Friday, April 3, 2020

COVID-19: 50 Suggestions for Reopening the Economy in a Responsible Way

COVID-19 poses a very serious threat: Many more people could die, either from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, or from other conditions that could not be properly treated because hospitals are running at or over capacity due to the influx of COVID-19 patients. 

The current strategy that many Western countries follow to deal with the problem is to try to ‘flatten the curve’. In practice flattening the curve requires extreme forms of social distancing and shutting down large sectors of the economy. This too, however, has severe negative consequences: Tens of millions of people could lose their jobs, businesses will go under, retirement accounts lose value etc. All these developments are likely to cause significant health, social, psychological and institutional problems.

At this point it is not obvious that the ‘flatten the curve’ strategy is effective. Judging from results in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Sweden and other countries, shutting down the economy may not be necessary to deal with the virus in a harm-minimizing way. And looking at countries such as Italy, on lockdown since March 9, it may not even be sufficient.

In addition, when it comes to reducing mortality rates the strategy has severe limits: Unless a vaccine and/or effective treatment is found in record time, a lockdown is not going to stop the virus. It will just distribute the deaths from the virus over a longer period of time. The lockdown is only intended to prevent the additional deaths that could result from hospitals being overloaded.

At the same time, this strategy is likely to cause a significant number of additional deaths due to the before-mentioned severe economic, social and psychological consequences of the lockdown itself. 

But what is the alternative? Are there effective ways to contain the pandemic or at least reduce the number of deaths as much as possible without imposing a lockdown?

First note that shutting down large parts of the economy is incredibly costly, almost unfathomably so. A lockdown means that large parts of the economy simply stop producing. That means billions of dollars worth of goods and services that could have been created are now not being created. Moreover, the stimulus packages intended to enrich politically connected corporations at the expense of everybody else cushion the blow of shutting down the economy are incredibly expensive too, and it will quickly become simply impossible to compensate people for lost wages and revenue if the lockdown continues for much longer.

This means that it is worthwhile to spend considerable sums of money on measures that could help to end the lockdown sooner rather than later.

With this in mind, below are some ideas for how to responsibly end the lockdown and reopen public life. This document will continue to be updated.

[Please note that this document is written by somebody with no expertise in any of the relevant areas. It is purely intended as a starting point for much needed discussion and research. Corrections, suggestions etc are very welcome at @koenswinkels or Please share and feel free to use any content, with or without attribution. 
For an alternative take on the COVID-19 crisis, see this interview with prof Knut Wittkowski who argues not just that the lockdown cure is worse than the disease but that the disease is not as big a problem as commonly thought and that a lockdown makes the disease itself worse.] 

Monday, March 23, 2020

Thirteen Ways In Which The COVID-19 Threat May be Inflated

COVID-19 is a very serious problem that should be taken very seriously by both government and the public, but there are ways in which we may be getting an inflated sense of the threat:

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Covidonomics: What Will the COVID-19 Crisis Do to Our Political Economy? (updated)

The COVID-19 crisis is fueling a race to find solutions for the problem while also shutting down large parts of the economy and giving governments enormous economic powers. Except for wartime mobilization, this situation is unprecedented. In this article I discuss sixteen major potential negative consequences of the crisis.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Populism for Peace

Voters generally don't care or know much about the horrors US foreign policy inflicts on so many people around the world. But to get rid off the foreign policy establishment responsible for those horrors you would need a populist revolt. So the situation seems hopeless.

In this article published on The Libertarian Institute's site I argue that there is hope after all: A populist pro-peace movement could end the Empire without even trying.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Why Did North Korea Develop Nuclear Weapons?

Scott Horton gives a very brief history of what happened (57m38s):
It was all George [W.] Bush's fault. [He] probably deliberately provoked them into doing that.
First, [the US] abnegated the Agreed Framework deal, then they announced a whole new round of sanctions, then they announced the Proliferation Security Initiative which said that we can seize all your boats on the high seas and do whatever we want with them [...] and then they announced the Nuclear Posture Review that said we just might attack you with nuclear weapons.

And only then did the North Koreans withdraw from their end of the Agreed Framework, announce they were withdrawing from the Non-Proliferation Treaty like in the deal it says you have to announce 6 months beforehand, and only then did they withdraw from the treaty, kick the IAEA out and start making nukes.

And i guess the thinking [in DC] - if you can call it thinking - was, don't worry, we'll be done in Baghdad and we’ll be ready to go to Pyongyang before they get their first nuke together, except that Oops instead we just essentially handed them an arsenal of nuclear weapons when they were perfectly happy within the Non-Proliferation Treaty as a threshold state under the Agreed Framework deal which America had never even lived up to our side of.

It just took Bush repudiating it and threatening them with an H-bomb first strike to make them withdraw from their end.