The containment crisis has a future cost. It will be economic and political. Take the latter first. This crisis of political confinement, in my opinion, will really only affect right-wing parties. Left-leaning parties (I’m about to generalize) tend to be populated by voters who trust big government and for whom equality concerns easily outweigh freedom concerns. On the left, to continue to generalize you understand, these are the parties of civil servants, the caste of human rights lawyers, the wealthy classes, the university classes, public broadcaster and HR of companies, the signallers of virtue (but I repeat myself) and those on welfare. Hardly any of these groups have fared badly from the pandemic and the brutal, despotic, heavy-handed government responses we’ve seen pretty much everywhere outside of Sweden, Florida, South Dakota, a few other states Americans and some islands like Iceland and Taiwan. . In fact, most have been very successful. The super-rich have done super well. To be blunt, these castes had no skin in the game when it came to the costs of these freedom-crushing “non-pharmaceutical interventions” and small businesses. (And my Lord, I hate those Orwellian acronyms.)
On the other hand, all center-right parties have a part of their electoral base that really cares about freedom issues. Now, the big tent, the broad coalition that makes up the center-right parties certainly includes your low-tax types, some of whom aren’t too restless anyway once you leave the economic sphere. And there are social conservatives, some of whom (not all, but some) aren’t too concerned about freedom issues at all. But it’s undeniable that a notable portion of all right-wing political parties are made up of voters who care deeply about freedom issues, many of whom have fared very poorly in the pandemic. And let’s be clear, I mean they got it wrong because governments unenthusiastically chose to emulate the “copy China and weld them into their houses” strategy. You know. Here we are in November 2019 with a World Health Organization pandemic plan based on a century of data that says “never shut down, never shut down schools, give people the information.” Yet other than in Sweden really (whose wonderful chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said ‘I just copied the existing UK and WHO plans’, which the data showed was the right approach), this is thrown out the window after China welded residents of a few cities into their homes and journalists are taking the porn scare route in their reporting from Italy.
Well, as I said, the costs hit a segment of the center-right parties’ political base massively. The lives of many people have been irretrievably ruined. And many are not in forgive-and-forget mode, even if those same right-wing parties no longer want to talk about their despotic approaches to a pandemic. At this point I usually receive all sorts of unsolicited (and often hostile) emails telling me how wonderfully Australia has done in its response to the pandemic. Heck, half of Sky After Dark hosts and three-quarters of opinion writers in the Australian keep saying it. In my view, this is patently false. UNSW academic Gigi Foster has spent the last year collating the data and she says it’s nothing like 40,000 lives that the Morrison government’s approach “let’s not say a bad word about from any despotic lockdown anywhere in the country” saved. At most, it wasn’t even 10,000. In quality-adjusted life years, that was again a much less impressive number. But that’s just one piece of the cost-benefit ledger, deaths ‘with and because of’ Covid. On the other side, there will be all kinds of deaths from the lockdowns themselves. These data are starting to flow. In the US, more people died from alcoholism than from Covid in 2021. Wondering why? There are missed health checks. Two years of schooling that poor children will never, ever catch up on, and which will have big effects on health. And get this. An extensive review of the pandemic literature and meta-analysis of Johns Hopkins by Professors Hanke et al. now calculates the “how many Covid deaths did the lockdowns save compared to Swedish pre-vaccines” at just over 2%…. [so] “has had little to no effect on Covid death rates”. Remember, this is the sum total of the benefits side of the ledger. Meanwhile, the costs will be, devilishly, immense. And these authors have a small section that relates to Australia. When you look at island nations – Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan – there is almost no statistical difference in Covid deaths per million despite some countries (think Oz, think New Zealand) being despotic and others (think Iceland, think Taiwan) being much, much closer to the Swedish approach. All of the island nations have done extremely well. I wonder what the lockdownistas have to say about this? Well, nothing of course.
But here’s the thing. Some of us on the right of the political spectrum will not forget what our side of politics has done to us. That’s one of the reasons the Morrison government lost, I think (and why I’m glad they lost). That is why, in the province of Alberta, the Conservative Prime Minister was, a fortnight ago, dismissed from his side of politics; he had yielded too much to the despots. That’s why Boris is in big trouble in Britain and people are obsessed with a few 30-minute parties – because if you’re going to impose incredibly irrational rules on everyone and make the police enforce them, then if you are caught cheating, it is not. is going to help you plead “we need a bit of a step back here”. And let’s be clear, Boris has shown infinitely more determination to stand up to the fearmongers than ScoMo ever has – just remember the 1,200 supposed UK public health experts who wrote the open letter in mid- 2021 saying the sky would fall if Boris opened up. Boris did it anyway and it’s not. But we on the right are still angry and want the “politicians on our side” to learn a big lesson. Compare that to Governor Ron DeSantis in Florida who locked himself in for no more than a fortnight, then realized it was wrong and went straight to the Swedish approach. He was literally called a “grandma killer” by the media. Last election, DeSantis barely passed the Democrat; he now has a lead of more than ten points – the reward for political bravery!
So that’s the political side. Saving is easy. All but the ultra-Keynesian economists believe that inflation is everywhere and always a monetary phenomenon. Print money like a Zimbabwean and borrow and spend like a drunken sailor and (modern monetary theory notwithstanding) there will come a day of reckoning. It could well bring stagflation and worse in its wake. This will partly be another effect of the pandemic response, even if it was actually happening before Covid. This time, however, politics will hit both sides because the parties on the left are even more in the grip of uber-Keynesianism than the right (and the Treasury and the Reserve Bank). And the left has barricaded itself even more for this big expense, this big Keynesianism.
Want to know what governments and indebted owners will look like when interest rates soar? Wait and see.