Lockdown cost

Discussion Source: https://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/terence-corcoran-another-knockdown-costly-100003356.html 


Another knockdown of costly COVID-19 lockdowns

Terence Corcoran

June 7, 2023

As the global economic costs of the COVID-19 lockdowns continue to build, measurable in trillions of dollars in losses that burden people everywhere, mainstream political and economic opinion continues to dodge the big question: Have these calculable lockdown losses, imposed by such liberal authoritarians as Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, produced the benefits promised when the pandemic controls were introduced more than three years ago?

The official political and media silence on this question is mystifying, even as more evidence points to the COVID control measures as a drastic policy overreach. A new research paper this week adds fresh data and analysis that support the argument that the benefits of lockdowns were minor relative to their staggering costs.

The paper, Did Lockdowns Work? The Verdict on COVID Restrictions, published by the market-oriented Institute of Economic Affairs think-tank in London, concludes that the number of COVID deaths avoided by lockdown measures in Europe and the United States in the spring of 2020 were “negligible.” In all, the lockdowns may have saved 23,000 lives in Europe and 16,000 in the United States — numbers that are small when compared with the routine annual 72,000 flu deaths in Europe and 38,000 in the United States.

The authors of the study — Jonas Herby in Denmark, Lars Jonung in Sweden and Steve Hanke in the United States — ran a comprehensive analysis of 32 COVID mortality studies by other researchers. They do not toss off their conclusions lightly and admit to limitations, but their 200-page paper is sophisticated, detailed and leads to important questions that still need to be answered. Lockdown techniques — shelter in place orders, business closures, school closures, limiting gatherings, travel restrictions, mask mandates — are each found to have had a limited impact on mortality.

If the mortality impact of the measures — in other words, the key benefit of the lockdowns — is negligible, then the implication is that the costs of the lockdowns massively outweighed the benefits. Herby, Jonung and Hanke do not attempt to calculate the costs of the measures in dollar terms — massive GDP losses, major government debt accumulation, youth education declines, loss of freedom and other effects that impose immediate and ongoing burdens on society. These burdens, they add, “will linger for decades … (and) leave a long-lasting scar on the world economy.”

My objective is not to review and analyze the complexities behind their research, but to raise the question: When will a fact-based and science-based approach to the COVID lockdowns get serious attention? Back in 2021, Simon Fraser University Professor Douglas Allen noted that despite the publication of thousands of academic papers on COVID-19, questions about the validity of the lockdowns were rarely heard, and when heard were branded as the views of extremists.

In his paper, COVID Lockdown Cost/Benefits: A Critical Assessment of the Literature, published last year in the International Journal of the Economics of Business, Allen observed that despite the volumes of research, “the ubiquitous media, public health, and political response to the pandemic has been one-sided, incomplete, and almost unchanging over the past year.”

From his cost-benefit work, Allen concluded: “Lockdowns are not just an inefficient policy, they must rank as one of the greatest peacetime policy disasters of all time” — a view shared by Steve Hanke of Johns Hopkins University, one of the authors of the new London paper. The lockdowns were “the biggest policy mistake of modern times,” says Hanke.

By Allen’s calculations, the costs were 141 times the value of the benefits. In a 2023 update to his analysis, Allen said that lockdown policies look to have been an even greater disaster than he had first calculated.

In the world of ubiquitous media and public health advocacy, anti-lockdown sentiment and conclusions are portrayed as right-wing rantism — although many of the same anti-lockdown views are held by academics on the political left. A paper by three Canadian academics laid out the left’s concerns. It was written by geographers Dragos Simandan of Brock University and Claus Rinner and Valentina Capurri at Toronto Metropolitan University. Their objective, noted in this space earlier this year, was to call for “sustained collaborative research effort that investigates why the Academic Left lost sight of established anti-authoritarian thinking during the pandemic.”

We need more than that, however. The spread of costly authoritarian non-economic freedom-killing policy spans the ideological spectrum. It also reaches deep into the official mainstream world of the media, financial institutions and global consultancies that from the beginning of the COVID pandemic did not raise even an eyebrow questioning national economic lockdowns.

While parts of the academic world are on the case, there are no signs that squadrons of bank economists and corporate policy gurus are examining the costs and benefits of the lockdowns. Where are the Accentures and McKinseys of the world? Too busy portraying the post-pandemic economic mess as the foundation for a “New Era of Economic Growth.” We are also stuck with a media mainstream that thrives on delivering the latest authoritarian agitprop, be it on pandemics, climate, wildfires, housing, social justice, Big Tech …