Re-starting the economy

Will the U.S. economy re-open prematurely?:

New NBER survey of U.S. small companies Here is the percent, by industry, saying their business will still exist if the crisis lasts 6 months: All retail (except grocers): 33% Hotels: 27% Personal services: 22% Restaurants and bars: 15%

That is from Derek Thompson.  Or when will the non-payment of mortgages render the banking system insolvent and beyond saving by the Fed?

At some point, irreversible, non-linear economic damage sets in, and we won’t let that happen, no matter how many times someone tells you “there is no trade-off between money and lives.”

For some time now I have thought that America will reopen prematurely, with a very partial and indeed hypocritical reopening, but a reopening nonetheless.  In May, in most states but at varying speeds, including across cities.

You can see from this Chicago poll of top economists that virtually all of them oppose an early reopening.  I don’t disagree with their analysis, but they are too far removed from the actual debate.

America is a democracy, and the median voter will not die of coronavirus (this sentence is not repeated enough times in most analyses).  And so we will reopen pretty soon, no matter what the full calculus of lives and longer-run gdp might suggest.

Lyman Stone favors ending the lockdown.  It does not matter whether you agree with him or not.  Matt Parlmer predicts revolution if we don’t reopen in time.  I don’t agree with that assessment, but he is thinking along the right lines by not regarding the reopening date as entirely a choice variable.

The key is to come up with a better reopening rather than a worse reopening.

Any model of optimal policy should be “what should we do now, knowing the lockdown can’t last very long?” rather than “what is the optimal length of lockdown?”

And our best hope is that the risk of an early reopening spurs America to become more innovative more quickly with masks, testing, and other methods of reducing viral and economic risk.


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