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June 18, 2020



European countries are lifting the lockdown. So far no sign of a significant second wave. The number of 111 calls which some view as a Covid proxy shows no sign of increasing despite restrictions easing in the UK. Many scientists view the likelihood of a second wave as low.

The lockdown costs us in many ways, not least in lives. It is clear that the only reason for continuing the lockdown is the wish of many pro-EU/pro-lockdown commentators and politicians for the UK to be a society where self-appointed technocrats micromanage ordinary people's lives.


The lockdown has on net, saved lives and is probably best for the economy too in anything other than the very short run.
That's the consensus view among most economists and most of the government's scientific advisors (and vast majority of independent scientists in the field) although there is much disagreement over whether locking down earlier and harder might have enabled a faster exit as per Germany and various Asian states.
Needless to say those countries most resistant to even the reality of a pandemic and ergo the lockdown are those most in thrall to capital ( eg. US and Brazil) that pay lip service to personal freedom only as a cover.


@ Paulc156

What governments should have done at the time and what in retrospect was the right thing to do are two different questions. At the time of the lockdown there was still considerable uncertainty and it seems reasonable for the government to have erred on the side of caution and gone into Lockdown. But the consequences are significant in economic terms, have been significant in terms of knock-on health consequences, and will continue to be significant afterwards in terms of our ability to afford decent healthcare and hence save lives.

I see little evidence right now for continuing the lockdown, little evidence for not having children back at school, or maintaining 2m rather than 1m distancing, or people in general getting back to a full existence. There still seems to be scope for vulnerable people to be affected so we should probably continue to shield old and ill people. Some people may complain that is hard or hits them unfairly, but no-one asked for this pandemic, it wasn't in anyone's manifesto, so just suck it up.

I'm not particularly interested in what happens in Brazil or the USA. Other than to wish them both every success in keeping infections and deaths to a minimum obviously.


I get that we're all geniuses in hindsight but when you say "...and it seems reasonable for the government to have erred on the side of caution and gone into Lockdown." My point in my earlier post was that the dispute such that is, is that the Government erred on the side of complacency and shut down too late. Kind of the opposite to that which you presume.
The PPE debacle was also just that. The government had clearly been forewarned that PPE was a glaring weakness in the nation's readiness for what was an almost inevitable event. They just filed it under things too much of a pain to bother with.


Peter Shaw

@ Paulc156

There is no evidence the UK lockdown saved any lives. The UK has one of the highest total deaths per capita in the world. There are a huge number of countries that never locked down with lower total death rates per capita and who have a declining death rate like the UK.

Once the virus is endemic there is no point. Even if you catch it early and squash it you then have the problem of not having an exit strategy to low grade lockdown.

Peter Shaw


You say a better policy would entail greater support for business and jobs. But the economy was not healthy before the crisis. Here is Australia we have good support BUT we now have an large number of (as yet) unseen zombie companies with no viable future and also the systems are being abused.

I’m not saying support is not needed but it comes with its own problems and there has to be an exit strategy.

Robert Mitchell

Pay everyone a $3000 per month fully inflation-protected basic income, and let whoever wants to, work. Those who want can lock themselves down without worrying about income security.

Ending lockdown is more about personal freedom from government than about capital. Capital will continue to self-generate. Savings goes into capital production, so less consumption of real goods means financial markets will thrive.

Peter Shaw

@Robert Mitchell

Definitely a set amount to everyone is a better approach as it limits distortions and cannot be rorted.


I think Dipper shows pretty well why all Chris's arguments are irrelevant. None of this is being rationally thought through; it's pure Tory tribalism.


@ deangedlemur

"None of this is being rationally thought through; it's pure Tory tribalism."

Oh there's 'rational analysis' on one side and tory tribalism on the other is there? No. Its tribalism as far as the eye can see. There are no rational players here. There are no independent neutral observers.


@Peter Shaw
"Once the virus is endemic there is no point. Even if you catch it early and squash it you then have the problem of not having an exit strategy to low grade lockdown."
What does that even mean?
Germany caught it early did lockdown and has largely exited. Ditto South Korea,Taiwan, Denmark, Austria, Norway.

Argentina versus Brazil is another interesting comparison. Rapid strict lockdown versus haphazard slow lockdown actively discouraged by Bolisaro.
Brazil death rate per capita 11 times that of Argentina.


There clearly is something the right really fear in lockdown. It's also clear that it's got nothing to do with personal freedoms because they want everyone to go back to work pronto.

What capital usually fears is losing its money or losing its power, hence the right's opposition to collaboration of the lower orders. For that collaboration to take place and power to be curbed, ordinary people need time. That's the only element I think our blogger has overlooked.



All governments were dealing with uncertainty and risk. It appears ours has dealt with it particularly badly. With time we might have a more concrete picture of relative performance, but for now it really does look like we've been pretty bad. I can't see how any reasonable person could dispute that...

The idea that people want lock down to have technocrats control our lives is truly bizarre.



everyone isn't equally irrational. and everyone's rationality varies across time. typically when one's side has f*cked up badly irrationality increases exponentially as we scrape around the barrel for reasons to believe we were right to support them

Peter Shaw


It means precisely what i said. What is the endgame for Germany, Korea, Australia etc? I’m sincerely interested as the virus will never be eliminated. So that means low level tracking (goodbye privacy), border restrictions, state of fear, and intermittent shutdowns of workplaces, schools etc is worth it FOREVER or that a vaccine is imminent (unlikely)

And btw you obviously have not studied the Argentinian data. It’s growing rapidly there



No. Because have lots of unanswered questions about the virus, we don't have any way of measuring performance. You have literally no idea what metrics to use to study performance, just the metrics of outcomes.

Outcomes across New York state varied a lot. Did New York state manage one part better than the other? Or were the differential outcomes due to different underlying factors? And if the latter, then we need to understand those factors, which we don't.

"everyone isn't equally irrational.". In the days when I used to work in financial markets the desks I worked for made enormous amounts of money from people who thought they were being rational but were simply justifying their prejudices. Millions and millions. I cannot say thank you often enough.


@Peter Shaw
"It means precisely what i said. What is the endgame for Germany, Korea, Australia etc?"

My son has been working in Sydney Australia for over 3 years and they locked down quite hard and fast and consequently have only had about 100ish covid deaths. They are now mostly out of lockdown. Able to visit other households, go away (in NSW), scuba diving, restaurants with restricted customer numbers and so on. He and his wife are pretty grateful to be honest. The forest fires were more traumatic.

My nephew moved to Hamburg from London last summer. He works from home (web site design) still for now but generally life is near to normal. Restaurants open with restrictions, people able to mix. Just large events (sports, weddings) restricted for now.
Good track and tracing system in place. People are confident and relaxed.

On your freedom issue...is that an Ayn Rand thing or something? I know in the flyover states in the US that's a bit of an issue...guvmint interfering in people's lives etc. So long as they live in states that permit AK47s to be paraded in public I doubt that the politicians who are mostly bought and paid for by corporations will worry much about public health etc so freedom will trump health and welfare as usual.

Regards Argentina and Brazil. Funny how on earlier thread you said cases were not important as deaths ( US states).
Argentina has as of yesterday less than a 1000 deaths due to covid compared to over 48000 in Brazil...where they hardly test and Bolisaro tried to stop publishing the data.

Looking back over 1918 pandemic we know economically where you take active measures to limit the spread the economy does better. So on economic grounds as well as health it's the only sensible option.


Peter Shaw

I live in Australia and restrictions are still in place, people are scared, the borders are shut, and due to a spate of out breaks the restrictions are being increased. Can you ask your nephew what our exit strategy is as you can't answer the question?

Yep deaths are what counts and the death rate is heading up in Argentina, despite the lockdown. In Brazil it seems to be heading down (despite no lockdown).

Anyone who does not understand that

The last arstechnica article you quoted was statistically bogus and this one does not even give references. But let's look at actual gdp growth during the most recent pandemic, the Hong Kong flu, which killed almost as many Americans as covid19 in a much smaller population (and many times more around the world). Here is the usa:


1968 and 69 look pretty good (hint no lockdowns and a calm populace)

Now lets look at what has actually happened in Sweden. Sweden has done better economically than it's neighbours, is forecast to do better, it's death rates are way down, and overall will edn up less thqn mqny countries that have locked down (despite putting their elderly in unnecessary danger).


@ PaulC156

"they locked down quite hard and fast and consequently have only had about 100ish covid deaths."

Right here. This is everything wrong with the analysis of Covid.

Someone did action X. There was an outcome Y. Therefore, Result Y was due to action X.

Not necessarily. You would really need a control where everything was the same apart from action X. And there are no controls here. We have no idea how widely the virus had spread in many countries prior to it becoming apparent. Different family structures , degree of public transport, etc may matter a lot. The virus needs a network of contact to spread. Many societies may be quite different in how those networks interact. Lots of possible reasons why two places may have had different outcomes irrespective of one particular action.


@dipper of course we can judge relative performance better once we know more - that doesn't mean we can't say anything now. It seems pretty clear now that had they locked down earlier we would have lost less lives and spent less time in lockdown.

As we agree they were dealing with uncertainty. The question is did they deal well with it? Other countries acted as though they viewed tail risk to be greater than we did. It appears that was the better call. We'll see.

I'm not sure rationality transfers outside of work that well. So far as making money goes.. the only skin you have in this game is having backed the side that looks to be making a mess of it.



"Someone did action X. There was an outcome Y. Therefore, Result Y was due to action X."

But we actually can say this with a fair degree of certainty for timing of UK lockdown.


@D no you cannot.


@Peter Shaw
"The last arstechnica article you quoted
was statistically bogus"

You said it was but never provided anything to back it up. So either do so or move on.

"...and this one does not even give references."

You mean like the link below that it took me two seconds to find for you? And it's still early in the day where you are, right!? The paper is a collaboration between Federal Reserve and MIT employees.


Try reading a bit slower. My nephew is in Hamburg my son and daughter in law in Sydney.
Are you some kind of pussycat? I mean 102 deaths in the whole country and you're so scared and worried?!
He lives and works in Sydney not far from the center and I'll ask again tomorrow when I speak if panic has set in since last weekend. He had planned to return to the UK late this year but he knows full well just how much better things are for him there so won't be returning for some time. Here in the UK we are nowhere near emulating the extent they have come out of lockdown in Oz. Funny but the way you were talking I had you marked down as from somewhere between Utah and Oklahoma.

're Argentina. Stop pretending you're an ace forecaster and put away your crystal ball for a minute. They are on 970 deaths versus 48000!?

"Brazil claimed the second-largest number of confirmed cases worldwide at approximately 830,000 on June 12, along with the second-highest number of deaths per million residents on the continent (197). Argentina, by comparison, had over 28,000 confirmed cases and a death rate of 17 per million residents."


Sweden is your poster child. It has over ten times the deaths per capita as it's near neighbours ( but deaths per capita only matter when you want them too huh?) and you have one economic forecast (from Trading Economics even) which has practically no merit as do most economic forecasts at the moment.


@dipper people familiar with the stats think you can. of course you know better because you worked in finance and made some money once

they look at how infection rates have varied in response to different lockdown/distancing behaviors and are fairly sure locking down early would have saved lives.

This is different from uncertainty around relative performance, where you don't know the what factors make some countries more prone to infection/death than others....

That said, it supports the theory that our relative performance is unlikely to be good and that our performance relative or otherwise was bad because we did not deal with uncertainty well.


Of course all manner of variables will have to be accounted for in a final reckoning and rather like any event of this proportion it will be debated for decades to come and politicised in equal measure.
But why pretend that too little is known now to even be able to argue whether we locked down too late or whether we should have locked down and/or track, traced and quarantined at all?

The epidemiologists, virologists etc are almost unanimous in opposing the latter position and largely in agreement with the former claim.
And there is enough data even now to make some provisional assessments.

Lockdowns and/or TrackTrace regimes initiated with speed and breadth are showing very strong correlations with reduced death rates per capita across a very wide number of states.

Now in order to dismiss this provisional assessment as wrongheaded, so not causal, we need a counter analysis. Meanwhile those who prefer to dismiss the statistical relationship as non causal without such a counter analysis have to explain why.

But for example, pretending they are confident Sweden will have much stronger growth than its neighbours (even if Sweden's central bank isn't!) and anyhow other countries can't exit lockdown, well.... because they cant isn't much of a counter.

Robert Mitchell

"There are no independent neutral observers."

My tribe is those who have no tribe.

"It's also clear that it's got nothing to do with personal freedoms because they want everyone to go back to work pronto."

As long as they wouldn't prevent me from going outside, I'm on their side of this lockdown issue. Staying indoors is the unhealthiest option for me and at least the right seems to adopt a position of "whatever floats your boat as long as you don't hurt me" and they don't define "being outside" as "hurting me". The lockdown enthusiasts clearly stated that going outside was killing grandma.

Peter Shaw

@ PaulC156

It was bogus as it made no adjustment for the general trend in rising life expectancies (which I pointed out at the time).

I would not call myself ace but so far my forecasts have been excellent (Or at least far superior to most "experts"). But re Argentina it clearly has not peaked so comparing Brazil (which seems to have peaked) to Argentina is not apples to apples.

Most people in Australia are scared (and yes they have no reason to be). But the borders are closed and restrictions are in place (and in my state are now rising again). Also the economy has tanked.

As I said

There is no evidence that lockdowns work (once the virus is endemic). The data is clear

Lockdowns hurt the economy more than no lockdowns. The data is unclear but mostly points in that direction, as does logic

Lockdowns hurt public goods that can't be measured economically.

That there is no exit strategy for countries that have squashed the virus. Low level fear, restrictions, and heavy handed government are not something I (and i expect others) will tolerate permanently. Maybe you can ask your daughter in law that one, as you don't have the answer?



Do you mean there's no evidence that gov mandated lockdown is better the measures peole adopt voluntarily once virus endemic? Or that neither works?

What are you counting as endemic? (Uk as of when)



Could you also expand on what you mean about there not being an exit strategy?

The UK gov, for example, has defined different levels depending on how the virus is spreading at which restrictions will be eased. Does that not count?

More generally I'm a bit lost as to the point you're making when you keep saying "there is no exit strategy".


@ D, Paulc156

very hard not to 'talk your own book' as traders like to call it. In fact that's the #1 lesson from trading - that your subconscious will guide you in ways beyond what your conscious will see, and avoiding that is really hard. You probably think I'm doing it with my defence of the government, and you're probably right, but I still don't see the compelling case.

One clear example is the way various 'experts' have gone large on the second wave. Enough people were saying, with reason and evidence, that there may not be one for sensible people to couch their views in probabilities and likelihoods. But no, a large number have gone all in on a second wave and are now looking fairly stupid.

If your job is to call the future, you only have to be wrong once to never matter again.


@Peter Shaw
You make so many glaring errors it beggars belief!
Yes you presented a list of life expectancies. 2 short columns of data. Nowhere other than in your own head was there any scholarly refutation referred to. Nor did you even attempt any statistical explanation of your own. Looking at the list it's nothing. You can't refute the basic case that the great depression DID NOT lead to a reduction in life expectancy or increase in mortality rates.

Then you claimed there was no link to any study in an article. There clearly was, I provided it. ...silence ensues.

So here from an article in the Smithsonian Magazine we see a study where the researchers examined mortality rates from 114 U.S. cities in 36 states between 1929 and 1937. And they examine for increased rates of death plausibly linked to economic shocks and those that are not and compare. Need less to say the depression causes excess deaths mantra is disposed of.

"Our study provides evidence that even major depressions do not imply mortality crises," says study lead author David Stuckler, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. "Whether health improves or worsens during hard times depends mainly on how governments choose to respond."


And frankly there's shedloads of these high quality studies that show the same sort of relationship.

Your contention that you can't properly compare Argentina with Brazil is ridiculous. Brazil has over 50 times as many deaths and it's first covid case was only one week ahead of Argentina. It's a matter of more bluff and bluster from you I'm afraid.

Look at following charts 're the Americas.


Whether considering deaths or new cases on a seven day rolling average per capita basis on a log scale. New deaths have plateaued in both states. On new cases the gap between the two states has held fairly steady in recent weeks and was actually closer about 30 days ago than it is now. You have to predict some massive turnaround to get to where Brazil is from where Argentina appears to be now. Long shot?


"Low level fear, restrictions, and heavy handed government are not something I (and i expect others) will tolerate permanently"

I spoke with my son couple hours ago. On his second weekend break in two weeks to Dubbo and Mudgee, (Gerringong last week).
He told me all the talk now is of getting economy going. People not focusing on negatives around the virus or lockdown. Social life is near normal in most states.
Interstate travel ok apart from Queensland. Positive feeling among friends and colleagues. Daughter in law marine biologist Australia museum. She's due to go back there shortly. All good. (So long as they're careful about letting too many Brits in)
Exit strategy is laid out. Low level fear is a misnomer anyway. Once you get used to a new normal you accept it. In an outdoors country its way easier than the UK.


@dipper which experts have gone large on a second wave?

Generally I hear people talking about risk.

I expect some of any talking up is to help keep people social distancing just now.

Peter Shaw


If those articles are anything like the first one you quoted they are worthless as they ignore that life expectancy has been increasing for 200 years. But as I showed the 1930s are anomolous as they had a lower increase in almost every country when compared to the 20s and 40s.

And btw latest news is that Swedens econony is set to do the best (as I predicted):


Top result in google btw for "swedens economy latest news" so no cherry picking here.

Anyway please tell me the exit stategy is for countries that have squashed the virus. That is not a vaccine, or permanent low grade lockdown?

I´m genuinely interested. As every day we have outbreaks here and restrictions are actually being re introduced (although they are being ignored).

The fact that you have never answered this question says a lot. Anyway I hope you daughter in enjoys her 14 days in quarantine when she arrives.


@peter shaw

so the slightly better economic performance of Sweden is because of their enlightened approach, but the higher deaths have nothing to do with that? lolz

I think for most the exit strategy is lifting restrictions slowly and having test and trace in place.

if the virus stays and keeps killing people that may go on for some time. we will as societies have to work out how best to balance the costs and benefits of various approaches.



Ps the claim I made and i assume paul was similar, was that sweden's economy was severely hit also... not that it would be equally as bad.

Also, are you applying your and dippers we can't say anything about anything just now logic to sweden's economy? Or is that for lockdowns effect on deaths?


@Peter Shaw
Grasping at straws. The justification for having a per capita death rate 10 times that of its near neighbours is a much stronger economy going forward. As with all forecasting in the social sciences especially it is more miss than hit so we shall see.Imagine Sweden's economy performs similarly to its neighbours but it's left with the excessive cost in lives lost...effectively for nothing bar 'freedom'!

But comparing Sweden to growth laggards is a bit desperste isn't it?

Wouldn't it make more sense to compare with the EU as a whole or perhaps Germany with it's rapid reaction to the virus??

"While the European Commission has forecast a Swedish contraction of 6.1 percent (even better than your shiny new forecast) compared to -6.5 percent for Germany and -7.7 percent for the eurozone), the outlook presented by the Swedish central bank is even more dire -- it anticipates a GDP decline of up to 10 percent."

So if Swedish central bank is right EU and Germany outperform Sweden. Remember this is not so crazy when you realise that Sweden's GDP is 50% exports! In any case the gain for Sweden in the EU forecast is pretty small beer(0.4% over Germany). Especially when measured in lives lost.

Ref' the studies on mortality which you obviously haven't noticed clearly makes allowance for mortality trends by examining which increased causes of death can plausibly be acredited to the depression...like suicides and heart disease and rules out others like cancer and diabetes.
There were declines in death rates from pneumonia, flu, TB and car accidents. A positive effect from the depression. The increases in the years previous to the depression even in your little list is puny. You don't understand your own figures.

Now see here. This Princeton study specifically allows for and notes mortality trends in the depression years and preceding them.


The go to abstract here:

"Recent events highlight the importance of examining the impact of economic downturns on population health. The Great Depression of the 1930s was the most important economic downturn in the U.S. in the twentieth century. We used historical life expectancy and mortality data to examine associations of economic growth with population health for the period 1920–1940. We conducted descriptive analyses of trends and examined associations between annual changes in health indicators and annual changes in economic activity using correlations and regression models. Population health did not decline and indeed generally improved during the 4 years of the Great Depression, 1930–1933, with mortality decreasing for almost all ages, and life expectancy increasing by several years in males, females, whites, and nonwhites. For most age groups, mortality tended to peak during years of strong economic expansion (such as 1923, 1926, 1929, and 1936–1937). In contrast, the recessions of 1921, 1930–1933, and 1938 coincided with declines in mortality and gains in life expectancy. The only exception was suicide mortality which increased during the Great Depression, but accounted for less than 2% of deaths. Correlation and regression analyses confirmed a significant negative effect of economic expansions on health gains. The evolution of population health during the years 1920–1940 confirms the counterintuitive hypothesis that, as in other historical periods and market economies, population health tends to evolve better during recessions than in expansions."

Read that last sentence again and reflect.

Peter Shaw


Sweden has s lower death rate than many countries that have locked down, and is almost through to the other side.

With maybe 50% being asymptomatic track and trace is not as effective as you think. So realistically you are saying sporadic outbreaks and restrictions until we get a vaccines (so maybe forever).

Paul claimed Sweden would do the same or worse economically. Despite logic (and me) saying this was unlikely.

Peter Shaw


The first article you posted made no adjustment for the general upward trend in life expectancies and as such was bogus. I have not read the others but your track record is poor

The article I posted showed that Sweden is forecast to better than all countries that have locked down. Also so far it HAS done better.

You still have not answered my question regarding exit strategy for countries that have squashed the virus. As I said they either keep a low level lockdown, which may have to get stricter as people stop self isolating, or we get a vaccine, or they revert to a modified Swedish model. Maybe you have a fourth alternative, but so far the silence is deafening.


@Paul156 & Peter Shaw

Thank you for the interesting discussion. I can see from the evidence that there is no link between economic depressions and excess mortality. This is a change from my previous belief that there clearly was one (I thought it was "common sense" but failed to interrogate my own reasoning or proffer evidence).



Not sure Paul did claim that..

Question is which countries you should be comparing Sweden against. I think first place to start is other scandia and they've been very bad compared to them. Their own people that are responsible for their approach have pretty much admitted it was wrong...

A bit rich for you to be complaining about Paul not answering your question. You've hardly been a paragon of open and honest debate.

It's a silly point anyway. It's patently obvious that lock is being and will be relaxed in stages, and that implies getting towards and then beyond Swedens current measures.

But do keep shouting "no exit strategy" like it means something

This means nothing in terms of the what lockdown measures were appropriate before hand.

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