong about that – it’s not been shown yet that people who have been infected and recovered once can’t get it again, and can’t pass it on. But it’s a rational approach.

    I would agree that if you can be confident you’re *not* infected, then from an epidemiological point of view there’s no need for precautions. (Psychologically, it creates an incentive for people to catch the disease and get out of lockdown, which makes the problem worse. But that’s a different argument.) But without that certain knowledge, even the low probability that you *might* be infected is high enough to keep the epidemic spreading.

    “We are not talking Black Death here & magnitude matters.”

    True. For the UK we’re talking about “cramming the five years of the Second World War into three months” here. We’re talking about “a hundred 9/11’s”. The Black Death was certainly far worse than any of those.

    But then, Islamic terrorism kills an average of about 6 people per year in the UK, and look how seriously we take that. Magnitude matters for the politicians, too, and in a world where 22 people dying at an Ariana Grande concert made headlines, who wants to go down in the history books as being responsible for half a million?! I agree, if we just looked rationally at the numbers, we’d ignore Islamic terrorism and many other risks completely. But we don’t.

    “(and I was right, given I did indeed catch Chinese Bat Lung in March & recovered in two weeks)”

    Glad to hear it! But was you right only in the sense that 5/6th of the people who play Russian Roulette were right?

    “At this point your argument vanishes into absurdity & bad faith, so no value it addressing the rest of it.”

    I’m glad you think so, because it’s exactly the same argument you’re making, and that’s how I feel about it too. It’s absurd. And I can’t help feeling that you’re consciously ignoring the inconsistency because it’s *your* freedom that’s risking harm to others, and thus bad faith.

    Fire into a crowd of 1000 with a gun you’re not sure is loaded and their chances of death are less than 1%. By your argument, that’s a low enough risk to ignore. Fire into a crowd with a lungful of virus, and start a chain reaction of 3 + 9 + 27 + 81 + 243 + 729 + 2187 + 6561 + 19683 + 59049 + 177147 + … infections, and that’s pretty much certain to kill people. Bioterrorism is feared so much precisely because small actions can have large impacts.

    “When I first started engaging in libertarianism I asked a prominent libertarian what their view was on Typhoid Mary. They hummed and hawed a lot and avoided the question.”

    I agree. For Typhoid Mary to keep working was harming other people, and reasonably should be forbidden. On the other hand, Mary needed to earn a living, being a cook was the best-paid job she could get, and she was constantly on the edge of poverty, so I think some measures to prevent such harm being inflicted on her were in order, too. No humming and hawing needed, you note.

    “But, I think my solution is the best way to approach this, allowing liberty by giving people a way to go outside without assaulting others. Just as in the 80s we had to wrap up our little deadly weapons in a rubber suit, so too, if we wrap ourselves in a suit that protects anyone who might be infected by us, we can go about our business. And we can allow the power of private industry, financial incentives and competition to provide us with really cool and enjoyable suits to do the job. Plus, we can stick them in our closet for the next time a man from the government comes to use this excuse to try to rob you of your most basic rights.”

    I’m fully in agreement with that, and it’s not like they’re all that expensive! 🙂

    (Although I’ve no doubt they’d get more expensive if demand went up.)

    “This seems to me to be a simple application of basic law, you aren’t allowed to deliberately do things that will hurt people, while maintain the precious freedom that our government petty tyrants in waiting are thirsty to take from us on whatever pretext they can dream up.”

    Agreed!

    And thank you for restoring my faith that there are still some real libertarians. I don’t feel quite so alone. 🙂

  • The Wobbly Guy

    Lessons from around the world seem clear now.

    Lockdowns – no
    Masks – yes
    Distancing – yes
    Testing – yes
    Unfettered access to private data for contact tracing – yes
    Quarantine – yes

    IOW, everything short of a lockdown.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Lockdowns – no
    Masks – yes
    Distancing – yes
    Testing – yes
    Unfettered access to private data for contact tracing – yes
    Quarantine – yes

    One could do much worse than this — and more than one usually do.

    Still, much depends on
    a. population density in a given city (not the entire country);
    b. fraction of people with active infections (perhaps best estimated from death rate … extrapolated to 3 weeks from now) — in other words, time from first infections to government action;
    c. sunshine.

    There are probably other factors that do not come to mind at the moment.

    Also, i am uneasy about the unfettered access, not least because it would induce people to avoid testing for fear of giving unfettered access if the test is positive.

  • APL

    TWG

    Lockdowns – No
    Masks – yes No, Masks are counterproductive.
    Distancing – yes Advisory only.
    Testing – Yes, but optional.
    Unfettered access to private data for contact tracing – yes No. All medical information about an individual belongs to that individual. Can be accessed with the agreement of the individual or a court order.
    Quarantine – yes Yes if it is established an individual is infected/contagious.

  • APL

    This is a gross abuse of authority. Not least because she was socially distanced, well in excess of the 2 m ‘advisroy’.

  • The Wobbly Guy

    @APL,

    Different cultures have different tolerances. East Asians are generally okay with more intrusive state measures, and the more invasive measures have generally resulted in lower infection and death rates.

    The debate on masks is still ongoing – why has it worked in SK and Japan? Or was it other measures? I suspect masks and safe distancing are an important combination – masks alone may be counterproductive, but become a potent measure when combined with safe distancing.
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/lessons-from-south-korea-on-how-to-manage-covid-11601044329

    In Singapore, there was a woman who refused to wear a mask in public, claiming she was ‘sovereign’ or some such. Nearly everybody here thought she was crazy.
    https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/courts-crime/sovereign-woman-accused-of-failing-to-wear-mask-in-public-faces-two

  • APL

    The Wobbly Guy: “Different cultures have different tolerances. East Asians are generally okay with more intrusive state measures, and the more invasive measures have generally resulted in lower infection and death rates.”

    No argument there TWG. You do what you like in [whatever country].

    The Wobbly Guy: “but become a potent measure when combined with safe distancing.”

    Then I’ll disagree. Once you ‘safe distance’, masks are redundant.

    If you are in close proximity, all you do when wearing a mask, is throw up a ‘fug’ of ( assuming you are infected ) infection all around your head. Without the mask, ( assuming you’re not a ‘mouth breather’ ) air expelled from your nostrils is directed ‘safely’ toward the ground*.

    *NB: No double blind randomized tests have been conducted on that proposal.

  • And thank you for restoring my faith that there are still some real libertarians. I don’t feel quite so alone. 🙂 (Nullius in Verba, September 26, 2020 at 1:35 pm)

    The presence of a smiley is better than its absence, but it still needs a backing soundtrack of “You’re so vain!”. 🙂

    The ‘you’ that Nullius was replying to was Fraser Orr (September 26, 2020 at 2:08 am), discussing AIDS (and STDs generally) in the 80s.

    Just as in the 80s we had to wrap up our little deadly weapons in a rubber suit, so too, if we wrap ourselves in a suit that protects anyone who might be infected by us, we can go about our business. …

    This seems to me to be a simple application of basic law, you aren’t allowed to deliberately do things that will hurt people,

    I somehow managed to miss that 80s anglosphere law that forbade all gay sex, because of that community’s especial vulnerability, and made sex illegal to others unless with a condom – said law to remain in force until an AIDS vaccine arrived. 🙂

    If a San Franciscan of the 1980s said, “Come home with me for a gay old time”, without adding, “BTW I have full-blown AIDS and what I propose is the most efficient vector for insuring you will too”, that’s statistically like saying, “Come home with me for a chat in my living room” without adding, “and so I can practise my quick draw to see if I can put a bullet in you first time”. It is understandable that soliciting sex while withholding that information (as, for example, a prominent politician of that area did even after being urged by his doctor to refrain), was seen as scandalous and even criminal.

    By contrast, the various regimes we’ve endured since March seem closer to 80s San Francisco saying, “For health reasons, we’re restoring the old laws against gay sex until a cure for AIDS is found.” The stats for that community at that time effortlessly outperformed those for the ChiComCold today.

    Quite separate to these reflections above is the OP point: many see delaying the spread of Covid in the largely non-vulnerable population as harming the vulnerable population, not protecting them. People choosing the very same balance between private action and private self-sacrifice, or between private choice and public force, will still differ if one believes in Ferguson and another believes in the herd immunity that the UK was attempting before, and Sweden still is now.

  • APL

    Spectator interveiw with Anders Tegnell.

    Andrew Neil: “The imperial modelling implied, when some Swedish academic got hold of the data, implied there would be 85,000 deaths in Sweden with no lockdown. Why didn’t you panic?”

    Anders Tegnell: “Partly because we looked at the model and we could see that the variables put in to the model were quite extreme, [ … ] that can of course be discussed afterwards,why did you choose the kind of variables that gave these extreme results? So we were always quite doubtful that this was …. and we did some work of our own that pointed in a quite different direction, in the end it proved that our prognosis was much closer to the real situation, actually very close to the real situation, probably because we really used data that we felt that we could understand and data that came from the actual situation and not data that came from some sort of theoretical model … ”

    Andrew Neil: “What you are saying is that the data Imperial put into the model, I mean there is the old thing ‘rubbish in rubbish out’, that may be a little bit extreme, but you see my point, you are saying is that you didn’t trust the data that was put into the [imperial] modelling, and you were right ..”

    Anders Tegnell: “But I think you always have to be very careful about models, models are not really made to do prognosis, models are made to test certain different kind of .. measures that you take and try to see what kind of effect they might have and so on, and if you want to try to use them as a prognostic model you have to be very careful and really look very carefully at the indata you look, because as you said ‘rubbish in rubbish’ out, and if you, like in this case you don’t really know what kind of data to put in, you have to be very careful about what you think about what the outcome is going to be.”

    Andrew Neil: “It makes me wonder though, and it’s not really a question you can answer, does make me wonder, if the British government interrogated the Imperial data going in to the same degree that you did?”

    Anders Tegnell: Yea, I think that’s a good question for someone to look into in the future.”

  • Nullius in Verba

    “The imperial modelling implied, when some Swedish academic got hold of the data, implied there would be 85,000 deaths in Sweden with no lockdown.”

    How many times do we have to say it? This wasn’t the result of modelling.

    The population of Sweden is about 10 million. You need to get to 60-80% infected to reach herd immunity. Covid-19 kills about 1% of those infected. 10 million times 80% times 1% is a little over 80,000. That’s all data from the actual situation. No theoretical model. No “quite extreme” variables to put into one. It’s simply the number of deaths that would result from letting it proceed to herd immunity, taking no precautions against spreading the virus at all!

    I think the problem here is that they didn’t understand the Imperial data, what it meant, where it came from.

    “…probably because we really used data that we felt that we could understand…”

    Uh huh.

    “It makes me wonder though, and it’s not really a question you can answer, does make me wonder, if the British government interrogated the Imperial data going in to the same degree that you did?”

    Apparently they interrogated it rather better! They didn’t repeat the same basic misunderstandings of what it meant and where it came from, over and over again.

  • APL

    NiV: “How many times do we have to say it? This wasn’t the result of modelling.”

    You can say it as many times as you want. Ok, it’s not the result of modelling.

    NiV: “The population of Sweden is about 10 million. You need to get to 60-80% infected to reach herd immunity. Covid-19 kills about 1% of those infected. 10 million times 80% times 1% is a little over 80,000. That’s all data from the actual situation.”

    I think you’ve just proposed a model to base your ( incorrect as it turns out ) mortality projections on?

    Your model ignores the idea of ‘T cell’ immunity, assumes the whole population is susceptible to catching COVID-19, and it affects the whole population to the same deleterious extent, that if 80% of the population is infected, COVID-19 will kill 1% of those infects. All of those conditions seem to be wrong ( admittedly with hindsight, but we guessed as much back in March, when the BBC tried to conceal that COVID-19 was attacking the older section of the population in Italy, with its hysterical and characteristically dishonest reporting ).

    We suspect, a significant percent of a given population can be exposed to COVID-19 but show nor experience any symptoms. A lesson you knew about, but chose to ignore from the Diamond Princess incident.

    We know, up until age 55 – 60, you can practically disregard* the threat of COVID-19. Mortality statistics, we now know, show this is disproportionately an illness that might kill you if you are of advanced years.

    *We know, if you are suffering from some other condition, you may need to take other precautions- self isolation, medication, dietary supplements ( Zinc or vitamin D supplements ).

    If you are a diabetic, or obese, well, diabetes shows up in the mortality statistics. So take additional precautions.

    So even your here proposed model, NiV, is utterly useless as a predictive tool, or at least as effective as picking figures off pieces of paper pulled out of a hat. Because even your simplistic ‘back of a fag packet’ ‘model‘, fails to take into account other variables that we now know impact the model real world scenario.

    In short, rubbish in rubbish out. But used as a useful tool to destroy a free and open society.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “You can say it as many times as you want. Ok, it’s not the result of modelling.”

    Thank you! My respects.

    “Your model ignores the idea of ‘T cell’ immunity, assumes the whole population is susceptible to catching COVID-19, and it affects the whole population to the same deleterious extent, that if 80% of the population is infected, COVID-19 will kill 1% of those infects. All of those conditions seem to be wrong ( admittedly with hindsight, but we guessed as much back in March, when the BBC tried to conceal that COVID-19 was attacking the older section of the population in Italy, with its hysterical and characteristically dishonest reporting ).”

    The possibilities that people can catch it without showing symptoms, and different people are affected differently are both already covered by the fact that 99% of those who catch it survive.

    It *is* true that if there is any pre-existing immunity in the population that not only stops you getting ill but also stops you passing it on to anyone else, then those numbers count as progress towards the 80%. However, there’s no evidence that anyone is immune in this way, and reason to think nobody is. T-cells are the cells that destroy already infected cells after they’ve been taken over by the virus. Thus they don’t start work until an infection is already in progress, and so they’re unlikely to stop you shedding virus in your exhalations, although they might reduce the amount to some degree. And while the T-cells have been shown to react to virus proteins, it has not been shown that they’re enough to stop you getting the disease. I think last time I looked at the question, and making some fairly generous assumptions, you could probably knock 10-20% off the total number of deaths if T-cell immunity does stop you becoming infectious. But this is a complete guess, based on even *less* hard data than the Imperial estimate.

    We can of course speculate endlessly over what might be. Maybe the lizard-people elites have already developed a vaccine and secretly got themselves immunised? It’s possible. And if true, the death toll may be far lower. But there’s no evidence for it. The estimates governments are using are the ones based on the evidence we have, not speculations about what might be. But I would agree that subsequent medical developments like Dexamethazone (found long after the study in question) will reduce the death rate in the later stages of the epidemic. And when they start rolling out the vaccines more broadly, that can be expected to achieve herd immunity without the deaths.

    The fact that even with strong precautions in place the epidemic didn’t immediately die out, and the observation here more recently that the slightest let-up in precautions results in R shooting up above 1 indicates we’re not near herd immunity yet.

    But this is a decent argument! Well done!

  • APL

    NiV: “Maybe the lizard-people elites have already developed a vaccine and secretly got themselves immunised? It’s possible.”

    But hardly likely that ‘lizard-people’ would be susceptible to a virus that would affect warm blooded creatures ( unless of course, you have inside information ), reptillian metabolism being markedly different. So I think you need not bother to find any double blind randomised studies on the topic.

    But ‘elites’ that have interests in ‘big pharma’? Now that’s a different proposition.

    And I see you are co-incidentally pushing a vaccine solution, when all we need is to achieve herd immunity, as we have for every other annual flu epidemic in history. But of course, that way leads to no stock holder bonanza. Very disappointing.

    And, as you know, lock-down measures have not saved anyone ( specifically in the UK ) because flattening the death curve of the ‘epidemic’ simply prolongs the duration of the ‘epidemic’ and the quantity of ‘epidemic’ related death is not diminished.

    But the measures you promoted, do seem to have destroyed the ability of the UK health service to service other routine demand and thus the course of action you advocated, has led to increased unnecessary death.

    Well done.

  • APL

    Oh and. Apparently, ‘Circulating influenza’, AKA the flu. killed 64,000 people in England and Wales in January 2018, 15,000 higher than in December 2017. That strain seemed to kill a fairly broad cross section of the population too.

    No lockdown, though. Odd.

    Also, given that a vaccine was avaliable in 2018, probably demonstrates a vaccine for influenza is pretty much useless.

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