Stopping Time: An Approach to Pandemics?

From Scott Ellison:

Sometimes, the best solutions to big problems are very simple. Regarding the current outbreak of COVID-19, I propose a solution that—on the surface—might seem preposterous, but if one manages to stay with it and really think through the potential benefits, then it emerges as a much more credible course of action.

I propose temporarily stopping time. This means that today’s date, Tuesday, March 17th, 2020, will remain the current date until further notice. This also means that everything that happens in time (e.g. mortgage due dates, payrolls, travel bookings, stock market trading, contractor gigs, concerts, sporting events) will be paused. It also means that all of these events remain on the books, and will continue as planned once time is resumed.

Before reacting to this crazy idea, let’s start with a very simple example of how manipulating time is already both commonplace and effective. I’m talking about daylight savings time, a practice that everyone in the US is already accustomed to where we set our clocks forward one hour every Spring. This simple, small action instantly changes the behavior of all 330 million US citizens. Suddenly, every single one of us shows up to work a little earlier than we did the week before, and this massive collective action occurs seamlessly and with only minor need for rectifications (e.g. some over night shift workers must be compensated differently for that paycheck).

It’s the impressive unity of action that is significant about this idea of manipulating time, and this feature is key in responding to a global pandemic. Right now, we’re dealing with all the fallout from this outbreak piecemeal, which isn’t sustainable nor very effective—both from the standpoint of stopping the spread of the outbreak and from the standpoint of preserving our society and economy. We’re spending trillions of dollars to keep time going (e.g. sending every American $1,000 so they can pay their rent, sending airlines $50 billion so they can pay their jet notes, providing billions to banks to cover distressed assets), but none of this really relieves the need to keep going out and working and thus further spreading the virus. What’s worse is that, in spending all this money to keep time going, there’s no guarantee that the economy will be there to take back up the baton once government payments stop. How many travel plans, conferences, sports leagues, and other plans have already been cancelled along the way?

We should be targeting this massive government money for mission-critical items like expanding hospital capacity, ensuring the food supply, and maintaining distribution networks. These are the mission critical activities that must continue even if the date is frozen. It will be readily apparent which of these activities is mission critical, and the trillions of dollars flowing from the government can be directed toward footing these bills.

In my opinion, the most important feature of this solution is that it can be easily implemented again in the future. Right now, we’re using all of our energy to keep time going. Imagine a scenario in which—a few months after this current outbreak subsides—this virus mutates and strikes again. After all the work (and money) we’ve already put into keeping things on track, I sincerely doubt we will be ready to meet any follow up challenge.

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Jesus! Daylight Savings time changes the clocks, not time. Who is this guy: A child, a poet, or a nut?

Such a simple answer, without even needing to inquire if someone is a child, poet, or nut.

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Yeah... I wanted to respond with something more useful than "this is dumb"... But damn... This Is dumb.

First Rule of MR: No idea is too stupid to be posted here.

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I think you have committed a logical error when forming your conclusion. What you've done is taken a scenario, proposed in the form of an analogy (as opposed to a specific detailed implementation), found *one* issue, and then concluded that the general idea wouldn't work. That is not how logic or reality itself works (this is a very, very important idea, both philosophically and physically).

I think *a specific implementation of this* can work. Starting when half the economic damage is done is less than ideal, but luckily the very same things that have caused this problem can also be used to fix the problem.

Time and money are both abstractions. They *seem* very, very real to humans (in no small part because it is a core part of our culture), but they are in fact abstractions. And because of this, you can do things with them that look like magic, but really aren't, you just have to put a little efort into understanding, because it is extremely unintuitive.

https://www.space.com/29859-the-illusion-of-time.html

https://spectrum.ieee.org/at-work/innovation/a-brief-history-of-money

Tyler didn't seem to voice an opinion on this unfortunately, I wonder if he is unable to see it too. Here is a mental experiment that I think can help to see the path.

Imagine an arbitrary country. March 1, 2020. Corona virus has arrived, and the entire city goes into lockdown except for essential services. Everyone stays at home, watched TV, and goes to bed.

March 2, morning. What has changed in the physical world between the morning of March 1 and March 2? Make an inventory, assigning the $ value to each *physical change* you see (since this is an experiment, you can do magical things like see literally everything and make 100% accurate estimation of costs). Now, add up the total $ value.

Now, go look at a summary of all balance sheets on the planet that are financially associated with the country and add up the total $ value.

Now, compare your two totals, and gaze with awe upon the vast difference. "What has gone on here? This doesn't make any sense...of course they're going to be different, but they don't even *remotely* match!"

And there is the secret to how this *could* work, at least in theory - they key is in the difference between the actual world, and our *conceptualization* of the world. It may be a different concept to understand, but humans deal with the "real world" a lot less than we think - very often we are actually dealing with a human abstraction of the world, which in this case is a very significant causative factor in the overall crisis.

Physically, getting everyone to stay home and watch TV for a month has quite minimal effects on the physical world, but viewed through the *perspective* of our financial system (which is again, an abstraction of reality, not reality itself), the very same relatively calm and stable scenario appears apocalyptic.

Now, this isn't to say that humans can't *manifest* this apocalypse (with a business as usual approach, exactly as the author warns against). People are both incredibly smart and incredibly dumb at the same time. As an example, here is an economist who thinks he *knows* this cannot work: https://johnhcochrane.blogspot.com/2020/03/groundhog-day-virus-plan.html

He has committed the very same logical error you have. Errors like this are all over the place. Of course you'll find tons on reddit, but even legitimately smart communities like MR, SSC, HN, LW are also chock full of examples, and these are places that very much consider themselves hard rationalists. The problem is, people aren't very good at logic, and they're terrible at self-assessment.

but saying it cannot(!) be alleviated via some sort of approach like this is not backed by sound logic or epistemic humility.

Thank you for saying this so well, Trevor!

Thanks, but shooting fish in a barrel isn't all that difficult. If one lacks a background in psychology, neurology, that sort of thing, it can be really difficult for the conscious mind to sort truth from fiction in the data stream it receives from the subconscious. This is *easily* 100x as dangerous as the coronavirus. In fact, I would go out on a limb and say this phenomenon should be considered not just a root cause of this pandemic, but an existential threat to humanity.

If people are unable to wake up from the trance they are in, on a massive scale, we will eventually be our own undoing.

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Scott, I just now saw your comment below: "No, I'm Scott Ellison. The author of this post."

a) Is there an original post somewhere that this blog refers to?

b) Is economics your background? I feel like your name is extremely familiar, but I can't google you up.

c) Do you find the comments in here surprising, if not outright depressing? If this was /r/politics I wouldn't be overly concerned, but this is a friggin economics forum, and not just any economics forum, but Tyler Cowen's forum. This topic is certainly unconventional, but complicated it is not. And yet, marvel at the near unanimous *and hyper-confident* consensus opinion that this approach would is "impossible", without the slight exercise of logical though, that I can detect anyways.

I feel like I'm living in some sort of a weird parallel universe.

Greetings Trevor, in response to your questions
a) No, this is the full write up I sent to Tyler. I kept it brief because I figured most people on here would be able to fill in the blanks themselves, but I was sorely mistaken.
b) No, economics isn't my professional background, but as a 12-year-old, my favorite movie was a three-part documentary series about the global economy called Commanding Heights. Surely, that is indicative of some kind of basic economic perception.
c) I do find the comments on here fascinating in a negative way. I'm not at all convinced by my own idea, but I was assuming the debate against it would reveal economic concepts that were too advanced for me. Instead, the arguments against it were extremely superficial and could be rebutted without the need for any economic sophistication whatsoever. As you mention, this would be expected on a platform like Reddit, but not here. I guess it's just difficult to talk about any concept that is fundamental to one's understanding of the world, and it turns out that time is one of those concepts.

Please reach out to me via my website, scottellison.com. I'd be interested to hear more about your background/expertise.

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Well yeah, the proposed solution also just changes the clocks, but for a few days instead of an hour...

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You can stop financial time, but I still need to pay my employees so they can eat.

no, we're giong to prohibit eating. And getting sick, which would be pretty useful, actually. And we'll repeal gravity while we're at it

And supend pregnancies...

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actually, most americans could probably survive (and thrive!) from not eating for a month. however they would be unhappy and might revolt.

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It's quite simple really. We halt time for the bad things (paying money) but not for the good things (getting money).

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Yup, this is the flip side of people that think there is some magic pot of money that we can use to pay unlimited paid leave, completely removed from productivity or output. Here, Ellison's implicit premise is that bills and expenses are completely removed from use of resources. Hence, one can "stop time" on paying rent, completely separate from using an apartment. Why stop time just temporarily? If we "stopped time" forever, then all of us could go our entire lives without ever needing to pay another bill. In fact, we would never die or even age!!

Obviously, things continue to depreciate during this time, but when you’re talking about an existential threat to our society and economy. In the example you mention of a landlord of an apartment: a few weeks of lost time (ie unrecovered depreciation) pales in comparison to complete loss of demand for your product because no one can afford it. Furthermore, some big costs (eg property taxes) do not accumulate.

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> Yup, this is the flip side of people that think there is some magic pot of money that we can use to pay unlimited paid leave, completely removed from productivity or output.

We do have a "pot of money": a printing press.

> Why stop time just temporarily? If we "stopped time" forever, then all of us could go our entire lives without ever needing to pay another bill. In fact, we would never die or even age!!

Just as I can go without eating for a week but not a year, "stopping time" temporarily is not the same as permanently.

I've written quite a long post higher up containing a mental exercise that may help you see how this may be possible.

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Yeah, the logic of this idea quickly falls apart when you try to think it through.

A clever 8 year old would only take a few moments to recognize its flaws, without even using logic.

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> You can stop financial time, but I still need to pay my employees so they can eat.

This statement is correct.

Implying it is a constraint to this proposal (note: not sure if that's your intent) is incorrect.

Say I'm a landlord. 30 employees get paid out of rents. No rent, no paychecks. I'm a bank, no net interest margin, no paychecks. Returns to capital allow for larger payments to labor.

But your employees also have no rent. Thus they have no need (or much reduced need) for paychecks. You may say they still need paychecks because what about food? This is where the government can focus its limited resources: temporarily providing mission-critical resources like healthcare, food, water, electricity, communications. I'm willing to bet the bill for these resources is cheaper than the cost of sending everyone $2000 per month, bailing out industries that must pause, or whatever is the present stimulus plans are.

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> Say I'm a landlord. 30 employees get paid out of rents. No rent, no paychecks. I'm a bank, no net interest margin, no paychecks. Returns to capital allow for larger payments to labor.

This is correct.

Unfortunately, it is not a proof of your assertion: "I still need to pay my employees so they can eat". Actually, this assertion is obviously false on its face:

- it implies your employees cannot eat (in the short term) without you paying them - objectively false

- it overlooks that some entity other than you paying your employees would facilitate them eating.

I'll leave it at that since only one disproof is necessary to negate an assertion. Logic is a cruel mistress, isn't she. :)

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You know, I always wished my April birthday had warmer weather. Thanks, Scott Ellison!

With climate change, how much does having the seasons correspond to a particular month really matter anymore? ;)

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The best solution to a medical emergency is to take drugs. But not that kind.

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Totally stole my idea. Wait, not really. This was to freeze the clock but not action.

Everyone goes camping?

Mine was to freeze action until the clock runs out, like stalling activity in a basketball game when you're ahead in the score.

Would you rather restrict your movements somewhat for six months, or spend 14 (?) days locked in your house with whomever else? We'll give you a whole week to prepare.

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And everyone does their job for free during this magical stoppage time?

The only people who will do their job during this time are those who work in mission-critical jobs (e.g. doctors, nurses, truck drivers, grocery personnel, people who operate the power grid). They have an even greater incentive to work during this time because the government is paying their salaries—simultaneously, they have no expenses (because their rents, car notes, etc are all frozen). Thus, when the crisis ends, the people who kept working come out with a big, tax-free bonus.

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Non optimal for an overnight hold in the drunk tank.

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This should be fun - thanks for the incentive to keep staring at a screen and practice an even more rarefied form of social distancing.

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Wait what? Does this person know of a little concept of year? Like spring and summer and winter. Does he understand, that those are not just mental constructs, but also quite important for many industries, especially agrarian? How about food that needs delivered and consumed daily? I know he mentions food supply, but that is not how anything works. That person seems mentally unwell.

Have you ever heard of climate change? When the month doesn’t correspond to the season as well anymore, people and businesses will do what they’re already doing: base their decisions on updated forecasts.

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There must have been a time jump and it's already April 1st....

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Won't work.

First, government needs to meet all of its current financial obligations, including payments to contractors, SS, interest on debt, etc. So government systems dealing with payments all need to continue to run in real time.

Second, what about banks and telecoms? If a bank freezes time, people will run up against "daily" ATM withdrawal limits, "monthly" transaction limits on savings or money market accounts, and customers will be frozen out of accessing time deposit accounts. As for telecoms, similar problems with data caps, talk time limits, etc.

There is no substitute for a thoughtful set of policies to relieve people of financial obligations while ensuring money flows through the economy and people have access to basic level of goods and services.

Thank you for the thought out reply. Obviously, some mission critical items will have to continue in real time. I’m curious if government footing the bill for these ongoing activities wouldn’t be less expensive than the trillion dollar bailouts currently being proposed. In other words, the things you mention (certain government contracts, the check clearing system, communications) - I wonder if the cost of these activities for two weeks (or for however long economic time needs to temporarily stop to cover a lockdown) is less than the cost of the bailouts? you could go a step further, products that are lost or depreciated during this time, could the government provide a tax credit for this depreciation, and perhaps the cost of these credits is still less. If it’s less or even similar, then the idea of stopping economic time still has the advantage of having most things able to pick back up immediately.

You wouldn't happen to be Scott Alexander would you?

No, I'm Scott Ellison. The author of this post.

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Conclusion/Assertion: This won't work.

(Proposed) proof: First, government needs to meet all of its current financial obligations, including payments to contractors, SS, interest on debt, etc. So government systems dealing with payments all need to continue to run in real time.

The question is, does this proof (and your others) hold up? Is what you are portraying as a constraint, *actually a constraint*? Did you even think about it?

Obviously you would meet the current financial obligations (including) payments at a later time. I mean what part of "stop clocks for everyone that is not essential" is hard to understand?

Of course you would need this coupled with a few-week UBI + payments to essential services to keep going....

Sorry for the snide tone (and spelling mistakes). But arguing that this won't work because the government needs to meet current financial obligations makes no sense at all when "current financial obligations" has been redefined to mean "future financial obligations"

Fully agree Matty - you, Scott, and I seem to be about the only ones utilizing logic when contemplating this proposal. It is scary how lacking this skill is, even among the relatively intelligent.

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Scott writes that none of what we are doing makes it possible for people to stop going out and working. I don't see how this proposal does that either. I mean the maintenance of civilization requires constant vigilance. Now, if he basically means bills don't need to be paid that also seems far fetched. Bettet for fiscal stimulus to kick in and keep the economy going on at least some cylinders. I like debt jubilees, and rent freezes, and obviously no evictions. But all those things can happen and the supply/rent seeking end can be subsidized or management by govt. or the fed.

I love the creativity and I definitely think it feels like one long day so far. But sometimes textbook countercyclical stuff that we already understand is the best of all the alternative buckets of ideas.

Thanks for the substantive reply. I agree that this idea doesn’t necessarily stop people from going out and working on the surface, but I think lockdowns will be much easier to enforce when people know that big expenses (eg mortgage) aren’t drawing any nearer.

I agree that economic activity needs to keep firing on some cylinders. The government could pay for this, and it might even be helpful in determining the actual cost of any needed subsidy or bailout package. As it stands right now, you have some people covering the costs of keeping things going while others have stopped. The incentive to keep paying for things right now is dissolving. If we could stop/start these commitments in unison, then I think most people will act (and spend) as though those commitments still exist and will continue once this storm passes.

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A medical doctor and politician from Germany thinks the current view of the coronavirus is all wrong. I can't fully evaluate his statements but it's interesting. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_AyuhbnPOI&feature=emb_title

Not too hard to evaluate using wikipedia - this is his second go round, after all.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfgang_Wodarg

Please explain what you mean, sorry to be dense. What do you mean his 2nd go around?

Read the wiki article - it should not be difficult to find out.

The last go round a decade ago involved the flu, if that whets any interest in actually learning the very basics of trying to evaluate what someone says on the Internet.

All I find is:

"he has called for an inquiry into alleged undue influence exerted by pharmaceutical companies on the World Health Organization’s global H1N1 flu campaign"

But I don't find that particularly disqualifying. I assumed there was something more. Do you seriously doubt pharma lobbies WHO?

First, read about this guy, who is linked from there - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gert_Postel

Second, at least from the wikipedia info, he seems to have been a bureaucrat, and not a practicing pulmonary doctor since 1983. Basically, he is a man who denied the swine flu problem too, if you go down to the references, the first one being to "Faked Pandemics - a threat for health" Second go round, not that I have any plans to waste any more time on reading whatever nonsense (or not nonsense, for that matter) he wrote with others a decade ago.

This guy seems to me to be making very valid, or at least interesting enough, points. I don’t see any reason to discount him.

The last sentence uses a double negative and ends with the word discount.

I don't see any reason not to discount that....put in some crazy statement that hasn't been tested.

This is the problem with the internet.

Not sure what your point is... If someone has an argument or point that, on it’s surface, seems rational... “I don’t see a reason to discount it” (Yes it’s a double negative) - nor do I see a reason not to look more deeply at it.

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Yesterday I was helping my wife and the employer for my wife to complete the paperwork to have access to the relief funds for kursarbeit (reduction of working hours). Employers must pay salaries and social contributions as usual from their own funds and then ask for a reimbursement for unemployment office. It is much more efficient if employers ask for funds instead of workers, 10 or 20 times less applications to process.

These funds are managed by the unemployment office and are available to business which face exceptional challenges. The purpose of the funds are to keep business and workers afloat while the hardship last. When hardship ends business can continue. People in charge deducts a <1% of every paycheck to fund the unemployment system. Now it's the time to use those funds.

It's not the first and certainly will not be the last crisis. Setup a a proper system to deal with crisis......let the changing time fantasies to sci-fi writers.

They don't do the soziale Marktwirtschaft, much less the sort of socialist craziness that was found in the Kaiserzeit.

Kurzarbeit sounds like the sort of crazy economic policy that Sanders or Warren would propose, resulting in a threat to American economic excellence.

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> let the changing time fantasies to sci-fi writers

Was it not for that comment, your would have been one of the better ones here. Actually, it still is despite that one shortcoming! :)

The problem with things like shortcomings in intelligence and say, mental health, is that the very nature of the affliction renders the sufferer unable to self-diagnose, but they are utterly unaware of it. Even worse, the mind provides an illusion, completely indistinguishable from reality, that is often the polar opposite of actual reality. Covid-19 has used this shortcoming in humanity as a kind of attack vector. I wonder if anyone will be able to realize this before the next event. I'm not feeling optimistic.

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That would be most awesome! Just lemme find out which company pays its dividend that day, so I can cash it out every day...

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From John Ioannidis, who made a big impact showing most published research is false. We may not be measuring this coronavirus thing right at all.

https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/17/a-fiasco-in-the-making-as-the-coronavirus-pandemic-takes-hold-we-are-making-decisions-without-reliable-data/

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What the hell am I reading?

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This guy's clearly not a pregnant woman.

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Seems like most commenters aren't thinking this through? Pause financial time entirely. Government instead uses it's money for continued healthcare and food delivery/assurance. All bills paused, all pay paused, all things money... paused. You don't need money because there is nothing to buy in this scenario. Again, depends on gov't to keep the healthcare and food flowing (and any other necessities). Like a giant economic pause button (for most - clearly not all).

And yes, you still need food. You still age. Etc.... Nothing about the post says you don't.

I think there are elements of this idea that could be applied. Unfortunately we can’t just STOP all
costs. So people are left holding the bag/bill all over the place. Having said that, maybe there are events of the economy (rent for businesses that close?) that could be stopped. Then backstopped by govt?

Thank you for the substantive criticism!

I think the fact that not everything can stop is a hidden gem of this idea: the government can backstop these items and it will become clear the actual costs of this pandemic and can budget for it in the future.

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Yes, and those items that can’t be stopped and also aren’t critical (eg depreciation) of product inventories can also be covered by government in the form of tax credits and other more immediate subsidies in certain circumstances. This has the advantage of triaging sectors of the economy: making a business whole for depreciation is a less immediate problem and can be dealt with later. Businesses that are vital and must continue (eg trucker drivers) will become evident very quickly and the government can step in to help right away.

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"Again, depends on gov't to keep the healthcare and food flowing (and any other necessities)"

Communist countries tried for decades to supply their populations with food and failed. Our own government couldn't get test kits flowing for weeks. The idea that they can completely take over entire sectors of critical supply in the midst of a crisis is just fantasy.

Tom, the government wouldn’t be providing these things. It would just temporarily foot the bill for those businesses that do provide these things.

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Tuesday was definitely Sunday.

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Intersting comment.

We use prices to transmit information about the future to the present and the present to the future.

If we stop it we are lost and cannot plan.

We have information (not guesses or forecasts) about the future? Is the Delphic oracle on staff somewhere? is there some super-secret system of astrology that actually works?

Futures contracts. People don't put money on the line without information.

If you want to learn more, look up a book called "Information Economics" by Urs Birchler et all

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This reminds me of a (I think it was M Python) skit where the villain Moriarty is terrorizing Britain with a crime wave, and we see all the assembled police chiefs, MI5, Scotland Yard, etc. assembled in a meeting room, trying to decide what to do to stop it. Someone mutters something like "Damn that Moriarty, he'll stop at nothing!" Then (I think Cleese) says: "That's it! IF WE DO NOTHING, HE'LL STOP!" So they shut down the police task force, cease pursuing Moriarty... and of course, he halts his criminal activities.

Seems logical...

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The downsides is we would have to wait ages for my next birthday, the up side is you wouldn't be getting any older

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How the hell would we keep track of doubling time, if everyone who gets infected also infects others on March 17th?

On the plus side, it would rearrange the Christmas holidays into a more temperate time of year. Maybe we could slide it forward and celebrate it at the same time as Chinese new year and shorten the gap until Memorial day.

You’d have economic time, which would pause, and you’d have real time, which obviously can’t stop. Things like healthcare remain fixed to real time. When the pandemic is over, the government can rectify the costs of bringing economic time back inline with real time.

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Let's not forget the word of Bob Marley:
"'Cause none of them-ah can-ah stop-ah the time"

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Quite a modest proposal, given the circumstances.

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The response financially needs to be massive, global financial architecture is at risk, Aggregate Demand has collapsed 50%, global GDP & unemployment will be down 20-40% in Q2-2020. This will wipe out globally $25-50 of the 75 trillion in equity, $25 of 100 trillion in real estate, $25 of the 50 trillion in corporate book value, which will crash global debt/bonds by $100 trillion and then bring down all the securitiization /financial engineering products $250 trillion.. this will crash our civilization. The US Fed needs to get all the central banks together build a comprehensive global SWAP line between all central banks for $100 Trillion, 100 year bonds at 0%. ea country can tap their swap % to drive all income, equity, debt, market supports.We can give 335 million american $30k 2020 IRA that $10 trillion buys the Wilshire 5000 (6800- companies) which would build a base under the US equity market. The fed can buy out all home mortgages to drive interest rates to 0% bring home mortgage payments down 50%. We can relax the loan rules for LTV to 110% of last years tax valuation allow fast line of credit/ 2nd mortgages with 90% of the LOC used for mortgage payments. Build a base under housing, people staying at home etc.. The US government can use a slew of tools for individuals (unemployment insurance, earned income tax credits, payroll & medicare tax holiday, tax rebates, one-time infusions etc..) this can help people thru the next 3-6 months.

The US government can use a slew of tools for individuals (unemployment insurance, earned income tax credits, payroll & medicare tax holiday, tax rebates, one-time infusions etc..) this can help people thru the next 3-6 months.

There are a bunch of tools for SME's/Middle sized companies.. tax credits, suspend corporate taxes, payroll/medicare taxes, capital equipment tax credits, per employee tax credits. Large 10,000 corporations (public & private).. massive 0% loans, federal reserve equity stock buy backs, debt/bonds buybacks...

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As John Cochrane rightly notes, this "stop time" proposal is really a metaphor for an orderly uniform forbearance policy. (https://johnhcochrane.blogspot.com/2020/03/groundhog-day-virus-plan.html)

"Shutting down time" is an analogy to basically a forced credit extension for all pre-existing debts. Details might include the rate at which creditors are paid for this required forbearance (maybe whatever the 10-year rate is, so a pittance).

We could easily append new transactions (e.g. food and medicine) into this scheme by the "credit card" proposal posted earlier on MR. All new personal debt (up to a reasonable per-person or per-household limit) is offered at some low rate, with payments not starting until some "crisis over +X" window transpires.

I like the "orderly uniform forbearance policy" and think it is likely to get more support just because of the formality of its name. But I still think we shouldn't underestimate the power of something that absolutely everyone would understand instantly: the date.

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This idea needs to be taken seriously. I came up with exactly the same solution and am convinced it is the only way forward. As the author says, the elegance is that it deals with all calendar and cash flow issues in one clean step rather than trying to fight a million fires piecemeal, and also makes sure that fiscal spend is targeted exactly at the critical support required during the lockdown period, rather than creating all sorts of massive ill-thought out transfers via blunt fiscal stimulus programs.

Here is my version that i’ve been trying to get out there:

- We know how to eradicate the virus - if everyone in the world stayed home in isolation for a month, the virus would die out.

- Why don't we do this? Because of the economic and financial disruption it would cause. Primarily with scheduled cash flows - wages, rents, coupons, any payments relating to any financial contract whatsoever, where failure to be met could set off a cascade of defaults, bankruptcies etc. (Other less critical problems are created with respect to anything that relies on prescheduled calendar commitments - meetings, weddings, sporting fixtures etc)

- When we do ask significant numbers of people to self isolate, any mitigation we attempt with respect to the financial/economic problems is either piecemeal and reactive (e.g airline bailouts, emergency credit facilities) or blunt and badly targeted (tax cuts, rate cuts etc)

- What should we do? At a global level (UN, G20) we should agree to insert a one-off 30 day period into the Gregorian calendar, say the day after 31 Mar. Let's call it Coronovember.

-During Coronovember, the population is under self-isolation quarantine, enforceable by law.
- During Coronovember, governments agree to provide 3 services: waste disposal, emergency medical, and food supply. That is your targeted fiscal spend

- When the 30-day period is over, the Gregorian calendar starts again on 1Apr, and every prescheduled payment/contract/event happens on exactly the day it was supposed to

- We can literally pause time to let the virus die out. Unfortunately people still need to eat, shit, and have medical emergencies, which is where the governments need to be the stop gap

The only major pushback I have had is that "the seasons will be out of whack by a month". Which, like, really? if we really care about the fact that September is a bit colder than it used to be, we can amortize it back over 30 years or something. Take a day off October - who needs Halloween anyway?

"- We know how to eradicate the virus - if everyone in the world stayed home in isolation for a month, the virus would die out."

This is speculation. How do we know?
Existence of large number of asymptomatic cases complicates things.

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This idea doesn't work in so many ways, it's difficult to know where to start. So I won't. It doesn't deserve the effort, and I don't have the time - even without stopping time.

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I suspect it's more likely you're like all the other "it won't work and I know it" people here: all confidence, but unable to provide any argument to support your "knowledge".

Maybe I'm wrong, how's about you post just one of your many ways that this won't work?

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Hi Scott, if you read this comment--what happens if the battle against the virus stretches for long?

For people who do not have significant amount of savings and need the next pay-check to buy basic groceries and/or access healthcare--what happens for them please?

Arush, thank you for the question. During this "time" - the government pays for all essential products/services. The government has already identified all essential products. https://www.cisa.gov/publication/guidance-essential-critical-infrastructure-workforce

My bet is that the cost of providing these basic products/services is less than the cost of bailouts that are currently being proposed. Furthermore, this stop/start preserves most of the fundamentals of the economy before the crisis occurred and thus the economy can come back very quickly afterward. Lastly, temporarily stopping fiscal time can be readily implemented again to respond quickly to future outbreaks. The more practiced we become, the quicker we can isolate an outbreak and we might not need more than a 4-5 days (real time) to cut off a future pathogen.

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