Things conservatives are supposed to believe

1. The Chinese have vastly underreported the problem in China.

2. The mortality rate in the US is actually only about 0.2%.

3. Chloroquine is effective.

4. Sweden is the way to go.

5. The virus probably escaped from a Chinese lab.

6. The current economic depression is largely caused by government mandates.

7. Herd immunity is the long run solution.

Things I believe:

1. Like other countries, the Chinese have somewhat underreported the problem in China.

2. The mortality rate in the US is actually about 1.0%.

3. Chloroquine is probably not effective.

4. Taiwan is the way to go.

5. The virus probably escaped from a Chinese animal market.

6. The current economic depression is largely caused by voluntary social distancing.

7. A vaccine is the long run solution.

Things only Trump could believe:

“U.S. President Donald Trump said he believes China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic is proof that Beijing “will do anything they can” to make him lose his re-election bid in November.”

PS.  Thus I believe that about 3 million residents of New York State have already been infected (not the 311,000 officially reported), and of those 3 million, about 30,000 will eventually die (23,780 have already died.)  Just to be clear, I also believe that more than 3 million New Yorkers will eventually become infected, and that more than 30,000 will eventually die.  I’m just giving my estimates based on those probably already infected; to give you a sense of where the 1% mortality figure comes from.

Mortality rates are probably higher in Italy and lower in Singapore, even if measured correctly.

PPS.  This excellent article by Daniel Drezner is harshly critical of the Chinese government, and also suggests that it’s a mistake for the US to launch a cold war against China.  The article expresses my views better than the vast majority of things I read.



20 Responses to “Things conservatives are supposed to believe”

  1. Gravatar of Shyam Vasudevan Shyam Vasudevan
    30. April 2020 at 11:27

    Contra the Drezner article:

  2. Gravatar of John Hall John Hall
    30. April 2020 at 11:41

    I wouldn’t hold up Chloroquine as a holy grail or anything like that, but what I’ve heard is that the evidence is stronger than “probably not effective.”

  3. Gravatar of Garth Garth
    30. April 2020 at 12:56

    I’m curious why you seem down on herd immunity? I don’t think it should be a partisan thing. Here’s what made me think herd immunity might be possible. What are your thoughts?

  4. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    30. April 2020 at 13:00

    Shyam, Classic case of attacking a straw man. Who says that Chinese repression doesn’t matter? Certainly not Drezner.

    John, The studies I’ve seen suggest little or no effectiveness, but obviously the last word is not yet in. It wouldn’t surprise me if there was a very small positive effect, or none at all.

  5. Gravatar of Gene Frenkle Gene Frenkle
    30. April 2020 at 13:05

    I point to Q1 2014–a bad winter led to -2% GDP growth. Weather, events, etc impact the economy.

  6. Gravatar of Mark Mark
    30. April 2020 at 13:09

    Yes, the Drezner article is good. I like the line: “The new Washington consensus is less about the souring of elite attitudes toward China and more about the souring of elite attitudes toward the United States.” China has politically regressed the last couple years, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this regression came at the same time that Trump has been taking a more aggressive line, moving America ever further away from a liberal, free-market economy. It’s not very persuasive to tell other countries they should liberalize when we’re moving away from liberalism. China’s leaders probably feel very vindicated in their system now.

    This reminds me of this good article from 2018, about how a lot of Chinese students come to the West with liberal, pro-Western values but their time in America increases their support for the Chinese government when they encounter racism and authoritarianism in the US too: A very liberal-minded Chinese student I know said that dealing with US immigration was worse than any encounter she ever had with the government in China. Another one I know had a bad experience in America getting pulled over for a traffic violation and always said after that the American police were meaner than the Chinese police. When that’s your experience, accusing China of authoritarianism doesn’t feel quite so credible.

    Also, all people naturally become more authoritarian and look for a strong “protector” when they are under threat, so it’s not surprising that the more threatening the world feels, the more people in China support their authoritarian government. Unfortunately, these days it doesn’t require any propaganda to make Chinese people feel threatened–they just have to read what American politicians or media are saying.

    But it didn’t have to be this way. China’s regression is largely caused by the failure of people in the West to live up to our own liberal values. China was moving in the right direction of liberalization, perhaps slower than we would’ve liked, but certainly in the right direction, until the Trump years. Even during the Obama years, we had things like the cyber truce mentioned in the article and I would add the mutual extension of visas from 1- year to 10-, which was probably the most important act of liberalization in many years in terms of the actual impact it had on people’s lives.

  7. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    30. April 2020 at 13:21

    These numbers on infection rates and fatality rates in the US seem roughly correct. The antibody tests are indicating that about ten times as many people get infected versus the reported numbers and the overall death rate is running about 1%, on average, which makes this a true tragedy, of course.

    If this occurred under a Democratic President, the deaths would be the greatest tragedy in world history and that President 1000% to blame, and possibility he/she evilly wanted the outcome. Since there’s a Republican President, it’s not only merely a statistic, but is largely fake news/blamed on China.

  8. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    30. April 2020 at 14:04

    I am politically part conservative and part liberal-libertarian, and I agree with all the points you have made. How do we know what conservatives believe? Are these points told on Fox News or in National Review? I don’t really follow conservative media, so I don’t know.

    There are two points that strike me about Daniel Drezner’s article.

    First a small point:

    There is strong evidence that its officials have overstated China’s growth rate by more than two percentage points annually for the last 12 years.

    Scott, do you believe this as well???

    Now the second point, the main point. I don’t find his main thesis plausible at all. As I understand the text, Drezner says that we should not panic, he gives three concrete examples: the Sputnik shock, the Cold War in general, and Japan.

    His thesis is completely legitimate, but he does not carry it out well.

    His three examples are weirdly chosen. He is correct, there was total panic at the time in all three examples. But didn’t we actually win the space race? And did we not win the Cold War? And did Japan not raise over the US? So what is his point? Where in the world is his evidence that the panic modes were counterproductive?? If anything, it seems that the exact opposite is true: we won these three races BECAUSE we went into panic mode. In any case, it has not prevented us from winning.

    So according to his three examples, it is not so bad that we are finally panicking about China. It could release exactly the energy and resources we need. In any case, his three examples do not prove the opposite.

    When one makes a thesis, one should not choose three examples that prove nothing, or worse, that prove the opposite of what one actually wanted to prove.

    Following the same “logic”, the panic mode of the US about Nazi Germany was also wrong, because, well, the Nazis weren’t even able to invade the US. They couldn’t even invade Britain right at their doorstep.

    Following the same “logic”, the lockdown and panic mode around SARS-CoV-2 was also wrong, because look, after all these extreme measures, relatively few people have died. And if you know, they really argue in this way!!! Your linked article about the “China panic” is unfortunately no exception. In reality we should “panic” about the CCP way more than we are doing right now.

  9. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    30. April 2020 at 15:11

    Garth, Too many would die—over a million in just the US.

    Mark, Lots of very good points, but I’m less confident than you that China’s regression is a response to Trump. Maybe partly, but there were other important factors as well.

    Christian, You said:

    “I am politically part conservative and part liberal-libertarian, and I agree with all the points you have made.”

    So China didn’t vastly underestimate deaths? It’s unlikely the virus escaped from a Chinese lab?

    I don’t think the Chinese GDP growth data was overestimated by over 2%/year for 12 years. No. At most, 1%/year, probably less than that.

    As far as “overreaction” to threats, you skirt over minor points like the Vietnam War pretty lightly.

    And your other examples are not relevant. We now know that Japan was never a threat, and that’s not because we reacted appropriately to the Japanese threat. Indeed we didn’t have any reaction that materially changed the relative position of the two countries.

  10. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    30. April 2020 at 16:44

    As far as “overreaction” to threats, you skirt over minor points like the Vietnam War pretty lightly.


    Even if that were a point, it would rather weaken his argument. So his whole hypothesis is that we overreacted and that the USSR would have dissolved itself anyway? That may be true or not, but he has no proof whatsoever. It’s just wishful thinking. He and you admit that there were massive “panic reactions”. What would have happened without these reactions, we simply do not know. It’s just wild speculation, and the only examples he gives are examples of “panic reactions”, with the known results: We won, we won, and we won.

    So where is his hard proof that panicking is so disastrously wrong? Give me proof and I believe you.

    CCP China is rather the very first example where there have been no “panic reactions” for many years, with results that are very unsatisfactory, to say the least. But it’s still very interesting to see that even a Reason author is now saying that we have to react to the G5 threats etc.

    The positions, even of some people over at, have changed quite a lot over the last few years. What’s the matter with them, do they “panic” now as well?

    So China didn’t vastly underestimate deaths?

    They even admitted this themselves. Or isn’t 50% a lot in your book???

    It’s unlikely the virus escaped from a Chinese lab?


    You wrote about the market. My theory is that a low-paid lab worker sold lab animals to this market. It is not plausible that living wild animals are transported hundreds or thousands of miles from southern China to Wuhan. It is illegal, China is a surveillance state, and for all I read it’s not even economically worthwhile.

    The lab theory is plausible, but I can’t say exactly how probable it is because I am not a probability mathematician and because a lot of information is missing. Furthermore, as with death rates, probabilities and numbers are not even that important in relative terms; much more important are transparency and the implications that neglected theories have.

    I do not push the lab theory because I am 100% convinced that it is extremely probable in absolute numbers, nobody knows that, as I said. I am pushing the lab theory because I have the strong impression that, in relative terms, the theory is not taken seriously enough by people like you and by the serious media.

    To end on a positive note, I think that the last weeks have been very successful in this respect, some media have reported about the theory in a fair and balanced fashion (not at all:, and this is very important. I don’t have an agenda, it could be a “normal accident” with wild animals, a farmer or whatever, but you have to follow all plausible theories fairly and seriously if the consequences are as different as in the case of SARS-CoV-2.

    As is well known, there is little or no self-criticism from the vast majority of virologists. A relatively large part of this group presents itself as a sworn community that cannot make any mistakes. This is just one example of why it is so important to investigate the lab theory very seriously. Imagine for just one second that the lab theory was true, and you will immediately see the consequences that suddenly arise.

  11. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    30. April 2020 at 18:19

    Someone specifically knowledgeable about China has already published a response to Drezner’s article:

  12. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    30. April 2020 at 18:29

    And now I see the first comment already linked to the same piece.

    You seem to be wilfully misunderstanding what Tanner Greer is arguing. That the Beijing regime is going to be actively seeking to use whatever levers it can to get other countries to conform to what it sees as requiring for self-protection.

    Such as, in the case of Australia, threatening our trade links with China if we don’t shut up about an open enquiry into the origins of Covid-19.

  13. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    30. April 2020 at 18:33

    On the main point of your post, ideologies as involving a sort of certainty inflation analogous to the fat man who cannot see the banana peel, is a metaphor I have had some fun with in my most recent offering.

    In an essay on discovery and feedback, I linked to a YouTube of two doctors in California briefing reporters and journalists on their clinical experience, on their reading of the data and on feedback from colleagues. YouTube took down the video (it is still available on bit chute). An irony for our time.

  14. Gravatar of P Burgos P Burgos
    30. April 2020 at 20:03

    I am getting confused by terminology. China appears to have a strategy to alter the global geopolitical landscape. The US wants to prevent that. Drezner recommends that the US lead a coalition of like-minded nations to achieve this aim. How is that not the essence of a Cold War? What am I missing?

  15. Gravatar of Anon Anon
    1. May 2020 at 00:26

    Scott, your #5 and the other #5 both can be true. I don’t see any conflict. Does one preclude the other?

    On #6, in the absence of govt mandated lockdown or stay-at-home or whatever-be-it-called, voluntary distancing wouldn’t cause this much economic distress. True?

  16. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    1. May 2020 at 09:24

    Christian, First you say you disagree with me. Then you say you agree on “vastly underreported”. Then you say you disagree. It seems to change every day. Make up your mind.

    “Or isn’t 50% a lot in your book???”

    Of course not. An extra 1200 hundred in a country of 1.4 billion? That’s less than one in a million. You see similar adjustments in places like NYC and France all the time, and it’s exactly what I predicted. I pushed back against those claiming 20 times as many deaths in China.

    Lorenzo, What did I say that misunderstands what he was saying? I just said he was attacking a straw man. Nobody is saying we should approve of China’s behavior, or censor our speech. Just don’t launch a trade war with China.

    Burgos, You said:

    “China appears to have a strategy to alter the global geopolitical landscape.”

    What does that even mean? I recall when the Soviet Union was trying to militarily take over other countries. That’s a clear objective. I don’t see China doing that. What exactly is China doing, beyond being a bully (which the US is as well.) I don’t like their bullying, but the best response is to not kowtow. Don’t start a trade war.

    Anon, #5: That seems unlikely, but it’s possible.

    #6: Voluntary social distancing will cause almost as much distress. Now obviously the distress will fall over time, but that’s because the risk will decline as new cases drop.

    They could lift the mandates where I live in Orange County tomorrow and very little would change. Maybe restaurants go from 0% to 10% of normal business.

  17. Gravatar of T. Greer T. Greer
    1. May 2020 at 10:09

    ” Classic case of attacking a straw man. Who says that Chinese repression doesn’t matter? Certainly not Drezner.”

    I do not so much as build Drezner into a strawman to be attacked in that piece as ignore him altogether. He misrepresents the actual history of US-China engagement, recognizes that engagement has failed to meet its aims…. and then asks us to proceed along with engagement anyway. It is all a bit silly, and I’ve responded to his type of thing before (especially here). He isn’t worth arguing with.

    Less interesting than titling windmills against Drezner is to substantively present the actual nature of the “threat” China poses. After all, what I am arguing is not just that Chinese repression “matters” but that the Communist Party of China’s plans to discredit liberalism is what matters most. Libertarians tends to have this myopic obsession with what is happening inside America’s borders… and have lost track of just what the stakes may be outside of it (and not just for the people directly subject to Communist rule).

    That post was not a full presentation of the problem. More like a teaser, a justification for the full presentation to be made. It has convinced some more than others.

  18. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    1. May 2020 at 12:22

    T. Greer, Thanks for commenting. That explains my puzzlement. I had thought you didn’t effectively respond to his specific points, but if you were ignoring those points and planning to respond in a later piece then I stand corrected. I look forward to reading it.

    If the CCP has a master plan to discredit liberalism they could hardly do a worse job. Acting like a spoiled child because of a random tweet by an NBA employee isn’t the way to get the world to respect China.

  19. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    1. May 2020 at 22:52

    Of course not. An extra 1200 hundred in a country of 1.4 billion? That’s less than one in a million.


    I have always doubted Wuhan’s death figures, as have most serious critics. So the 50% correction is substantial.

    And it came without any preannouncements (unlike in other places), and according to you it was cases from January 2020 that were known to have Covid-19 and known to have died from it, but then the CCP did not classify them as Covid-19 deaths until mid-April, and nobody knows why.

    Now this trickery of simply speaking no longer of Wuhan, but of all CCP China is not serious. What’s next? Using the whole world or the whole Milky Way as comparison?

    The death figures of Wuhan are now closer to reality than before, that’s for sure. How close? Time will tell.

  20. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    2. May 2020 at 11:36

    Christian, I don’t see any difference between the Wuhan adjustments and adjustments in other countries. It’s all in your mind.

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