Worse than the Disease.

So I saw this.  There’s a key error in it, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

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This contains a serious error that does not pass the sniff test.  After all, the suicide rate in the US, per, 100,000 has generally ranged between 10 and 24 per 100,000.  Looking at various online articles it appears that the correct relationship between suicide and unemployment is about 2 or so per 100,000. Now, I suspect that Mr. Hagopian misread whatever source he had for the suicide rate link and probably dropped a decimal point.

Still, 2 or 2.1 per 100,000 adds up in a nation of nearly 330 million.

The economic effects of the various quarantine/social distancing/shelter in place orders around the country has already increased unemployment about 2%.  If we run through the numbers, that’s about 1400 people who will die as a consequence from that one cause–suicide.  If things get as bad economically as predicted the cost in lives will be 190,000.

That’s just one of the ways that a faltering economy kills people.  That’s just a small part of the total damage that the efforts, however well-intentioned they might be (something I, frankly, am unwilling to just accept as the case), will have.  There are other ways that a faltering/crashed economy kills people.  And many more will have their lives blighted in various ways, creating suffering and misery that need not be there.

And that’s the price we’re paying to “curb” something that was shaping up to be a somewhat worse than average (although far from the worst we’d had recently) cold/flu season.

The cure is worse than the disease.

 

13 thoughts on “Worse than the Disease.”

  1. Another smelly item: Are these numbers annualized? If so, a short period of high unemployment would not have an effect that serious, even if the numbers as given are technically correct.

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    1. That would be the case if it were a short period (although not completely, which I’ll go into in a moment). But it’s not going to be a short period. It’s already too late for that since if they lifted restrictions tomorrow it would take time to recover. And as they continue doubling down on the fear factor and extending restrictions, it’s only going to get worse.

      Furthermore, the “opportunity cost” is gone, spent. Any gains that would have been made while people were running around with their hair on fire are gone. When/if we finally do start to recover, we’ll be starting from a lower baseline and so worse than it would have been if we didn’t start from that lower point (Bastiat’s “Seen and Unseen” http://bastiat.org/en/twisatwins.html once more).

      The human costs–lives diminished and lives lost–because of the shutdown belong to a large extent to the “unseen” category, but they remain very real for all of that.

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  2. Pingback: AND THIS:  Worse than the Disease…. – The usa report
  3. I hadn’t realized that the title of Bastiat’s essay made such a good acronym. TWISATWINS needs to become as well known as TANSTAAFL.

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  4. “And that’s the price we’re paying to “curb” something that was shaping up to be a somewhat worse than average (although far from the worst we’d had recently) cold/flu season.”

    In the worst flu season of the past 10 years, 2017-18, on average about 500 people a day died in the U.S. We’re already over 1,000 deaths a day from Covid. Are you sure you want to go with “somewhat worse”?

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    1. That “1000 deaths a day” is…spurious at best. Most of them are folk with severe comorbidities and, frankly, many of them would have died anyway. Bluntly if someone dies, whatever the cause, and they test positive (or are simply assumed to be positive–I know people “diagnosed” not through testing but because they simply have some symptoms that are common to CV19 and a variety of other things.) That may seem harsh but the reality is that people die. People die from all sorts of causes. And the increase of numbers is, frankly, an artifact of testing more people. Test 10 people and get one case. Test 100 and get 10. Test a thousand and get a hundred. That’s not a hundredfold increase in incidence. that’s a simple 10% incidence with a larger tested population. Yet that’s exactly how it gets reported. Test more people, get more people counted as infected. And grandma’s heart attack, which everyone could see coming, is counted as a Coronavirus death because she tested positive.

      It would be interesting to see what the total pneumonia deaths and all-causes deaths have been doing. The latest numbers I’ve seen only go through mid-March and both were falling well below the trajectory for previous flu seasons. And yet, CV19 had been “in the wild” months before and, indeed, at least one month and possibly two before China even recognized its existence, let alone anyone took any steps to slow the spread. Months it had been out and spreading before any such steps were taken. And we didn’t even notice. A slightly worse than average flu season (but not as bad as some previous years).

      So, yeah, the “precautions”, particularly as the economic damage grows. If the restrictions continue as long as some are demanding, we’ll be looking at 30% unemployment. And that mean about 183,000 “extra” suicides. That alone matches six months of “1000 deaths a day”, and more than exceeds it since the “extra” deaths from CV19 is much less than the total of “people who died but also had CV19.

      But it’s just so much easier to wring hands over the “coronavirus victims” than it is to seriously consider the casualties of economic hardship, particularly when the pandemic is so damn useful to people wanting to use the opportunity to cram their social and political agenda down the American’ people’s throats.

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      1. The Ontario government just held a briefing on its numbers and planning this afternoon. They said that they estimate that if they had done, and continued to do absolutely nothing, and just let the virus run its course, they estimated a total death toll over the lifetime of the pandemic of about 100,000. That’s in a province of about 14.5 million. Clearly, this is not nothing, but neither is it anything like The End Of The World As We Know It ™. I tend to agree that we’re overreacting just a bit, even after considering that back when we had troops in Kosovo, one of our bases taking about a hundred mortar rounds over 3 hours or so was reported as a “barrage” …

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        1. Part of the problem is that those “estimates” are based on very bad data indeed. Taking an absolute worst case and treating it as likely is just one of the many problems with those estimates. And nobody in a decision making position is even trying to consider the cost in lives of the steps made to ameliorate the virus. They’re playing the “if it saves one life” game without even consideration that the actions taken also cost lives.

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  5. Here’s another consideration- what’s the whole lockdown going to do to people’s health in general?
    Almost everyone is spending time indoors being sedentary and eating unhealthy- which makes people more vulnerable to the effects of the virus.

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    1. And drinking more! At least, I’m assuming I’m not the only one who’s been drinking more…

      (I feel really bad for the people I know in AA. x_x Now, one of them is in a stroke rehabilitation ward, so I think he’s probably not getting into any trouble, but the other one…)

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