Proactive and reactive policies

New York magazine has a good article on Covid-19:

“Basically, going back to January, they’d be like, ‘China’s not going to control it; 80 percent of the population is going to get it; all efforts to contain it are going to fail; we have to learn to live with this virus; contact tracing and testing make no sense; this is going to be everywhere; right now we need to build up hospitals’ — which they didn’t even do. But they really didn’t think it was stoppable,” she says. “And then all of a sudden you started to see, in February, South Korea stopping it, Taiwan stopping it, and China stopping it. Then, in March, New Zealand. And then Australia. And then there’s this realization of, ‘Oh, wow. Actually, it is controllable.’”

At the beginning of March, South Korea was averaging more than 550 new daily confirmed cases, compared with just 53 in the U.K. At the end of the month, South Korea had 125; the U.K. was at 4,500 and climbing. “In the UK we have had nine weeks to listen, learn and prepare,” Sridhar wrote angrily in the Guardian, berating the British regime for failing to establish basic systems for supplies, testing, and contact tracing.

Later they point out that things are not quite that simple:

Francois Balloux, an infectious-disease epidemiologist and computational geneticist at the University College of London, goes further. “It’s not obvious that different measures taken in different places have clearly led to different outcomes,” he says. “There’s a lot of idiosyncrasy, and I think it’s simplistic to say that the countries that have controlled or eliminated the virus did things extremely differently. If you just list, for instance, the interventions that places like New Zealand or Australia have implemented, they’re not drastically different — in stringency nor duration — than in some other places. The country that had the strictest lockdown for longest in the world is Peru, and they were absolutely devastated. I think the slightly depressing message,” Balloux says with a sigh, “is that there is not just a set of policies that will bring success and can just be applied to any place in the world.”

So how can we reconcile these two conflicting narratives?  First we need to distinguish between public policy and behavior.  I suspect that the relatively low level of Covid deaths in some areas of the US (Washington, Oregon, Utah, Northern New England and even the SF Bay area of California) has more to do with culture than public policy.  People behave differently in different parts of the US.  If death rates in the Pacific Northwest and northern New England are similar to those in Canada, is it so far-fetched to believe that their culture also resembles Canada more than it does much of the rest of the US?

But the big international differences may require an additional explanation.  Reading the NY magazine article, I was immediately reminded of the global recession of 2008-09.  I’ve argued that the recession was caused by tight money policies, especially in the US and Europe.  But why was Australia able to avoid a recession?  Their central bank didn’t do any QE, and didn’t even cut interest rates to zero.

In fact, what to the average person looks like an “easy money” policy is often the exactly opposite.  It’s precisely because Australia had a more expansionary policy early in the recession that they were able to avoid some of the more “reactive” policy measures employed elsewhere during the 2010s.  Similarly, the US was a bit more (proactively) aggressive than the ECB during 2009-10, and as a result the ECB ended up being forced to do aggressive (reactive) QE and negative interest rates in the middle 2010s.

So if you see news stories of positive interest rates in Australia during the global recession of 2008-09, do not conclude that easy money is not stimulative.  And if you see news stories of restaurants being open in Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand during the Covid pandemic, do not conclude that social distancing is not helpful.  Rather the positive interest rates are a sign that Australia took proactive steps to prevent a deep fall in NGDP growth, and the open restaurants are a sign that they got on top of the pandemic early on, with an aggressive policy aimed at driving Covid rates down close to zero.

There’s another interesting comparison between Covid and the 2008-09 recession.  In both cases, bloggers were often ahead of the experts in diagnosing the problem and recommending appropriate policies.  Bloggers pointed out that the Fed’s October 2008 decision to begin paying interest on reserves would have a contractionary effect.  Today, that criticism is widely understood as being correct.  Indeed in his memoir, Ben Bernanke acknowledges that monetary policy was too tight after Lehman failed.  Similarly, bloggers like Alex Tabarrok and Tyler Cowen have been consistently right in their criticism of the public policy response to Covid.

PS.  The US is currently at 1670/million Covid deaths.  Canada is at 595/million, or halfway between Utah and Oregon.  Here are the lowest 7 states:

Note:  The 15 highest Covid death rates are in both northern and southern states, as well as both urban and rural.

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Should AstraZeneca Vaccine Be Paused?

Millions of people in dozens of countries have received the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine with few reports of ill effects, and its prior testing in tens of thousands of people found it to be safe.

But recently, blood clots and abnormal bleeding in a small number of vaccine recipients in European countries have cast doubt on its safety, although no causative link has been found between the patients’ conditions and the vaccine. The reports have prompted more than a dozen countries to either partly or fully suspend the vaccine’s use while the cases are investigated. Most of the nations said they were doing so as a precaution until leading health agencies could review the cases.

This is from Denise Grady and Rebecca Robbins, “Should You Be Concerned About Blood Clots, Bleeding and the AZ-Vaccine?,” New York Times, March 15, 2021.

The countries that have paused include Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Denmark, Ireland, Norway, the Netherlands, and Iceland.

This makes no sense, but it is, unfortunately, not so unusual for governments to substitute their own risk assessments for those of their sheep citizens.

There’s such an obvious solution: have the governments of those countries warn people that there might be blood clots, tell them the data, and leave them free to choose. I guarantee that millions of Europeans would be willing to take the small risk of blood clots and go ahead and get vaccinated.

Oh and, by the way, my solution applies to the United States, whose government is even worse: the Food and Drug Administration has not yet allowed people to take the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Economist Thomas Sowell is famous for saying “There are no solutions. There are only tradeoffs.” I don’t agree. I’ve just given a solution, one that lets people make their own tradeoffs.

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Great Cowen Interview of John Cochrane

Yesterday, Tyler Cowen published his interview with Hoover Institution economist John Cochrane. It’s a lot of fun and full of insights. I recommend the whole thing.

Some fun highlights follow.

If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich(er)?

COWEN: Brazil has very high real interest rates for decades, right? Arbitrage doesn’t seem to work.

COCHRANE: Well, that’s not an arbitrage. An arbitrage is the opportunity to make a sure profit, no risk. You got to invest in Brazil, and you got to take the risks of investing in Brazil, which include, usually, currency risk. The real interest rate is the interest that you get after the expected appreciation or depreciation of the currency. Then there’s the legal risk that they might expropriate your stuff.

It looks like there’s a profitable opportunity to invest in Brazil. Put that way, now it starts to look like everything else in finance. There’s what looks like a profitable opportunity. There’s risk. Are people properly balancing the profitable opportunity and the risks? Why is Tesla stock so high? Why are value stocks so low? There’re opportunities that you and I, as an economist, can’t quite suss out what the risks are, keeping other people from investing in. But if you’d like to buy a Brazilian gold mine, I can arrange it for you, Tyler.

COWEN: Well, but look, we know currencies are very close to a random walk, correct? You’ve seen the countries that have higher real rates of return, higher discount rates. They should have higher expected returns on their market. Brazil is small relative to the world as a whole. There’s a lot of capital that could invest more in Brazil without being systemically much riskier. You would think that simply pursuing higher expected returns — that ought to go away, and real interest rates across the world should equalize, but they don’t seem to.

COCHRANE: Well, all sorts of apparent opportunities should equalize. I urge you to start a hedge fund. [laughs]

 

COWEN: By the way, the only stock I ever sold was Brazil Fund.

COCHRANE: You sold it, and you’re telling me what a great opportunity Brazil is.

[laughter]

 

How Health Insurance Was Making Its Way to Something Sensible Before ObamaCare

COWEN: Healthcare — I’m a big fan of your proposals for what I think you called time-consistent health insurance. You buy health insurance and you buy insurance against your premium going up. If later on, you develop a serious condition, you’re insured against the fact that your insurance costs more, right? Now, why has no one done this? Because it does make sense.

COCHRANE: People did it [laughs] until it was made illegal.

COWEN: Who did it? When? Where?

COCHRANE: God, it was in the 1990s. Which insurance company? A better word for it that Mike Cannon at Cato came up with is health-status insurance, that you can insure yourself against the risk of getting sick in the future. One insurance company started offering the right to buy health insurance in the future if you’re sick now, which essentially, that’s the beginning of the idea.

Also, the good old-fashioned health insurance, starting in the 1990s, was guaranteed renewable, meaning if you bought the health insurance now, you had the right to continue buying that health insurance without your premiums going up if you got sick. That’s essentially the same thing as health-status insurance. So private insurance was working its way in this direction.

COWEN: But why did it take so long? It wasn’t dominant back then, right? This is another example of market inefficiency?

COCHRANE: Come on.

[laughter]

 Technical innovation takes a remarkably long time to spread, and this is a technical innovation. One thing is, it takes time for institutional — especially an incredibly regulated industry where you have 50 state regulators who have to bless every single contract — it takes a long time. Then it was made illegal under Obamacare, which is why it wasn’t happening. United Airlines still hasn’t figured out that Southwest knows how to get people on planes faster. [laughs] That service stuff takes time.

Why wasn’t this in health insurance to start with? When health insurance first started up, there wasn’t this thing of a pre-existing condition, of something that we get news that’s going to make you really expensive. You either died or you didn’t die, and that was the end of that. A very expensive health that is very persistent, and where you need insurance against ongoing future expenses — that can’t be done in a one-year contract. That’s also something that we didn’t have until the 1960s or ’70s.

Institutions take a while to adapt. You got to take a longer-run view here, Tyler. But I do want to advertise it for listeners who haven’t heard about it. We’re still in the pre-existing conditions as the original sin of markets, whereby the government must completely screw up your and my healthcare. That is not true. Free markets can handle the question of pre-existing conditions, your need for long-term insurance.

Term life insurance has had it forever. If you buy term life insurance when you’re young and healthy, you get to keep that insurance, no matter how sick you get as time goes on. There’s no failure of insurance markets that means we can’t have it.

 

On Regulation of Hang Gliding

COWEN: How good or bad is the government’s regulation of gliding?

COCHRANE: [laughs] An uneasy truce. Pretty bad, but just enough to let it survive. The government regulates —

COWEN: What’s the main inefficiency?

COCHRANE: The FAA.

COWEN: What should they do that they don’t? What should they allow?

COCHRANE: They have killed the domestic industry that makes gliders. There’re only a couple left in Europe. Certification of aircraft under the FAA is a disaster. This is more visible in general aviation power. Go down to your local airport, and you will see what looks like a Cuban car lot full of designs from the 1950s.

It’s just incredibly difficult to certify a general aviation airplane. Their standards for pilots’ licenses are ridiculously too high. America is one of the best places in the world. When you go around the world, you will notice — if you’re a pilot — how empty the skies are because everywhere else has regulated general aviation completely to death.

 

 

I love the Cuban car lot metaphor. That’s what I’ve noticed among flying friends: small planes made in 1958 (just before the Cuban revolution) or in the 1960s that are still used today and sell for high five figures.

Personal note: I remember John’s hang gliding well. In academic year 1982-83, John was a junior economist at the Council of Economic Advisers when I was a senior economist. (Marty Feldstein made me an offer to stay an extra year, 1983-84, and I accepted.) We were decompressing from the process of drafting, rewriting, rewriting, rewriting again, and checking for typos in the 1983 Economic Report of the President. That’s the one that Paul Krugman claims to have written most of, a claim that would surprise a number of his fellow chapter writers. John asked me if I would be willing to drive out to a corner of Pennsylvania one weekday with his friends. We would drive to the top of the mountain and he and his friends would hang glide down, catching thermals along the way, while I would drive down the mountain to the rendezvous point. It was fun, except that one of his friends stayed up way longer than agreed and my wife-to-be was pretty upset at how late I was getting back to Arlington, VA. (Good outcome, though: I was never that late again.)

 

 

 

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Fear Me Not! I Got My COVID Vaccine.

Last Monday, I got my COVID vaccine; the full effects should be kicking in soon.  How should I change my behavior?  How should anyone?

One popular answer is: Not at all.  Why not?  The top reason I’ve heard is: Because even those of us who have been vaccinated can’t be absolutely sure we won’t be infected – or spread infection to others.  Some use the same reasoning to argue that people who have recovered from COVID shouldn’t change their behavior either.  As immunologist Alexander Sette puts it:

Not taking any precautions—including wearing a face mask, practicing social distancing, or getting vaccinated—after an initial coronavirus infection is comparable to “driving a car where you’re 90% sure the car has brakes.”

However, both common sense and economic reasoning virtually the opposite.  If a risk falls by 90%, and there are large gains to accepting the risk, you should not only accept more of the risk; you should probably accept much more risk.  This is what self-interest recommends; and when your risk-taking benefits others, this is what humanitarianism recommends as well.  Remember: Your social distancing doesn’t just harm your quality of life; it harms the quality of life of everyone who doesn’t have the pleasure of your company.

What about the “90% sure the car has brakes” argument?  This posits an lopsided scenario where you have a 10% chance of killing or seriously injuring others for a trivial reason.  You shouldn’t die with 100% probability to see a movie; neither should you die with a 10% probability to see a movie.  Anyone who has ever driven to a movie, however, has accepted a .0000001% chance of dying en route.  And doing so is both prudent and considerate.  Or to tweak the hypothetical, it would be perfectly reasonable to drive regularly even though there is 10% chance that your brakes will go out sometime in the next twenty years of driving.

The better argument against changing your behavior – or at least not changing it much – is that we still don’t know

make you lonely; it makes people who would have interacted with you lonely as well.  make both you and other people lonely.  insofar as your risky activities benefit others, it is also what  accept much more risk.

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Why is the UK doing so much better?

In absolute terms, the US has vaccinated more people for Covid-19 than any other country. But in relative terms, the UK is doing far better. I see three reasons for the success of the UK:

1. The UK has provided about 34 total doses per 100 people, vs. about 26.5 per 100 in the US.

2. First dose first. In the UK, almost all of the jabs have gone to people who have not yet received any doses. In the US, a substantial share of the shots are second doses.

3. The UK has focused very strongly on vaccinating old people first. The US has a mixed system, where the old are just one of many groups that are prioritized.

In recent weeks I’ve been told by friends and family of many cases of young and middle aged people receiving Covid shots. None of these were people with pre-existing conditions or essential workers.  I’ve heard of far too many such cases to assume these are flukes—the system is clearly flawed.  (And this isn’t sour grapes on my part; I was vaccinated way back in January.)

The US decided to create a complex bureaucratic system. In this sort of rationing regime, those who are well connected or good at gaming the system go first. Here’s is my view of the various systems for rationing:

First: Free market. The high prices induce a much stronger and more rapid supply response.

Second: Old people first. This sort of simple system is harder to game.  In the UK, roughly 94% of people over 65 have been vaccinated.

Third: A complex bureaucratic system.

Fourth: The European system, where little vaccine is even available.

I guess the US can take comfort from the fact that we are not last on the list.

PS.  Deaths are falling faster in the UK, but only part of that is due to their superior vaccine role out.  Covid naturally tends to come in waves, and then people (or governments) respond to surges by changing behavior.

Deaths in the UK are likely to continue falling rapidly, as by mid-April everyone over 50 who wants to be vaccinated (and under 50s with pre-existing conditions) will have already received a jab.  At that time, life should return to normal.  But will it?  A year ago I argued that we under-reacted at the beginning of the epidemic and that we would overreact at the end.  I’m sticking with that prediction.  I expect excessive precautions in many countries this summer, including the US.

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The confidence man

A few months back, Alex Tabarrok criticized the delay in approving the new vaccines:

I am getting very angry at people like Anthony Fauci who say that FDA delay is necessary or useful to alleviate vaccine hesitancy.

Fauci told Fox News that the FDA “really scrutinises the data very carefully to guarantee to the American public that this is a safe and efficacious vaccine. I think if we did any less, we would add to the already existing hesitancy on the part of many people because … they’re concerned that we went too quickly.”

The WSJ says much the same thing just with a slightly different flavor:

…this regulatory rigmarole is essentially a placebo to reassure the public it will be safe to get inoculated.

The ‘we must delay to allay’ argument is deadly and wrong.

Now Fauci is at it again, this time with first-dose-first:

“We’re telling people [two shots] is what you should do … and then we say, ‘Oops, we changed our mind’?” Fauci said. “I think that would be a messaging challenge, to say the least.”

Fauci said he spoke on Monday with health officials in the United Kingdom, who have opted to delay second doses to maximize giving more people shots more quickly. He said that although he understands the strategy, it wouldn’t make sense in America. “We both agreed that both of our approaches were quite reasonable,” Fauci said.

So the “experts” have decided that the risk of the public eventually figuring out that they were lied to, and that thousands died needlessly, is smaller than the risk that the public will lose faith in the experts if they change their minds?  Yes, I guess that’s possible.  But what sort of training in social psychology does Fauci have that would allow him to make that sort of life and death decision?

And if first-dose-first is not reasonable for the US, then why is it reasonable for the UK?

Fauci said the science doesn’t support delaying a second dose for those vaccines, citing research that a two-shot regimen creates enough protection to help fend off variants of the coronavirus that are more transmissible, whereas a single shot could leave Americans at risk from variants such as the one first detected in South Africa.

Then why does Fauci approve of the J&J vaccine, which is one dose?  You might argue that J&J was tested as one dose, but that doesn’t answer the question.  AFAIK, the test of J&J vaccine did not show any more efficacy against the South African strain than did one dose of Pfizer or Moderna.

Fauci acknowledged that the United States repeatedly has shifted strategy during the pandemic — including his own reversal on whether Americans should wear face coverings — but said that the stakes are higher when it comes to communicating about vaccines.

“People are very skeptical on vaccines, particularly when the government is involved,” he said.

But if the stakes are higher, isn’t that even more reason to get it right?

Personally, I believe that the public would have more respect for experts if they didn’t repeatedly lie to us for our own good, if they honestly told us exactly what they believed.

I was just a boy when I first heard the term ‘confidence man’. The phrase sounded sort of good—a person who inspires confidence. Later I learned that it was equivalent to con man. Thus confidence is a two-edged sword, something that can help you or hurt you.

Don’t try to make me confident; act in such a way that I will respect you.  That will give me confidence.

Right now, I don’t have much confidence.

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Serbians’ Freedom to Choose

Serbia has adopted an approval mechanism for vaccinations, giving citizens the option to choose which vaccine they want to get and in which location they want to get vaccinated.

This makes Serbia the only country in the world where citizens can choose the vaccine type, between shots from Pfizer-BioNTech, China’s Sinopharm or Russia’s Sputnik.

This is from Sara Mageit, “Serbia reaches one million vaccines with help of AI framework,” Healthcare IT News, February 23, 2021.

There are 6.9 million people in Serbia, of whom over one million have received their first dose of vaccine. That’s 14.5 percent of Serbia’s population.

Let’s compare that with the United States.

64 million doses have been distributed in the United States. 64 million is 19.4 percent of the U.S. population, which makes the U.S. look better than Serbia. But that would be if everyone who got a shot here got just one shot. Such a policy would be quite sensible. But it’s not the one that U.S. governments have chosen. 13.3 percent of the U.S. population have received at least one dose. 13.3 percent of 330 million is 43.9 million people.

So 20.1 million people in the United States have received 2 doses and 23.8 million have received 1 dose.

Since 2 doses isn’t much better than 1, a reasonable comparison would be between our 13.3 percent and Serbia’s 14.5 percent. In other words, almost a dead heat (because getting 2 doses is slightly better than 1 dose.)

Interestingly, 14 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia have populations in which the percent having received at least one vaccination exceeds 15 percent. 3 states (Colorado, Iowa, and Wisconsin) have exceeded 14% but not 15%.

 

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In Praise of CVS

As I mentioned in a recent post, Monterey County, where I live, is behind almost every other part of the country in achieving vaccinations.

Enter CVS.

Last Friday, my wife, Rena, got on a user-friendly CVS site to see where she could get vaccinated. She was still working with it when I left for work. I have a 10-minute commute. A minute after I arrived at work, she called and told me that she had an appointment for the following Monday, Feb. 15, in Capitola, about 45 minutes north of us. She told me how to get on and find an appointment. I got on the site and it seemed that everything had been taken. I called her and told her that.

Rena said, “You always give up too early. Let me try it. How far are you willing to drive?”

“Quite far,” I said. I was picturing driving 2 or 3 hours to Modesto or Fresno. Ten minutes later she called back and had an appointment for me on the next day, Saturday, Feb. 13, in Santa Clara, a 75-minute drive each way. I drove up there the next day. I called a friend on the way, a fellow Canadian who had come with me to UCLA in 1972, and told him that I hadn’t been that excited since getting my green card. A couple of hours later, I got the Moderna shot.

Thank you, CVS. I like you so much more than the Monterey County government.

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Bioethics: Tuskegee vs. COVID

When bioethicists want to justify their own existence, they routinely point to the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Study.  It’s a gripping story.  Back in 1932, the U.S. Public Health Service started a study of 399 black men with latent syphilis, plus a control group of 201 black men without syphilis.  Contrary to what I’ve sometimes heard, the researchers never injected anyone with syphilis.  However, they grossly violated the principle of informed consent, with disastrous consequences:

As an incentive for participation in the study, the men were promised free medical care, but were deceived by the PHS, who never informed subjects of their diagnosis and disguised placebos, ineffective methods, and diagnostic procedures as treatment.

The men were initially told that the “study” was only going to last six months, but it was extended to 40 years. After funding for treatment was lost, the study was continued without informing the men that they would never be treated. None of the infected men were treated with penicillin despite the fact that by 1947, the antibiotic was widely available and had become the standard treatment for syphilis.

Why do bioethicists habitually invoke the Tuskegee experiment?  To justify current Human Subjects Review.  Which is bizarre, because Human Subjects Review applies to a vast range of obviously innocuous activities.  Under current rules, you need approval from Human Subjects merely to conduct a survey – i.e., to talk to a bunch of people and record their answers.

The rationale, presumably, is: “You should only conduct research on human beings if they give you informed consent.  And we shouldn’t let researchers decide for themselves if informed consent has been given.  Only bioethicists (and their well-trained minions) can make that call.”

On reflection, this just pushes the issue back a step.  Researchers aren’t allowed decide if their human experiment requires informed consent.  However, they are allowed to decide if what they’re doing counts as an experiment.   No one submits a formal request to their Human Subjects Review Board before emailing other researchers questions about their work.  No professor submits a formal request to their Human Subjects Review Board before polling his students.  Why not?  Because they don’t classify such activities as “experiments.”  How is a formal survey any more “experimental” than emailing researchers or polling students?  To quote The Prisoner, “Questions are a burden to others; answers, a prison for oneself.”

The safest answer for bioethicists, of course, is simply: “They should give our approval for those activities, too.”  The more territory bioethicists claim for themselves, however, the more you have to wonder, “How good is bioethicists’ moral judgment in the first place?”

To answer this question, let me bring up a bioethical incident thousands of times deadlier than the Tuskegee experiment.  You see, there was a deadly plague called COVID-19.  Researchers quickly came up with promising vaccines.  They could have tested the safety and efficacy of these vaccines in about one month using voluntary paid human experimentation.  How?

Step 1: Vaccinate half the volunteers and give the other half a placebo.

Step 2: Wait a week, then inject all the volunteers with COVID-19.  (Alternately, give half of each subgroup a placebo injection).

Step 3: Compare the COVID infection rates of the vaccinated and unvaccinated 2-4 weeks later.

In the real world, researchers only did Step 1, then waited about six months to compare naturally-occurring infection rates.  During this period, ignorance of the various vaccines’ efficacy continued, almost no one received any COVID vaccine, and over a million people died.  In the end, researchers discovered that the vaccines were highly effective, so this delay really did cause mass death.

How come no country on Earth tried voluntary paid human experimentation?*  As far as I can tell, the most important factor was the formal and informal opposition of bioethicists.  In particular, bioethicists converged on absurdly (or impossibly) high standards for “truly informed consent” to deliberate infection.  Here’s a prime example:

An important principle in human challenge studies is that subjects must give their informed consent in order to take part. That means they should be provided with all the relevant information about the risk they are considering. But that is impossible for such a new disease.

Why can’t you bluntly tell would-be subjects, “This is a very new disease, so there could be all sorts of unforeseen complications.  Do you still consent?”  Because the real point of bioethics isn’t to ensure informed consent, but to veto informed consent to whatever gives bioethicists the willies.

I’m no paternalist, but I understand paternalism.  Paternalists want to stop people from harming themselves.  The goal of bioethicists, however, is far stranger.  Bioethicists want to stop people from helping others! Even if experimental subjects heroically volunteer to be injected for no money at all, bioethicists stand on guard to overrule them.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Bioethics is to ethics as astrology is to astronomy.  If bioethicists had previously prevented a hundred Tuskegees from happening, COVID would still have turned the existence of their entire profession into a net negative for humanity.  Verily, we would be better off if their field had never existed.

If you find this hard to believe, remember: What the Tuskegee researchers did was already illegal in 1932.  Instead of creating a pile of new rules enforced by a cult of sanctimonious busybodies, the obvious response was to apply the familiar laws of contract and fiduciary duty.  These rules alone would have sent people like the Tuskegee researchers to jail where they belong.  And they would have left forthright practitioners of voluntary paid human experimentation free to do their vital life-saving work.

In a just world, future generations would hear stories of the monstrous effort to impede COVID-19 vaccine research.  Textbooks and documentaries would icily describe bioethicists’ lame rationalizations for allowing over a million people die.  If the Tuskegee experiments laid the groundwork for modern Human Subjects Review, the COVID non-experiments would lay the groundwork for the abolition of these deadly shackles on medical progress.

Which is further proof, in case you needed any, that we don’t live in a just world.

* At least as I’m writing.  Maybe this will have started by the time you read this.

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