Realist, not conformist analysis of the latest financial, business and political news

Ending The Lockdown

What if we’re treating this coronavirus the wrong way?

This paper from the London School of Economics does not actually tell us when we should end the lockdown. Partly because their model makes assumptions about what is worthwhile and all that. Partly because the values they apply to what is worthwhile can be argued about. As they themselves agree.

However, the base logical structure that they use is entirely correct. Well, I would say that, obviously, given that one of the writers of it was one of those who tried to jam economics into my head in the first place.

The time to release the lockdown is when the net benefits of doing so become positive.
1. The net benefits include many items, some positive and some negative, and their size varies over
time.
On the positive side, releasing the lockdown
(1) increases people’s incomes now and in the future.
(2) reduces unemployment now and in the future.
(3) improves mental health, suicide, domestic violence, addiction, and loneliness.
(4) maintains confidence in the government.
(5) restores schooling.
As time progresses, the positive effects will increase in magnitude.
On the negative side, releasing the lockdown
(1) increases the final number of deaths from the virus (as well as from other conditions which may
get undertreated if health services become overstretched with COVID-19 patients).
(2) increases road-deaths, commuting, CO2 emissions, and air pollution.
2. To compare the different effects requires a common metric. We propose as a metric the number of
Wellbeing Years (WELLBYs). This metric is analogous to the QALY metric which has been
successfully used in the NHS for 20 years. It should now be extended to all fields of public policy.

There’s a bit too much reliance there on expressed preferences rather than revealed to my taste but that’s partly because some of the LSE mind-programming didn’t take hold with me.

But still, the time to release the lockdown is when the net benefit of doing so is greater than the cost of doing so. Yes, this does mean some people die. But then life has a value, it is necessary to place that value against the other things that we humans also value.

We can even make adjustments for that bruised finger and millions of Chinee point but it’s still true, our aim is to maximise the value that humans in aggregate can enjoy from being in this time and place.

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jgh
jgh
11 months ago

Surely the counterpart to QALY is WELLY.

ScottR
ScottR
11 months ago
Reply to  jgh

Surely a better counterpart to Wellbeingyear is a WELBY. Rhyming slang could make that a Justin.
We could then have discussions about the value of a Justin, how many Justins could be saved by …., etc.
Sorry, it’s what passes for humour in my mind.

ScottR
ScottR
11 months ago
Reply to  jgh

Admittedly, your WELLY could lead to a revival of Billy Connolly’s weel kent song – If it wisnae for your WELLYs whar wid ye be?…

Spike
Spike
11 months ago

So the time to restore our rights is when a bureaucrat computes that the benefits outweigh the costs? No, the time was a month ago when we realized this pesky chest cold is not the plague! Bureaucrats hyped the false models and counted fatalities dishonestly. They are never going to compare costs and benefits so as to deny themselves power and deny the Chief Executive a nightly TV crisis press conference! Tim, how many more times are you going to posit for the sake of argument (carbon tax) that the political system won’t act politically?

Spike
Spike
11 months ago
Reply to  Spike

And especially, “cost” number (2): To decide when to return to liberty, we must factor in the “cost” of prosperity? Why, the State might decide it doesn’t want prosperity at all! As Wayne Allyn Root wrote over the weekend, Covid really was a dry run for Green socialism!

PJH
PJH
11 months ago

“(3) improves mental health, suicide, domestic violence, addiction, and loneliness.”

I’m sure that could have been worded better..

Esteban
Esteban
11 months ago

Still a bit stunned how rarely people question why it’s appropriate for the gov’t to wreck Bob’s life because their model says it will probably save somebody else’s.

Phoenix44
Phoenix44
11 months ago
Reply to  Esteban

If it only it was “probably”. “Might” if the one combination of assumptions we have chosen for our model, out of the tens of thousands of possible combinations, just happens to be the correct one.

Spike
Spike
11 months ago
Reply to  Esteban

That is another good point, Esteban, there will have to be computer models with which to tally these criteria for returning to Constitutional government, and I sure hope they’re better than the one that told us Covid was the plague in the first place (or that Hillary Clinton was going to win in 2016 in a landslide).

Nigel Molesworth
Nigel Molesworth
11 months ago
Reply to  Esteban

Equally stunned that you would think it inappropriate to try and answer this version of the trolley problem? My money would be on June 1st. Given all the uncertainties, the minute you could justifiably say benefits were outweighing negatives you’d move.

Pat
Pat
11 months ago

No, ending the lockdown does not affect the eventual death toll from Covid. Not even if we were to go from social distancing to kissing strangers. What it would do is increase the number dying now and reduce the number dying in the future. The point and purpose of the measures put in place was to ensure that everyone sick had access to proper medical care. This is because the death rate with proper treatment is vastly lower than the death rate without it. So long as healthcare capacity is adequate throughout the outbreak flattening the curve is simply prolonging… Read more »

John B
John B
11 months ago
Reply to  Pat

Isn’t it the case that around half those who died didn’t get the much vaunted NHS health care, as they were housed in virtual slaughter houses where ‘good’ infection control and lockdown ensured they did not have to socialise to get it, staff brought it to them? Other victims were already in hospital for other conditions and the NHS gave them extras. Many others died at home because the NHS staff were huddled in their trenches waiting for the assault and complaining about their kit. The Germans by contrast sent mobile teams to patients with symptoms or at-risk and began… Read more »

John B
John B
11 months ago

‘increases the final number of deaths from the virus…’ It seems many still believe the virus causes severe disease and mortality across all parts of the population, rather than being restricted to less than about 1%. High rate of attrition in those in the finite group for whom the virus is fatal, means the number left still to die is decreasing. Removing lockdown will have little effect since although infections may increase, suitable candidates for mortality will become increasingly sparse and difficult for the virus to find. Since the NHS is no longer available to treat people with anything other… Read more »

CJ Nerd
CJ Nerd
11 months ago

At the risk of being considered a pendant: the point about 100,000,000 Chinese lives versus an injury to oneself is based on whether one would lose a finger, not bruise a finger.

Adam Smith – Quotes – Quotable Quote

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