Why Were University of Chicago Professional
Economists Republicans So Stupid About Coronavirus?
I look at the Trump professional
economists Republicans—Kevin Hassett, Tomas Philipson, Casey Mulligan, & co.—and I really do wonder: Why were they so incompetent? Why did they get so strongly behind the "epidemiologists have it wrong", the "reopen the economy"—originally by Easter—and the "this will burn itself out quickly"—deaths down near zero by mid-May—pushes? At least now Philipson and Hassett appear to be silent—although Mulligan is still out there, claiming that the depression is the result of government lockdowns alone, which he values at "15,000 dollars per household per quarter" not counting "intrinsic costs of forgone civil liberties".
By the end of January we knew that this coronavirus was (a) highly infectious, (b) transmitted by the presymptomatic, (c) something against which no human had immunity, (d) a disease with a normal-behavior herd-immunity point likely to be more than 50% of the population, and (e) a disease that killed—with treatment—about 1% of the infected. Those facts made it obvious that keeping it from killing 30 million people worldwide would bet a very difficult task, and that adding up mortality and morbidity costs valued at three million or so per death meant that the stakes we were playing for to avoid a worst-case three million dead epidemic amounted to ten trillion dollars, compared to which the 350 billion cost of a one-month complete non-essential business lockdown that reduced national income by 20% was relatively small change.
And, indeed, the rest of the global north—even Britain—with the exception of Sweden has bit the bullet, taken the lockdown hit, now has the virus (temporarily) on the run, and can move to test-and-trace and social distancing to stomp the virus. We and Sweden have not. We have thus become pariah nations, as far as coronavirus is concerned.
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