Make it V-shaped (plus news from China)

Yesterday, the number of new cases in China was 21. Interestingly, only one was community transmission (in Wuhan); the other 20 were incoming travelers (who get quarantined.) Some people question the Chinese data, but the trends in other East Asian countries are broadly similar, so I suspect they are roughly accurate.  By Friday, Italy will have more total deaths than China.  Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan have 5 deaths, combined.  

Chinese industry is coming back on stream. Here’s Canada’s National Post:

The economic outlook was also brightening, with state planning officials saying China’s economy would return to normal in the second quarter as factories reopened, businesses resumed trading and consumers started spending again.

“Over 90 per cent of large-scale industrial companies in regions outside of Hubei have resumed production, and resumption rates for places including Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Shanghai are close to 100 per cent,” Meng Wei, spokeswoman of the state planner told a news briefing on Tuesday.

The number of railway loadings had returned to normal levels, and civil aviation, ports, and water transportation were all operating normally, she added.

Again, one can question the data. But there is independent evidence from other sources, for instance Beijing traffic is gradually getting back to normal:







Does this mean that the US economy will be getting back to normal in two months? I doubt it. The stock and bond markets certainly don’t think so.

The top priority is getting the epidemic under control. But a close second is getting monetary policy right so that when the epidemic is under control we can have a fast recovery. No reason for this recession not to be V-shaped. We should not let this lapse into another Great Recession.

PS. The Surgeon General said that we can’t emulate South Korea because we are not an authoritarian nation. Are we governed by clowns?

PPS. Good article questioning the received wisdom that masks don’t help. The article links to a picture of a top WHO official wearing one of those totally unhelpful masks when visiting Beijing. I guess it’s not just average people like me that are stupid.

The article also links to a CDC report that says masks do help when you are around infected people. But the link was mysteriously removed. I wonder why.



69 Responses to “Make it V-shaped (plus news from China)”

  1. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    17. March 2020 at 14:54

    The following was created by Matt Brown of MSR Indices. We were talking about containment in protecting the older people—-and let everyone else roam free. We both thought the average age would be high—but are amazed it is this high. We assume the midpoint of the worldometer age ranges to make the rows.

    What comes to mind is the concept of letting younger people “catch the disease” to eliminate and weaken it—and contain the older people—obviously not that simple but these numbers are interesting—-This approximation is pretty close although done by iteration (only assumption made is using the midpoint of the Worldometer age ranges—-this makes one think our Lockdown idea may be a bit extreme——-we think, given our assumptions mentioned above this is very close to correct—-why are they not telling us these numbers comments welcome

    Total Total
    Deaths Cases
    7,955 197,802 4.02%

    Death Estimated Estimated
    Age Rate Deaths Cases
    85 14.8% 3,880.49 26,219.51 4.02%(total deaths as % of cases)
    75 8.0% 2,651.67 33,145.83
    65 3.6% 795.50 22,097.22
    55 1.3% 397.75 30,596.15
    45 0.4% 99.44 24,859.38
    35 0.2% 79.55 39,775.00
    25 0.2% 26.52 13,258.33
    15 0.2% 15.91 7,955.00

    5 0.0% 0 197,906.43

    * Death rates also come from worldometer

    PS. Kevin Durant got the virus!

  2. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    17. March 2020 at 15:03

    PS—1400 deaths from 0 to 70 years old—-a long way to go to 20 million

  3. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    17. March 2020 at 15:04

    Average age of death is about 77

  4. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    17. March 2020 at 15:33

    Michael Rulle,

    Last I checked the Dutch were still going ahead with the “herd immunity” concept that the UK just abandoned. So maybe we’ll have an example to compare against.

  5. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    17. March 2020 at 15:36

    Regarding how the disease affects the young, the mortality rate and rate of severe symptoms does look to be much less in younger people (say less than 60 years old). However, I wonder how many (even young) survivors will walk away with permanent lung damage:

  6. Gravatar of Tom Brown Tom Brown
    17. March 2020 at 15:39

    More than 50% of severe cases in France were in people under 60 years old:

  7. Gravatar of Brian Donohue Brian Donohue
    17. March 2020 at 15:39

    Yesterday, you said you expected a pretty severe recession.

    Today, you say China is recovering, but the US won’t, because of US stock and bond markets.

    OK, but the Chinese stock market has been hammered every bit as much as the US market.

    Perhaps you should revisit the idea that this will be a very severe recession, that the experience of China and others* suggest maybe this virus isn’t such a calamity after all.

    * Norway data is crazy. 1,470 cases of corona (271 per million, among the highest in the world), total deaths: three.

  8. Gravatar of John Arthur John Arthur
    17. March 2020 at 15:55

    I really think USA will have a better trajectory of the Virus than China or Italy.
    Worldometers has good charts of the virus’s development in Italy and China, two countries hit really hard by the virus, as well as America.
    The death rate in America is rising far slower than it did in Italy or China, though we did have advance notice of the virus ahead of time.
    It took China & Italy like 10 days to start having deaths in the 40s and 50s, and that quickly ballooned into the hundreds.

    However, in fairness, we are not doing well compared to other East Asian nations, as well as Russia and India. Russia and India have only infestimal number of cases, due to their border closing early on, and extreme vetting at their border.
    That should have been the proper response for the United States government.

  9. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    17. March 2020 at 16:29

    Excellent thread, kudos to Dr. Scott Sumner! And thanks to Tom Brown about the Dutch “natural experiment”, interesting link.

    I wish to draw attention to the savants on this board the following question, because it concerns my IRA. Selfish, yes. Go here:

    After you read this thread, please register or perhaps post here.

    Let me summarize quickly the main points (all of this from a reputable CNN cited UK “top secret” report, this is not a ZeroHedge story)

    1. Covid-19 is not killed by quarantine. So this contradicts Dr. Sumner’s OP. Covid-19 comes back once people stop ‘social distancing’. Those Chinese ‘going back to work’? They’ll get Covid-19 again say UK scientists.

    2. Vaccine for Covid-19 about (at best) 18 months away

    3. In order to contain Covid-19 (i.e., the China or new US or non-(old)-UK, non-Dutch strategy, aka “containment” strategy), you need to constantly quarantine people (or have them practice severe social distancing) for up to 18 months, the time it takes to (hopefully) create a vaccine.

    All of this is more or less uncontested, except the first #1 point, which, again, seems to contradict Dr. Sumner’s excellent OP. (did I just praise Dr. Sumner? Desperate times call for desperate measures).

    Thanks in advance. Optimally post at MishTalk, superior in format to this WordPress site.

  10. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    17. March 2020 at 17:09

    @John Arthur:

    The problem is there is not yet evidence that the US is having any luck bending the curve. We are still in the exponential growth phase. I am hopeful we will see some slowdown soon but who knows.

  11. Gravatar of Student Student
    17. March 2020 at 17:21

    I was taking so much shit for suggesting an over/under of 2.5 million like a week ago. By the way, based on the latest numbers… we are still way into exponential territory. We are easily on track for millions of deaths. No China style shutdowns yet. We are going exponential folks. Get drastic now people. We need to stop the exponential NOW!!!!!!!

  12. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    17. March 2020 at 17:23

    China, as always, impresses.

    But they have a powerful and ruling political party, and powerful central and provincial governments, and a state-managed economy. All that is wedded to Han culture. I surmise that China will eclipse the US by almost every measure in coming years, and that comparisons of China to Russia are not indicative.

    The comments above mine are fascinating. Evidently we are collapsing the US economy and throwing the financial system under the bus to protect people who are more than 80 years old.

    I like old people and shortly I will join that category.

    Besides that, it is not clear the quarantine and shutdown efforts will ultimately be effective, certainly in the US with its clunky government.

    Scott Sumner suggests the US is run by clowns. He demeans an old profession.

  13. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    17. March 2020 at 17:28

    Brian, You said:

    “OK, but the Chinese stock market has been hammered every bit as much as the US market.”

    No, the Chinese market has held up relatively well. Maybe you need to revisit the data.

    John, My prediction of a sharp recession is not based on an assumption that we’ll have lots of deaths; I’ve said that the worst predictions are very unlikely. Rather we’ll have a recession to avoid lots of deaths.

    We should have done lots more testing early on. It helped in South Korea.

    Ray, You said:

    “Covid-19 is not killed by quarantine. So this contradicts Dr. Sumner’s OP.”

    I never claimed it did.

  14. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    17. March 2020 at 17:32


    You’re not helping. Maybe the CNN comment section is a better spot for you to panic.

  15. Gravatar of Student Student
    17. March 2020 at 17:44


    Are you immune to basic math? Do the math man. (Delta new cases day t / delta new cases day t-1) is still > 1. We hit 7,000 or so today. We will be at 20,000 cases in the USA by March 22. By April 2, 2020 – 200,000 cases. But just after tax day, 2 million. By May 1, 2020. 100 million us cases…. unless we do something now!!! We haven’t even scratched the surface. DO THE MATH people!

  16. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    17. March 2020 at 17:50


    Why do you think those growth rates will persist? They haven’t anywhere else.

  17. Gravatar of Student Student
    17. March 2020 at 17:54


    What’s with the 197,906.43 in that last row (5 year olds)?

  18. Gravatar of Student Student
    17. March 2020 at 17:57


    Because the haven’t budged from the exponential trend yet. Growth factor (d new cases t / d new cases t-1) has been 1.10-1.30 the entire curve, since January. People keep saying it will level off. But it hasn’t yet. Until It actually does…. the math says we are exponential still.

    When it hits 1.0 we can expect double the current cases. No where near that based simply on the numbers. So when is that curve gonna bend?

  19. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    17. March 2020 at 18:11


    I don’t know when it will, but it did in China so I believe it will here too.

  20. Gravatar of Student Student
    17. March 2020 at 18:19

    Where is the testing? Where are the lockdowns? Is that even possible in the USA? Your assuming the result is nice. I’ll go with the math tho.

  21. Gravatar of Anonymous Anonymous
    17. March 2020 at 18:47

    Student, lockdowns were initiated end of last week and are strengthening. So I would expect to see a slowdown at the end of this week and no sooner.

  22. Gravatar of Student Student
    17. March 2020 at 18:49


    I hope you are right. I am looking for it… counting on it. And If not? Then what? Let’s hope the clowns that be have their thinking caps on already.

  23. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    17. March 2020 at 18:50

  24. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    17. March 2020 at 18:50

  25. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    17. March 2020 at 19:05

    Korea has a compliant / honorable culture. In the US, a subset people who test covid+ will go out infecting the neighbors anyway. That is the key difference to watch.

  26. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    17. March 2020 at 19:30

    If the US watched what China does (mandatory 14-day quarantine of foreigners) instead of what China says (travel bans are racist and xenophobic) then we wouldn’t be in this mess.

    In a reversal of roles, Beijing is now requiring almost all international arrivals to go into 14-day quarantine in designated hotels.

  27. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    17. March 2020 at 19:34

    Recently I was chided for commenting that COVID-19 has turned America’s libertarians into statist martinets.

    But peruse “libertarian” websites and look for “natural inoculation” or “herd immunity.”

    Reason magazine quibbles a bit with forcing every citizen to be homebound, but that is about it. They say you should self-isolate…I guess while the government comes up with a solution.

    I used to say, “There are no atheists in foxholes and no libertarians when neighborhood property zoning is under review.”

    Let me rephrase: “At the slightest whiff of personal danger, American libertarians accede to statist martinets.”

    BTW, I am for total abolition of property zoning, total decriminalization of push-cart or truck vending, and herd immunity or natural inoculation for COVID-19.

    But then, I am not kept on a short leash by financiers. I am a wag. I can call a spade a spade.

  28. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    17. March 2020 at 19:36

    Many cities are locked down including my own, San Francisco

  29. Gravatar of James Alexander James Alexander
    18. March 2020 at 00:00

    Are US Treasury yields rising due to increasing NGDP growth expectations or rising credit risk on Treasuries? I don’t know.

  30. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    18. March 2020 at 01:05

    So far I see no reason why the virus cannot be contained (or even defeated) by a few weeks of lockdown. China is proving that this is entirely possible. This is also the medical perspective.

    In the media and also here too many people are talking about what might or might not be in 3 months or next year or in 3 years. This is not the right way to think about this.

    The next two to four weeks are crucial. That is what we have to focus on now. Some people try to take the last step before the first. If we take this first step right, then a V-shaped recovery is the most likely scenario.

  31. Gravatar of BC BC
    18. March 2020 at 01:27

    Wouldn’t the whole mask thing be easily solved if we would just let prices fluctuate? I’m pretty sure that government and hospitals could easily outbid individuals to buy all the masks that healthcare workers needed. But, no. It’s much better to keep the prices artificially low enough so that individuals can afford to hoard them and then have public officials damage their own credibility, during a period when their credibility is crucial, by trying to explain to the public that masks are only effective when healthcare workers wear them.

  32. Gravatar of BC BC
    18. March 2020 at 01:53

    Scott, what is the underlying fundamental reason why our capacity to treat the most severe cases of COVID-19 seems to be under threat of becoming overwhelmed absent altruistic behavior (social distancing for the good of others rather than purely to reduce one’s own risk, including risk to oneself of becoming sick when hospitals are likely to be overburdened)? We don’t seem to need to rely on altruism, jawboning, etc. to manage demand surges for many (any?) other goods/services.

    Would some sort of market for reserving treatment capacity (hospital beds, ICU slots, ventilator use, etc.) internalize costs and benefits such that we could rely on self-interested behavior to determine who should socially distance themselves? Also, would such a market and/or removal of regulatory barriers incent innovation of treatment systems that can more flexibly accommodate fluctuations in demand?

    This virus seems to have exposed some fundamental flaw in the way we regulate and cross-subsidize within our healthcare system. Given globalization, there’s no reason to believe that we won’t have periodic pandemics in the future. Surely, the response can’t be that we’ll just shut everything down for 1-2 months every few years.

  33. Gravatar of Student Student
    18. March 2020 at 02:04

    Well it’s a good thing we are containing this:

    I actually no a couple of clowns that got on a plane with their kids and flew to Florida to go to the beach. Again, I don’t think we can/will do what it takes until it’s too late.

  34. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    18. March 2020 at 02:10

    We’ve been through this at length. Masks are effective, but only if you wear them properly, and for a short time, and with the right other protective measures (suit, glasses, gloves). Of course you can argue that a mask is “better” than no mask, but not by much and especially not if you don’t follow the all the other safety and hygiene rules that you will rather follow without the mask.

    Wouldn’t the whole mask thing be easily solved if we would just let prices fluctuate?

    But that would be very expensive. The vast majority of states would adopt other measures first, such as fixed delivery contracts, sales restrictions, confiscation, maybe even ban of private ownership.

  35. Gravatar of Mark Mark
    18. March 2020 at 04:40

    Steve, mandatory quarantines are very different from travel bans. Mandatory quarantines still allow people to travel if they have important reasons to do so such as family or career reasons (and no one is traveling for fun now), but travel bans do not. China has not banned travel from any country.

  36. Gravatar of cove77 cove77
    18. March 2020 at 04:50

    James Alexander,
    that questions been kicking around last 24 hrs or so..with a lot of bad options…it’s a good thing that curve is steepening…imagine if 2’s/10’s had no or neg responsive to this bogus, LOUD fiscal response…the FED is out in front this time but they’re not eradicating corona or channeling resources to health care-state and fed…in the meantime there’s 2020’s Committee to Save the World (Trump/Mnuchin/Kudlow)

  37. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    18. March 2020 at 05:23

    Re: my chart—sorry how hard to read the numbers—-I did a screen shot of excel—but it was no better than just cutting and paste excel-which I knew would not come through

    Story is this. NO ONE is releasing disease by age group—therefore no one is releasing deaths by age group. So by iteration tried to make the numbers fit given what is released.

    Basically, it appears that by decade (except ages 0-10), a similar number of people have gotten the virus—but we know that a much higher percentage of people over 65 will get the virus (because there are a linearly declining number of people starting at age 60).

    This has ENORMOUS policy implications and NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT IT—in fact it appears they are hiding it.

    It is OBVIOUS that those who need to be “supressed” are the older people—-they get the disease at a higher rate and they die at a higher rate. But for some reason we are chosing a policy of suppressing everyone. And unless we find a vaccine or “semi-cure” within months this will be a disaster—no theory exists which says suppression stops you from getting it later. China and Korea will be the test cases. They should have already gone back to normal—except they know it will just raise the disease levels again—-unless they suppress the aged

    The non-supressed will create the “herd immunity” like we have done with every virus in Human history.

    Scott is correct—-we are having a recession—if not a depression—unless we find a cure fast or change our policies fast (i.e.suppress/contain the aged—-and just use normal common sense (wash hands, hygiene, etc—and keep young away from old ) for the young

    Or—maybe the stupid shit Virus drops dead on its own—-which I doubt. We are engaging in an unprecedented action to cause a Depression—-except we live in a world of Nukes. I don’t like our situation at all.

  38. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    18. March 2020 at 05:39

    Mark, travel bans are necessary, until you have the infrastructure and political will to enforce mandatory quarantines.

    A willingness to enforce quarantines is the last piece of the puzzle that the US hasn’t fully grasped yet. Perhaps we bail out the hotels, by renting the entire building and then locking covid+ people inside?

  39. Gravatar of Mark Mark
    18. March 2020 at 05:58

    Steve, mandatory quarantines are less restrictive than banning travel. If there’s the will to ban travel, there’s the will to require people coming in from certain countries to enter mandatory quarantines.

    Travel bans don’t seem to have much effect on disease spread, especially if they’re only targeted against certain countries. Canada had no restrictions on travel until this week yet their outbreak hasn’t progressed any faster than the US’s. People have studied the effects of travel bans in the 2009 swine flu and found that they only slowed the outbreak by a few days.

    Travel is naturally reduced in situations like this. Travel bans aren’t keeping out hordes tourists. They’re keeping out people who have really important needs to travel—like all these people with fiancé visas that are going to expire: Mandatory quarantines on incoming travelers would allow people to travel who have such important needs to do so. They are much more humane and less disruptive than outright travel bans. So there is no moral equivalency between China’s mandatory quarantines on incoming travelers and the outright bans that the US has enacted. Mandatory quarantines on all travelers would probably be more effective than just banning travelers from certain countries too because travelers from non-banned countries could still have the disease.

  40. Gravatar of Student Student
    18. March 2020 at 06:03

    So i am computing the growth factor daily for the US situation and forecasting out 2 days ahead using a 15 rolling average of the 15 most recent daily growth factors.

    The estimate of total known cases for 11:59 3/18/2020 = 8,708. By 11:59 3/19/2020 = 11,827.

    If these numbers are close, we are very much on an exponential trend. 15 day rolling average for the growth factor is 1.36! Yikes!

  41. Gravatar of Student Student
    18. March 2020 at 06:12

    One more note. US cases have been multiplying by 10 every 9 days!

    The social distancing stuff we started doing should start showing up by maybe April 1. If we are still on this trend in mid April, we will be closing in on 50 million cases.

    Let’s hope the curve bends. Otherwise, we might want to consider the awful. We got to become exposed and hope we are not in the 1-2% that croaks their last croak.

  42. Gravatar of John Arthur John Arthur
    18. March 2020 at 07:23

    Here is evidence that the economy is doing better than people anticipate.
    GDPNOW has economic growth at 3.1% for first quarter.
    According to new data from residential construction that was released today, along with other data, showcased an accelerating economy, with real gross private domestic investment growth increasing from 6.3 to 7.5%.
    This is important because they last updated those numbers in March 5th, with the same emphasis on residential construction and investment growth, That means that the acceleration reflected in the data occured in the last 12 or so days.
    Now this does not mean no recession, but I feel like the economy will do much better than people expect.
    Also, Atlanta Fed has gotten really good at tracking economic growth, with their estimates being off only by 0%-.3% in the last dozen quarters

  43. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    18. March 2020 at 07:46

    @Student: If the curve doesn’t bend then we are all indeed getting exposed.

  44. Gravatar of Student Student
    18. March 2020 at 07:57

    Guy, this will be my last depressing nugget for a while. I have had enough for a while. I thought the 20% unemployment figure was a scare story. Then I looked at this. I have correlated this new claims data many times. It doesn’t work to well but it also doesn’t work badly. Note that the last day shown is March 16.

  45. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    18. March 2020 at 08:00

    Student: if you are middle-aged or younger you almost certainly have nothing to fear.

    There were 1100 crew members on the Diamond Princess who bunked and ate in common quarters. They were trapped on board for weeks. The infection rate, that is they had antibodies to the virus in their bloodstream, was probably 100%.

    Only a handful became ill enough to require hospitalization, and none died.

    Here is an interesting stat: In 2019, there will be an estimated 1,762,450 new cancer cases diagnosed and 606,880 cancer deaths in the United States.

    Okay, so 600,000 people will die from cancer in the United States in 2020. Life goes on. I guess another 600,000 or so will die in 2021. And every year after that.

    In contrast, Covid-19 will probably be a serious Grim Reaper once, but only once, and after that exact a small toll.

    I say to the readers of Money Illusion: you people do not have your thinking caps on.

  46. Gravatar of Student Student
    18. March 2020 at 08:08


    I understand that point of view. Notice however, we had SARS 2002, h1n1 2009, MERS 2012, SARS-CoV2 2019… brush of pandemics and it won’t be long before this happens again. We got to learn how to deal with them or just accept it then like cancer… I don’t like the sound of that, even if it’s inevitable.

  47. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    18. March 2020 at 08:16

    Since we’re flying at least half blind in the US due to our complete lack of random testing and our shortage of test kits in general, what’s the best proxy for extrapolating our actual infection rate: number dead? number seriously ill? And which country that is doing good testing is our best demographic proxy?

  48. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    18. March 2020 at 08:21

    Student: well, you make a point, the price of globalization is globalized viruses. In Wuhan yesterday, in Los Angeles today.

    Every time a virus hops from a bat, or a swine, or a duck to a human, I guess we shutter the entire industries and wipe 50% off of stock market values.

    That sneeze in a remote outback of India by a duck farmer means your retirement days will be lived in penury, your portfolio cut in half in mere weeks.

  49. Gravatar of Ewan Ewan
    18. March 2020 at 08:59

    It has been said that the worst place for a pandemic to take hold is in an authoritarian state. Prof. Sumner’s apt P.S tells us that it might very well be any state, whatever its purported nature, liberal democratic, whatever, if its leaders are clowns. (I live in the UK. I know how it feels.) But perhaps the correct answer is, any state subject to punitive illegal sanctions by the US. The collective punishment of the people of Venezuela and Iran was never justifiable. Its obscenity is surely now clear to everyone. (Others can at least hope for outside help not just from China. Palestinians excepted.)

  50. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    18. March 2020 at 09:35


    On February 13, Scott wrote:

    “Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t see why my claim here is even controversial. China was probably the single worst country for the coronavirus outbreak to occur.”

    Someone else replied along the lines off this:

    After the initial terrible mess, certain aspects of the Chinese reaction were really impressive. I don’t think too many other countries could have pulled this off. It is easy to test Scott’s theory in reality: some experts say that it will be almost impossible to stop the transmission of the virus once it enters India, Bangladesh or any other densely populated region with an inferior healthcare system. Some of these experts believe that this is already happening, but that it is largely undiscovered at the moment!!!

    This was February 13, 2020.

  51. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    18. March 2020 at 09:52

    @Benjamin Cole

    Every time a virus hops from a bat, or a swine, or a duck to a human, I guess we shutter the entire industries and wipe 50% off of stock market values…

    We haven’t faced anything like this since the Spanish Flu, 100 years ago. I don’t expect we’ll be having perennial pandemics going forward. But, by all means, get the Chinese to stop the wet markets.

    But peruse “libertarian” websites and look for “natural inoculation” or “herd immunity.”

    . I browsed and found this: and and

    Did you consider that maybe many libertarians aren’t convinced that the herd immunity argument is a good one? Maybe some of us think that flattening the curve and then operating with restraint until treatments and vaccines have been ramped up is a wiser course of action than sneezing on our parents and hoping that they don’t clog up the emergency rooms too much while they’re fighting pneumonia.

  52. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    18. March 2020 at 10:28

    In the meanwhile, even the Brits, or should I say British pro-government researchers, have put Ben’s Great Theory of Endless Dying and Mass Despair (TM) where it belongs: in the trash.

    “Perhaps our most significant conclusion is that mitigation is unlikely to be feasible without emergency surge capacity limits of the UK and US healthcaresystems being exceeded many times over.

    In the most effective mitigation strategy examined, which leads to a single, relatively short epidemic (case isolation, household quarantine and social distancing of the elderly), the surge limits for both general ward and ICUbeds would be exceeded by at least 8-fold.

    In addition, even if all patients were ableto be treated, we predict there would still be in the order of 250,000 deaths in GB, and 1.1-1.2 million in the US.

    In the UK, this conclusion has only been reached in the last few days, with the refinement of estimates of likely ICU demand due to COVID-19 based on experience in Italy and the UK.

    We therefore conclude that epidemic suppression is the only viable strategy at the current time.

    The social and economic effects of the measures which are needed to achieve this policy goal will be profound.

    Many countries have adopted such measures already, but even those countries at an earlier stage of their epidemic (such as the UK) will need to do so imminently.”

    The Brits really needed a paper to find out the obvious. And in hardcore cases like R&B not even this will help.

  53. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    18. March 2020 at 10:42

    I agree with Carl. Don’t compare this with SARS, MERS or H1N1. Carl is right, we haven’t faced anything like this since the Spanish Flu, 100 years ago.

    There is no sign that this happens every few years now. And if it does, we must soon be prepared for it, just as Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong were prepared.

    The Chinese have shown us how to do it. It’s similar to the Sputnik shock back in the day. The big question is only whether the West is able to react appropriately. I have my doubts. Not to mention that the Chinese are far better than the Russians were back then.

  54. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    18. March 2020 at 10:47


    Lars Christensen has started floating an idea that had also been on my mind. That is, engage in massive deficit spending, with the full understanding that monetary offset will occur, but with the goal of getting interest rates significantly away from the ZLB to provide more traction for conventional monetary policy.

    Any thoughts you want to share about this?

  55. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    18. March 2020 at 12:17

    Student is hysterical, lol, since he just discovered exponential growth but he never solved this equation: y'(x) = y(x) – y(x)^2 I hope he’s wrong.

    @msgkings – not to get personal, but is your greasy spoon resto in NY closed? Sorry to hear that if so.

    @everybody – you still think social distancing is the key? In the end, Ben’s “herd immunity” argument may in fact win, de facto. Go here (from my first link above): – note Taleb assumes only one new China case, and thus “quarantine won”. But as of today, a day after this paper was written, China has between 13 to 51 new cases. Why aren’t new cases zero? Taleb suggests they are imports from outside of China. But, what if they’re not? What if SARS-CoV-2 cannot be killed so easily by quarantine? That’s why IMO the market, when it realizes China new cases are not declining, will crash to below 10k on the DJ-30. I hope I’m wrong.

    PS–it is said besides Covid-19 destroying your insides even if you survive it, it also causes long term male infertility issues. Bad news for young men who think they will escape destruction. Pray that Student is wrong about his hysteria.

  56. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    18. March 2020 at 12:18

    From Italy:

    “4200 new infections and 475 deaths from Sars-CoV-2 on Wednesday marked a sad record since the beginning of the epidemic in Italy. The total number of coronavirus cases rose to 35,713 and the number of deaths to 2978.”

    Exponential growth is a bitch.

  57. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    18. March 2020 at 12:53

    Ben, So “herd immunity” (mass death) is the “libertarian” solution? LOL. Aren’t you confusing libertarians with lemmings?

    James, See my new post.

    BC, Yes price gouging laws are part of the problem, but not the whole problem.

    John Arthur, Three words – – rear view mirror.

    Michael, I’m not a fan of fiscal stimulus.

  58. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    18. March 2020 at 13:07

    @Ray Lopez:

    Not to get personal, but are you still paying a young Filipina to have sex with you?

  59. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    18. March 2020 at 13:09

    Covid-19 destroying your insides even if you survive it.

    Now I know why R&B are so relaxed. There’s nothing relevant in their insides that can be destroyed. Natural immunity, if you will. Where there is no brain tissue in the first place, brain tissue cannot be destroyed. Smart move.

  60. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    18. March 2020 at 13:33

    Almost 20% additional fatalities in just one single day in Italy is just shocking.

    And the contagion curves in countries like US, UK, France, Spain, Germany are pretty much still on the Italian track.

    Too much has been missed in the beginning, these are mistakes that can only be made up for by massive intervention, but this is still not being done in all places. Many folks are still careless. See the farmer with his tinfoil hat.

  61. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    18. March 2020 at 13:52

    Sadly, still parabolic in the US. Gotta see some progress in the next week or two….

  62. Gravatar of Student Student
    18. March 2020 at 15:09

    I have been a little anxious for weeks. Hysterical no. Legitimately by the facts yes. Reason not fear. The growth factor is well over 1.4 today. Unless we get it to at least 1.05 and soon. We are in deep shit. Let’s hope it’s just more testing. I don’t think so tho. I think it’s real.

  63. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    18. March 2020 at 15:40

    @msgkings – I was sorry for you until you reminded me what a jerk you are. Now I’m glad your greasy spoon is going bust, but, reading between the lines, you were sponging off some woman in NYC and had no equity in that joint.

    @Christian List – what will you say when *China* new cases continue to go up? Infectious disease specialist Michael Osterholm told CNBC on Tuesday 3/17/2020- “As soon as China goes back to work and people are on subways and trains, … we are going to see a resurgence of cases back in China,” he said. Hmm? What will you and Sumner say when de facto the world gets ‘herd immunity’? I personally hope I’m wrong and quarantine works, but I would not dismiss Ben’s prediction that de facto herd immunity will result, since I don’t think quarantine works. BTW the Nazis were an inferior fighting force. They could beat Poles on horses, Greek farmers with WWI antique weapons and surprised Russian solders in 1941 (though the failure to capture Moscow is inexcusable), but after 1943 they fought stupidly and were soundly beaten by both Russians and even green Americans with inferior Sherman tanks. Those are the facts, so don’t be so proud of that red and black flag you keep at home.

  64. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    18. March 2020 at 16:24

    @Ray Lopez: You’re so easy to troll it’s hilarious. If the Troll King Ray calls you a jerk, you win. I do like the fictional life you’ve invented for me though. What neighborhood is my failing greasy spoon in? What’s it called? I’m dying to know.

    Also, seriously, are you still paying young third world girls in poverty to service you?

  65. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    18. March 2020 at 16:35

    Judging from the comments of Christian List and Scott Sumner, I am the imbecile who would open the door to the Grim Reaper.

    I will concede one point: America’s “libertarians” do seem to have become lemmings. The courage of one’s convictions…well what can we say about American politics and the chattering classes?

    We stand on sacred principles (which we can change on an hourly basis).

    Donald Trump is not a symptom, he is a reflection!

  66. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    18. March 2020 at 20:07

    The most widespread problem in Australia at the moment is supermarkets being bought out of various items. It is mad, because there is no actual shortage, just hoard buying that won’t stop.

    It is very hard to establish the “stop hoard buying” tipping points because groups of shoppers (disproportionately from low trust societies) are descending on any supermarket that manages to get ahead and stripping them again. Even hiring buses to descend on supermarkets in rural communities.

    Even when supermarkets attempt to force item number limits, shoppers (again disproportionately from low trust societies) buy to their limit, bag it with someone, then go in again for same again.

    Heterogeneous (particularly low trust v high trust) norms are not helping. After it is all over, it would be potentially instructive to compare high-diversity societies with low-diversity societies in how successful their responses have been. (Whichever way the data comes out.)

  67. Gravatar of Ewan Ewan
    19. March 2020 at 04:29

    Christian List
    I take the point!

    India and Bangladesh will perforce endure what Boris Johnson sought by choice.

  68. Gravatar of Chris Chris
    20. March 2020 at 15:30

    An anecdote on China getting back to normal:
    My girlfriends supplier (medical manufacturing) is back to work and at full production again after being basically at zero capacity as little as two weeks ago.

  69. Gravatar of Some COVID-19 Notes | Bayesian Investor Blog Some COVID-19 Notes | Bayesian Investor Blog
    22. March 2020 at 20:23

    […] Scott Sumner […]

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