COVID-19 Probably Won\'t Destroy Society, but the ...


Source: Michael Thau

The Washington Post recently touted “an alarming new scientific model” that warns that treating COVID-19 like a somewhat more severe strain of flu won’t cut it.  The model predicts over a million U.S fatalities unless we shut down all non-essential mingling until a vaccine is developed, “which could take 12 to 18 months at best.”

Pretty bleak stuff.  In fact, that’s about the bleakest take on COVID-19 you’ll find.

Let’s run with it.

Let’s momentarily not raise a fuss about having no reason to trust the model’s underlying algorithm or whatever unknown assumptions about the virus generated its scary predictions.  We’ll also ignore that there’s no chance the Washington Post or any other major media outlet would present a balanced picture by informing us of any expert opinions or data not supporting the paper’s dire take.  Furthermore, let’s just forget that there even are experts who think the media-generated panic about COVID-19 is a bigger problem than the virus itself.

We’ll also entirely ignore the media’s generally appalling track record concerning “expert” projections of hypothetical disasters.  In fact, we’ll ignore their altogether abysmal record of spreading misinformation when it matters most.  Pretend they never created a completely unjustified panic over the prospect of massive Y2K technology failures.  Nor remember they’ve been serially predicting we have only ten years ’til the Earth becomes uninhabitable from environmental damage for at least the last 50.

The preposterous and poisonous story that Donald Trump entered the White House as a Russian mole?  Ignore it.  The completely bogus “hands up, don’t shoot” narrative about Michael Brown that directly caused mass rioting and the assassination of at least a dozen cops?  Never happened.

We’re also going to have to forget that they utterly trivialized the very mortal threat posed by COVID-19 they’re hyping.  Avert your gaze from the idiotic ruckus over identifying the virus’s Chinese origin the media raised so they could, yet again, chant another round of malignant and infantile non sequiturs about Trump being a racist.

Finally, we’ll need to ignore that there’s no evidence that social distancing is even effective against the spread of COVID-19.  Studies have shown that it can work only against the flu, which itself isn’t even certain.  And the whole point of the extreme measures being pushed on us is that COVID-19 is orders of magnitude more dangerous, hence we can’t depend on even surefire strategies effective against the flu.  A medical expert interviewed for a FOX News piece promoting the effectiveness of social distancing says, “There are many moving parts and variables and bias implicated in [social distancing] studies.”  At the end of the day, she admits there’s no scientific reason at all to think the extreme measures we’ve adopted will accomplish anything.  It just comes down to “common sense,” which apparently is an acceptable guide only when it increases rather than ameliorates panic.

So we’ll ignore that, even during the proposed lockdowns, people will encounter others infected by COVID-19 and the many surfaces on which they’ve left traces of the virus on trips to grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas stations.  Most will also be getting packages by mail handled, breathed on, and likely sneezed and coughed on, too, by potentially infected carriers at various points in their journey.

Let’s momentarily sweep under the rug everything showing that we don’t have a clue whether the fear-induced voluntary extreme isolation and government-mandated shutdowns and bans to which we’ve so far passively acquiesced even serve a purpose.

Even though the reasons for believing it are worse than tenuous — indeed, even though you’d actually have to be pretty stupid to blindly trust any of the media’s threatening scenarios — let’s give the Washington Post some completely unearned benefit of the doubt.  For the sake of argument, we’ll accept that isolating ourselves and shutting down almost the entire economy is the only way to bring an otherwise unavoidable million-person death toll from COVID-19 down to just a couple hundred thousand and ignore any reason for thinking the latter might very well be the most we were likely to suffer anyway.

Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad

We’re now in a position to observe a remarkable fact.  The restrictions and spur-of-the-moment peremptory government abridgment of our most basic rights to which we’ve acquiesced are still completely unjustified.  The idea that we’re considering extending them indicates that we’ve completely lost our collective mind.

Eight hundred thousand additional deaths over the course of a year, while not to be taken lightly, isn’t a catastrophic increase.  In 2017, 2.8 million Americans died.  So our worst-case COVID-19 scenario is already less than a 29% rise.  Moreover, the average age of COVID-19 fatalities is 80.  In Italy, the country whose high fatality rate is supposed to make us panic, a whopping 88% had at least one other serious illness listed as cause of death.  Many had two or three.  So a significant number of projected U.S. fatalities are, sadly, out of time almost independently of the virus.

More importantly, though a year in which we averaged 9,900 instead of 7,700 deaths a day would be unpleasant and stressful, it’s the sort of natural misfortune that occasionally strikes human societies.  What little recovering society as a whole needed would be over in a few years.

Even the worst-case scenarios presented by our dishonest, fear-mongering media don’t present some kind of unique catastrophe the likes of which no human society has ever faced and for which it’s impossible to predict the long-term damage or even if we’ll ever recover.

The same, however, can’t be said for the insane idea of an extended period of time living under draconian government-enforced social and economic sanctions.  Virtually every single brick-and-mortar business in America could wind up out of business, and unheard-of levels of unemployment are guaranteed.

The Great Depression, with its suicides and bread lines, saw a first-year decrease in U.S. GDP of only 8.5%.  The next year, it decreased just 6.4%.  In the third and final year of significant economic downturn, GDP went down 12.5%.  Can anyone seriously think completely shutting down the U.S economy doesn’t have the real potential to yield those numbers?

The economy isn’t a collection of isolated sectors not affecting each other.  If 80% of U.S. brick-and-mortar businesses go under and unemployment reaches 30%, the reverberations will be catastrophic and long-term.  There’s no reason to think we won’t cause shortages in medical supplies that over time will make the 800,000 fatalities we may have avoided from COVID-19 look small.

America is already suffering from a suicide crisis.  The decimation of American businesses and jobs resulting from a long-term shutdown of the entire U.S. economy is guaranteed to render many already struggling Americans’ lives too much to bear.

But we will be facing not just a nation devastated by massive business failure and unemployment.  We’ll be facing it under government decrees making us alone and isolated.  If you were trying to design the most malevolently evil plan possible for America, increasing the number of deaths by 25% for a year and concentrating them mostly among the old and the sick wouldn’t even come close.  But isolating everyone so he’s deprived of human companionship while inflicting a historically unprecedented economic catastrophe…that would be hard to beat.

Even if we accept the most hysterically alarmist U.S. predictions, blithely talking about isolating every single American as if humans were machines to whom companionship means nothing while outlawing most economic activity is madness.  It’s the societal analogue of someone who tries to cure a broken foot by strapping himself into a machine that stands a good chance of tearing his leg off.

“Whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad.”  All this casual talk of shutting down our economy and isolating everyone in America without considering the awful uncharted waters we’d be entering indicates we’ve become mad enough to destroy ourselves.

Moreover, if our leaders try to deprive of us of human companionship until COVID-19 is no longer a threat while strangling the economy to avoid something that, even in the worst-case scenario presented by our unreliable media, is a perfectly natural occurrence that history has shown humans handle and shrug off, one has to wonder: are our leaders mad, or are they trying to destroy us?