On the all too frequent split between theory and practice

I know some people who react very fearfully each time a package comes to the door, or when a jogger passes ten feet away.

Maybe those people are right to have that response!  (Suspend judgment for the time being.)  But if they are right, and the risk is real rather than truly tiny, it is hard to imagine lockdown working.  We can’t eliminate all risk, and we will end up with a fairly high percentage of the population infected fairly quickly.  After all, danger is almost everywhere (in this view).  If you run a pretty high risk of getting infected over the next month or two anyway, you might as well go buy some shoes at Nordstrom for your trouble.

What is noteworthy is that these fearful people tend to be very supportive of lockdown.

On the other side of the coin, some individuals defend the Swedish model.  Presumably they believe that herd immunity can be achieved relatively quickly, and with a high upfront cost the medium- and long-term can be fairly safe, with a net gain overall.

Yet if you accept those presuppositions (suspend judgment for the time being), in fact you ought to behave in a very fearful manner.  Just stay at home and wait until herd immunity arrives in late summer or whenever, and then go out and have all of your fun.  Let the Nordstrom shoes wait!

Yet advocates of the Swedish model also seem quite interested in going out and frolicking in the shorter run.

In reality, mood affiliation may be playing a role here.  People side with either “caution and fearfulness,” or with “openness and boldness,” and then both their theories and behavior follow accordingly.

In reality, the Swedish model advocates ought to behave quite cautiously and lockdown advocates should be willing to take more chances.

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If I can speak for those of us who think it’s way too early to know which policy will turn out to be the optimal one:

I’m wearing a respirator whenever I go grocery shopping, and will move to Taipei in 2021 depending on how much the US falls apart.

Infeasible and inadvisable. Travel bans will remain in effect, all the more so from places that don't have the pandemic under control to places that do. And if the US really falls apart, China will be poised to bring Taiwan back into the fold.

Most countries’ travel bans exempt their own citizens and some classes of residents. The lesson here is really to have as many countries’ passports as possible if you can...

Also, I don’t think a Chinese invasion of Taiwan is a realistic concern. China never took Macau by force even though Macau was only guaranteed by a globally isolated Portugal (which could not stop India from conquering Goa, so certainly it could not have stopped China from conquering Macau) and would have been very easy to take from a military perspective. Taiwan is a very big and defensible country far more able to defend itself (it’s four times the GDP of Israel, which is one of the world’s military superpowers). If anything, the collapse of the US would probably make Taiwan more secure because the US would no longer be interfering in Taiwanese trade relations such as telling TSMC who their customers can be.

It is naive to not believe/understand that eventually everyone will be exposed to the virus. A quarantine may slow it and that can be valuable to give the medical community a little time to prepare. But that is the only value in a quarantine/shutdown.

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Agree. I supported lockdowns early on when I thought containment was feasible, and don’t support them today because the economic and freedom costs are too high relative to the benefits. But I’m not that certain in my positions on proper policy. What I am certain about is that I personally don’t intend to get the virus if I can help it. So I’m also leaving my home as little as possible and wearing a respirator whenever I need to go into any indoor environment that is not my home.

Unfortunately I don’t have a foreign bolt-hole I can go to, but it’s a lot easier to understand why rich people like to get multiple passports now.

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America love it or leave it.

I mean seriously, dude. You've been going on for years about how America can't do any better and then you want to leave if "it' can't do any better?

America is us. And we should be doing a lot better.

if you're a concerned about the FDA doing better you should want the president to be busy firing people there, and not inspector generals.

That is if you even care about the future of America.

You’re a caricature of George W Bush now. Really?

Suspecting citizens with more than residency, where have I heard that before ? You sound more Trumpian every day anon.

Also FYI the president can’t fire FDA employees, get a grip.

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By the way I think Tyler pulled a bit of a fast one in his argument. This is basically a disagreement between people who believe in contagion and people who believe in luck. The contagion believers both live conservatively and support lockdown. Luck believers do not.

I don't really get his argument that contagion believers should go out more, certainly not for something as trivial as shoes.

I notice that luck believers down page want to say that it will all end up the same no matter what. They disbelieve all future treatments, any future vaccines, any future possibilities.

Well they would wouldn't they, if they were believers in fate?

This dichotomy makes no sense

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Why not just go now?

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"I'm moving to ______..." Then go already. There are at least 2-3 billion people on the planet who would eagerly switch with you. I know what I'm talking about, I travel for a living.

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Makes sense.

On the other hand there are also variations in the estimate of risk _after_ infection. Those who think cases are likely to be mild and fatality rates are low might both take a more casual attitude toward personal risk and be opposed to lockdown.

And those who view fatality rates as high might both support lockdown and estimate personal risk as high.

+1

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+1. Even if fatality risk is known, other long-term effects (presumably skewed downside) may not be understood yet.

Yes, the evidence is reasonably strong that you’re probably not going to die from this if you’re not old, but there are more and more reports of weird complications that could potentially have bad long-term effects. Some viruses like HIV (which I understand has some similarities with COVID-19) can have bad long-term consequences years down the line. That’s enough reason for me to try to personally avoid getting the virus, though I can see how reasonable minds can have a different view of the risk so I wouldn’t make my personal preference into a universal policy.

It sounds like you are a believer in contagion rather than a believer in luck.

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Rob has it. The Swedish model is not just predicated on herd immunity being reached quickly, but on the virus being in fact not that bad for the vast majority. The difference between the bold person and the fearful is not in how they assess the probability of contracting the virus, but in their assessment of how much it matters if they do contract the virus.

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I do not know anybody who reacts very fearfully each time a package comes to the door or when a jogger passes ten feet away. This includes a diabetic and a number of people over 60.

Thus making it easy to not only to suspend judgment, but to wonder if this is an example of Cowen's neighborhood, the one where Friedman's taxi driver is always good for an anecdote. And considering that Spain's current serological testing has led to the conclusion that around 10% of Madrid's population has been infected, it must be the taxi driver who believes that we will end up with a fairly high percentage of the population infected fairly quickly.

It seems more like an example of how Cowen perceives the liberal "Other".

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I have at least one Facebook "friend" who thinks I should be arrested because I go outdoors without a mask, and labels me an enemy of the human race and of America. This is someone who has a high IQ, plenty of money that he earned himself, and (in my previous real-world interactions with him) has exhibited good sense. People are going crazy.

A relatively insignificant number of people are going crazy.

Fixed it for you. I think we too quickly fall prey to the availability heuristic.

In my sample size of contacts, not one person makes such outlandish claims. Most seem pretty uninformed, but frame their perceptions of risk by whatever their chosen "experts" say. Most of those, listen to scientists, but even those listening to Fox or other surrogate experts, pretty much toe the line.

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We live in an age where people simply have lost all perspective. A world where you can still find people who will defend a leader who talked about injecting disinfectant in response to a pandemic.

Except he didn’t say that.

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I know quite a few people who are absolutely terrified. My wife and I move about freely and these people think we are nuts. We dutifully wear our masks in stores even though we hate them, but that signals to other people that we are respecting their safety.

If you watch mainstream news (which is virtually every outlet, local and national) fear is reinforced. My local station gets its national newsfeed from CNN, which is not identified as such. The national outlets are always trying to indict Trump - the latest was the “whistleblower” , just after Dr. Fauci and we can’t reopen the schools.

My conclusion: the Kung flu is a real threat to the elderly especially in nursing homes. Democrat governors in the northeast totally failed to protect the nursing homes, driving up the death toll and creating the terror which led to these stupid lockdowns. This is dawning on normal people and I detect a much more relaxed attitude.

If the terrified would turn off the news for a few days, go out a bit, they would feel a lot better. Warmer weather is going to have a salutary effect on peoples’ outlooks.

If we continue on this course, of opening up even as the contagion spreads, we will have another hundred thousand deaths.

Have you already filed them as acceptable losses?

From my perspective that's the real American tragedy. Other nations did lock down hard and tamp down the disease and then open up after they had an under control.

But we apparently are bored with lockdown and will open up anyway and accept any cost.

I live in New Zealand - supposedly a poster-child for lockdown success. The government claims to have "eliminated" the virus from the country. New Zealand now has the one of the most the most vulnerable populations in the world - as the government now has to stop all possible chances of the virus entering the country. The price I pay for this is that our borders are sealed for the foreseeable future (i.e. until a vaccine is found) - meaning I have no idea when I will be able to visit my US workplace, friends and family (if indeed I ever will). Tourism (NZ's largest export earner) has been killed. More than sixty percent of the workforce is now reliant on government-subsidised income support. Nearly sixty percent of firms have had to borrow interest-free from the government to survive. The government has just committed to borrowing the equivalent of US$50,000 per household to pay for this and its other stimulus packages. This cannot be the end of the debt that will be paid by my children and grandchildren to 'keep the virus out'. One has to wonder if it is worth it given that the lives being saved are almost all over 65 years of age. Death at the individual level is a loss to a small number, but we cannot proceed at the population level on the assumption that we can save lives at any cost. Our 'leaders' must face this reality soon.

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What's the total number of annual deaths in US nursing homes from all causes in a "normal" year?

From 2002: The latest national compilation of more than 500,000 nursing home deaths - for 1999 - lists starvation, dehydration or bedsores as the cause on 4,138 death certificates. The data, collected by the National Center on Health Statistics, include 138 such deaths in Missouri and 186 in Illinois.

Much more interesting stuff here.

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@Rob Lucas: "On the other hand there are also ..."

what this country needs is a good one-armed economist

a wishy-washy post from TC -- he has a lot of trouble getting to the point

His taxi driver always takes the scenic route.

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Maybe everyone just believes that they are pivotal.

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"Lockdown" isn't necessary, as Australia contained the virus without one, but strictly limiting the ability of the virus to spread is important. The more it is restricted the faster it can be eliminated from the general population.

If by "taking more chances" you mean restrictions shouldn't be so strict, that is counter productive as it stretches out the time it takes to eliminate the virus, or worse, fails to contain it all, as in the UK, US, Sweden, Mexico, etc. So, no, that's out. If by taking chances you mean more people should sneak off to see their secret lovers, well that happens anyway. Sometimes they get caught and fined in the states that still have infection in the general population here. But people follow restrictions enough for us to eliminate the virus.

I’m not sure how many lessons I’d draw from our experience here. There’s a variety of possible reasons why the virus was pretty much water off a ducks back here, but our skill at social distancing is not one of them - you just have to look around outside your house over the last 6 weeks to understand that we didn’t do that part well. Border restrictions (yay for being an island!), testing, tracing, low density cities, season?, well prepared public health arrangements - we’re lucky we had all those things

It's just a respiratory virus. If its spread is reduced enough it will die out. Australia is a better location for limiting the spread of the virus than Taiwan, but Taiwan still has done an excellent job of containing it. It's simply a matter of sufficiently reducing its spread, but that is affected by the physical and cultural environment. My blanket advice for nations struggling to get on top of the virus is -- do what Australia did plus extra steps, eg. mask wearing, in case what worked in Australia doesn't work as well in your different situation.

I offer blanket advice for nations struggling with bushfires: do nothing, plus some extra steps. Maybe "be lucky" and "don't be unlucky".

Doesn't work that way. Luck works at the individual level and it can work with the initial distribution of the virus. But whether the daily new infections are 1 per million or 80 per million -- as is currently the case in the US -- reducing the spread of the infection works and public health measures that reduce its spread work. There are 2,200 heart attacks in the US per day. "Luck" may play a part in whether or not an at risk individual has a heart attack today, but the US isn't likely to get lucky and have a day with zero heart attacks. Developed nations that are failing to control the Coronavirus have incompetent responses.

If you are talking about policy response, then there is an element of luck. For example, if Tom Hanks had died there might be 80,000 more Americans alive today. It was America's bad luck that he lived, although obviously good luck for Tom. Same with Boris Johnson, it was bad luck that he lived for the people of the UK and US but obviously good luck for him. And it's been bad luck for the US that Trump hasn't contracted COVID-19 as the US may have gotten an effective response if he had. But pandemic response shouldn't depend on luck.

Luck definitely plays a large role for countries as well.

In 2009/10, there were about 100 H1N1/swine flu deaths in Australia and between 9,000 and 18,000 H1N1 deaths in America. I don't recall test and trace or lockdowns in either country then. It's also interesting that Australia, as with Japan and South Korea then have specific numbers while the U.S. uses a range.

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The annoying thing about talking you about this is you put out this spiel about "The US and Western Europe does not need to do anything extraordinary, just follow 100 year old public health measures, which Australia has put into place. Doing exactly what Australia did, even if starting conditions in other countries are very different *right now*, would still work.".

Then when people challenge you about what US+West Europe and Australia are actually doing differently, you say "I don't know. They just seem like madhouses to me. The government should give people more unemployment money and this would mean transmission would be reduced. But luck definitely had nothing to do with it.". It doesn't make any sense.

Okay, you know that COVID-19 is spread by droplets? Well, we've known about droplets and respiratory diseases for over 100 years now. We learned more in the 30s and 40s and so on and increased our understanding, but the basics for cutting down on transmission were all used for the 1919 flu pandemic, they were just applied in a haphazard way. If you take various public health measures from 100 years ago:

- Closing down bars, restaurants, etc.
- Ending meetings, church services, sporting events.
- Avoiding people when possible.
- Wearing masks
- Identifying people with the disease and isolating them.
- etc.

And apply them in an organized way then the virus can be contained because it's just a respiratory virus and needs to jump from host to host to survive. If every two people who have it spread it to an average of 1 person then the virus will die out.

There's nothing complex about that. It's all pretty simple and any country that is beyond a certain level of economic development has the capability to pull it off.

So that part is simple and the US should start doing it in an organized, well disciplined way, so the disease can be contained. If this isn't done then thousands more people will die.

How this gets paid for is more complicated. But it should be paid for, because if it isn't paid for it won't happen. Not effectively. And thousands more will die.

Leaving aside that some of those "mass gathering closing" NPIs probably aren't that effective at reducing R very much (so say lots epidemiologists), and others like wearing masks Australia never particularly did, the measures you have discussed is what they've done (with testing and tracing limited by greater spread through the population), and you're just asserting that they haven't done so in "an organized way" because the US "seems like a madhouse to" you.

Yes.

That is not what we would call a strong and evidence based argument.

That's okay. You can take it on faith that SARS-CoV-2 is spread by short range transmission of droplets and decreasing the likelihood of people coming in contact with those droplets reduces the spread of the disease. Fortunately it's easy to trust me as I'm very convincing.

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France, Spain, the UK - disasters, obviously
Portugal, Austria, Greece - not disaster area
Scandinavia/Finland - not a disaster area
Benelux - pretty much a disaster area
Italy - basically very unlucky in being first to bat
Germany - the opposite of Italy in terms of being the first European country with a locally transmitted case, providing a couple of weeks warning

Much of western Europe has been able to handle the virus in a fashion that is much better than countries like France, the UK, or the US, Blanket judgments are easy to make, but Crikey seems to have much more support that some countries are able to apply century old public health measures to avoid the results one has seen in places like Spain.

prior, he does not have any evidence that differential application of such measures anywhere, at any place, or at any time, has led to any of the heterogenity in outcomes.

This seems like a hard concept for some.

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Lockdown isn't necessary, because Australia did such and such and the result was one you feel is acceptable?
85k+ have died in 90 days, despite the shutdown. The April death rate is up 30% YoY in the U.S. If we hadn't had a shutdown, both numbers would be considerably worse. If you think it wasn't necessary, you aren't paying attention. If you think Australia is a model, you are ignoring the fact they DID have a shut down similar to the US, and at any rate the two countries are generally not analogues

Australia strictly limited the spread of the virus, but I never stopped going to work, nor was I required to. Strictly limiting the spread of the virus is what's important, which is why I wrote: "...but strictly limiting the ability of the virus to spread is important"

Australia didn't have a shutdown like the United States. We had a set of restrictions that reduced the spread of the virus so each person who had it spread it to an average of less than one person. We halved the number of daily new cases every six days. Part of enforcing these restrictions included doubling dole money paid to the unemployed and wage subsidies. Important steps the US has so far failed to introduce.

We did have a lockdown. People were fined for sitting in a park eating a kebab or having a driving lesson with their mum. Our unemployment rate is climbing because of the businesses closed down and would be stratospheric if not for the govt program supporting zombie jobs. We were just lucky that the spread was not already wide when discovered. BTW our curve crested before the stage 3 lockdown was imposed.
My ? Is simply this: does the virus change the world permanently or those the world end up accepting the virus and its consequences. A lot of Aussies have had their lives massively disrupted to keep granddad alive a bit longer. The people who lose their jobs and savings are not making the decisions and are not being compensated.

Oh yeah... I remember you from last year's ANZAC parade. You were the one shouting, "Hurry up and die, you old farts! You're the reason why my taxes are so high! Your sacrifices mean nothing to me!"

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Actually, the lockdown restrictions actually prolong the time it takes for the virus to pass through the population. It's not possible to prevent the eventual spread, or get rid of the virus completely, until a vaccine is in use. So lockdown simply prevents too many cases at once from overwhelming the healthcare system. Most adults will still get the virus eventually, just not all at once.

There are now no known cases of COVID-19 in South Australia. Hopefully the virus has been completely eliminated. Each day that passes increases the chance it has been. The Coronavirus will hopefully be eliminated from Australia as a whole over the next few weeks.

You can do that in a small isolated location (South Australia has fewer than 2 million people in an area larger than Texas and New Mexico combined) but you can't do it in the United States. We have 314 (really!) cities with populations over 100,000.

Germany has 83 million people and has gotten their daily new cases down from 6,000 per day to now under 1,000 per day. If Germany can do that why can't the United States? If you claim that only countries with less than 85 million people can manage it I won't find that convincing.

That the current number of daily new cases in Germany is less than the daily number of deaths from coronavirus in the U.S.

What do you think explains Germany's relatively severe outbreak relative to neighboring countries like the Czech Republic, Poland, Denmark etc?

Denmark is neck and neck for Coronavirus deaths per capita with Germany, Poland has failed to contain the virus, while the Czech Republic is the only one that appears to have done well, although their death rate suggests their official case rate is far below actual.

Maybe you're a little confused about which nations are doing well?

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So Australia to be the new hermit kingdom?
South Australia is a shithole that will collapse if they don’t open the interstate border.
Australia started simply trying to manage the health system and is now pretending that the current economic devastation can continue in hope of a vaccine.

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Glad you brought this up, Prof. Cowen.

I've noticed on a couple of blogs that may people are scared out of their brains. Way too sacred, in my opinion, and these are not old. Getting cash checks, from somebody? Then there are the non-bloggers, Trumpites if one were to insist, who wanna get to work to make ends meet. Rational, if they are young.

More generally, how would we "vote" if we didn't know whether we were young or old, or with or without cash checks, at the moment? Given what is now known about Corona, my guess is that we would "all" vote for specific isolations and closing down of hotspots and hoptspreaders. And, oh yes, have a market economy to produce masks and space suits and such. No more; no less.

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There you go again, assuming that people are economic units of rational thought

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I must be reading the wrong Internet sources, since most of what I read seems along the lines of the Australians here - public health measures have a long history, following them has costs, and those costs can be kept manageable.

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So herd immunity (assuming it happens ((this is doing the work here)) quickly and efficiently and our R0s are strong(er)(more)) is a commons issue. Restating a best theory for the individual, ceterus paribus, if we are assuming a commons problem is in your textbook T.

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I'm afraid when joggers get close while also favoring something closer to the swedish approach. Indeed I feel quite lonesome in holding such views. I do not know why others do not see the forest for the trees. Being cautious is irrational but serves a great purpose

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Please save me, take my rights, just save me please!

Think folks! They are fucking us without benefit of lube.

I have friends whose parents are dead now because of the virus, but sure we are getting boned, I guess you think not enough of us have lost loved ones?

I find it remarkable that this cavalier attitude toward 88,000 and counting deaths is coming from some of the same people who would describe themselves as "pro-life." "It's not even as bad as the flu... ok, it's a bit worse than the flu but it's killing mostly old people. Who cares? Liberal p***ies, that's who." Moments of crisis often reveal people's true character.

Another thing that is unintentionally revealing in right-wing discourse is the fixation on imagery having to do with sexual humiliation and violation. I think some of the people who indulge in this would benefit from switching off partisan bitch-fests for a while and instead seeing a psychiatrist.

Out of curiosity, when did you find out about 80,000 Americans died from the flu after the 2009/10 season was over and were you horrified by that number?

The hospitals and coroners are attributing every single death they have that isn’t 100% obviously not Corona to Corona. At least half of the deaths are over 85 (google) and had very little time left anyways.

Further, if you believe we are preventing deaths and not simply delaying them, you are probably a mask wearer.

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To reach herd immunity, a lot of people need to get sick. If you are low-risk, I don't think it is terribly odd to "volunteer" to be one of them by going out now. Maybe not actively try to get it or be reckless, but it would be normal to be fairly resigned to the possibility of infection if you support a herd immunity strategy.

Personally, I experience a dynamic that a lot of people just don't seem to experience. A lot of people just say, "well, why take the risk? wait a few months." But none of this is very certain or neat. Even just going to the grocery store with a mask, my risk is probably not insignificant. Maybe I'll get infected through air transfer in my condo. The mental stress it takes to constantly take such precautions and remember everything I touched so that I can wash it and all that---it is incredibly taxing. While I've been careful, since I ceased to believe containment was possible, I've been itching to just take my chances. I don't want to contract this disease--of course I'm scared I could end up with long-lasting effects, even if I'm only 30. But the impact to my quality of life from avoiding it combined with the thought that it is probably futile is maddening. I fully expect to get the disease, and have since March, when that was the statement doctors were making. It feels like having a trick pulled on me, to make it sound like there's a large element of choice in this. I will be exposed, barring some miraculous discovery or really good luck. Maybe it is wise to delay it as long as possible in the hope of better treatments (I have little hope of a vaccine)...but again, only a maybe. And since I doubt it will ever be totally eradicated, and will stay as a looming threat here and there, if it's possible to get immunity, I'd rather get it young.

It's really disturbing living in a social reality that apparently expects this to go away reasonably soon when I've already resigned myself to living with the risk--it makes our actions mutually intelligible, as well as our planning for the future.

Most of the really skittish people believe they will avoid getting it because of their extreme skittishness. They are desperate for control and in denial, and often see getting the disease as a moral failing caused by being insufficiently careful.

"I don't want to contract this disease--of course I'm scared I could end up with long-lasting effects, even if I'm only 30."

Those who have long lasting bad effects from Covid-19 are almost entirely in the highest risk group to begin with: those who are over 70 and frail/with comborbidities and usually who are in the 15% who survived using a ventilator.

I'm not sure we have the data to draw such conclusions yet. And even if it is a small percentage of younger people, in raw numbers that adds up. It may turn out to be pretty minor, but it's hard to assess right now. Certainly, going on a ventilator tends to majorly increase the risk of severe issues, but there are a lot of reports of asymptomatic people showing evidence of lung damage, and I believe younger survivors of SARs had this problem.

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I believe in the Swedish model (for now).

I am also frolicking outside, not particularly concerned.

Because I am <30, so my risk is probably low. I don't really see an inconsistency.

Maybe the costs of herd immunity are unbearable to society. But maybe there is no alternative? - "if there's no solution, there's no problem"

And the young SHOULD be the ones to bear the herd immunity - so bring it on. We give vaccines to those who can have them, to protect those who cannot.

I am not sure if this analogy is right, but I am told the devastating fires in Australia were due to preventing controlled burns.

If the virus naturally spreads more slowly over the summer months, perhaps this is the time for the controlled burn. Rather than in the fall, after we are in a depression, balance sheets are nightmarish, patience is thin, and when the flu strikes simultaneously.

My understanding is that 'flatten the curve' means 'majority gets it, just not all at once to avoid overrunning the hospitals, which drives mortality up'. Then it's like 'get everyone through the bottleneck as fast as possible, without breaking the bottle".

Maybe there is an optimal 'Goldilocks' rate of spread - not too slow, and not too fast. Too slow, and we are wasting time bankrupting ourselves, and too fast and the hospitals are overrun and there is unnecessary death.

I have wondered about this crazy policy: deliberately infecting the under 30s, and quarantining them. We could give a majority of school children immunity, wait a month, then schools can all resume. Seek volunteers, and pay them some incentive to participate. This could also give us the advantage of knowing exactly who has it, to track them, and the characteristics. Maybe there are RCT opportunities.

This is fantasy of course, and goes wildly against Tyler's ask for policies cognizant of public choice theory. But maybe this is the better avenue of thinking at least.

Yeah, I am at least sort of an advocate for Swedish approach (though it's obv too early to know).

I'm young and healthy, as is everyone in my household. My IFR is around 0.1% (added to a background annual mortality rate of about 0.2%). My kids' IFR is around 0.001% or something. So I think I should be part of the herd who goes out and gets sick. Or at least goes out and keeps working and doesn't worry to much about getting sick.

My mom, who is at 100x more risk than I am, should stay home more.

I don't really see the inconsistency in that way of thinking.

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Deliberately infecting people under 30 seems just as overconfident about the health consequences of this virus and just as violative of freedom as an extreme lockdown. I think people should be more humble about what they think they know about this virus which has only been around for a few months and make their own decisions without forcing those on others.

Definitely should be voluntary, as I said.
I am not saying we should go around coercively infecting people!

With public choice in mind, perhaps strategically opening certain establishments popular with the young is a de facto way of getting more spread among these groups which we basically know have very low mortality. Like gyms, perhaps - disproportionately young and healthy people, a perfect herd for immunity. Make theater out of disinfecting everything... and certain equipment is arbitrarily taped off. The public finds arbitrary rules comforting - wet sand ok, but never the dry sand!

Yes, we are operating in a low information world. But we still have to make decisions. Quarantines are also an active choice on the decision tree.

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If the people you know are 85 then it seems very rational to be scared. If they are 18 and healthy then much less so. There are some Swedes that say their government's policies have nothing to do with the 'herd immunity' concept and that think that idea is dangerous. The author- not the speaker in the short video. Here is an example
https://larspsyll.wordpress.com/2020/05/12/who-slams-herd-immunity-concept/

The speaker in the video thinks herd immunity is a terrible idea as well of course. But he sounds Irish to me.

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The first sort of hypothetical person in Tyler's post, who sees a huge risk from the jogger 10 feet away, sees an even more enormous risk in the trip to the shoe store. It's not (as Tyler writes) that there's a binary "yes or no" risk that the person considers equivalent everywhere. (I'll point out that this perception of gigantic risks is irrational -- but that's a separate issue.)
The second hypothetical person views the risk to him/herself as small, and worth it to contribute to eventual herd immunity, or just to maintain quality of life. Therefore, they don't hide away.

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"Yet if you accept those presuppositions (suspend judgment for the time being), in fact you ought to behave in a very fearful manner. Just stay at home and wait until herd immunity arrives in late summer or whenever, and then go out and have all of your fun. Let the Nordstrom shoes wait!"

Why? I don't get it.

It might make sense if this were a disease with a high mortality rate (or you had issues increasing your personal risk) - or if we didn't have a handle on the mortality rate, likelihood of incapacitation, etc.

One thing you should have noticed is that at the start of all this - when we *didn't* have a handle on mortality/incapacitation risk - people DID heed the quarantine demands (generally) and did so voluntarily.

Its now - now that we're seeing that this isn't the Black Death 2.0 - that the consensus is swinging towards 'we don't need to do this any more'.

+100

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Yes. Now it seems more like an elaborate, ritualistic rehearsal for the next, more serious pandemic.

Maybe that's a valuable exercise in itself, if the country recovers (but doesn't recover too much! - haven't we all expressed our wish list for things not to return to the status quo ex ante - only ... they're not all the same things by any means ...). And if the paternalism inherent in ordering people to be more afraid than they find it natural to be, is without its own negative consequences.

"More serious than this? Look at the daily death count!" Well, true, the virus is taking many of the very old ...

"That's tragic! Don't you care about lives lost, all lives?!"

Well, laying aside how much I care, are we not very lucky - imagine the grief it it were reversed, and the young were the vulnerable ...

"No, no difference, monster!"

To me, not even a particularly maternal woman - the pretense that the deaths of the old and the deaths of children are as one, constitutes a thoroughly obscene violation of the order of things, of right feeling. If it were the only such, it might be reckoned beautiful, I suppose - "novel". In context, thought - well, I just wish I were able to convey that this new catechism is as troubling to me as, to others, the failure of the guy at the UPS store or the guys at the service station to don masks (to name two instances where neighbors - who wear masks while doing the arduous chore of picking up takeout dinners, rather than whilst doing oil changes or hefting boxes - have gone on NextDoor to shame businesses where they will no longer trade).

Yeah, it's weird to see how quickly "OK boomer" sneering turned overnight into "Won't someone think of the geezers!"

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The down people are down and the up people are up. But in reality, the down people should be up and the up people should be down.

Sense does not make sense and that which does not make sense makes sense.

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Cat

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The Swedish model is misrepresented as a free for all.

There is a huge focus on individual responsibility for the care of yourselves and others with multiple recommendations for optimal behaviour.

All this in the context of a wealthy society, a social democracy, a superb universal health care system and a sparsely populated country.

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I think a lot depends on how you see the virus being transmitted. I think the odds of getting via packages or from a passing jogger are very low, not worth bothering about. OTOH, travelling on a metro, or standing in a large crowd of loudly speaking people (say in a bar) seems like a high risk activity in an area where the virus is widespread.

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This analysis seems to inappropriately conflate the probabilities with the payoffs.

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Sweden remains a Scandinavian country, and assuming that anyone in Sweden wants to act like a certain group of Americans - armed and uncaring about masks or social distancing at all at demonstrations - is already wrong. And the Swedish economy is contracting in similar fashion to those of all its neighbors.

it's doing better. GDP figures for Q1-2020:
--Sweden +0.5%
--Finland +0.1%
--Norway -1.5%
--Denmark : -1.9%
--Germany: -2.2%
--Italy : -4.7%
--France: -5.4%

Are you honestly thinking the GDP figures for Jan/Feb/March are indicative of what is happening now in any of the countries? Are you aware that COVID-19 hit Italy hard first, in Feb., then France, while Sweden didn't seem to have much of a problem until late March.

Here's a report of what experts in Sweden expect for their economy (abstract: it's going to crater, like its neighbors): https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/30/coronavirus-sweden-economy-to-contract-as-severely-as-the-rest-of-europe.html

My reaction as well. I think the evidence is that Sweden's economy has not done better than neighbors, while their death rate is much higher:

Even without a full lockdown, Sweden’s economy has not been unscathed. Preliminary evidence shows Sweden has suffered similar economic effects as its neighbors: The Swedish Central Bank projects the country’s G.D.P. will contract by 7 to 10 percent this year, an estimate on par with the rest of Europe. (The European Commission projects the E.U. economy will contract by 7.5 percent.)

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/05/15/world/europe/sweden-coronavirus-deaths.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

I used to consider Cat to be somewhat objective, but I think this might show that the person is willing to contort to reach a desired state of comfort with priors.

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They’re the figures we have.
You don’t like the conclusion that’s all. Yes, Sweden will have better figures next quarter too. It makes sense , they hardly shut down. Why would you expect anything else?

Cat, There are more recent data in the article that I cited. You have to have a basis for your assertion, not just your belief, particularly when it runs against current evidence to the contrary.

You can do better.

@Bill, your NY times article has one sentence in it that focuses on the economy and that's a link to something else.
That other link shows unemployment claims as better in Sweden than Denmark or Norway. For Sweden it's 1.9% . compare this to the US values that are so much worse. The rest is predictions.
The data I gave you are actual.
I maintain that Sweden will do better economically simply because they let more economic activity run unimpeded.
As far as the pandemic, it seems that their cases peaked April 20.

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The "figures we have" cover a period of time when Sweden was largely untouched by COVID-19, while Italy and France we in full on panic and chaos mode. I'll be interested to see if you continue to tout the Swedish model after the second quarter numbers are out, and if you'll be honest enough to compare Sweden's economy to their actual neighbors (i.e., Scandinavia), and not countries that have been much harder and earlier, like Italy and France.

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“In reality, the Swedish model advocates ought to behave quite cautiously and lockdown advocates should be willing to take more chances”
That’s the (1)herd immunity for thee but not for me, or (2) lockdown for thee but not for me attitude.
(2) is antisocial and often illegal so, while you have generally a lower risk of going out in a lockdown situation , people don’t do it much
(1). I believe people do. They sort themselves out according to their perceived risk. The old stay more confined and the young with less risk not so much. You would have to be extraordinary fearful if young to stay mostly confined. And if you feel that way, then you should probably be afraid of going out period to avoid a a host of other risks ( crime, car accidents, etc..)

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What's the point of this post, which is really about nothing more than people behaving according to their own logic and (especially) their own feelings:
1. I'm a contrarian and believe the pandemic is overblown, and I am going to flout the lockdown rules and advocate they be lifted,
2. I trust science and believe it's a real threat, and I will support the measures and be cautious myself,
3. I believe it's a moderate threat, but I don't want the economy to crater, so I will advocate measures be lifted for others while staying safe myself,
4. I want to express my love of/hatred of the people in charge, so I will advocate for/against whatever they seem to believe in while continuing my pre-pandemic baseline cautious or risky behavior.

Curious why Tyler hasn't linked to and commented on the newly released info that the Ioannidis/Santa Clarita study was apparently bought and paid for by JetBlue founder Neeleman, with the specific goal to do exactly what it did (fuel the push to end lockdown and open businesses), with the "research" engaging in many of the scientific malfeasance and bias that Ioannidis made his reputation railing against. This seems like a BFD to me, but maybe we need more links to UFO articles.
https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/stephaniemlee/stanford-coronavirus-neeleman-ioannidis-whistleblower

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I don't think you wouldn't expect people advocating Sweden's strategy to themselves be eager to go out and about because Sweden's strategy is not "Go out and about".

It is "Everyone should voluntarily socially distance, moderated by their personal risk, people in low risk groups should do it less, care homes should be protected. The disease cannot be suppressed in open economies in the long term without a vaccine so lockdowns delay the inevitable, without really preventing deaths.".

Which achieves the goals of building population immunity relative to deaths, better than lockdown, while the predictions of "overwhelmed healthcare" haven't happened for them. Indeed, there have been really no overwhelmed healthcare facilities anywhere, it seems, though staffing have been pushed.

And again, their model is based on the best available version of what the established science before the outbreak was, and there has been nothing during it which had clearly indicated anything otherwise. Maybe they could be wearing masks and have banned travel earlier, about it. They are not the contrarians here.

The contrarians are the ones who waved around these 3.5% WHO IFRs and these lockdowns which are without precedent and in law without any established basis as "the science", and themselves as "following the science" when they were usually the slaves of some defunct contrarian blogger or tweeter.

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It is almost identical to the British Columbia model. The differences in results I would suspect are due to a different variant of the virus. And/or a more vigorous response to elderly care homes.

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how about some good news:
ventilator survival rates with covid19 may be a lotta better than previously reported

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/05/15/856768020/new-evidence-suggests-covid-19-patients-on-ventilators-usually-survive

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Yes I've noticed this too. I'm more on the Swedish side, and initially was not particularly cautious, but actually if I'm right then I should be cautious and try to free-ride my way all the way to herd immunity without ever catching the damned thing.

Seems like it depends on your own personal relative risk; if you're a young person and you're not having to be in close contact with an older person who you're sheltering*, it's probably better for you to pursue some social distancing but live life as normal, since the risk is so minimal.

Rather than forego tons of normal life stuff. Particularly once the government starts to move these costs away from being socialised costs, as is inevitable.

Which is part of what the Swedish model does by allowing individual choice and responsibility, and not using these all-or-nothing lockdowns.

*This is admittedly the issue of applying Sweden's model in Italy or London, the former somewhere which has long had multigenerational homes, the latter which has begun to due to very high housing prices and larger private residences, and migrants with more multigenerational traditions. But it doesn't make it clearly a worse model.

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I don't think this is coherent.

Both groups described are just acting pro-socially. The swedish model guys think we should all get it over with and let the randomness of infection roll through the population. The lockdown enthusiasts think we should all avoid infection to reduce R0 and suppress the virus.

If people are solely concerned with their own personal risk then sure, but people aren't like that. Sure there are some swedish model enthusiasts who are just misanthropic and contrarian like Toby Young, and there are some lockdown enthusiasts who think the disease is more personallyn risky than it is, but fear of the unknown is not unreasonable especially if enthusiastic conformity can help you avoid the ER.

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The Swedish model is not what many of its advocates believe it is, which highlights the political nature of the divide in America. "A key distinction for Sweden is that its government believed it didn’t need to enforce guidelines regarding social distancing on a population that would heed the advice of the country’s independent public agencies. According to polling data, Swedes have a high level of trust in the country’s public institutions. This trust is a “fundamental element of Swedish society,” said Karin Ulrika Olofsdotter, Sweden’s ambassador to the United States. “That’s why we can work with recommendations, because most people actually follow them. It’s part of who we are. Of course there are people who don’t, but the main bulk of the people do.” Americans, on the other hand, are distrustful of government, especially government led by the other political party. And Americans are getting a mixed message, with recommendations to keep safe distances from the experts in and out of government, and encouragement from Trump himself to agitate for lifting all restrictions, to defy whatever restrictions remain in place or are recommended by the experts, and to threaten violence if necessary. From its beginning, America itself has been threatened by anarchists. George Washington was so concerned that he encouraged compromises among the delegates at the constitutional convention, provisions that Washington himself didn't support, but his fear of the strident voices and violent actions of the anarchists combined with failure to adopt a constitution would encourage the British to invade a divided America. Trump thrives when Americans are divided. Indeed, his one attempt at unity, uniting America against the pandemic, was a humiliating failure: he didn't have his heart in it because it's division not unity in which he thrives. Washington spent seven years uniting and leading America in war, and he wasn't going to allow proponents of division destroy it. Trump has never sacrificed for a united America; quite the contrary.

Recommendations framed entirely as ways to protect oneself already suppose an anti social attitude and are borderline dishonest. To tell a 20 year old they cannot go to a bar because of a risk of sickness is pretty illogical. The risk is low. Tell them rather to refrain or that that that the bar will be closed because of the risk they may pass on an infection that can be serious for other people. The latter is also a more unifying appeal, "Let's all do X to protect vulnerable people."

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Ipsos Mori report on trust - https://www.ipsos.com/sites/default/files/ct/publication/documents/2019-09/ipsos-thinks-trust-the-truth.pdf

Trust in scientists in Sweden is at 56%, same as US at 55% and Germany at 52%. No specific data on doctors but they rated trustworthy at about the same clip.

Same thing from Wellcome survey - https://wellcome.ac.uk/reports/wellcome-global-monitor/2018/chapter-3-trust-science-and-health-professionals.

There is no basis to suggest that the scientific community is less trusted in the US than Sweden, or that guidance provided by the scientific community would be less adhered to.

Unless the idiots on the Left politicised it, that is.

Interestingly Sweden also seems to have low trust in "ordinary people" on Ipsos' measure (page 64), 26% Sweden vs 42% in the US. Sweden one of the bottom scorers.

This is an interesting contrast to the "World Values Survey 2010-14, % ‘Most people can be trusted’", where Sweden is one of the top, at 60%.

Evidently in Sweden, in somewhat of a contradiction, "most people" can be trusted, but "ordinary people" cannot! ("Oh, those ordinary people are stupid... but of course I'm not talking about most people when I talk about ordinary people..."?). In any case, they seen trust science particularly neither more or less.

Maybe trust is being used in two different contexts there?

When you ask me if I trust a list of professions (doctors, scientists, media, etc.), I’m thinking “do I trust this profession to be correct?” So when you throw “ordinary people” on that list, people think “do I trust ordinary people to be correct”?

However, when someone asks in the abstract, “do you trust most people” like in the World Values Survey, I think “do I trust most people to be honest and not take advantage of me?”

It’s totally consistent to say that most people can be trusted to be honest but not correct. I would trust a typical person in the sense that I’d believe they are honest and keep their promises, but would not trust a typical person to be correct in their views about COVID or the proper policy response for example.

Yeah, I think there's totally a framing effect and the Swedes are probably ending up in the frame of "Do I trust ordinary people without expertise on a subject that requires expertise?" or some such, and then answering from that.

I just found the apparent taken-at-face-value contradiction funny and hypocritical enough to mention.

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Put simply ray, the US intelligentsia did not reject Sweden's approach because "Our people aren't trusting enough. Shame.".

They did because they were a panicked herd who wanted to copy the general herd of countries, and who distrusted that the government were not out to kill them (way more than the average person does), and of course they have no plan of what to do now, and they badly underestimated how much social distancing and handwashing and so forth would impact the spread of the thing (contra science).

Now some panic is understandable and human, and this is an area of science no one understood well.

But there is no way you can paint that after the fact as a sort of smart consideration of the different populations and informed rejection of an alternative approach, which was really the mainstream science approach until the lousy herd of the lumpen-intelligentsia decided it wasn't.

rayward quoted a Swede who explained: " “That’s why we can work with recommendations, because most people actually follow them. It’s part of who we are. Of course there are people who don’t, but the main bulk of the people do.”

This explains the social distancing in Stockholm but not the 90% of Swedes who did little social distance away from the capital.

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People believe in ‘practicing what you preach’ and ‘leading by example’.

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The premise here is that the motivation for supporting the lockdown (or wearing a mask) is fear of becoming infected with serious consequences. For most people this is pretty small risk. Alternatively one might support a lock down () be willing to wear a mask) as a way of minimizing the risk of infecting others.

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Closers fear herd immunity and believe only the lockdown can save them from it.

Openers fear the lockdown and believe only herd immunity can save them from it.

I’m not sure they have radically different beliefs about how infectious the virus is. They mostly differ in their belief of how dangerous catching the virus is relative to how dangerous the lockdown is.

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This is a better use of your phrase "mood affiliation" than most of your posts referencing it.

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Ultimately this is about ZMP's worrying about their utility.

The world goes on. What happened here is the restaurants were closed, and the grocery stores saw 60-100% increases in volume. It is remarkable to see an over supplied industry with extraordinary competitive challenges, and obvious winners and losers evident when you walk in the stores (and look at the age of my receivables) turning into busy, well stocked businesses.

Some people are working from home if they can. The people I run into are trying to figure out how to keep themselves safe and how to get things done when it takes twice as long.

This isn't about lockdown, or opening. This is about figuring out how an orthodontist can look after the people who desperately need their dental problems sorted out without causing more problems.

I don't want ZMP people with lots of time on their hands dictating how the work that I do that keeps them fed should be done.

My nephew works for Fedex in Montreal, the worst place in Canada for this thing. His wife is very pregnant, likely delivery within two weeks. He doesn't use elevators, runs up the stairs. He knows the city, knows how to keep away from people.

If you want lockdown, don't force the risk upon others by expecting them to cater to your desires.

Presuming ZMP people exist, in a well-functioning labor market they should have already been unemployed, as would NMP people. The fact that they were employed means someone thought they were getting more out of the worker than they had to pay him, including benefits, overhead, search costs, litigation risk, etc.

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“ Presumably they believe that herd immunity can be achieved relatively quickly, and with a high upfront cost the medium- and long-term can be fairly safe, with a net gain overall.”

Or maybe they just believe individuals are capable of making their own optimal decisions with respect to defensive living strategies.

Cowen, ever the authoritarian, sees the only two options available, as top down strategies. But reality is that it is each individuals personal responsibility to protect themself, especially people in nursing homes who are paying to be protected by others: if the home is not providing the safety you are paying for, their are avenues to complain and legal options. And you should probably insist on pharmaceutical prophylaxis. For people who have to work in confined spaces, Face shields, masks, and gloves are your responsibility.

Because I have a serious heart condition, I see it as my personal responsibility to avoid others and confined spaces. I exclusively use instacart and amazon. Nevertheless I do go out in my boat and walk in the woods at the local park in open defiance of my Idiot governor because such activities pose no threat to me or others.

The young and healthy are not responsible for others’ health. The fact that they have not revolted already is a sad comment on our feminized society.

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I don't understand the irrationality or inconsistency in thinking that the whole thing is blown out of proportion, that the risk of death or serious complications is low, that my personal risk is very low, and that herd immunity is the only way out - and wanting to go out and live a more-or-less normal life.

Wearing a mask and hiding is like being an anti-vaxxer; you want to get the benefit of the herd immunity without you personally being exposed to any small risk. One could argue that the young and healthy have a duty to be in the group that gets the virus to help establish herd immunity, so someone in the high risk group doesn't have to.

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In theory there is no difference between theory and practice.
In practice there is.
-- Yogi Berra

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It seems to me that this analysis falls apart entirely from a game-theoretic point of view. If you believe that the optimal outcome will be arrived at by achieving herd immunity as quickly as possible (the "Swedish model"), then you ought to want to help achieve that outcome by exposing yourself as quickly as possible. And vice versa for the negative nellies.

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The behaviors you describe are not really contradictory. Each of the people you describe is acting in (what he perceives as) his own self-interest.

If I'm the fearful guy, lockdown may very well not work for others, but by staying home myself, I maximize my chance of staying uninfected, either until there is a cure or at least until there is no longer a shortage of health services.

While if I'm the guy who believes in herd immunity, his actions make even more sense. Getting herd immunity requires that each member of the herd get infected before he knows how badly it will affect him. Naturally if I want to get the benefit of herd immunity with the least risk, I should try to be one of the last adopters, letting others build up that immunity so that I can benefit from it.

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> lockdown advocates should be willing to take more chances.

Strictly speaking, lockdown advocates should be willing to let others take more chances. *They* can remain indoors if they want (a task which will be much easier if there are fewer people competing for grocery delivery slots)

Yeah, especially since unemployment benefits are easier to pay out if more people are working. Sit at home until a vaccine is there, but let others work!

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Ask one of those "open the economy" Trumpers to kiss another guy and you'll see irrational fear in action. Different people have different fears and accept different levels of risk. (Some men actually believe that they'll turn gay if they kiss another man or even see a man kiss another man. I'm not making this up.)

COVID-19 is a new disease. We are still learning how it spreads, and we know it is insidious. Unlike Ebola, it is very hard to tell who is infectious. It's like one of those horror movies where the best bud goes zombie, but no one knows it until the scare scene. We are just getting a handle on its presentation and symptoms. Contagion is exponential. Early reaction is more valuable than later action, and the cost of delay or insufficient reaction is high. Do the game theory on that. You can always open the economy later. You can't bring back the dead.

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