Friday, May 22, 2020

The lockdown is no longer morally justifiable


As I have said before, I think that the lockdown that was put in place in the United States two months ago was morally justifiable given the circumstances at the time.  In my opinion, under current circumstances, it is no longer morally justifiable.  To be sure, I am not denying that some social distancing measures are still justifiable and even necessary.  I am also not denying that a more modest lockdown may still be defensible in some localities.  But the draconian total lockdown that was put in place across most of the country is at this point no longer defensible, and state and local authorities who are relaxing it are right to do so.

The natural right to earn a living

The basic natural law grounds for this judgment are straightforward.  Breadwinners have a natural right to labor in order to provide for themselves and their families.  Hence, governing authorities may not prevent them from doing so unless strictly necessary for preserving the common good.  Now, a strong case could be made at the beginning of the lockdown that preventing such labor was indeed strictly necessary.  But such a case cannot be made now.  Hence, while a total lockdown was justifiable at the beginning, it is no longer justifiable, and governing authorities have a strict duty in justice to relax it.  The details of how this might be done in this or that locality are debatable, but the general principle is clear.

One reason this is not more widely recognized is because of the seriously misleading way in which the issue is routinely framed, viz. as a matter of balancing “the economy” against “saving lives.”  First of all, what is in jeopardy is not some abstraction called “the economy.”  What is in jeopardy is the basic natural human right to earn a living.  To talk about how the lockdown affects “the economy” tends to disguise the true moral situation, because it makes it sound as if public authorities are merely tinkering with the operation of some impersonal mechanism.

What they are actually doing is preventing millions of human beings from exercising their fundamental right to support themselves and their families.  And the vast majority of them are people who live paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford to have their life savings depleted.  Chatter about the effects of the lockdown on “the economy” can give the false impression that government officials may decide what to do about the situation at their leisure.  Keeping in mind that what we are really talking about is interference with a basic human right reminds us of the situation’s true urgency.

There are important further considerations, such as the ill effects the lockdown is having on the education of children and on the psychological well-being of young and old alike.  By no means the least of the lockdown’s harms is its interference with the practice of religion, such as the deprivation of the sacraments in the case of Catholics.  All of these too are harms that follow from governmental actions that violate natural rights unless they are strictly necessary for protecting the common good.

“Saving lives”

Again, the response will be that such actions are necessary in order to “save lives.”  But talk of “saving lives,” when kept vague, is demagogic and papers over crucial moral distinctions.  “Saving lives” could mean:

(a) refraining from directly and intentionally causing people to die,

(b) refraining from acts that have a strong likelihood of resulting in unintended deaths, or

(c) refraining from acts that have only a remote chance of resulting in unintended deaths.

Now, everyone in the debate over the lockdown favors (a) and (b) and no one in the debate favors (c).  For example, no one believes that we have a general duty to avoid driving, or construction work, or going out of doors when one has the flu, or other common actions that have a remote chance of resulting in unintended deaths.  No one believes that public authorities have a right or duty to forbid such acts, even though doing so would “save lives.”  And everyone agrees that driving at 100 mph down residential streets, setting off fireworks near dry brush, going out of doors when one has the Ebola virus, and other acts that have a strong likelihood of resulting in unintended deaths ought to be forbidden by public authorities.

What people disagree about is simply whether certain acts forbidden under the lockdown (like operating a barbershop or a clothing store) more plausibly fall into category (b) rather than (c), especially when safety measures are taken (wearing masks, letting only a certain number of customers in at a time, etc.).  Even if a compelling case could be made for thinking that they fall into (b) rather than (c), it would be an outrageous calumny to accuse people who in good faith believe otherwise of being “murderers” or a “party of death.”  Such inflammatory rhetoric evidences a lack of the objectivity and charity required to deal with the crisis and promote the common good.

Mission accomplished

But in fact there is no compelling case.  Certainly there is at least as strong a case to be made for the other side.  And that is sufficient reason to relax the lockdown, because it is those who do not want to relax it who have the burden of proof.

The original rationale for the lockdown was to “flatten the curve” so that hospitals would not be overwhelmed and crucial medical equipment such as ventilators would not become scarce.  Ordinary work like running a clothing store or cutting hair was said to be dangerous because in the aggregate such activities threatened to increase the number of Covid-19 infections to the point that the medical system could not deal with them, let alone all the other ailments that bring people to the hospital every day.

But that aim has for some time now been accomplished.  The curve has been flattened and, more to the point, hospitals are in general not in danger of being overwhelmed and ventilators are not scarce.  Not to relax the lockdown under such circumstances is prime facie unjust.  When politicians and pundits move the goalposts in order to maintain it anyway, it is not unreasonable for workers whose lives and livelihoods have been upended to complain that they’ve been sold a “bait and switch.”  

Ever-receding goalposts

The response will be that lifting the lockdown will result in an increase in deaths.  But once again, such a claim is too vague to prove anything.  After all, even if the novel coronavirus was annihilated tomorrow, lifting the lockdown would still result in an increase in deaths – from the traffic accidents, construction accidents, deaths from ordinary flu, etc. that would result just from people returning to ordinary life, with its ordinary risks. 

What the lockdown defender needs to show is that the increase in deaths would be dramatic enough to override the strong presumption against interfering with the natural right to earn a living.  That’s a very tough burden to meet, and I submit that it has not been met.  What the original “flattening the curve” rationale had going for it is that an imminent and completely general breakdown in the medical system would clearly be contrary to the common good, which gave a plausible rationale for overriding the right to work.  But the alternative rationales being offered by the lockdown’s defenders are nowhere near as clear and compelling as that.

In particular, there is no compelling argument for preserving a total lockdown as a method of fighting the virus (as opposed to using it as a method to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed).  Total lockdowns of vast populations (as opposed to more limited quarantines) are not a time-tested way of dealing with pandemics, but a very recent novelty.  Not only is there is no evidence that they are more effective than less extreme measures, but there is now evidence that they are not more effective.  Some experts argue that the virus has likely already worked its way through the population anyway and is on its way out regardless of the lockdown.

It is also clear at this point that the virus is not equally dangerous to all.  It is primarily the elderly and those with certain medical conditions who are at risk, and they can be protected by way of more modest measures than a general lockdown.  Then there is the argument that while relaxing the lockdown might result in more deaths in the short run, it will yield relatively fewer deaths in the long run, since it will facilitate achieving herd immunity.  And there is the further consideration that the lockdown itself threatens lives insofar as ailments other than Covid-19 are not being treated as frequently or effectively, medical workers are being laid off, and so forth.

Yes, much of this is controversial.  But again, it isn’t those who favor relaxing the lockdown who have the burden of proof.  The burden is on those who want to preserve it.  Two months ago, they could make a strong case for having met it.  Not any longer. 

108 comments:

  1. I believe lockdowns and quarantines are probably some of the oldest public health measures.

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    1. Of course, but as I (and the article I linked to) made clear, I was talking about total lockdowns, quarantines of entire vast populations at the scale of a modern nation-state.

      In case the point would not be clear to other readers, I have now modified the sentence in question to make it so.

      What the author of that article is referring to is a point developed at greater length in an article by Jeff Tucker:

      https://www.aier.org/article/the-2006-origins-of-the-lockdown-idea/

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    2. The real problem is that the lockdown began in the first place.

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    3. Quarantines, as in complete isolation of those showing symptoms, are indeed quite old. That might include sealing off an entire town. It is the universal restrictions, affecting the symptomatic, the potentially vulnerable, and those at very low risk for either becoming ill or spreading the infection, that are unprecedented.

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  2. It's worth noting that the Roman Catholic bishops of Minnesota reopened public mass in the coming week in opposition to the orders of Gov Walz. I simply don't know if there are other bishops, or groups of bishops, who will do this in opposition to governors, but it's a clear indication that some Catholic authorities agree with your position.

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  3. The Impoverished LastsMay 22, 2020 at 1:58 PM

    Does Fr. Thomas Joseph White feel the same way?

    I'm a bit stunned that he wasn't able to foresee the way something like a lockdown, mandatory 'social distancing', and masking wearing (to name a few) wouldn't become imperatives that far outstretch their "needed" placement.
    When you sacrifice a freedom for safety and let politicians and technocrats take the reigns of prudence for all how do you ever wrest control back? They were the determiners of prudence in one circumstance.... will they think their prudence not more informed going forward?

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  4. For example, no one believes that we have a general duty to avoid driving,

    Some people never drive for precisely this reason. If I choose to enter a car, it is as a passenger in the back seat buckled up. I am morally skeptical of letting other people drive because that's not universalizable ("do unto others as you would have them do unto you." -- Jesus of Nazareth; "don't do unto others as you would not have them do unto you" -- St. Tobit Father of Tobias)

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    1. I'm sorry, but I cannot accept your flattery. Praise is saying good words to someone in order to boost an action or well-being. Flattery is adulation without any direction of improvement. Words of love are good words spoken out of philia/agape/stroge/eros (<- sexy talk)

      "John, your handwriting has improved since last week. Good job!"

      ^Praise

      "John, you're good in class. I think you're the best!"

      ^flattery; no direction of improvement specified.

      JOHN'S MOM, WHO IS JOHN'S TEACHER, AT THE DINNER TABLE: "John, you're good in class. I think you're the best!"

      ^Words of love; only difference between this and flattery is the perspective of the words. John's mom is offering her perspective through the lens of her love for John.

      "JOHN'S WIFE IN THE NUPTUAL BED: Ooh John, you're the most masculine man who's ever lived!"

      ^Words of love; eros is a type of love.

      (source for the first two quotes)

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    2. His name is Tomislav.

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    3. @Anonymous "This virus is a real nothingburger!"

      the nothingburger

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  5. Dr. Feser
    “the draconian total lockdown that was put in place across most of the country is at this point no longer defensible, and state and local authorities who are relaxing it are right to do so.”
    There was never a total lockdown. CISA identified 16 sectors considered essential. Essential workers have been working harder than ever, in general. That in combination with the ability to work from home is why our overall unemployment rate is reported at about 15%. Now, employment statistics vary by employment sector, and there are disputes as to methods of reporting, but if, to a first approximation, 85% of Americans are still employed I think a good case can be made that the term “total lockdown” is rather exaggerated to say the least, and quite mistaken.
    https://www.cisa.gov/identifying-critical-infrastructure-during-covid-19#

    And yes, this is the time to begin to relax restrictions, but California governor Newsom did that on May 8th, 2 weeks ago, so this does not seem to be very controversial. Even in New York some counties have been partially reopened even though governor Cuomo extended the existing level of shutdown in counties that have not hit the numerical targets New York has set.

    “What they are actually doing is preventing millions of human beings from exercising their fundamental right to support themselves and their families.”
    In the main the word “are” can now be changed to “were”. But yes, employment is the key need so we should be doing what is being done, again not very controversial, opening up businesses starting with those that present the least public health risk.

    “By no means the least of the lockdown’s harms is its interference with the practice of religion, such as the deprivation of the sacraments in the case of Catholics.”
    Cessation of church services is at the level of closing public beaches in terms of harm done to the large groups of former attendees as opposed to the high level of risk to public health these large gatherings represent.

    Parishioners, like beach goers, do not earn a living by going to church. Shutting down church services is like closing a public beach, the people are not losing their ability to support themselves.

    The gross risk to public health of congregating shoulder to shoulder with a large number of people while moving about sitting, standing, kneeling, chanting, and singing should be obvious. Yes, closing of churches is in the class of the least harmful while the opening of churches is in the class of the most harmful actions to public health that can be taken at a time when daily infection rates are on average about flat.

    Opening up churches makes as much public health sense and economic sense as opening up beaches and bars, but at least with bars some hourly workers can get back to earning a paycheck.

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  6. This is just what gets me about philosophers. Excellent about putting forth the general principles which should guide our actions. Actually applying them to the world which we find ourselves in, not so much. I don't know even where to begin here. NOTHING has changed (epistemologically speaking) about the coronavirus. There's no reason to think that the R0 or the IFR of the coronavirus is any different than it was two months ago. Therefore, whatever measures were justified two months ago are justified today, and things that aren't justified today wouldn't be justified two months ago either.

    More later, but to argue that relaxation is necessary because in fact, hospitals haven't been overwhelmed is akin to arguing that when a bomb was removed from a home, and that, thus, the home didn't explode, means you can put it back.

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    1. No, the right analogy -- for goalpost-moving, anyway -- would be removing the bomb from the house but then telling the owners that they still can't go back into it, and have to remain standing outside in the cold indefinitely, on the grounds that we can't be sure that there isn't something else wrong with the house.

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    2. Also, re:

      Therefore, whatever measures were justified two months ago are justified today, etc.

      This wouldn't follow even if the premise you derive it from were true (which I don't think it is). To state the obvious, one of the crucial things that is changed is that millions of people have now for over two months been unable to work. Their situation is far worse now than it was then, so that as harmful to them as it was to impose a lockdown two months ago, it is even more harmful now to continue it. And we know with certainty that it will get worse with every passing day, whatever we end up learning or not learning about the virus.

      Your problem, like that of so many others, is that you seem absolutely fixated on the virus to the exclusion of everything else. But the threat of the virus, however important, is not the only consideration that responsible policymakers have to take account of.

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    3. Lonely
      “NOTHING has changed (epistemologically speaking) speaking)”
      I think you mean epidemiologically speaking (in reference to study and control of disease). “Epistemologically” refers to knowledge.

      “There's no reason to think that the R0 or the IFR of the coronavirus is any different than it was two months ago.”
      False. R0 is the number of those new infections per existing infected individual, on average.

      An R0 of 1 is flat with the number of daily infections (rate of infection) horizontal on a graph of daily infections, corresponding to a straight line of positive slope on a graph of total infections.

      An R0 of more than 1 is an exponential growth in total infections, corresponding to a positive slope on a graph of daily infections, and a positive upward curve on a graph of total infections.

      From about March 18th to April 3rd R0 was on the order of 2, as America was in the grip of a runaway pandemic that had nothing to stop it from what mathematicians somewhat colorfully call blowing up. Drastic action was needed, hence the shutdowns.
      https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/

      Now the daily rate is about flat, with the total cases about straight, corresponding to an R0 of about 1. So your statement about R0 is flatly mistaken.

      In recent weeks we have seen a slight decrease in the trendline of daily infections, so the total cases line has decreased in slope slightly, indicating an R0 of a little less than 1. But, with the large majority of America no longer under government restriction from employment and some locations returning to large group gatherings while people foolishly refuse to wear any mask at all, we are likely to see an uptick in daily infections.

      The reason that likely uptick in daily infections is not the dire crisis of the March 18th to April 3rd period is that we as a nation have had time to adjust and change our ways semi-permanently. Typically, you have to wear a mask to get into a grocery store and every grocery store employee is wearing a mask. Grocery store lines have been re-organized to keep a distance. Other businesses are incorporating a suite of mitigation techniques. People routinely wear a mask and avoid contact with each other. In-person business meetings are largely a thing of past, instead each person calls in to an on-line meeting or telecon, even if they are all in the same building.

      A great many people have changed their habits and contact methods dramatically in a relatively short period of time. That is why we can open up in phases now without a foreseeable risk of repeating the runaway uncontrolled exponential pandemic of the March 18th to April 3rd period.

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    4. Lonely Professor,
      Historically, viruses mutate into weaker versions so there is reason to think that the R0 or the IFR has changed.
      The predictions that the lockdown proponents concerning Florida and Georgia have not come true no matter how D..N CERTAIN they were.
      You need some epistemic humility.

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    5. Tim

      Is there any indication that this virus has mutated into a weaker version?

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    6. Walter, the latest estimate from the Center for Disease Control is that the IFR may be about 0.26% rather than about 1%. Whether this change is due to a weaker mutation now, or hotter weather, or some other factor, I do not know.

      Delete
    7. Tim

      I think the IFR is based on comparing the total number of infections and the deaths.
      The 1% was probably an estimate based on confirmed infections while it is now believed that the real number of infections is much higher. I don't think it has anything to do with a mutation of the virus.

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    8. Walter,
      My larger point was that there is reason not to believe that the R0 and IFR were as bad as originally estimated, and that the dire predictions of the lockdown proponents regarding Florida and Georgia turned out not to be true. If it has not already happened, this virus is likely to mutate into a less deadly form. Lonelyprofessor and other proponents of continuing lockdown cannot be D..N sure about their prognostications.

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    9. Tim

      I don't think scientists are in agreement that this virus is likely to mutate into a less deadly form. It can happen, of course, and let's hope it does, but it's far from sure.

      Delete
  7. And I'm also going to challenge Ed on this.

    You think it makes us HAPPY to see people out of work?? You think this is what we WANT??? You think we wouldn't be saying what we say is necessary if we weren't DAMN sure it were???

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    1. There is no way you can be DAMN sure that this DRACONIAN lockdown saves more lives than it damages. There is no reliable model that could give you such assurance; it can only be your opinion and fear that backs such surety.
      Regardless, the point of the post is that those who favor continuation of the lockdown are under greater moral responsibility to prove their position is necessary, not just assert it with assurance.
      I am not trained in philosophy and have limited skills to be able to rebut your words as I intuit they can and should be rebutted (in fact I am struggling to get dinner on the table as I type!) but let me share that of which I am sure:
      My husband's job, with increasing certainty, will not be available for him to return to when the emperor finally decides the world is safe (enough). Maybe he will be one of the lucky few who gets shuffled around to a new slot with his very large, SoCal entertainment company. Maybe not. But his job loss has caused immediate damage to seven lives, which seems far more than the Wuhan virus ever could have done in our family, with all we now know.

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    2. I'm sure it makes Bill Maher happy. He actually said he wanted a recession, just so that Orange Man wouldn't get reelected. I suspect there are plenty of people out there who thing those unemployed are just a few eggs that need to be broken to make a good omelette.

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    3. More people who, if not happy to see people out of work, are willing to tolerate unemployment if that's what it takes to get rid of Trump: https://www.politico.com/news/2020/05/26/2020-election-democrats-281470

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  8. And if your answer is "yes", then YOU are the one deficient in charity, and you need a good hard look in the mirror.

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    1. LP,

      As usual, you need to calm the hell down, count to ten, and re-think what you write before clicking "Publish." I do not think that, and never said anything remotely close to it.

      Delete
    2. It's not taken long to see you comment here with a chip on your shoulder.

      Delete
    3. @Callum:

      You must be a right winger, ignorant of science. Or a philosopher, good at constructing abstract edifices, but not so much when dealing with the concrete world. Contrary to LooneyProfessor.

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    4. Speaking of looking in mirrors:

      "You think it makes us HAPPY to see people out of work?? You think this is what we WANT??? You think we wouldn't be saying what we say is necessary if we weren't DAMN sure it were???"

      Which is it? You yourself have snarked repeatedly about our being Limbaugh-led mouth breathers. Has anyone here accused you of being a CNN NPC? Not that I've seen.

      Physician, heal thyself.

      And, BTW, you need not remain lonely. I know a woman who'd be perfect for you. Her name is Karen.

      Delete
  9. How come SDP is still on, and not banned yet?

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    1. I presume by SDP you mean Stardusty? My understanding is that Prof. Feser has indeed banned him but to cut him off completely he would have to watch over the threads like a hawk, something for which he hasn't the time, nor the inclination I would guess given that he prefers to moderate with a light hand and let the adults in the room figure things out. Almost nobody ever engages Stardusty anyway, having either learned the hard way the futility of it or having been warned that he is banned, so besides the visual blot on the thread he is at this point a rather harmless barking dog.

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    2. Is there some point I have posted above that either of you good folks disagree with, consider to be inaccurate, or can refute on the merits of the arguments?

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    3. You're right, grodrigues. I was actually amazed by the amount of unarguments his interactions are. It's like, it's worse than self internal refutation. :(
      Poor guy...

      I should make a GreaseMonkey script, so you can use it and it automagically hides his comments.

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    4. I don't even read his stuff anymore, and the odd time I do, I always come out feeling like I've had verbal diarrhea spewed all over me.

      All joking aside, there are some forms of mental health issues that can lead to behaviors like this. He is likely worthy of a prayer or two that he gets the help he needs.

      I mean honestly, most normal folks don't squat on a person's blog who has repeatedly asked them to refrain from posting.

      Cheers,
      Daniel

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    5. Questions for Dr Feser/anyone who can answer:
      1) Is it against the ban on SDP to ask questions generally, like personal questions, or make general pointers like "here's what you could do to help others feel more open to engaging with you"? I imagine this has already been done to some extent, but I specifically wonder whether it's against the rules of the ban.

      2) Is there a list of banned members? I did not know that SDP was banned and engaged with him on the previous post. In the past, Dr Feser has reminded us not to feed the trolls, but I don't know specifically who those are, and obviously I'd rather not accidentally feed them.

      Thanks!

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    6. JMM,
      "personal questions"
      I rarely ask or answer personal questions. I am interested in rational arguments. If you have some you are perfectly free to present them.

      There are here a number of self-appointed hall monitors who have no displayed ability to refute my points on the merits of the arguments.

      "Dr Feser has reminded us not to feed the trolls, but I don't know specifically who those are, "
      If you could not detect "troll" from the style of writing why would you take anybody else's word for it? I can only encourage you to think for yourself on the merits of the evidence you have available.

      The most respectful thing you can do is to post on topic and on the merits of the argument.

      If you see a view posted that you disagree with then you can, if you wish, post a refutation, but again, keep it on the merits of the argument.

      Some of the best debates occur between parties of strongly differing views who find the civility to engage each other using rational arguments. A few jibes and side issues and anecdotes might come up from time to time, which adds a bit of color to an otherwise dry exchange, but keep the primary focus on the OP and the rational merits of the arguments.

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    7. @JMM:

      The number of people that Prof. Feser banned are in the single digits over a span of several years and most of them have had the common decency to not continue posting here. It is almost like a trophy having been banned as it does require a good deal of effort.

      As far as Stardusty goes, I would even say try it for yourself and engage with him and watch the whole thread sink down like the titanic, for whatever sort of preverse pleasure that can bring. The problem is that he was banned, so it strikes me as disrespectful to the owner of the House. Other than that, the only thing I would say is just use common sense -- e.g. basic stuff like not feeding trolls.

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    8. What grodigues says is absolutely true. Apart from anything else, talking to SDP is completely pointless. You will soon find it is a decidedly one-sided exchange. He just doesn't engage in the kind of two-way discussion that can bear fruit. He's entirely solipsistic.

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    9. I'm not sure though that most of those banned have been that polite. None has shown quote he gall of SDP, who has even held himself up as embodying the qualities Feser seeks in commentators, but Cervantes kept popping up after his ban and still occasionally does. He was even impersonating other posters. And CR turns up every now and then between breakdowns.

      Delete
    10. A few of the people Prof. Feser has banned have clear psychological problems — after all, their inability to behave appropriately is why they got banned in the first place. For some of them, this means they have an obsession with commenting here no matter how clear it is that they’re not wanted. Occasionally, Ed will go through and delete particularly troublesome posts, as well any replies, so it’s best simply to ignore these folks completely. As long as the rest of us stick to the rules, the comments won’t get cluttered up with junk (and Ed won’t have to disable anonymous posting, which would also block folks like me who don’t have a Google login).

      Delete
    11. Anon,
      " He's entirely solipsistic."
      As to epistemological solipsism, cogito ergo sum comes to mind. Yes, for each of us there can be no absolute proof that our perception of extra mental existence is realistic. One can only provisionally postulate the basic reliability of the human senses.

      But, I suppose you meant "entirely solipsistic" in the pejorative sense. Internet psychoanalytical conclusions by blogging are particularly dubious assertions.

      I made a number of specific OP related assertions on this thread. Do you have any specific rational on-topic refutations of those assertions on the merits of the arguments?

      Perhaps you take issue with my comparison between opening of church services with opening of beaches and bars?

      Closing of church services are in the catagory of the least problematic closings and the most beneficial closings.

      The biggest problem with the shutdowns has been the loss of the ability to earn a living, provide for one's self and one's family, loss of health insurance, default on mortgage, rent, car payments, utilities and other very serious consequences. Those are very, very serious consequences indeed.

      Parishioners do not suffer such consequences from not going to church, and beachgoers do not suffer such consequences from not going to the beach, and bargoers do not suffer such consequences from not going to bars.

      Congregating in large groups in close proximity while singing, chanting, and talking face to face poses an obviously very high risk to transmission of disease during a pandemic.

      Church services are in the class of the least important to open up because they provide no economic benefit to the attendees, and they are in the class of the most dangerous to open up because they are a veritable petri dish for the spread of disease.

      Delete
    12. SDP isn't even an amusing troll. He is beyond boring. I suspect he really is an essay bot.

      Delete
  10. This article in Five Thirty Eight says that Americans' views on when to end restrictions are slowly coming to align more closely than two months ago with their party affiliation:

    https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/democrats-and-republicans-are-increasingly-split-on-the-coronavirus-crisis/

    This says that numbers of daily new COVID-19 cases in Italy have gone way down in two months:

    https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/italy/

    Unless changes have been made that I did not see, PM Conte said that Italy is taking the calculated risk of relaxing certain restrictions, some two days from now, others in early June:

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-52687448

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  11. What they are actually doing is preventing millions of human beings from exercising their fundamental right to support themselves and their families. And the vast majority of them are people who live paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford to have their life savings depleted.

    How of these millions are actually making as much/more money with the enhanced unemployment benefits than they were in their original position? Without that data, for we know, putting those people back to work might actually make their lives harder.

    No, I'm not endorsing a permanent system of support, just pointing out that you have not provided evidence that millions are suffering. Most of the ones who are suffering are the ones who did not have unemployment insurance.

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    Replies
    1. And to think, it has only taken a measly $2 trillion.

      Delete
    2. Whether they suffer or not is beside the point made, namely that the right to support yourself is at stake.
      There are at least two mala we have to take into consideration here, one - to use a shorthand - being starvation, the other interfering with the ability to avoid starvation through your own work.
      That you do not suffer the former does not mean the latter is irrelevant.

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    3. Anonymous,
      Whether they suffer or not is beside the point made, namely that the right to support yourself is at stake.

      I can appreciate that this is the point for you, but since the original poster referred to those "who live paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford to have their life savings depleted", I responded to his point on financial hardship.

      There are at least two mala we have to take into consideration here, one - to use a shorthand - being starvation, the other interfering with the ability to avoid starvation through your own work.
      That you do not suffer the former does not mean the latter is irrelevant.


      You forgot the third malus of being a vector for the infection of others. If the effects of the first malus are reduced, then we are left debating the harm from not being able to work for your support against the harm of being a vector for the spread of disease. We should not make the mistake of importing the undesirability of the first malus into the second in our evaluation.

      Delete
    4. Cuomo the Granny KillerMay 27, 2020 at 4:28 PM

      What about those other pesky mala, like suicide, substance abuse and lack of treatment for other conditions? By some estimates these are causing 65,000 extra deaths a month, not to mention a much greater toll on quality adjusted life years. As tragic as any death is, we do have to take into account the difference in who on average is dying from these different causes. Someone who dies in a nursing loses far fewer quality adjusted life years, a common actuarial measurement, than someone who takes their own life at 35. Who knows more massive stimulus that barely or doesn't even cover essentials for many will no doubt save the day. How much next time? 5 trillion, 10 trillion, a gazillion? We could just print money and give everyone a million dollars. That would work.

      Delete
    5. @One Brow
      Let me try to respond.
      You quote extensively from the third paragraph under the heading "The natural right to earn a living" in the original piece everyone is commenting on in this comment section. That is to say, there are clear indications that it is not "they point for (me)" but the point made. Feser does not say that taking into account some sort of compensation leaves people worse of financially (at least in the short run), but that the lockdown has the effect of interfering with the right to earn one's living of many people.
      To be sure, I'm not saying your point is irrelevant, I'm just saying that it is another point and not a refutation of Feser's point.


      "You forgot the third malu[m] of being a vector for the infection of others. [&c..]"
      That is an evil to consider in the response to the situation we are in as a whole. However, this is beyond the scope of the question I am trying to deal with. In any case, "at least" indicates that a complete list is not intended in the first place.

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    6. Cuomo the Granny Killer,
      What about those other pesky mala, like suicide, substance abuse and lack of treatment for other conditions?

      They absolutely should be considered, and from what I can see, are being considered, when making these decisions.

      By some estimates these are causing 65,000 extra deaths a month, not to mention a much greater toll on quality adjusted life years.

      Whose estimates are these, and over which population?

      Delete
    7. Anonymous,
      That is to say, there are clear indications that it is not "they point for (me)" but the point made.

      Dr. Feser, being a writer of some skill, often makes multiple points at the same time in support of some larger argument.

      Feser does not say that taking into account some sort of compensation leaves people worse of financially (at least in the short run), but that the lockdown has the effect of interfering with the right to earn one's living of many people.

      He mentions both.

      To be sure, I'm not saying your point is irrelevant, I'm just saying that it is another point and not a refutation of Feser's point.

      I have no explanation of why we read this paragraph so differently. Perhaps you could clarify for me what the purpose of mentioning
      "live paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford to have their life savings depleted" in a paragraph you seem to see as arguing exclusively about a right to work?

      Delete
    8. Why we have a different reading I do not know either. However, I'd maintain that my reading is correct. The last sentence of that third paragraph of the "natural right" section you got your initial quote from seems to indicate that as well.

      "Keeping in mind that what we are really talking about is interference with a basic human right reminds us of the situation’s true urgency."
      Remember the second paragraph explained why the rhetorical framing of "saving lives" versus saving "the economy" does hinder proper appreciation of the argument from the right to earn a living.

      The "paycheck to paycheck" remark shows it is urgent also from a standpoint of survival because (absent further intervention) the economic impact of the lockdown is the depletion of the life savings of millions and millions of human beings.

      Delete
    9. Anonymous,

      It seems we have the same reading after all. Thank you for acknowledging that Dr. Feser was also talking about financial distress in addition to the right to work. I'm sure you can see how responding by saying that we don't have evidence of massive financial distress is not making any sort of argument at all about the right to work.

      Delete
  12. The numbers out of Italy, three weeks after phased reopening began, show that we can not only "flatten the curve," but "quash the curve". Italy did a much more complete lockdown than anywhere in the U.S. but the full lockdown lasted less than two months (March 9 to May 4). They now have less than 700 positive tests per day in the whole country and still falling. Deaths are down to less than 150 a day and falling. Percent tests positive are down to less than 0.5% positive and falling. When the numbers are that low, contact tracing becomes feasible.

    All this means that because Italy did the lockdown right the first time, there won't be a second time. They are nearly at the point where they can fully reopen with contact tracing and just test everyone who enters the country. They'll be like Taiwan or Vietnam or NZ. Future deaths will be minimal, and the restrictions on everyone will be lighter.

    In the U.S., all the shutdowns have been comparatively halfhearted, and they're all too shorts. Most of the country has reopened with about a month or less shut down and with a growth rate of approximately 2% per day. If we're lucky, we can keep the curve flat, but it will require ongoing social distancing to an extent countries that quash the curve will be able to move on from. If not, we'll go into exponential growth again and we'll either need to shutdown again or millions will die.

    We should do the shutdown effectively once and then we can move to contact tracing. Italy's experience shows it can be done effectively and in a short period even if the pandemic has gotten out of hand. Doing so means fewer deaths and a quicker return to normalcy. Reopening while cases are still growing by 2% a day means that either we keep social distancing forever to keep the curve flat (in which case the economic damage is prolonged and tens of thousands still die) or we end social distancing and we get hundreds of thousands dying (and we still get bad economic damage). Do the shutdown right, do it once, stay the course til the end.

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    Replies
    1. In what part of the country are cases growing by 2% per day? I have not seen any stats like that. The national stats have the new cases dropping a bit, not growing. I live in CA, and the cases are dropping, not growing. There are huge parts of CA that have virtually no new cases, and have practices in place now that will prevent any runaway exponential expansion of those infected.

      One thing Ed did not mention directly here, but he referred to elsewhere: the longer the lockdowns continue, the more there will be long-term damage to people's health from other diseases that are getting sub-optimal treatment. Not to put too fine a point on it: there are and will continue deaths from the lockdown. Some of those deaths won't become apparent until later, and some of them won't ever be tracked as "killed by the lockdown" because, how are you going to ever prove "got seen by a doctor 2 months too late to do as much good as he could have" for a person with diabetes, or heart disease, or pre-stroke conditions?

      Delete
  13. The opinion expressed in the post is ok but these posts are boring me. I want to read the usual interesting stuff this blog offers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Never fear, Red, that's imminent. And I appreciate your interest in the usual content of the blog.

      Delete
    2. If you don't occasionally step outside to tend the garden, you starve. If you rely on others to tend the garden for you, you should recognize that you're only able to keep living the way you do because of them. More literally, if you don't at least occasionally put in effort to bring about (or in some respects maintain) a world where material and spiritual flourishing are possible, you will one day find yourself in one where they're not (or where it's unbearably difficult). I'm inclined to think that we have a duty to intermittently engage in the unpleasant work of politics.

      I write all this as someone who spends most of his time working in abstruse ontology and metaphilosophy.

      Delete
  14. Anne Marie Knott argues from a scientific perspective we should reopen because it is likely given the data that 80% of the population is immune: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=562&v=sTFOsQfDFi8&feature=emb_logo

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  15. > Then there is the argument that while relaxing the lockdown might result in more deaths in the short run, it will yield relatively fewer deaths in the long run, since it will facilitate achieving herd immunity

    This is a little baffling, and I'm curious why it seems plausible.

    The percentage of a population needed to reach herd immunity is 1 - 1 / R0 (because herd immunity is, by definition, when R0 * S < 1, where S is the fraction of a population still susceptible).

    Say a viral infection has an R0 of 5. 80% of the population would need to be infected to reach herd immunity. But say that a lockdown would have decreased R0 to 1.3. Then only 23% of the population are needed for herd immunity.

    It's pretty obvious that, by reducing R0, lockdowns can have a dramatic effect on the number of a population who become infected, and thus the number of fatalities.

    In order to deny that lockdowns decrease the total size of an infection and total fatalities, one must either not understand what herd immunity is, or else deny that lockdowns reduce R0. I take it no one affirms the latter.

    So is the fact that this notion of "reaching herd immunity more quickly" presented as plausible just the result of not understanding what herd immunity is and thus overlooking a massive human toll? Or is there something more?

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    1. I think a problem here is that, even after months of experience, we simply don't know what R0 is -- except that the communicability of the virus has not been consistent, and it hasn't been following mathematical models. So we can hypothesize, but the experience we have is that the virus is not behaving consistently enough to make any model an effective analytical or predictive tool.

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    2. John:

      Why wouldn't we expect R0 not to be consistent across populations or over time?

      The R0 is the average re-transmission rate. People seem to think of it as some abstract property of a disease, but that is incorrect. It's a statistical notion.

      The fact that R0 varies across populations at the same time, and across a single population is expected. That's precisely why prevention mechanisms reduce the total size of the population infected and the number needed for herd immunity (the latter being smaller than the former).

      There's no way around it: raise R0 and more people will be infected. Raise it a lot and a lot more people are infected. We should face up to these trade-offs and not engage in wishful thinking. The plan on all sides has always been to trade lives for economic gain, whatever the public rhetoric. The difference has just been over the price.

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    3. @John Bruce:

      > When the actual infection rate was lower than the models predicted by orders of magnitude

      Which model(s) are you referring to? The IMHE model guiding US policy had to be adjusted because it was way too low.

      I'd like to see the model that's an order of magnitude off.

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    4. @John Bruce:

      The Daily Mail is a tabloid. Odd source for epidemiological news.

      The 2 million dead projection in Ferguson's model was for the case where no control or prevention measures at all were taken....

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    5. The Daily Mail (not to be confused with the Mail on Sunday) is a middle-market newspaper published in a tabloid format.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle-market_newspaper

      Delete
    6. Randomly selected headline from the Daily Mail: "'How white are mum's teeth?!' David Beckham mocks Victoria for 'looking like Ross from Friends' in a rare smiling snap with son Cruz, 15"

      That's a tabloid.

      Delete
    7. It has both kinds of pieces in it, as per the definition of middle-market newspaper. Did you not even bother to click the link?

      Delete
    8. From wikipedia? If that's the authority, the wiki page for "Tabloid Journalism" says this:

      > Publications engaging in tabloid journalism are known as rag newspapers. Notable tabloid publications include the National Enquirer and Globe in North America; and the Daily Mail, Daily Express, Daily Mirror, Daily Star, Daily Record, Sunday Mail, The Sun, and the former News of the World in the UK.

      But really, the point is that it's absurd to point to the Imperial College model as the one most relevant to US policy, when US policy is based more on the IMHE model. And to cite as evidence some claim in the Daily Mail wedged in next to a Kardashian in a bikini doesn't make the claim any more plausible. (Though this better than when the Daily Mail endorsed Hitler's invasions and worried about Jews escaping from his regime being permitted into Britain.)

      It's important to be able to determine what the scientific community is saying and how public policy decisions are made. In this case, it's simply a matter of grasping that herd immunity is a function of the retransmission rate. Raise R0 you necessarily raise the number of people ultimately infected (which is actually larger than what is required for herd immunity). If you are reading the Daily Mail (or other Murdoch owned properties) for that sort of information, then there are obviously much better places to go.

      Delete
    9. Here is the Wikipedia page on the Daily Mail:

      The Daily Mail is a British daily middle-market[2][3] newspaper published in London in a tabloid format

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daily_Mail

      The page on middle-market newspapers also lists it as a middle-market newspaper.

      Perhaps the page on tabloid journalism lists it as a tabloid because, in the sections on entertainment, it does in fact engage in tabloid journalism, and uses the format. (I have no special love for the Daily Mail. I just think people should call things what they are, even if what they are is a bit complicated.)

      Anyway, when one researches, one sometimes starts with the news and then from there researches the details of what the news says in more depth. This is ordinary, and in fact quite reasonable.

      Delete
    10. "But really, the point is that it's absurd to point to the Imperial College model as the one most relevant to US policy, when US policy is based more on the IMHE model. And to cite as evidence some claim in the Daily Mail wedged in next to a Kardashian in a bikini doesn't make the claim any more plausible. (Though this better than when the Daily Mail endorsed Hitler's invasions and worried about Jews escaping from his regime being permitted into Britain.)

      It's important to be able to determine what the scientific community is saying and how public policy decisions are made. In this case, it's simply a matter of grasping that herd immunity is a function of the retransmission rate. Raise R0 you necessarily raise the number of people ultimately infected (which is actually larger than what is required for herd immunity). If you are reading the Daily Mail (or other Murdoch owned properties) for that sort of information, then there are obviously much better places to go."

      My intention wasn't to engage in debate over the subject matter. It was to make sure we're calling things what they are, not dismissing them as something they're not.

      I've had three main problems reading these comment threads. The first is that a lot of people are letting rhetoric (other rational appeals) do work argumentation should be doing. It's unethical rely on non-rational appeals to persuade people if the issue hasn't been decided rationally. If you don't go in for ethics, perhaps consider that your audience here are philosophy readers. The second is that a lot of comments are based on uncharitable interpretations. I didn't see John Bruce as proposing that we take the Daily Mail as gospel. I saw him as making an offhand comment relevant to the discussion the way people commenting on blogs sometimes. The third is that a lot of people are making a lot of bare assertions without arguing or providing sources. Suppose that John Bruce was taking the Daily Mail as gospel. At least he's *providing sources for his comments*. Some people are making wild claims as if they're completely obvious without *anything* to support them.

      Delete
    11. do persuasive work argumentation should*

      Delete
  16. How is this an answer, though? When the actual infection rate was lower than the models predicted by orders of magnitude, the response was they're just models, basically. Your answer here is of course we do 't know what R0 is -- but public policy was based on an estimate that R0 would be high, when whatever its actual value (which you acknowledge we can't know), it's far lower than estimates. So we are, as you acknowledge. basing policy on whatever wild guess suits an agenda. Why can't my wild guess be lower than yours, though, if even MDs and PhDs are wrong?

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  17. The Imperial College model as of today's Daily Mail is still considered the "gold standard" https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8350655/Publication-Professor-Neil-Fergusons-latest-model-delayed-WEEKS.html and predicted over 2 million US deaths. The IHME model projects a range that is so wide it's meaningless, but given the wide range, it's hard to miss some kind of target.

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  18. All of your arguments(of which I am sympathetic) may hold, but may no longer be much of a relevant consideration. Even as we "open up" (say completely) economic disaster continues to loom, because much if not most of the population will not be comfortable going to restaurants, getting on planes, etc in any order of magnitude even remotely resembling the past until they feel "confident" they are not at heightened risk. And even giving some confidence by social distancing (which same consumers will demand by behaviours), will hurt economically because restaurants and airlines (just two examples) won't be able to turn a profit at 1/2 or 1/3 capacity. This is why a national testing and tracing rigorous regime is needed- but it is not coming. Because of federalism combined with lack of trust in Government and also specific American sensitivity to privacy issues (stronger than in say Europe, to say nothing of South Korea - even if limits are placed via anonymity etc).

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  19. ACR,
    Presumably, you are looking at the words "morally justifiable" in the title of the OP, and raising the issue as to whether a Christian who believes in hell can be a credible judge of morality in general.

    "Feser is okay with his deity creating persons without their consent and permitting them to be tortured forever"
    Is that his position? Some Christians take the somewhat softer position that "hell" means separation from god, which presumably means those who don't go to heaven have the same fate atheists expect, that when we die we simply cease to exist.

    Irrespective, given the great detail Dr. Feser has gone into here and in similar posts lately raising the charge of hypocrisy does not alter whether the justifications and reasoning provided is or is not sound, and amounts, I think, to a case of the tu quoque fallacy.

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  20. Dr. Feser, thank you for these well-worded considerations. I’ve been trying to discuss some of these ideas with peers for some time now without the articulacy you have given them. It can become frustrating, especially when getting trapped in the weird ethical mire of “saving just one life”, so I especially appreciate the way you laid out how there can be a moral difference between the risks of ending lockdowns.

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  21. I greatly enjoy your blog Ed but I am wary about the foray into politics and the seeming defense of the current president/administration. "T" has proven himself to not only be morally and spiritually bankrupt but also incredibly inept and unworthy of the title of president of the U.S. It is baffling how any person of faith can support him. Largely the reason we are in this position now regarding "opening up" or not "opening up" the economy is because of the inept lack of response current POTUS had to this issue. Other countries have fared much better and have been able to safely open up much faster when they implemented contact tracing, etc. It does not seem that you provide adequate criticism where it is due in regards to how this has all played out. And honestly, I don't think anyone in the U.S. is advocating for a lasting lockdown. Health experts have advised opening up as numbers fell for a 2 week period - which not a lot of states followed. You are an expert in philosophy which I applaud, but I find it is best to not venture into a realm of expertise (infectious disease) that you are not well versed in.

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    1. Trump's response has been fine in terms of what he and his administration have done. Of course he has said many stupid things, but what would you expect? And his opponent in November hardly promises much less stupidity on that front and will perhaps be even less coherent. Yes, he should perhaps have acted earlier, but it was a new situation and many others made similar decisions. Pelosi, Cuomo et al. were likewise relatively dismissive in February and into March. When things got going the Trump admin handled it all as well as could be expected in such a situation. They certainly handled it better than Cuomo the Granny Killer, who was sending the sick back to nursing homes into May. One wonders which other countries you are talking about? No doubt ones with quite different situations. Australia and New Zealand for example had a far smaller amount of cases to begin with and quite different countries in many ways to the US, as are the East Asian countries. If you are going to act like smug SOB, how about trying more not to come across as a partisan hack?

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    2. Anonymous,

      Nothing in what I wrote has anything to do with Trump. You are reading your own political obsessions into what I wrote. The politicking is at your end, not mine.

      I have also explained in several posts now why this is not a purely scientific issue. It has moral and indeed philosophical aspects to it, and scientists as such have no expertise in such things. So this "Shut up and let the scientists handle it" attitude of yours is mistaken, and certainly question-begging.

      If you are going to comment on a post like this, I suggest that it would be more worth your time and mine to comment on the actual specific argument I gave and point out whatever flaws you think you see in it, rather than engaging in this diversionary hand-waving about my alleged political motives. (Which is, by the way, an instance of precisely the kind of fallacious ad hominem I spoke of in my previous post on this subject.)

      Delete
  22. Pedantry, obscurantism, tribalism, irrelevant side topics, and petty insults aside, I'll get back to the main topic. After I vent a little myself and say I'm tired of hearing that "the models predicted 2 million deaths; that's not going to happen, the models are WRONG!!" or "COVID-19 isn't really that worse than the seasonal flu with its fatality rate of 0.1%". The models weren't drastically wrong insofar as how they predicted with social distancing measures in place, and the flu comparisons continually mix up the CFR (CASE fatality rate) with IFR (INFECTION fatality rate). The CFR of the flu is around 0.1%. The IFR is lower by about a half.

    If the (average) IFR of COVID-19 is between 0.5 - 1.0%, the R0 (in the absence of any social distancing, which is clearly what I meant, pedantic comments to the contrary notwithstanding) is around 2.5, and the average time to infect those 2.5 people is around 5 days, then you are looking at a massive public health catastrophe in the next few months, with 1 - 2 million deaths (or even more if the health care system is overwhelmed). (If you deny this, you are either 1) completely mathematically illiterate or 2) a lying right-wing political hack. It is not a matter of opinion. It is a matter of fact.)

    Now it's certainly true that today, social distancing measures have reduced R0 to below 1. However, there is no evidence to suggest the virus has mutated into a less virulent or less contagious strain. (It's possible for this to happen, of course, but there's little evidence it actually HAS happened. In fact it may have mutated into a MORE virulent strain.) Therefore, if all social distancing measures were relaxed tomorrow, it would come roaring back and there would be 1 - 2 million deaths in the next few months.

    The ONLY way for this not to be the case is for these numerical estimates to be wildly, wildly off. I see no reason whatsoever to think so. It is true the IFR is not constant across populations; the elderly and other individuals with pre-existing conditions are clearly at greater risk. But that doesn't refute what I said on the population level. (And please don't even bring up Ioannidis. His studies are unbelievably, unbelievably bad.) Even if 10% of the US population is infected (a wildly unrealistically big number given population seroprevalence studies) given the 100K deaths the IFR is 0.3%, not that far below the accepted range.

    Therefore, this is a case of damage mitigation; how can we lessen the overall impact of COVID-19? The sensible answer to me seems to be to attempt to carry on what we can with social distancing measures in place. We won't be able to carry out everything. Some measures were extreme and unjustified in March and are still so today, like roping off areas in Walmart and Target selling "unessential" items. (This is of course not fact anymore but an opinion, and it is open to counterargument.) Frankly, more societally cohesive nations compared to our own did much, much better than we did. (And that's frankly because Trump and much of the GOP are complete idiots.) But I digress.








    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Are you under the impression you don't across as a tribalist?

      Delete
    2. @Anonymous:

      "Are you under the impression you don't across as a tribalist?"

      Pedantry, obscurantism, tribalism, irrelevant side topics, and petty insults aside, are you mathematically illiterate or a lying right-wing political hack?

      Maybe you are Trump himself or a GOP member? What a moron.

      But I digress.

      Delete
    3. What makes you think I care one iota as to what I "come across as" to you??? What makes you think yourself so important that I should care?

      Delete
    4. Lying Dog-faced Pony SoldierMay 27, 2020 at 7:21 PM

      If you don't care, why do you spend so much time and energy shrieking hysterically around here then?

      Delete
    5. "If you don't care, why do you spend so much time and energy shrieking hysterically around here then?"

      Whatever the answer to this question, the obvious reaction is that if he does not care, then he is not interested in rationally persuading anyone here. Just leave him alone to his own devices, barking at the air or licking his own balls -- or whatever is in there after he was neutered.

      Delete
  23. Just a quick question for the lonely professor to make sure he is not reifying the numbers he's throwing around.
    What are R, CFR, and IFR and how are they measured?
    They are measured, not calculated, correct?

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    1. It's both. They are calculated based on "measured" data.

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    2. As I said, they are estimated.

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    3. As pointed out in this article on the CDC website, R0 is »easily misrepresented, misinterpreted, and misapplied« and »is rarely measured directly, and modeled R0 values are dependent on model structures and assumptions.«
      (cf. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/25/1/17-1901_article – it is well worth reading as a primer on R0)

      Your core argument was:

      If the IFR has this and that value,
      then R0 must have this and that value,
      and only right-wing hacks come to a different conclusion than I, the LonelyProfessor.

      The basic reproduction number (R0) however has no meaningful relation to the eventual outcome of a given infection. There is no reason to assume that R0 of two infectious agents cannot have the same value while their lethality is not the same. Your proposition that the "IFR" (as implicitly defined by you) determines the value of R0 thus is surprising, to put it mildly.

      Your assertion that "social distancing measures have reduced R0 to below 1" is far from "certainly true" - to just point to the most obviously fatal flaw, you have not established or even tried to make an argument that "social distancing measures" (not to be confused with "social distancing") caused this reduction. Which is doubtful, since it seems to be the case that R0 has been below 1 before "social distancing measures" have been implemented.
      I could go on, but I realise that would likely be an exercise in futility.
      So instead I appeal to you to please make better arguments in the future, and if at all possible, refrain from blatant insults and ad hominems, please?

      Delete
    4. Which is doubtful, since it seems to be the case that R0 has been below 1 before "social distancing measures" have been implemented.

      What is your source for this claim?

      Delete
    5. What do you mean "source"? I cannot point you to a readily google-able compilation of the R0-estimates over time for the last months, neither for the US nor for any other country.

      Perhaps you recall the efforts to explain the lack of extinction of the Swedes? Since Sweden did not implement a lockdown the predictions of some current models would have called for a much quicker spread of the disease, which should have overwhelmed the Swedish health care system and resulted in many more deaths. When that did not happen, one explanation was that Swedes observed social distancing practices without a government fiat; similarly for Germany, where the reproduction rate of the virus has fallen below 1 before the first lockdown measures were taken (you can look at the German RKI's situation reports which are archived and accessible via www.rki.de but to my knowledge you have to do the timeline yourself).

      That is why I made a distinction between "social distancing" and "measures" taken by governments.

      As a general matter of principle, my remarks are not a "claim" of some facts. I wrote "seem to" for a reason.

      Generally what you are doing goes to the core of the matter, that is who has to justify their assertions. Apparently you think that the LonelyProfessor who assured us that "it's certainly true that today, social distancing measures have reduced R0 to below 1" does not have to defend this extraordinary claim when reasonable questions are posed but instead that reasonable questions must provide a "source" first.

      This is just the kind of shifting the burden - not to mention the goalposts - that is one of the themes of Feser's blog post in the first place.

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    6. Anonymous (I really wish each of you anonymi would choose some sort of signature for yourselves to end your posts with, so we could tell you apart more reliably),

      Perhaps you recall the efforts to explain the lack of extinction of the Swedes? Since Sweden did not implement a lockdown the predictions of some current models would have called for a much quicker spread of the disease, which should have overwhelmed the Swedish health care system and resulted in many more deaths.

      I don't recall any authority ever putting "extinction" on the table as a possible outcome. I don't know if the Swedish healthcare system has been overwhelmed, but they lead the world in deaths per capita, so that would be evidence in favor of "many more deaths". Did you have some argument in mind that Sweden's approach was successful?

      As a general matter of principle, my remarks are not a "claim" of some facts. I wrote "seem to" for a reason.

      So, you're one of the anonymi who's just arguing from hot air. OK.

      Apparently you think that the LonelyProfessor who assured us that "it's certainly true that today, social distancing measures have reduced R0 to below 1"

      LonelyProfessor was referring to the evidence of reduced transmission we have seen after social distancing measures were implemented. There are all sorts of timelines where you can see the number of cases fall over time a few weeks after measures are taken. What I have not seen is evidence of cases falling in areas where no social distancing measures are being taken. LonelyProfessor made a claim I have seen multiple evidences for, you made a claim I have seen no evidence for, and one that is contrary to the evidence I have seen.

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    7. Dear One Brow,
      you claim Sweden "lead(s) the world in deaths per capita".
      Thankfully that claim can be checked. Looking at today's WHO data (WHO Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Dashboard - Data last updated: 2020/5/30, 9:37am CEST) some of the death per 1 million population figures are:
      Belgium 810, Spain 621, United Kingdom 556, Italy 548, France 438, Sweden 422, USA 303.
      Now that would seem to indicate that Sweden does not, in fact, "lead the world in deaths per capita"
      And as some already have pointed out, New York City numbers say they have roughly 21,500 deaths, so if we are generous and say New York City has a population of 9,000,000 that would be about 2,389 per million population. Slightly worse than Sweden.

      You could be less obvious in spreading false information. Your description of what LonelyProfessor did bears little resemblance with reality.

      You have me convinced of one thing, though. I blame myself for giving you the benefit of the doubt and ending up feeding a troll.

      My apologies to everyone else for doing so. I won't in the future.

      Delete
    8. I second that One Brow is certainly a sophist and pathologically dishonest, from my experience, if not an out and out troll. I imagine this will quickly become the general consensus around here if he sticks around.

      Delete
    9. Anonymous,
      Now that would seem to indicate that Sweden does not, in fact, "lead the world in deaths per capita"

      Thank you for the correction. Being fifth per capita is not exactly a resounding success of their policies, as I am sure you will agree.

      You could be less obvious in spreading false information. Your description of what LonelyProfessor did bears little resemblance with reality.

      I didn't describe what LonelyProfessor did.
      I explained why I did not replay to a single comment on R0, and then only to point out that it confirmed on what we had been seeing (that in some ares where the social distancing measures were implemented successfully, R0 was reduced to below 1). Frankly, I have nothing particularly positive or negative to comment upon regarding LonelyProfessor's comment.

      You have me convinced of one thing, though. I blame myself for giving you the benefit of the doubt and ending up feeding a troll.

      So the person (maybe, who knows with the anonymi?) who referred to "... the lack of extinction of the Swedes", claimed without evidence that the Swedish health care system has not been overwhelmed, thinks comparing the results from a largely rural population to a metropolis is informative, and think the R0 of covid19 was below 1 without social distancing measures (which happened no where in the world) is calling me a troll?

      Well, I'll take that criticism with all the seriousness you heave earned through your various meanderings.

      My apologies to everyone else for doing so. I won't in the future.

      I strongly support you in this effort.

      Delete
    10. Jeremy Taylor,
      I second that One Brow is certainly a sophist and pathologically dishonest, from my experience, if not an out and out troll. I imagine this will quickly become the general consensus around here if he sticks around.

      I see you still have hurt feelings after our last exchange. You really shouldn't linger on these things. It's bad for you, but it really doesn't bother me at all. You're only hurting yourself.

      Delete
    11. Feeding the TrollMay 31, 2020 at 8:09 AM

      Troll in response to anonymous:

      "So the person (maybe, who knows with the anonymi?) who referred to "... the lack of extinction of the Swedes", claimed without evidence that the Swedish health care system has not been overwhelmed, thinks comparing the results from a largely rural population to a metropolis is informative, and think the R0 of covid19 was below 1 without social distancing measures (which happened no where in the world) is calling me a troll?"

      (1) Sweden's health care system is not overwhelmed. Whoever claims that it is needs to show some evidence, not the person assuming normalcy absent any indication of abnormality.
      (2) Showing that NYC easily beats Sweden in the "who leads the world in cumulative covid-19 deaths" refutes the troll's claim that Sweden is leading in that category. Clearly that is "informative," although for most people not oblivious to the facts surrounding the pandemic this information is hardly new.
      (3) If only the troll had read and understood what "in Germany R0 was below 1 before lockdown measures were put in place" means. A second example would be Japan, which has not implemented any social distancing measures because apparently the Japanese government takes the Japanese constitution seriously.
      Note the persistence of the troll in ignoring the explicit distinction made between "social distancing" and "social distancing measures" (defined as implemented by the state with force of law).

      Delete
    12. Feeding the Troll,

      I am happy to provide your meal for you.

      (1) Sweden's health care system is not overwhelmed. Whoever claims that it is needs to show some evidence, not the person assuming normalcy absent any indication of abnormality.

      In a time where health systems have been overwhelmed all over the world, what counts as "normalcy"?

      Still, the Swedes were certainly concerned about it as of May 5.

      https://www.medpagetoday.com/infectiousdisease/covid19/86256

      (2) Showing that NYC easily beats Sweden in the "who leads the world in cumulative covid-19 deaths" refutes the troll's claim that Sweden is leading in that category. Clearly that is "informative," although for most people not oblivious to the facts surrounding the pandemic this information is hardly new.

      Well, since I had already acknowledged the prior evidence that Sweden is only fifth in terms of countries, there was no longer a claim to defeat. However, if you're going to compare a country to a city, why not take it further and compare some nursing home with a 30% to a country? By that measure, every country's policy has been an outrageous success!

      Why yes, that does sound stupid.

      (3) If only the troll had read and understood what "in Germany R0 was below 1 before lockdown measures were put in place" means.

      Well, I was trying to explain what that would mean to the troll, but they are stubborn. A disease with an R0 of less than 1 before social distancing couldn't grow into a pandemic in the first place.

      A second example would be Japan, which has not implemented any social distancing measures because apparently the Japanese government takes the Japanese constitution seriously.

      You still need a first example. Despite the press, Sweden did engage in some "social distancing measures", as you define it below, by banning gatherings of over 50 people. Japan closed schools, has entry restrictions, and is in an official state of emergency.

      Japan acted earlier than the US, with a culture of compliance toward the government suggestions. You don't need mandatory lockdowns in a culture where citizens will lock themselves down voluntarily.

      Of course, trolls have trouble with such distinctions. They tend to be such black-and-white creatures.

      Note the persistence of the troll in ignoring the explicit distinction made between "social distancing" and "social distancing measures" (defined as implemented by the state with force of law).

      Note how trolls only decide to apply definitions after the fact in an attempt to win an argument.

      Delete
  24. Granted, TLP is rude and annoying and boring. But I also wonder if he has a point. According to Feser: "Now, a strong case could be made at the beginning of the lockdown that preventing such labor was indeed strictly necessary. But such a case cannot be made now." Okay, but I don't think anything much has changed. If the case in the beginning was strong, then it is reasonable for people like TLP to insist that it's still strong (and to do so without being an ass about it). As Feser himself originally argued, you can't argue that certain anticipated evils haven't happened, so that shows the lockdown was unnecessary, because the lockdowners will just claim that the evils were avoided only because of the lockdown, and can continue to be avoided only because of the lockdown. At least you can still make a 'strong case' for this position. (Except it's not a strong case, and never has been.) To argue that the situation for those denied their right to work has become more dire after two months lockdown ignores the original (weak) rationale for denying them the right to work in the first place: "sorry but it's necessary!" (And if you're among the millions on the brink of starvation in a poor developing country thanks to our 'prudential' decision to ravage the world economy, still, "sorry, had to do it!")

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm just curious how many predicted deaths over what period of time would it take for the case to be "strong". Obviously a million or two over a few months doesn't meet the mark. So what would it take? 10 million? 100 million?

      And I don't apologize for my tone. Not one bit. I'm not changing at all, not to suit you or anyone else for that matter. In fact it's quite guarded considering the circumstances. The right (in general) is smugly confident that it is right about COVID-19, and that the "experts" (always put in scare quotes) are wrong. Almost all the right-wing pundits are either incredibly intellectually dishonest or have just drunk the Kool-Aid. And this is a pandemic, and people are dying.

      Delete
    2. Lying Dog-faced Pony SoldierMay 27, 2020 at 7:27 PM

      Who says a million or two would have died with moderate social distancing and common sense instead of a lock down? Anyone can just make up figures.

      You clearly don't pay much attention to right-wing pundits. They're pretty split, more split than the lefties in the mainstream media, who are all taking the same kind of hysterical position you are. Listen to CNN and and then listen to Ben Shapiro or read National Review on the pandemic and tell me who seems more rational and informed on the Coronavirus.

      Delete
    3. (And if you're among the millions on the brink of starvation in a poor developing country thanks to our 'prudential' decision to ravage the world economy, still, "sorry, had to do it!")

      To be fair, the economic impact of COVID is not fully attributable to lockdowns, much less to United States policy. There would have been economic consequences anyway. They might be worse than they could have been, but they were not all preventable. How much worse are they? I have no idea how to arrive at a confident answer to that question.

      Delete
  25. Since the moment the lockdoown start to put at risk other lifes for different reason than COVID19, starts to inmoral. It start to be a trolley problem.

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  26. "But the draconian total lockdown that was put in place across most of the country is at this"

    There was never a TOTAL Lockdown across most of the country.

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