12 Jun 2020

Murphy Twin Spin

Bob Murphy Show, Contra Krugman 27 Comments

==> The final episode of Contra Krugman. I promised myself I wouldn’t cry.

==> In the latest Bob Murphy Show, I discuss flaws with economists trying to justify the coronavirus lockdowns on cost/benefit grounds.

27 Responses to “Murphy Twin Spin”

  1. skylien says:

    Oh that is a long one…

    Hey guys, don’t you wonder why viruses like the Hong Kong Flu, Swine flu and quite likely also the Corona Sars 2 virus now initially start to drive through the people like an unstoppable force, but then all of a sudden it flattens and finally fizzle out long long before enough people have had it so that you can say that there was herd immunity reached which should be somewhere between 60 to 90% percent of the people? Isn’t that strange? Even if you think (which I do not), that the lockdowns contained Sars 2 before they reached herd immunity now (really? in every country they were successful? Very unlikely), but even if, that doesn’t explain why in cases like the Swine flu and Hong Kong flu clearly never any herd immunity levels were officially reached. So why is that? And why is there sometimes a second wave?

    So I have a theory for this, which hopefully you can assist me in first finding out if it is even plausible, and as second step doesn’t contradict available facts.

    My theory assumes:

    1: Viral initial loads when people are infected first are crucial:
    My research showed that the viral load you get the first time determines how sick you become. I picture (and sometimes it is described like that) the virus vs our immune system as a race. And depending on how quick your immune system is, and how hard you were hit initially you get not sick at all e.g. a small load and a fast immune system, or very severe sick e.g. high load and a slow weak immune system. Also very ill people shed a lot of infectious virus doses. Less ill people less.

    2: Vitamin D levels which deplete over the winter and therefore weaken peoples immune systems:
    I guess this is also fairly uncontroversial

    3: Weather plays a big role: In winter people are more packed together inside rooms, and even if they are outside, cold temperatures make your exhaled breath a fine mist and stay in the air longer rather than in summer where exhaled droplets drop to the floor fast and cannot be inhaled by other people as easily. Maybe also other factors like UVA/UVB rays have a significant impact.

    4: (Antibody)Tests are not good enough/sensitive enough to detect small partial immunities.
    That should be the most controversial part. From friends working in the hospital I know that those antibody tests are really not good, and that I shouldn’t bother taking it. Generally I guess you need a certain amount of antibodies before this test can pick it up. Which means (MAYBE) people where infected very very lightly and their immune system responded so fast that there is only so few antibodies that no antibody test would be able to detect it.

    Imagine there is kind of an immunity level from 0 to 10, while 0 is no immunity at all, and 10 is full immunity (Your immune system is fully dialled in to combat this virus and no amount of dose could make you ill). Now also lets assume infectious doses of the virus also being from 0 to to 10. 1 is very very little dose, 10 is a “full” load.

    Now assume that as long as your level of partial immunity is at least as high as the dose you get, then your immune system is capable of handling the virus without you noticing any symptoms. E.g. you have 5 and you get a dose level of 5 you will not get ill.

    So, I wold say if there is largely new virus, then people have at best very low partial immunity levels, let’s say from 0 to 2. Now even very small initial doses of 1-3 will make lots of people ill. Not to speak of all the higher doses which make people very very ill.

    So naturally the disease just races through the populace, but while you would see all the people getting really ill, and with antibody tests you at least could see all the people had a high enough immune reaction to detect, there are tons of people that had only had a small immune response to fight of the virus because the dose they got was very little. However every time you get at least infected with level that is close to your immunity level, your partial immunity level rises. So imagine if I had a very weak natural immunity level of say 1. Then I get a low dose of 1, my body fights it off without me noticing it, and after it is finished with the virus my immunity level was raised to 2. Like my immune system is now trained a little better for this virus. I am not totally immune. If I get a dose of 10, I get super ill, but already less than if I had an immunity level of 0 or 1. Now I get it again with dose of 3, and because it is higher than my level, I even notice a little symptoms, like a soar throat a little tired, but that’s it. And after this is over my level because of the higher response needed might mean I have an immunity level or 3 or even 4 now.

    And now assume that antibody tests only can pick up people who have immunity levels of 6 and higher.

    So the answer to the question why viruses stop although they never infect enough people to call it herd immunity (swine flu officially infected “only” 60 million people, roughly 20% of the US population, and I guess for the Hong Kong flu it wasn’t any different, didn’t find an official number), is that we are not able to detect the real infection rate, which is much much higher, and we actually did reach herd immunity in those cases. The immune systems of people got trained little by little for lots of people so long until the virus couldn’t transmit anymore because immunity levels go up and infectious doses shed by people go down.

    Combine that with the facts that the virus doses are affected by the weather and temperature and the immune systems potency depends highly on vitamin D, then it is also easy to explain why there is a second wave, and maybe potentially there might be a third wave possible, but after that it is over. Enough people have had it to a high enough degree that the potential to infect more people (even again!) is just too low for this virus. Yet antibody tests just can’t pick up all the low partial immunities of lots of people who had it a super mild (Level 5 or lower in my example), yet a crucial to stop the virus.

    Any thoughts?

    • Tel says:

      2: Vitamin D levels which deplete over the winter and therefore weaken peoples immune systems:
      I guess this is also fairly uncontroversial

      You would think that the basic role of vitamins in the immune system was uncontroversial but no … it can get you into trouble even discussing this.

      https://www.lewrockwell.com/2020/05/joseph-mercola/usa-today-smears-mercola-over-vitamin-c-and-d-information/

      Try suggesting someone take ZInc supplements and see what happens.

      • skylien says:

        Yes, it is very strange how little you hear about the issue how to boost your immune system, or vice versa the issues with locking people inside and its negative effects on the immune system, nobody is talking about that.. Only government decree and an expensive vaccine can help us..

        Well, war (on terror, drugs etc..), famine (due to overpopulation and dwindling resources), pestilence (like Covid) and death (from climate change or whatever else) is the health of the crony corporate state.

        That is all you need to know why low cost, safe, easily accessible measures aren’t brought up.

      • Harold says:

        The original article requires registration, which can’t be bothered to do, but the first line is visible.
        “Vitamins C and D are finally being adopted in the conventional treatment of novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. This fortunate turn of events is likely to save thousands of lives, while keeping health care costs down.”

        There is insufficient evidence to make this claim. If the article discussed the positive evidence for vitamins in context then nobody would have an issue with it. Instead they make unsubstantiated claims and mislead people into thinking the evidence for vitamins is stronger than it is.

        There is evidence that vitamin D deficiency makes it worse.
        https://www.thelancet.com/journals/landia/article/PIIS2213-8587(20)30183-2/fulltext

        Vitamin D supplements within the “normal” guidelines are reccomended, there is really no downside. This is reccommended by for example, Public Health England (PHE). That is different from high doses of VitD, for which there is not so much evidence of benefit and real evidence of a downside.
        [www]https://nutrition.bmj.com/content/early/2020/05/15/bmjnph-2020-000089

        There is evidence that Vitamin C treatment may reduce the severity of complications of the disease, but not treat the infection itself.

        [www]https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/can-vitamin-c-prevent-or-treat-covid-19#alternatives

        “You would think that the basic role of vitamins in the immune system was uncontroversial but no … it can get you into trouble even discussing this.” The last link shows several studies where this is discussed without anyone getting into trouble. The problem is not discussing it, it is mirepresenting the findings by only showing one side or hyping the results.

        I am taking vitamin supplement including Vitamin D as it is recommended by pretty much everybody.

        I agree with Skylien that this should be publicised more. PHE and their like do publish guidelines including Vitamin D supplements,but these are not widely promoted in the press coverage. A headline or two saying everyone should take Vitamin D supplement at the recommended dose would not go amiss.

        Mecola asks a good question in his LewRockwell piece.
        “What does “adopted in conventional treatment” actually mean?”

        What does this mean to you, as a statement?

        • Tel says:

          There is evidence that Vitamin C treatment may reduce the severity of complications of the disease, but not treat the infection itself.

          There’s a lot of evidence that being low in Vitamin C weakens the immune system, but even if this only helps with complications, it’s still generally a good idea with any treatment if you can keep the patient alive as long as possible. Even better if it encourages everyone to take some Vitamin C before they get sick and have their best possible chance of survival.

          Mecola asks a good question in his LewRockwell piece.
          “What does “adopted in conventional treatment” actually mean?”

          What does this mean to you, as a statement?

          To me it does not mean very much, because it’s quite vague … but in general terms it means that the majority of knowledgeable people would recommend this supplement is broadly helpful. At the very least, more helpful than harmful. Put it this way … a person with dark skin, living in a New York apartment, probably has significantly lower than average Vitamin D levels around January or February in a typical year … unless that person takes supplements … therefore the “conventional” wisdom would be take the supplement. Depending on what food they can afford in terms of fresh fruit, a Vitamin C supplement might also be a good idea because being able to drink fresh squeezed orange juice every morning is a bit of a luxury good, while a pack of vitamin tablets is cheap.

          I am taking vitamin supplement including Vitamin D as it is recommended by pretty much everybody.

          I agree with Skylien that this should be publicised more. PHE and their like do publish guidelines including Vitamin D supplements,but these are not widely promoted in the press coverage.

          The whole point about the Lew Rockwell article is that bogus “fact checking” and enthusiastic takedowns of videos containing this information, will ensure that this does NOT get press coverage. In order for these ideas to disseminate, you have to allow people to put them out there. You must have heard of the concept of a chilling effect.

          As for “over hyped” tell me do you think this is a balanced statement or somewhat exaggerated?

          Though vitamin C is used, at least in one New York hospital system, to help treat some patients on a case-by-case basis, there is no known evidence to suggest it is effective.

          No known evidence? None whatsoever … not a whisker.

          • Harold says:

            ” Even better if it encourages everyone to take some Vitamin C before they get sick and have their best possible chance of survival”

            I agree, and more so for Vit D in the winter.

            There is a big difference between vitamin supplements to ensure healthy levels and using large doses to treat a disease. Supplements to maintain levels within the healthy limits are uncontroversial and for vitamin D are recommended almost universally. That has been adopted by conventional medicine.

            “but in general terms it means that the majority of knowledgeable people would recommend this supplement is broadly helpful.”

            The statement was not about supplements, but your interpretation is about the same as mine. By “adopted in conventional treatment” I interpret that as but in general terms it means that the majority of knowledgeable people would recommend, or use it. This was in the context of emergency medical treatment, so the majority of knowledgeable people would be the emergency doctors. The article (LewRockwell) was about the treatment of Covid-19, not about supplements. To say it has been adopted in the conventional treatment suggests that the majority of doctors are using it in treatment, when this is not the case. The statement is misleading.

            ” tell me do you think this is a balanced statement or somewhat exaggerated?”

            Somewhat exaggerated. There is some evidence for almost everything, the question is whether it rises to a level where it is reasonable to conclude the statement is true. There is some evidence that people can exist for long periods of time without eating or drinking (breatharians). It would be technically wrong to say there was no evidence, but it would be fairly normal to say there was no evidence to support it.

            There is more evidence for Vitamin treatment, so it is not as extreme as the breatharian example.

            There is insufficient evidence to show it is effective would be a more accurate way to phrase it.

            • guest says:

              For what it’s worth:

              Intravenous Vitamin C for Cancer Cure on ABC News
              [www]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCBRMFBVzi0

              The anchorwoman is Anita Brikman. Here’s more from her:

              Vitamin C as a Cancer Fighter
              [www]http://www.laleva.org/eng/2006/11/vitamin_c_as_a_cancer_fighter.html

              ABC Channel 6, Philadelphia, 11/10/06 – Vitamin_C_as_a_cancer_fighter.pdf
              [www]http://ivcinfusions.com/articles/Vitamin_C_as_a_cancer_fighter.pdf

              The video is the only one of the above resources I’ve looked at.

              Researchers Achieve Cancer-Killing Effect With Oral-Dose Vitamin C
              by Bill Sardi
              [www]https://www.lewrockwell.com/2010/01/bill-sardi/it-kills-cancer/

              “Only recently has it come to light that the dismissal of vitamin C for cancer therapy was based upon oral-dose vitamin C, and subsequent studies found intravenous vitamin C has the potential to be used in cancer therapy.”

              Sardi links to this study:

              Pharmacokinetics of Vitamin C: Insights Into the Oral and Intravenous Administration of Ascorbate
              [www]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18450228/

              I’ve read the above artidle, but not much of the study.

              • Tel says:

                The treatment involving Vitamin C introduced by IV drip is an order of magnitude higher dosage than normal oral Vitamin C supplements.

                In normal levels Vitamin C has a bunch of immune system functions, and that’s fine, it’s fully healthy to keep your Vitamin C levels up. If you take oral supplements then any excess will simply be thrown away … the body rejects what it does not need.

                The intravenous Vitamin C is a completely different thing … that method will boost Vitamin C levels far above what would ever happen naturally. The consequence is that it operates as a broad oxidizing agent, or as Trump said “something like bleach”. For a short term treatment in desperate situations, it can work, I talked to someone who had three years of persistent bronchitis and took the intravenous Vitamin C for one day and successfully killed the bronchitis.

                There are side effects of large scale oxidization, in that many otherwise healthy cells will also get damaged. It’s not something you would want to do more than a couple of times in your lifetime.

                It also gets used against Lyme disease, and that’s such a debilitating disease that people do figure they have little to lose, so might as well give it a try. The advantage of oxidization is that it works on a wide range of bugs, and Lyme disease sufferers can have a whole bunch of this and that bugs in their systems, which makes a broad spectrum approach more attractive.

                In the specific example of COVID-19 I’m fairly sure the doctors were simply giving regular levels of oral Vitamin C levels (not super high dose) … that is the patients were coming into the hospital already deficient, and the doctors wanted to get them up to a reasonable level so they had some chance of fighting off the infection.

                Although if you search out Dr. Joseph Mercola he does often recommend Liposomal Vitamin C which is a special formulation that allows the human body to absorb more than it normally would. Thus providing a short term oxidization burst before it clears out and returns to normal. You can buy this stuff, but I think it’s pretty new and not well studied. I recommend doing your own research!

                “Only recently has it come to light that the dismissal of vitamin C for cancer therapy was based upon oral-dose vitamin C, and subsequent studies found intravenous vitamin C has the potential to be used in cancer therapy.”

                If they tried oral dose of standard ascorbic acid then I can assure you they did not achieve high internal vitamin C levels with that, no matter how much was consumed. This limitation of absorption has been known for a long time so you have to question any modern trial that even attempted such a thing.

              • Harold says:

                “In the specific example of COVID-19 I’m fairly sure the doctors were simply giving regular levels of oral Vitamin C levels”

                They are trying high dose IV vitamin C for Covid-19.

                https://ccforum.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13054-020-02851-4

                It is not that important here, but I doubt that it acts as an oxidising agent since it is a reducing agent.

                High doses of IV vitamin C seem to be well tolerated in most people. There does not seem to be much damage.

                Liposome encapsulated Vit C does seem to improve the plasma concentrations compared to un-encapsulated, but not nearly as much as IV administration.

              • Tel says:

                Ordinary Wikipedia has an explanation of the mechanism.

                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intravenous_ascorbic_acid

                Under heading “Mechanism of Action” with a bunch of references. Here’s the key statement:

                “The formation of hydrogen peroxide and hydroxyl radicals is believed to induce cytotoxicity and apoptosis of cancer cells.”

                Thus, it’s an oxidizing agent, when used in high doses … although by indirect mechanism. Note that hydrogen peroxide is such a simple molecule that this is non-specific and thus will hit various cells, including bacteria, parasites, etc. It very likely also works on virus particles. I can’t resist mentioning that hydrogen peroxide is a great bleaching agent.

                However, the consequence is some collateral damage to healthy cells, which most people can easily afford if they don’t run the high dosage too often.

                The same Wikipedia article also talks about Mayo Clinic attempted replication using oral ascorbic acid, and of course all of these failed because there’s no way to achieve sufficient absorption using oral ascorbic acid. The fact that they did not check the serum levels and figure this out quite early suggests they were not trying all that hard to replicate.

              • Harold says:

                Thanks Tel, you were indeed correct and in high IV doses it acts as an oxidiser, rather than the reducer it usually is.

                This is a promising treatment. Lets hope the trials come out positive.

              • Harold says:

                My “anaonymous” post has not appeared, so maybe summarize it here. The IV vic C produces hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) in extra cellular fluid, but not in the blood. This makes it relatively safe. H2O2 is removed by an enzyme, catalase, which cancer cells do not have much of, so cancer cells are damaged much more than normal cells. I am sure that large amounts of H2O2 do cause some damage to normal cells, so Tel is right to say this is not something to undertake lightly, but the evidence from phase II trials is that most people do not suffer much from the large vitC IV doses. In at least some trials, the maximum dose was not established because no negative symptoms were recorded at th highest dose used.

              • Tel says:

                H2O2 is removed by an enzyme, catalase, which cancer cells do not have much of, so cancer cells are damaged much more than normal cells.

                That’s interesting … I did a quick search on various types of bacteria, and it seems that the Borrelia spirochetes that cause Lyme Disease are “catalase-negative” bacteria … thus have no defense against hydrogen peroxide oxidization attack. This is also the case with streptococci that can cause a strep throat and can also cause other stubborn skin infections.

                Other types of bacteria defend themselves very successfully from hydrogen peroxide and these are called “catalase-positive” although a range of different enzymes can be deployed, but mostly catalase.

            • Harold says:

              Guest, I found this one to be informative of current status.

              https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/hp/vitamin-c-pdq#_16

              There is a patient version you can click on, which is a good summary.

              My take is that there was some encouraging evidence form the 1970’s, but some discouraging also. More recent trials have demonstrated that IV and oral doses do not work the same, so IV should be used.

              Patients generally tolerate high doses well, with few or relatively minor side effects. Some patients do not react well, but these can be screened for.

              Vit C on its own has not had that good results. Currently several trials are investigating high doses combined with other treatments. Results unfortunately are not yet in, but should be starting to arrive soon.

              Each cancer type is different, and different results are to be expected for different cancers.

              Overall, there is sufficient evidence that it may do good to justify the trials.

              • guest says:

                “Vit C on its own has not had that good results. Currently several trials are investigating high doses combined with other treatments.”

                That was my impression, too.

                If you listen to Dr. Oz’s interview with Stanislaw Burzynski, or at least in the documentary about him, he says that he uses gene targeted therapy along with intravenous Vitamin C.

                By the way, I think what Tel means by Vitamin C having oxidation effects is that, apparently, the IV Vitamin C causes your body to produce hydrogen peroxide.

              • Anonymous says:

                ” the IV Vitamin C causes your body to produce hydrogen peroxide.”

                I was not aware of this, but it does seem that vit C in high IV doses produces the ascorbate free radical, but only in extracellular fluid, not on the blood. This further reacts to produce hydrogen peroxide. This is removed by an enzyme catalase. Cancer cells do not have as much catalase as normal cells, so they die.

                This is ironic because the way Vit C usually works is by mopping up peroxides and free radicals. The anti-oxidant acts as a pro-oxidant.

                Fascinating stuff, I stand corrected on the oxidation thing, Tel was indeed correct.

              • Harold says:

                I think I forgot to enter my name -anonymous comment probably soon to appear acknowledging Guest’s peroxide comment and agreeing with Tel about oxidation.

  2. Harold says:

    Hong Kong flu has never gone away. It remains as a component of seasonal flu.

    There was a pandemic of H2N2 in 1957. HK flu was H3N2 and thought to have mutated from the H2N2 strain. . There is some cross immunity between flu strains, so the ’57 pandemic gave some immunity to the N part.

    The patterns were different in US an Europe. The USA first got it in december 1968. In N America, the first wave was more deadly. In Europe the second wave in 1969 was more deadly. This is thought to be due to greater N (neuraminidase) immmunity in Europe, and a drift in the N gene between 68 and 69. In the USA, asymptomatic infections in 68 were rare, in Europe they were common.

    Initially, USA had less immunity to H3, so the disease spread effectively, giving a more severe first season. In Europe, there was greater immunity to H3, so the virus did not spread as well. Then the H2 part changed. In the USA the now widespread immunity to the H3 part protected against the new N2 part, since the H3 did not change. In Europe, there was not so much immunity to the H3 part and the combination of H3 and new N2 resulted in severe second wave. The partial immunity was not so much due to differnt levels of immunity to the same thing, but differing immunity to different things.

    The current virus is not an influenza virus, so patterns of infection will be different. Te partial immunity in flu is at leat in part to having immunity to simiar antigens from previous exposure to different strains, as illustrated above with KH flu. There is no parallel here really, so the partial immunity will not be the same as we se with Flu.

    The severity of Flu correlates with initial “dose”. We do not know if this the case for Covid-19, although there is supporting evidence. It seems reasonable to act as though it does until shown otherwise in relation to trying to reduce the dose people get. I think we could call this the precautionary principle. However, this is not the same as assuming this is the case for all policy choices as we must recognise that it may be wrong. Not all viruses correlate this way. Noravirus requires a very small does to produce the vomiting / diarrhea symptoms. We have some evidence that the viral load a patient has does not correlate that well with disease severity – people with mild symptoms had as many virus in their swabs as very sick people.

    I am pretty sure that the immunity does not go on a scale from none to 10 which could be used together with an infective dose, as you describe. It is possible that these factors all do exist, but probably at the edges rather than as a spectrum. I will read a bit more.

    • skylien says:

      Sure, this theory does not contradict the case that viruses can remain and they do, and depending on their rate of muation and seasonal changes can flare up more or less like it is the case with the normal flu/colds. But they do not create another situation like it was with the Honk Kong flu 68/69 because there is a lot of immunity (“highler levels” in the population already).The only way to create another big outbreak is with a big mutation from those viruses we already have around..

      Crucial is though to explain how, like the Hong Kong flu, the pandemic stops after e.g. roughly 20% of the population by itself, and does not reach 60 to 90% as is argued today to reach official herd immunity.

      • Harold says:

        These are interesting questions. I am not sure anyone has all the answers – we don’t fully understand why Flu is so seasonal. But we do know some things.

        The H1N1 (1918 pandemic) is reported as having infected about 1/3 of the world population, but it still there, so I assume this was during the pandemic.

        For H3N2 (1968) we have a vaccine, so herd immunity has been achieved. Flu is known to be highly seasonal, so it would take a few cycles to eventuallly infect enough people. The highest attack rate was in school age children, where it was 40%. Two studies of attack rates during pandemics in the 1960s and 1970s showed 24% in Seattle and 33% in Huston. This rose to 38.5% for families with school age children. There is lots of evidence that schools are a major hub of infection for influenze. I guess this is why school closures were talked about so much. It seems that for Covid-19 this is not the case.

        In the 1957 pandemic (H2N2) attack rates in schoolchildren was >50%

        H1N1 re-emerged in the 1970s. Attack rates among children was again >50%, but illness was almost exclusively among those under 20 years old as the older people had antibodies from previous exposure.

        Since Flu is seasonal. my guess is that each season ends before full herd immunity is reached. The hub infective population of schoolchildren has a higher immunity. When the next season comes around, because the number of susceptibles is lower, particularly in the young, the transmission is much slower. Eventually, without vaccines, herd immunity will be developed, but each wave will be much smaller.

        SARS-CoV-1 is a different story. This did die away, which is something of a mystery. Some differences between that and the current outbreak is that CoV-1 did not spread without symptoms and they came on quickly. The infectious could be identified by checking temperature and isolated, and contact tracing was relatively easy. This prevented the widespread community transfer we see with CoV-2. It was also much more lethal, which made taking action more urgent. It never infected a significant number of the population.

        There were lockdown measures taken then. In May, 2003, China locked down Beijing and closed more than 3500 public places in an effort to curb community spread. Singapore became known as the country of thermometers. Temperature monitoring was mandatory in schools and for entry to public buildings.

        Back at the start of all this, we saw some simplified SIR models you could play around with to see the effect of reducing R. All these started with a susceptible population of 100% since everyone was assumend to eb susceptible. I would like to see these re-done with an initial susceptible population of say 80%, to represent a reasonable estimate of what a second wave in New York might look like (assuming immunity after infection). The Numberphile one on-line you can’t change that parameter.

        Initial estimates of R0 were 2.4-3.9 or thereabouts, but a recent papers suggests it could be 5.7, which is frighteningly high and explains why we were somewhat taken by surprise.
        [www]https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/7/20-0282_article

  3. Harold says:

    The term “social distancing”
    I understood the phrase social distancing i this context to mean reducing the number of opportunities to infect others.

    Wikipedia has it as “In public health, social distancing, also called physical distancing,[2][3][4] is a set of non-pharmaceutical interventions or measures intended to prevent the spread of a contagious disease by maintaining a physical distance between people and reducing the number of times people come into close contact with each other.” That article was only created on April 22. before then for some reason nobody had bothered to create the article. However, in the academic literature there are many earlier references relating, for example, to flu. This was the normal term used for this type of measure in public health / epidemiology circles for a long time, including measures such as school closures. The problem arises because a jargon term within a specialty has been adopted as a normal colloquial term and the understanding of the background that the experts had is not the same among lay-people. I think we should use the term anyway, and understand that it means reducing infective contacts by whatever means, not stopping calling Granny on the phone.

    The conclusion of the cost/benefit type analyses is that social distancing has economic benefits. As I understand it, one problem with the studies is they compare imposed distancing with no distancing at all and ignore voluntary distancing.

    You do acknowledge the market failure. We have studied human behaviour quite a lot, and people do not tend to react until the evidence is obvious to them, by which time it would be too late in this sort of pandemic. Everyone thinks of their own justifications why they can do such-and-such, which would be true if only they were doing it. Spring break springs to mind (and Dominic Cummings for thiose faliliar with thw UK). Some people may ask to work from home, but many more will actually do it if they are told to. The boss will agree, for a start.

    Models of different levels of social distancing on R show that the voluntary measures have a slight reduction, but the lockdown has a far greater effect and reduces it below 1. I recently saw such a study but cannot find it right now. I can seek it out again if anyone is interested.

    The alternative of a Pigovian tax is interesting. The problems are large but it is worth some effort to figure out if this is feasible. Perverse incentives for people to stay at home are one problem. A nurse may be happy to go to work at the moment, but of their neighbor is paid specifically to stay at home, commitment may waver. Many mammals seem to have an inbuilt sense of fairness – see numerous experiments with monkeys and dogs. In a monkey one, the monkey was quite happy to press a lever for cucumber, but when it observed a neighboring monkey get grapes for the same task, all cooperation stopped – in fact the cucumber was thrown back at the experimenter. Humans are the same. We may be happy to work for a particular remuneration, but if we see others getting mire for the same thing, we are no longer happy to continue, although our position has not altered in the slightest.

    VSL
    One Covid-19 study I saw did not use VSL, but calculated economic costs by the utility that was foregone by not continuing to live. In their model, the value was $9 million, which is very close to the VSL often used in the USA. The same conclusion can be reached without using VSL.

    Henderson says “Still I couldn’t put my finger on the main problem. I still can’t.” Yet to me he has put his finger on the main problem in his opening paragraph. There are other problems. but that is the main one.

    The figure from Luigi is probably too high. 7.2 million deaths from Covid is way more than predicted, even in a worse case, but take it as true for the argument. The problem is that you also need to count the economic costs of deaths that result from shutdown. It seems clear that this is the case- why does Henderson have a problem? You must count costs and benefits of both alternatives.

    How you pay for it is not really the point. To complete the argument, you have to say how you would pay for it, then estimate the number of deaths that would result, and include this in your calculation. If you could do it with no excess deaths, then using the measures for policy that are usually used it would be worth it.

    There is another problem.

    Summarizing what I think you were saying, The thing about VSL is that It correlates strongly with wealth and not much else (even age). This is why VSL in Bangladesh is lower than in the USA. If USA becomes poorer, the VSL will reduce. As with many of these things in economics, the costs are assumed not to have a significant effect on the overall picture. Just as each individual purchase has no significant effect on the supply of a good, and hence does not affect the price directly. Each life saved by a policy is generally assumed not to have an effect on the value of other lives. The VSL is assumed to be independent of the individual case under consideration. If VSLdoes depend on the measures under consideration it is much more complex. $65 trillion would affect the VSL to an appreciable extent, so it is not independent. That is one problem.

    If I buy one apple, the price (value) of apples does not change. If I buy 10 million apples, the price (value) may alter. By considering so many lives all at once, we are influencing the value.

  4. Harold says:

    Off topic, but an article over at Mises I completely agree with!
    https://mises.org/wire/problem-wandering-police-officers

    • guest says:

      Ah, but how are you going to stop all of us libertarian scofflaws who don’t think there should be stop signs and stop lights on “public land” without wandering police officers.

      And how are you going to stop homesteaders from moving on to “public lands” to build homes and businesses?

      And how are you stop Right-Wing-favoring black market transactions?

      The idea of wandering police officers is a Lefty idea, not a laissez-faire one.

      Also, look up Barack Obama’s cozy relationship with SEIU (Service Employees International Union). The whole idea of public sector unions was to combat the generally laissez-faire policies of legislators.

      Also, also, leaders in the SEIU, like Stephen Lerner, were responsible for the “Days of Rage” protests in 2011.

      So, yeah, all this talk about ending wandering police, and ending police unions, if actually followed through with, would tend to undo some Lefty “gains” (if you call ignoring the Constitution a gain) that socialists have made.

      End the wandering police and the police unions, and then replace them with for-profit security services that are never paid for with tax dollars.

      • Harold says:

        Did you read the article?

        “The wandering officer is one who is fired or “voluntarily resigns” in lieu of being fired and obtains employment with another law enforcement agency. ”

        The solution proposed “…making sure that police agencies report decertified officers to the NDI and reference it in making their hiring decisions does not face a hard tradeoff.”

        So simply encouraging the sharing of information, and checking the information has been read.

        “The idea of wandering police officers is a Lefty idea, not a laissez-faire one.”

        I am puzzled by your response.

        “And how are you going to stop homesteaders from moving on to “public lands” to build homes and businesses?” I would use some of the vast majority of police officers who have not been fired elsewhere for gross misconduct.

        • guest says:

          “Did you read the article?”

          I did not. I’ll go do that.

          I thought, by “wandering police offficer”, we were talking about a roaming spy, essentally, which is not what our states had, originally.

          Sheriffs kept the peace, but otherwise butted out of everyone’s business unless called upon.

          *That’s* what I meant by it being a Lefty ideal.

          Anyway, I’ll go read the article, now.

          • Harold says:

            OK, that explains the misunderstanding. Perhaps we will be able to agree on something?

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