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COVID-19, Glenn Greenwald: The Bizarre Refusal to Apply Cost-Benefit Analysis to COVID Debates

re: COVID-19
re: Glenn Greenwald

Real science is never settled, and anyone who has certainty on such things is not qualified to discuss it.

For 18 months now, this blog has covered the outrageous failure to apply risk management thinking (and by implication cost/benefit analysis) to the policies around COVID-19.

The Bizarre Refusal to Apply Cost-Benefit Analysis to COVID Debates

by Glenn Greenwald, 2021-08-25

Are those who oppose a ban on cars or a radical reduction in speed limits sociopaths, given the huge number of people they are knowingly consigning to death or maiming?

In virtually every realm of public policy, Americans embrace policies which they know will kill people, sometimes large numbers of people. They do so not because they are psychopaths but because they are rational: they assess that those deaths that will inevitably result from the policies they support are worth it in exchange for the benefits those policies provide. This rational cost-benefit analysis, even when not expressed in such explicit or crude terms, is foundational to public policy debates — except when it comes to COVID, where it has been bizarrely declared off-limits.

The quickest and most guaranteed way to save hundreds of thousands of lives with policy changes would be to ban the use of automobiles, or severely restrict their usage to those authorized by the state on the ground of essential need...

Given how many deaths and serious injuries would be prevented, why is nobody clamoring for a ban on cars, or at least severe restrictions on who can drive (essential purposes only) or how fast (25 mph)? Is it because most people are just sociopaths who do not care about the huge number of lives lost by the driving policies they support, and are perfectly happy to watch people die or be permanently maimed as long as their convenience is not impeded? Is it because they do not assign value to the lives of other people, and therefore knowingly support policies — allowing anyone above 15 years old to drive, at high speeds — that will kill many children along with adults?

That may explain the motivation scheme for a few people, but in general, the reason is much simpler and less sinister. It is because we employ a rational framework of cost-benefit analysis, whereby, when making public policy choices, we do not examine only one side of the ledger (number of people who will die if cars are permitted) but also consider the immense costs generated by policies that would prevent those deaths 

...It is impossible to overstate the costs imposed on children of all ages from the sustained, enduring and severe disruptions to their lives justified in the name of COVID. Entire books could be written, and almost certainly will be, on the multiple levels of damage children are sustaining, some of which — particularly the longer-term ones — are unknowable... One of the best mainstream news accounts documenting those costs was a January, 2021 BBC article headlined “Covid: The devastating toll of the pandemic on children.”

...The richer you are, the less likely you are to be affected by these harms from COVID restrictions. Wealth allows people to leave their homes, hire private tutors, temporarily live in the countryside or mountains, or enjoy outdoor space at home. It is the poor and the economically deprived who bear the worst of these deprivations, which — along with not having children at all — may be one reason they are assigned little to no weight in mainstream discourse...

Whatever is true about motives, what is unacceptable — sociopathic, really — is the insistence on assigning severe costs to just one side of the ledger (harms from COVID itself) while categorically refusing to recognize let alone value the costs on the other side of the ledger (from severe, enduring anti-COVID disruptions to and restrictions on life)...

WIND: spot-on.

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