Jeffrey A. Tucker is Editorial Director for the American Institute for Economic Research.
He is the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press and eight books in 5 languages, most recently The Market Loves You. He is also the editor of The Best of Mises. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.
- Jeffrey TuckerEditorial Director for the American Institute for Economic Research
Welcome to Policy McCombs, a data focused conversation on tradeoffs.
I’m Carlos Kavala from the Saban Center for Policy at the University of Texas at Austin.
They would have with us Jeffrey Tucker, the editorial director of the American Institute for Economic Research.
Jeffrey writes on economics, technology, social philosophy and culture and has been a very active voice since the start
of the pandemic. Jeffrey, thanks for joining us. It’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me. So let’s go back
to March, early March. You started writing about there’s like maybe the second week of March 5 to go back to
the Web site here and found some few pieces. How are you thinking about what what was in your mind at the beginning of March,
maybe late February, as the news from China and Italy started writing and and
and you start see what our governments were starting to think about?
My first article on the topic was actually January 27, because I had
seen the news out of China and and I knew that the
U.S. government had quarantine powers. And. And I
had already been to the Senate from Disease Control’s website about the vastness
of the quarantine power. And it was very interesting to me because I don’t think that most Americans had any
clue that that such power existed, that they had the ability to just go into an entire
neighborhood and round everybody up or pull you out of your home or push you into a camp.
I was explaining explaining this and I and what I argued was that it was it was you shouldn’t
use acquainting power because people who are sick don’t want to get don’t don’t want
to be out and about. They don’t want to get other people sick and other people don’t want to get sick from them. So that’s what my argument was,
that we had society contains within itself a mechanism to manage diseases
without the kind of enormously coercive and disruptive thing we call acquainting power. Now,
that was interesting article because at that time nobody was really talking about Kogut. You know, there
we have a tendency with disease to think it’s always over there, but it can would be here and there. And that’s
wherever you are. You always think the disease is somewhere other than where you are.
That’s sort of that’s been true since ancient world. So in those days, people weren’t thinking about.
Covidien coming here. But most pressure is Kranti because, you know, we live in a globalized economy
and viruses don’t expect Bautista’s is ridiculous. And we know now in retrospect that coverture I’ve
been here probably is in December. But Americans wouldn’t believe it anyway.
I get really heavily criticized for that article because people said it was alarmist. They said, look, look, this is ridiculous.
The idea that the Center for Disease Control is going to work with FEMA and the State Department
to round people up, who is sick? What could possibly be the point of that? That’ll never happen in this country.
And I had several radio interviews on it, and they were they were kind of
saying, well, this is so extreme. It’s ridiculous. But, you know,
what was interesting is that.
I hadn’t thought about the subject are all between then and about February 28,
and that was when the New York Times podcast, which I listened to. I used to listen to very
carefully to find out what was going on. You know, what’s what’s in the air, what’s
coming. Take The New York Times always gets its way in a strange way and is the leading
journalistic venue in the United States. And eventually, every other venue follows them, whether it’s The Boston Globe
or the Los Angeles Times or whatever it may be. Chicago Sun-Times. They all
follow The New York Times. And on February 28, they had an interview with a virus reporter
there named Daniel McNeil. And New York Times delivered
kind of a voice for sanity and sobriety and calm. And I was a little centre-Left, you know,
but always very much in favor of.
Not too much disruption. Keeping keeping the peace. That seems to be their line.
Well, February 28, I had an interview with McNeil, who told the listeners,
the three million listeners of this daily podcast that covers 19
will kill eight point two five million people
in the United States unless we lock down the economy.
So I thought moment I thought that is weird. And he added,
six of your friends will die from carbon 19. And I thought, this
is this is not normal. This is strange. And Chris didn’t believe a word of it.
But but but what struck me as odd was the fact that they were actually going
good, saying this is completely unlikely in your attempts to do that. I wanted to really fuel
a kind of media panic. So I really smelled a rat. From then on, and I really
started directing our editorial attention to trying to dial back the panic and that sort of thing.
And I’m not sure you may be right that my next article was maybe the first week of March
or some kind. I’m not entirely sure, but we started running editorials about it to
exam the demographics, to report on what serious epidemiologists
were saying, contrary opinions. John I had an I o danas I noticed
from Stanford University was was I really radion stat news? And this is what
we’re considering here. This is a catastrophe. So we really did throw ourselves into
it as best we could, provided some balance to what was. What
was what emerged between February 20th and something like March 15th was a new
kind of media consensus. And you could see it happen in real time because even
even the first week of March, center left journals of opinion in this country were calling
for calm. Psychology Today says your doctor is not worried about Kogut. You shouldn’t be either.
Slate magazine said it’s not that deadly. It’s actually a mild, mild flu. Like saying
flu. Flu like a cold. And meanwhile, the
right right wing has country. I mean, some some right wingers in this
country, we’re we’re we’re being all apocalyptic about it. They were the ones that were saying
there. They’re saying like what The New York Times is saying, we’re going to die. A good thing you’re a prepper, but go
out and buy your groceries and toilet paper now. And that’s where they have been. Tucker Carlson, these guys
were in those days harsher, more alarmist about this than, say,
Psychology Today or Slate or The Washington Post. So what we saw in those first
two weeks of March was a like a weird bending of of of the
national conversation. So I was leaning more and more towards locked down. The drumbeat just grew
and grew and grew. Where do you think that came from? You think that had a lot
to do with epidemiologists models that came out. And a lot of the people that I talked to,
I think put a lot of focus on the bureau college model. The question
in everybody’s mind and and the reverse, of course, of the UK
turn a lot of minds around here as well. It was very interesting because there are a number of epidemiological
establishments around the country. The chance of Johns Hopkins, Stanford was actually University,
Oxford University. And there’s the Imperial College, the Imperial College
prediction of 2.2 million deaths in America. Unless we socially distance floods criminal. The staff
became the dominant theme. They somehow won out. I
don’t think it was an accident. They’d won out in getting press attention and that’s what flipped things.
I think that might have been fair remembering correctly March 14th from that when
the news of that of that model came out. But already, already
on March 9th, 10th and 11th and 12th,
you can see things changed and there was a drumbeat in the air
for lockdown so they could feel it. I was on a train to New York. I had Broadway tickets
that weekend going to a Blue Note concert the next night and so on. As
headed into New York for a television interview and I got that interview done, hop right back on the
train and got back back home. And I was glad to be safe because I had a sense that they were gonna shut down Amtrak.
So it was getting really intense out there. So it was a media fueling panic. The public
was genuinely scared because people didn’t know what to do, what this what was really happening,
what. So anyway, that so all my research just got busy and
started examining things like why do we have a problem with hospital scaling or do we
have a problem with hospital scaling? What was the basis of the school closings that happened?
You know, March 15th, something like six. Why did why do we think
that the cupboard magically appears when when when ten people stand together
or it spreads and shearers or why did we say why did we adopt
a Cudi theory of viruses? I mean, why did we think that if you run away from the virus,
that the virus will get bored and go home? That that was the weirdest. That’s the
level of public ignorance about about virus basics that my mother always knew
was amazing. The idea that occurred was never to avoid the virus. It
was to slow the pain so the hospitals should scale. But once it
became clear that there wasn’t a scale and problem with hospitals, then there is a second rationale that was introduced
which was you should just stay away from the virus, which is not true.
It turns out lethality under the age of 65 is is is is barely even
registers as 0.02. That’s not even the thing. You know, whether
half the kids are asymptomatic, I can go through all this, you know. But so we started trying to pump out
information to be. Contrary point of view,
and one of the ways I began to do this was to look back at other really serious
epidemics in the 20th century and examine how society responded.
And so I started with 68 69 Hong Kong flu.
I wrote all about that and pointed out that The New York Times at that time was saying, everybody, calm down. It’s
you know, if we can get we can get it get we can get immunities to this is no problem. You can take
vaccine. But there weren’t that many did also talk
about that. I want to say so were the sort of magnitude about the 1968
pandemic. There were there were 100, 100000 people died from
it. And it was it was not so focused demographically as
as Cuban, 19, very young people, a lot of young people died from it. So it was it was kind of a scary
thing. But it’s like all viruses, you know, you get the virus, you get the immunity. So that’s why it worked. And
so I wrote this. I wrote those articles. And by the way, the. The
lifespan of the average American that was in those days were 10 years shorter than it is now, so it’s 68.
So and also the population is a lot smaller. I can’t remember the exact number. So in a sense,
if you scaled that that death and a thousand deaths up to a
adjusted for the population and for the age, it was
a much more serious, serious pandemic then what we’re going through right now. So so I
put that article out and noticed right from it to print that that was the same year that Woodstock
occurred. And I thought that was really interesting that Woodstock occurred in the middle of a pandemic, which
is what I called the article. That article went wild because it
confused people with a serious pandemic and there is no newspaper
reports about it. There was just a little talk. But be careful. Kind of stuff. But otherwise,
the rock concerts and civil rights protests and everybody this went among the normal. As much by point
was just simply to say society can manage a disease better than than
than lockdowns and governments and quarantines. I was I was mapping so that I start going back in time. I went to 57,
And 116 thousand Americans stayed with the much. Again, I think we were only
once again, there are times that are better calm down. Medical professionals will handle this. It’s gonna be okay.
And so nobody paying attention has very little attention paid to it at all. And then
I went back through that 1949 to 1950, once polio scare,
which was that you talk about. Terrible. You know it here. One quick point
about the 57 58 is that that that flu was particularly vicious on
expectin mothers. So can you imagine if covered and particularly
targeted pregnant women, you know, how much panic there would be around today? So.
So that was a vicious disease, have far less cruel than covered
seven to eleven. I mean, look, through most wicked thing you can imagine, there were a little hotspots
where they shut swimming pools and things like that. But in all three of these pandemics, so they were all in
break because too many people were absent. There were no mandatory school closing.
To say nothing of Kassel’s cancelation of passports at the end of international travel would have been unthinkable
and nothing was done. The polio epidemic
in particular was was was horrible. So anyway, I began to really get curious what like why
did previous generations have a different attitude towards viruses? And it really comes about
in the post 1918 flu pandemic where there were some clothes in San Francisco,
Chicago and a few other places. And scientists later really regretted that. They thought that
was a wild overreaction. And then there became a consensus within the within
virology and epidemiology and immunologists and things that
that that the old way of running away from a virus was not
a workable way to manage virus, you know. And my mother knew this.
And they’re tired a whole generation after World War 2 about natural immunities and
vaccines and how this is for millions of years, humanity. Two thousand years have
what you might call it. Humanity is coexist with viruses. We need to learn rational ways of dealing with it. And we
did that the 20th century. So then the question became in my mind, what
happened and what went wrong? Where is the turning point
where we went from being smart to being stupid? And as far as I could tell, that turning
point came in 2006 and that’s where I found my most interesting
information. And that was what what what was that
turning point? Exactly. George Bush, would
you remember, had invaded Iraq after 9/11, and that didn’t go so
well. And he began to get very concerned about bioterrorism. He thought that
some bad guys were going to unleash chemical warfare on the United States and wanted to know what
to do about it. He read a book on the 1918 flu pandemic. He claims to read the
book. He probably has read the flaps. But he’s sent out an order to the
State Department, the Veterans Administration, to the CDC and FEMA that
he wanted all kinds of input for a national plan to deal
with bioterrorism and pandemic conditions.
And so there emerged in those days two broad camps.
One of the doctors. Who had old fashioned medical advice,
you get immunity. We build up herd immunity and it goes away. Don’t disrupt society.
But there is another camp that developed and really it started with
a guy named Robert Glass who was working out of a government laboratory
in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Never knew a first thing about viruses,
never studied them. He was a physicist and a computer modeler, and he was inspired
by his 14 year old daughter, Laura Glass connoisseur named Laura
Glass. And she was doing a high school science project to which she
was speculating about how you prevent the spread of a disease among high school students and came
up with this idea of social distancing. And it showed her father was a term coming
from from from from her. There is a whole new language apparatus that was invented
around this time. I don’t know if I think think figures, I think was Sarah Glass, not Laura,
but actually that term was used in that paper that came out in 2006. So he began to model
this as like what he called his eureka moment. And so he put together all his fancy 3-D
moving PowerPoint presentations. And that paper is the first one that I know of that use
the term social distancing. And then what they started at later started calling targeted,
targeted, layered containment or t._l._c. That’s a heck of a thing. And the curve flattening
analytics were the first time that appeared in that paper and so on.
It was signed by Robert Sarah, this academic. And one other authors
seems to vanish on the planet. Both Sarah herself went on to get a master’s in divinity, has
not talked to the press ever sense. She’s now 29 years old and nobody can get a hold of it has
pretty interesting. But they’re so there began to be this whole nother language apparatus
and they began to recruit other computer scientists. And this is read Bill Gates
and Gates Foundation come into it. So there began to be like this SIM City style modelers
who who actually don’t know anything about viruses. Bill Gates himself doesn’t know about viruses and watch several of its future
kids clearly. And so when they presented at the
White House and I talked to several people who were there at the time. Oh, let me just back up say.
So this paper came under incredible assault from
the entire epidemiological establishment and all them all the doctors. The leading
critic was a man named Donald Henderson. And he is the guy who crushed
the smallpox. He traveled all over the world and was basically responsible
for the eradication of smallpox. And so he wrote a brilliant response to this paper saying,
this is crazy, social justice is silly. You could do anything to make a virus go away
just by avoiding it. You should never shut the schools. If anything, you want the viruses spread
among schools. That’s a tremendously disruptive. You’ll ruin people’s life and possibly shut schools. You got to shut the malls
and theaters. And then also places workers. What you can do with the kids is suddenly the obvious. Take it home. The public
is subject to all kinds of abuse. We’re gonna cause mass unemployment and people are going to get hungry and you’re gonna
see a rise in suicides and everything. Everything he wrote
in that paper became true history. And he said are distressed at no point in disrupting
travel. By the time by the time we see the signs of the virus, a virus is already here. So shutting down travel
doesn’t do any good. There’s a brilliant response and full of passion and fire
and absolutely brilliant. She, by the way, died in 2016 was just incredible.
But but so I talked to one of them. So. So basically all these people came to a White
House meeting. It was kind of a big deal for them because they had never really been to the White House. You that the president
in states, you know, fussing over them. And so the doctors made
their presentations. Yeah. Henderson and his and his cap. And it’s like.
When the virus comes, you know, you don’t really know what it’s going to be. Could be a different strain of H1N1. It could be another strain.
There are demographic and different dentists who two levels of severity. It could be severe. It could be mild. Nobody
know if it’s severe or mild until after the fact or you can really do is a test,
watch and mitigate when people get sick,
make sure they get to get to the doctor. And if they know if it’s
just a lot of asymptomatic cases, you don’t worry about that. And then the virus burns itself out throughout her community.
Cancer has some fairly boring presentation. Bush was unimpressed. Next thing you
know, the computer scientists show up with their PowerPoint presentation, the 3D moving
models and a plan for basically a police state totalitarian takeover, a society where
everybody is forced to stand six feet apart and people live in refrigerator boxes for 3, 3 months
and so on. It’s like just cockamamie, crazy stuff, apocalyptic, crazy. But
the Bush administration was. Very impressed. Now these guys are all schooled
at the Kennedy School. But then the only thing about viruses either. Right. And so there is listen to presentations their size
and they’re going to the for the people. They had the splashiest, most apocalyptic vision and the biggest central player.
So after those three days of presentations, the Bush administration
ordered the CDC to pound out a plan in consultation
with all of these guys. His computer, Marlyn Case, was one of the two top
converse. This was the doctor who stood at the Veterans Administration named Carter Nuture,
and he became a convert to the to the glass vision himself. And
so over the over, the CDC in 2007 put out their first document
full of all these targeted layered containment strategy. Is Kuroda’s curve flattening, social distancing,
kind of Syria, which was a complete reversal of everything that CDC had ever said about
viruses and was it wasn’t as radical as the 2006 document from the bosses
and company. But it basically accepted the model of run away and stay away
from people, stay inside and hide. That was the CDC. See, this is
a huge coup, but the computer sciences against the epidemic, all
the real doctors and epidemiologists and medical professionals. Well, OK, now you have
a 14 year gap, right? Well, the next time they could have implemented that was 2009.
But hey, there is a financial crisis. I forgot about the avian flu or whatever.
You know, those this. H1N1. By the way, same same same damn thing that kids newsman’s
people in 1918 have all types of panic. What, in 2009? But they didn’t limit it.
And I guess about 20000 people died. 30000 or what? How many people died when that big deal.
But you could see that it seemed like it could have been a big deal, but nobody didn’t think there was financialcrisis. New President
Obama was injured in this crazy Bush theory of apocalypse. So
nothing happened. So then we have to fast-forward another another 11 years until this
virus comes along. And in the meantime, Bill Gates,
Bill Melinda Gates Foundation had shoveled hundreds of millions of dollars out to illogical
departments all over the world, not all of them, but especially the Imperial College people. So
they gradually began to kind of replace the old doctrines and new stuff with new fangled fancy pants.
Computer scientists, you know, like like Neil Ferguson, who’s who’s a physicist, never been trained in
math and medicine, a physicist taking over epidemiological departments.
People never cured a single disease, never saw a single patient. They’re just people, but made
Pac-Man and SIM City, you know, are now taking over a virus. So, sir, when this thing came
along, they started an email chain sometime in late,
late January and started whipping up a frenzy and getting people really scared. Medical professionals,
all these people were on the email chains and they got crazier and crazier
and crazier. And I know if you’ve ever been part of an email chain, you probably have been on my this
email. This was always like one or two people who dominate the list. And everybody else has to kind of go along with them because they’re in charge of the list.
Ricardo Mutua is the leading voice there. And he just began to step
late tonight. Skip Night’s Sleep is posting 20 messages a day and so on.
Finally, on March 12th, he delivered his manifesto sight in the glasses,
contra social distancing and targeted layer containment. And most especially shutting
down schools all over the country. And his
words were, let’s pull the trigger now. That was March 12th. And
that, as far as I can tell, is the memo that that turned up in the other direction. It got somebody saying
if you whipped up in a frenzy, that they just flipped out. And then I guess there’s two days later that no person
came out, says his paper. And the Trump administration caved,
blocked international travel, start weighing in on behalf of shutdowns
and so on. And the world fell apart and the rest is history. But then what
amazes me is that is that fortunately, we live in a country that has that has a federal
system where the president didn’t have the power to go or shut down the entire country.
And yet, of course, he has a lot of influence in the way he presents things that went how the city sees putting forward information
so on it. But it’s really amazing to me that 50 state in my 50, I think 49
states are put down. Stan shelter-in-place orders because
in our businesses and our getting 40 90, which is the same thing, is not it’s not easy. Forty nine
governors, although maybe maybe, you know, you can you can say that it’s not hard if you use your power provided
it was territory power. Don’t know. I think there were a number. There was a number
of things that had to go into the. Was the media panic, media pushing panic?
There wasn’t a political element to this. I think there is. You know, there’s there is a sense that
this is a great way to get Trump. I don’t think you can deny that that was a real factor here.
You had a real desire on the part of public health professionals now to
try out the new scheme. You know, they knew there was a kind of a social experiment. So they were very
ready for this and really wanted to give it a go. And it was this was last
three months, but they were ready to try it for like two weeks. And then once the powers
kind of got into play and and and then the weird nightmare became
our reality, then it’s just been hard to back off. Thank
God for like South Dakota. They never they never did anything. And their
death rates are. You know, that’s actually that’s the lockdowns. As far as, you know,
anybody can tell your town’s made no difference either way. I mean, it probably
ended up killing more people just once you consider, you know, mist
agnostics and hospitals and suicides and drug officers and domestic abuse.
Other estimates, probably more people died from the lockdown than from covered. But
a disease doesn’t care about your weird central plan. It just doesn’t add viruses. Viruses
have outsmarted, you know, every governor in this in this country and every president
around the world. And there were some nations that didn’t do that. South Korea did some contact tracing,
but at some testing. But they didn’t shut down Japan and shut down. Taiwan didn’t. So.
And Sweden. Sweden. And again, he did that. That’s what people seem to fail
to acknowledge, is that they like to focus on all of the death rate in Sweden as high as equal. The death
rate is going to webbys. And the question the only question we’re trying to avoid before it was a question of flattening the curve
of my not exceeding us capacity. And that’s proved right that you can have a open society
and not go to an explosion of off cases to deal with. But
yeah, it seems incontrovertible, incontrovertible to me that that all the policies of the last three months
have completely failed, not to mention, you know, disregarding human rights
and shutting down more than 100000 small businesses. I mean, it’s just been it’s been unbelievable
catastrophe. And what’s weird to me now is that you don’t see
a lot of voices out there where you see basically none of the governors,
not even those who forced covered patients into nursing homes, nursing homes, long term care facilities
account for about 40 percent of the DSM covered. And a lot of them that was complete unnecessary because of the
lockdowns distracted us from the real growth. What we should have done is shut the nursing homes down
to protect it from the virus. So outside with some people, you don’t want to get the virus and that’s people
that don’t get the virus. There are people who are vulnerable, who fatally are vulnerable to this
thing, and we should have focused on that. Instead, we forced cozad patients into the nursing homes,
as they did in Iraq, and even prevented nursing homes from testing people as they came in. Unbelievable.
So that was that was just an amazing catastrophe. But despite this
astonishing three months we’ve lived through it, you still see
the apologies. I mean, I don’t think that there has been a single governor or a mayor in this country
who come out. So, you know, I was crazy. That is what will Cuomo has show some some signs
a couple times are like, yeah, I don’t know. Maybe we shouldn’t have done it. They still would have done what it did anyway.
And if you don’t control over it, I think it says I’m comfortable with
it. It’s funny because he’s maintaining the lockdown more than more than any other state. I mean.
That’s right. But I got going back going back to March. The one thing that that that I
know you have this a group of people with this idea of, OK, you’re lockdowns. It’s going to be the way to deal with this.
And and, you know, you and I live live in the world. We’re talking out to economists,
for example. And and, you know, tradeoff evaluation is that isn’t the core
of everything would do. Right? Well, here’s a policy. There’s some good, some bad. And let’s try to evaluate
that and think about a different different ideas of the other straight often and make a decision, make
a decision based on whatever the utility function of the decision maker is. And it strikes me that there was
absolutely none of that taking place at that point in time. I think you can point to one
paper early on by by by somebody, a Chicago Michael Grant Greenstein. I think
it said something like using a value of like five or six million dollars per life. And if you assume that
you know that what they’ve done in the geology are telling you that if you don’t do anything, 2.2
million people would die. And if you locked down, I don’t know, 100000 people going to die down. You know,
multiply 2.1 million times six million and you get a pretty big number and you might say, oh,
it’s worth just shutting down the economy. But but that was just not enough
of that kind of discussion. It’s not enough. All legislation discussion on this as opposed to
just giving emergency powers and a number of unintended thank you things that you
already mentioned, things about about child child abuse or mental health issues,
etc. Now, that was considered in in the calculation. That’s
right. And then you wrote a lot about individual liberties. That’s something
that that was just not I think your you were one of the few horses that I saw consistently making that
point, that just being house arrest have a bill of rights. We have
a constitution that, you know, they’re stages. They’re taking place. You’re shutting down a business operated
equivalent to takings. Right. You know, where we’re at, where our friends
that defend our liberties. Where are the ACLU? Where are. Why do they.
I don’t know. It’s a little confusing. I I’ve never
in my wildest dreams imagined that anything like this would happen. And the reason
is that I thought we were too smart to do something like this. As I was thinking
about this more and more, though, I’ve been thinking that maybe haik
shed some schruder cakes, shed some light on this. So what happens in the
midst of peace and prosperity where everything’s functioning really well and we have access
to food and travel and theaters and sports and life going on as normal
is that we we gain an illusory sense that people are really intelligent, but what’s actually,
you know, and smart and that social media is making a smart or that we’ve got access
to information, you know, and that we’re somehow causing society to function
really well. And so therefore, nothing bad can happen. But what’s actually happened is a little more closer to what
HYG describes, describes social processes
as themselves, really intelligent, not constructed by any
smart person, but rather the intelligences of millions
and billions of people are embedded in institutions
like prices and interest rates and social norms and knowledge that we
have about supply chains. And this knowledge is extremely decentralized,
but there are certain kinds of things that are embedded in the market process or in social
norms and that sort of thing that cumulate to Serzh and put it together in a way that makes life function
really well. But that doesn’t mean we are smart as individuals. We might
all be unbelievably stupid if we just create we have an illusion
that we’re unusually smart because we’re so prosperous and peaceful and life works.
So what happened with the lockdown is once once you put you take a sledgehammer
and you smash all those institutions new crushed the price system, you and you
and you bludgeons supply chains and you shut down people’s businesses and making
it possible for their stores to function. They worked for it for people to go out to restaurants or whatever.
And you do this across the board and you do it in three days. What you what you’ve done is you’ve taken
the intelligence of society and and put it through a meat grinder. And all
you’re really left with is what you’ve always had all along, which just is a bunch
of extremely stupid people.
And that’s what we’ve been exposed to over the last few months. We’ve found out how
unbearably each of our successes, our social interactions here and our system.
And if you break that and then our success goes away. Yeah. And all you’re left with is
a bunch of a fearful people who forget about things like human liberty
or the constitution or virus theory. You know, just like every kind
of level of of of appalling ignorance that you could ever expect from humanity we’ve
all experienced over the last few months. This is one of the reasons people are so unhappy.
You know, all the surveys show that people have never been unhappy. People haven’t been this unhappy since World War One.
And the reason is that we’ve all been exposed to the shocking reality that we’re
not very smart, but we do really stupid things all the time that
aren’t the intelligence that we want is embedded in social institutions. It’s out
there. It’s institutionalized, but it’s not it’s not any one particular person’s smartness.
So we put a bunch of fifty central planners into 14 and central planners in charge and travel.
The whole world just falls apart. So I think I think the expansive last few months have really
verified was very profound insight that that
occurred. And the high that the knowledge problem is something that I was I was not writing necessarily
about in the beginning was always very worry when we start using the terms essential non-essential.
A central planner is able to know what’s a central non-sentient or even, you know, we like to tell stories
like the ISIS or our students watch that video and nobody knows what to make on Bessel. So
what is essential to make the point so we don’t know. So to deem this thing essential, that activity essential,
not understanding how all the supply chain goes behind it and makes, I think possible works.
I actually I actually I’m shocked and that that we did not see disruptions in
supply of goods. There were severely worse than what we saw. The market really did save
us. The market really market the market and the big businesses that think if anybody out there is complaining about their business these days
and I thank God for big businesses, they were the grocery stores, the Wal-Marts. And they’re just phenomenal.
They’re amazing. What they did was miraculous. That allows us to continue for the most part of
our lives. So so but at this day, I thank for it for it. There’s in order to exist
something that that a lot of politicians, a lot of a lot of folks these days have. And it’s it’s unfortunate they don’t
take the message from my heart. Well, I think I think, if anything, this should drive us to
read more seriously about how can you know? In the end, I think this experience is going
to work. It’s going to be defining for a whole generation people. And it’s going to make us really curious
about things that we’ve never been curious about before. The history of disease,
household pro-social processes, work. You know what what thinkers are out there that explain the failure of central
planning because it has been tried and it has failed. You know, what
is it we can rely on in the case of of emergencies where if it’s a genuine pandemic, you know, what
should we do next time? We’re going to learn a lot from this experience. And I hope one of the lessons we will learn
is to never, never lock down, never take that sledgehammer to social processes ever again. Donald
Henderson was right. The most important thing you can do in the middle of a pandemic is
keep society functioning. That’s the only way. So let’s talk about that, because we’re
we’re in to help. Not a situation where lots of governors are opening up. I mean, for the most part, we are
back to normality in this. As far as much as possible, at least here
in Texas, things are somewhat normal. But. But
fair enough. Cases are coming back in some places and again, as expected. Is anybody
that have any idea about the progression of disease who I wish to sneak away? Right. It’s around us is going to be
around us for a while. And I feel that a movement for for the prolog
down this discussion is coming back. We’ll see you open it up too early. Now it’s gonna come back
and say, this is serious. It’s so crazy because the whole idea with a lockdown
was not really to get rid of the virus. It was to slow it spread. Not that
it’s not going to do anything about that on
net the number of people who are going to get infected or die from this. The idea was to somehow control
the pace at which it. Which, by the way, I’m not convinced that that that that happened. But
let’s say it did work well. All you’re doing is kicking the can down the road. So you would expect then
infections and deaths to rise after the emancipation, which I don’t think has really happened. I mean,
look, if you look at hospitals, hospitalizations nationwide there, they’re really, really down there up
in Texas. But that’s part of the reason for that, is that Texas has some pretty wicked laws about getting
rid of elective surgeries and and hospitals in
Texas that basically emptied out for three months. I they are furloughing workers all over the place. So now that
things are loosened up a little bit, a little more inclined to go to the hospital, the news, you know, you’re more inclined
to close your doctor, whereas before you were afraid, you didn’t know what would happen if you got covered. They’re going to they’re
going to trace trace all your friends and neighbors and arrest them, you know, as a Crisco type. So I think
that’s one of the reasons for the increase in hospitalizations and in Texas. But it’s also possible that,
you know, it’s possible that there’s an uptick, right? Of course. I got I got to tell you, though, privately
to epidemiologists associated with who with one of the smartest institutions in this country have told
me privately that this thing peaked in April and it’s gone now. So
they won’t say this publicly, but they’ve told me that privately. I don’t know if that’s true. I
can only hope. I would agree with you that that I would hope that that the lockdown
vernacular is going to be gone. But what I think I’m afraid that we’re going to find ourselves
in discussions, political discussions that, again, would would now learn from what what we’ve done here so far. And again,
I did a cataloging of the costs that we face is just gigantic and the benefits are questionable. So
why even consider that? That’s like the sledgehammer. Here’s that. I’ll tell you a funny story actually about
the kinds of costs that we’ve faced. It was about a month ago I started it because I had
I had at some point in my life had a what you call a root canal. And my legs
left malaria essentially a little bit something. Am I right? Mullainathan Oh, crap. I need to get
a root canal some here in Massachusetts, but I don’t really have a dentist here. sesto
Klein around the. Well, we’re closed. And we’re only open for emergencies, and I well,
wouldn’t a root canal qualify? And they said, well, maybe, but you have to be a patient.
You have to have a preexisting patient. You have to have a relationship. Right? Oh, this is terrible. So
I called my mother, who lives in Texas. And I said, hey, mom, I usually come to the
dentist. I can visit you. Can you just give a quick call here to the dentist there and
tell them that I may have a look down and may have to take a flight down? Have to get that, she said. OK. So she called
them up and they said, well, it’s true, he is a patient here. However, we have a rule
that if you arrive in Texas from another state, you have to be in quarantine
for two weeks before you can see us. So I said, sir, ma’am, what you’re telling me
is that I need to. I mean, if this if this is bad, it’ll give me that she made it up. She wants
to stay for two weeks. Maybe it’s
gonna get bad. Three days. Was gonna get bad side. I said, Mama, this is terrible. But we
we don’t have dentistry in this country. Least for me. We got rid of dentistry.
And so my only hope is that I’m wrong. Well, it turned out I was wrong. I got better
and it wasn’t a problem. So thank God for that. But it was so terrifying. But then for
a couple of days to think that if I desperately needed a root canal, I could not get blood
because it looked so unbelievable. So little things like that quarantine rule. You know, that’s
a design I couldn’t have taken two weeks off work. That’s just utterly insane. So this is the kind of thing and
one of the things I’ve done routinely throughout this crisis is I write my Twitter
followers and ask them. I’m writing an article on the psychological toll. Tell me about it.
I get flooded with these terrible emails, a sad, sad story. So it was a shocking and a experiences
are different. And another one of as people to tell me about miss diagnostics
or miss surgeries and missed things that the
things that they would plan to go to the hospital for. And I got, again, a whole flurry of terrible
stories of a woman feels a lump in her breast. You know, she can’t get it
checked out. Some of these people missing their cancer, their chemo treatments and stuff
because those are considered elective. And so, I mean, it’s like one should put it all together
and you start chronicling all these catastrophes. I mean, like 41
percent of the business failures in this. Among
among African-American owned businesses, 41 percent are now out of business.
United States because of because of lockdowns. Yeah. And that’s one thing that is very, I think, incompatible
with with a lot of these social movies that we have in the country right now. So
we have had this enormous focus on inequality in the past 10 years, that the word inequality became a central
part of our discussion in politics and policy. And yet we decided to go on to
something that it’s obvious the worst possible thing for inequality is
the jobs that you can maintain our jobs. We can’t work from home and our kids are going to be okay.
And meanwhile, the most vulnerable, the poor, our societies are ones suffering the most. They’re losing their jobs.
Their the business got closed. They’re the kids. They’re going to be suffer more. They don’t want to get more affected
by it, by disruption, health, healthcare. It’s just unbelievable. It’s a shock.
And I don’t know, you know, it’s very interesting, too. Like it was reflected on this today,
even read in The New York Times and some of the mainstream press did not want to talk about
the lockdown. See, they then look at all the. Disaster
that’s happened over the last few months and they’re inevitably blaming the various.
They always do this and they don’t want to talk about what what actually happened. His face trend has become like a
almost like a taboo, but that can’t possibly last is ridiculous. I think he will
look back at this in 5, 10 years and just be in utter shock how we could have taken
the peaceful, prosperous nation and triggery with
a roaring economy and happy people and just in a matter
of three days in March decided to destroy everything. It’s in
the name of virus mitigation. It’s just that does happen to ASRS is
a shock of my lifetime. I can’t believe it. And and we’re gonna have to come to terms
with it psychologically, intellectually and every other way to make a prediction. So go
before we close it out. What’s the what do you think the next year must look like? I think,
Rita, most people have moved on from Cruet already and are fed up.
So the governor is gonna be under increasing pressure to restore normalcy. And
I think it’s gonna be about six months. But eventually,
people, once they decompress from this experience, like right now. People are really over it in the sense that they
don’t even think about it happening. It’s like what you said about Texas, things seeming normal.
You just want as much of life back, you know. But in six months now, people are gonna be pissed. PTSD
will start to go away a little bit and we’re gonna have to. I think there’s going to be a mass movement
in this country against lockdowns. And we’re going to extract promises from
every one of our elected leaders never to do anything like this again. I think in a weird
way. And here’s the other thing. The lockdown is themselves. I mean, the CDC
has been discredited. The FDA, you know, all these people. And by the way, one
good thing coming out of this is this is the third movement against qualified immunity and police unions
in this country. So that was really good. That’s that’s a good thing. So I think in this
in a way, even though we’re not can get our output back economically for a very long time,
we may get if everything remains painted today, we may get 90 percent of it back by December. But
I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think it’s gonna probably we’re gonna be in for a rough two or three years before things get back,
even in a rare close to normal. But I think in the end, it’s going to be good for the cause
of freedom of commerce and capital investment.
And we’re gonna we’re gonna figure out ways to restrain the states so that nothing like this ever happens again. But I’m
I’m an optimist. That’s but that’s what I would idea. I can only hope you’re right, because there’s
that there are safeguards have to be strengthened. This is not this is not okay.
Thank you so much. This is wonderful. And thanks for all your writing. Then very I want to share a lot of it with
our students. And. Yeah. Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.
Thanks for listening to Policy McCombs.