Who gains under non-price rationing?

The rich!

Who gains under price rationing?

The rich.  And everyone else as well.

The economy is not a zero sum game.  Under a price rationing system, the vaccines will get out to the public more quickly and fewer people will die.  It’s true that many of the first doses would go to wealthier individuals, but that’s also true of non-price rationing.  In practice, states spent so much time fighting over how to distribute the vaccines in a “fair” way that they slowed the rollout of vaccines, leading to many needless deaths.

PS.  Of all the head-scratching decisions made by the US government during the past year, it’s hard to top the one described in this new Alex Tabarrok post.  Imagine being a government official making a decision that costs thousands of lives, and has precisely zero benefit to anyone.


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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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The Great Divergence: A Fork in the Road for the Global Economy

By Kristalina Georgieva As G20 finance ministers and central bank governors meet virtually this week, the world continues to climb back from the worst recession in peacetime since the Great Depression. The IMF recently projected global GDP growth at 5.5 per cent this year and 4.2 per cent in 2022. But it is going to […]

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Will Walmart Save America?

My question is only partly rhetorical. Just two days after I published my post “Vaccine Adventures,” I read in the Wall Street Journal that the federal and state governments had started allocating vaccines to large pharmacy chains, including Walmart (Sharon Terlep and Jaewon Kang, “CVS and Walmart Decide Who Gets Leftover Covid-19 Vaccine Doses,” February 11). After reading this story in the wee hours of February 12, I went on Walmart’s website and, in just a few minutes, made myself an appointment for six days later. Appointments are available at 20-minute intervals during the whole day.

The efficiency of Walmart is legendary despite its being a behemoth, just as the inefficiency of the government is legendary because it is a behemoth (and other reasons explored by the economics of public choice).

Yesterday, another Wall Street Journal story described the rollout of Walmart’s Covid-19 vaccination (Sarah Nassauer, “Walmart’s Covid-19 Vaccine Rollout Heads to Small Town,” February 14). To get an idea of “what the weather [is] really like on earth” (le vrai temps qu’il fait sur la terre) to borrow an expression from Saint-Exupéry (in his novel Southern Mail or Courrier Sud), a few quotes from this Wall Street Journal story are useful:

Skowhegan, Maine—Pat and John Thomas were watching the news one night last week when they saw that Walmart in this central Maine town of 8,000 people was taking appointments for the Covid-19 vaccination. They had signed up for shots at a hospital about a month ago but still hadn’t heard back. Ms. Thomas, a 74-year-old retiree, jumped on the computer.

On Friday the couple got the Skowhegan Walmart’s first doses …

Walmart Inc., the U.S.’s largest retailer and private employer, is set to become one of the biggest distributors of the Covid-19 vaccine as the federal government enlists retail pharmacies to accelerate what has been a choppy rollout. …

Walmart is likely to benefit in other ways. Many of the people getting the vaccine at the Skowhegan store Friday didn’t previously have patient profiles in Walmart’s system, said [regional Walmart manager] Mr. Tozier. “We are making relationships with new patients,” he said.

Ann Jackson and her husband, Norman Jackson, 73 and 76 years old respectively, arrived for their vaccine appointment midmorning after waiting for weeks to get an appointment at the local hospital, said Ms. Jackson. Later, she added chips, bananas and T-shirts to her cart. “You never want to waste the trip to Walmart,” she said.

Contrary to what I implied in my previous post, there seem to be incentives enough for private pharmacies, at least those with a Walmart sort of efficient logistics, to administer Covid-19 vaccines when Big Brother releases them.

Such recourse to private enterprise could partly protect us from the central planners in DC and the state capitals. But why give the vaccines to some private organizations but not others—say, to Walmart but not to Hannaford? Is it because the central planners know better where demand is most intense or where low-cost distribution is most likely? That would possibly be a first in the history of mankind.

It would have been much more efficient, from the beginning, if the government had sold the vaccines to whoever was willing to buy them in order to make a profit and had given vouchers to whoever wanted to be vaccinated. After this redistribution of purchasing power, the market—that is, individual demands—would have decided where the vaccines should go.


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The Magness Horpedahl Convergence on Masks

Last week I posted on the lockdown debate between Phil Magness and Jeremy Horpedahl. I noted that Horpedahl and Magness were not very far apart on lockdowns. Magness opposes lockdowns and Horpedahl favors only very limited local lockdowns in response to local information about spikes in cases.

Today I watched the whole discussion over in order to focus on the extent to which they agreed or disagreed on mask mandates. There was more disagreement on mask mandates, with JH (I’ll use initials from now on instead of full names) favoring mandates more than PM. What was also interesting, though, is the extent to which they agreed. I’ll note some highlights and then briefly note other interesting parts of the discussion that didn’t relate to masks.


JH  argued (at about 15:10) that mask mandates are a small restriction on liberty. He also stated, though (at about 17:00), his strong objection to governors like South Dakota’s Kristi Noem telling that state’s residents that if they want to wear a mask, that’s fine, and if they don’t, that’s fine also. Politicians, he argued should be pushing personal responsibility.

Notice, though, that the mask messaging of politicians is different from the issue of mandating masks. Like JH, I would have preferred that Governor Noem strongly recommend masks. She could still say that it’s a personal choice but that in indoor situations with other people present, the wise choice is to wear them.

PM noted (45:40) that masks work indoors and that (46:40) 80% of the public wears masks when venturing out. Given that high percentage use, PM asked (54:10), what does a mask mandate achieve?

JH noted (56:10) that PM’s 80% figure is right but that in private indoor spaces (family gatherings, etc.) the percent is much lower. JH dd note that the mandate won’t get at that indoor behavior in people’s homes. He’s not quite right, by the way. Wc could have police patrolling houses to enforce a mandate. Fortunately, JH didn’t even countenance that; good for him. In short, both clearly opposed pushing enforcement into people’s homes.

JH later (1:08:30) pointed out that a lot of people comply with the mask mandate because it is the law. I agree. Which means that a mask mandate, even if not enforced strongly, will cause many people to wear masks.

I asked JH a question on line that they didn’t get to in Q&A. It was this: What is the extent of the mask mandate you favor. Do you favor it for indoors vs. outdoors, for example? (That wasn’t the exact wording but I don’t have the exact wording.) I was surprised that in 1.5 hours of discussion, at least 15 minutes of which were about masks, the question of indoor vs. outdoor didn’t come up. I still would like to know.

I want to know for two reasons: one intellectual and the other personal. When I walk around Monterey in pretty undense situations where I can walk by people quickly and stay at least 5 feet from them and usually 6 feet or more, I often get dirty looks (I think: it’s hard to tell whether the looks are dirty when people are wearing masks) and even critical and sometimes nasty comments from mask wearers. Does JH think that, if I were a carrier, I would be putting these people at much risk?

Vaccine Mandates

This was probably the area in which there was the biggest difference. JH said (1:09;20) that schools already have mandates for various vaccines so having a mandate for children to be vaccinated is not a large step. He also said that it’s reasonable to have a mandate for people who want to travel internationally or even on buses. He said that you could have a rule that if you aren’t vaccinated, then you would have to follow the other rules about masking and distancing. My question: How would an official know who was vaccinated? Wouldn’t it have to be something like “Show me your vaccine card.”

PM answered (1:11:00) that it’s premature even to consider a vaccine mandate when current demand vastly exceeds supply.

PM also made 2 other points. First, remember the infamous Supreme Court case of Buck v. Bell in which the Court found forced sterilization constitutional and cited as precedent the existing compulsory vaccination laws. (That was the case in which Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., justifyng forced sterilization, stated “Three generations of imbeciles are enough” and leading me to wonder whether Mr. Holmes had grandchildren.)

Second, said PM, it doesn’t make sense to require the tens of millions of Americans who have had COVID-19 to get vaccinated.

Trading Off Lives and Mental Health

One questioner asked how lives saved from government interventions should be traded off against mental health. Both JH and PM gave thoughtful answers.

JH pointed out (1:23:00) that many people have a tendency to dismiss the value of the lives of the elderly because they have little of it left. But he noted that many of the elderly badly want to live and that one reason is to be around grandchildren. People in their 20s, on the other hand, often take big risks that suggest that they don’t necessarily value their lives very highly. He could have cited a study that I think was done by Robert Hall, Gary Becker, and another economist that found older people willing to pay a lot to live another few months. (My memory on this is vague.)

PM noted (1:25:00) that the question of the tradeoff between lives and mental health assumes the efficacy of interventions, which is something that has not been established. He noted also that the very lockdowns at issue often require the elderly to wither away in nursing homes, being able to visit their loved ones only through a window.

I have two personal stories that relate directly to PM’s point above. The father-in-law of a good friend of mine is about 95 years old. He was in a nursing home and was isolated by law even though he didn’t have the disease. My friend’s wife (the elderly man’s daughter) flew all the way from California to Pennsylvania so that she could take him to a doctor’s appointment. That was the only way she could actually visit him in person. This is insane. A few months ago, they decided to move him out of the nursing home and into the home of one of the elderly man’s daughters so she could take care of him.

Another friend in the Monterey area who’s quite wealthy had a mother-in-law stuck in a nursing home in Pennsylvania. She was stuck there because of the regulations and not doing well. My friend hired a jet to bring her out to Monterey, where she had a good last few months before dying late last year.


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Selective outrage

Back in 2019, there was outrage among the public that Boeing had built an dangerous airplane that in 500,000 flights had killed precisely . . . (checks notes) . . . precisely zero Americans.  (Two international crashes.)

Matt Yglesias has some interesting comments on the lack of outrage over the botched vaccine rollout:

What’s striking to me, however, is that not only hasn’t the AstraZeneca vaccine been approved for use even on a special “right to try” basis, but that there is absolutely no movement in favor of such approval. And that’s not because Americans lack the know-how or will to protest things. Just during the past twelve months, we’ve seen big stop-the-steal rallies, huge anti-racism protests, and several rounds of protests against non-pharmaceutical interventions. The takeaway from the anti-lockdown protests was that Americans are too individualistic to abide by prolonged business closures. The takeaway from all three rounds of protests is that Americans of diverse ideological backgrounds have profound mistrust of America’s governing institutions. This is a country so taken with the spirit of liberty that we can’t get people to endure the relatively minor inconvenience of wearing a mask while out and about.

The minority of libertarians who aren’t deeply invested in being Covid denialists would like you to believe that the fussbudget FDA is standing between you and the AstraZeneca vaccine. But it’s clear that the American people are absolutely not prepared to let public health experts tell them what they can and can’t do. If people were clamoring for faster approvals, we’d get them. But there’s no Covid Era version of ActUp demanding access. If public health bureaucracies ask people to change, a large share of the population declines to do it. If they try to force people to change, you get significant resistance. But if they block change, then the public is fine with that.

Even if you are not convinced on the AstraZeneca issue, there are many other areas where outrage is the appropriate response.  Why didn’t the federal government go all out subsidizing the manufacturing of vaccines in case they work?  Alternatively, why not encourage production using free market price signals.  We did neither.

Why wasn’t there a plan for distributing the vaccines?  Israel had a plan; why didn’t we develop one over the past 10 months?  Alternatively, why not use market incentives to speed up delivery of the vaccines?  We did neither.

Again and again, we see failures that cannot be justified from either a libertarian or a statist perspective.  And yet there are no street protests.  Why not?

You might say the issue is complex, hard to understand.  But Boeing jets are complex machines, hard to understand.  Statistics are hard to understand—do two crashes out of 500,000 flights represent a good or bad safety record?

I suspect the actual explanation lies elsewhere.  The experts told the public to be outraged over the Boeing 737 Max.  The experts did not tell the public to be outraged over the vaccine fiasco.  Instead we were told that “Operation Warp Speed” was a huge success.  In one respect it was—the vaccine was developed rapidly.  But experts also needed to point out that once the vaccine was invented back in January, we’ve stumbled from one fiasco after another.  The experts did not do so (with a few exceptions in the blogosphere) and hence most Americas don’t even know that it’s been a huge mess.  At least this is what I find when I speak with average people.

I’m outraged that experts are not whipping up outrage among the general public.


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Markets are good at allocating resources

By now, this idea is pretty widely accepted. But there’s somewhat more skepticism when dealing with shortages of important goods during an emergency. Consider these tweets:

I’m not qualified to opine on the specifics of this issue.  But after all the missed opportunities of 2020, I’m skeptical of claims that society could not possibly be missing out on “no-brainers”.

This long article discusses logistical problems in rapidly scaling up vaccine supplies:

Take large original equipment manufacturers like 3M, for instance – they have as many as 5,000 direct suppliers, and each of those suppliers have their own suppliers. This results in quite large supply chain networks that extend all over the world – and it only takes one incident to disrupt these operations. Plus, many organizations don’t even know who is in their supply chain. This is what we saw earlier on with N95 masks, gowns and gloves.

So what we have is a much more delicate or fragile supply chain for healthcare supplies, which really sets the stage for where we are now. Because the supply chain has become a much bigger factor, many of the components of the vaccine are subject to these same potential risks.

These are genuine problems, but these are also exactly the sorts of problems that markets are good at addressing.

Though Pfizer has already manufactured 20 million or so doses, Pfizer, Moderna and other vaccines are experiencing severe bottlenecks due to a lack of critical materials – including vials and rubber stoppers for the vials.

How might China’s vast and highly flexible manufacturing sector respond to price signals for producing more of these supplies, say a 50-fold increases in vial and stopper prices?  Hint, here’s how they responded last spring to the mask shortage:

Between March and May, China exported more than 50 billion face masks — a tenfold increase for total production last year, according to analysts

Read that again.  In three months, China exported enough masks to give everyone in the world 6 masks, ten times their normal annual production.

One mistake frequently made by non-economists, even non-economists that know far more about their own industry than economists do, is to underestimate all the margins by which supply can respond to market signals.  Almost nothing is “fixed” in quantity.  I won’t say it’s necessarily true that “where there’s a will there’s a way”, but when there’s obscene profits to be made then there’s almost always a way.


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Regulation: It’s much worse than you think

The distribution of vaccines is being held up by regulation. But I suspect that even opponents of regulation underestimate its pervasive effects. Regulation goes far beyond things like price controls and mandates regarding distribution, it extends into all aspects of our society (including the “private” sector), in ways that many people don’t even think about. Let’s start with health care:

1. We have a tax system that pushes people into gold-plated health insurance plans, and then the government regulates the way that those plans can operate. That problem was made dramatically worse by the recent decision of Congress and the President to kill the so-called “Cadillac tax”, which would have gradually eliminate the tax subsidy for health insurance.

2. We have many controls on entry into the provision of health care, which drive up costs in numerous ways.

3. Ever get a severe toothache on a Friday night, and be unable to visit a dentist for relief until Monday? I have. In 1910, I could have walked to the local drug store and bought some serious pain relief. Not today.

4.  Fear of lawsuits.  Many of the practices that make life in America both frustrating and inefficient are driven by a fear of lawsuits.  Yes, lawsuits play a valuable role in enforcing contracts, even implicit contracts.  But firms should also be able to have consumers and workers sign agreements not to sue under certain conditions.

5.  Price controls that create shortages.

I wonder if even sensible regulation skeptics like Tyler Cowen realize just how bad things are. In a recent post, he suggests we should praise the UK’s efforts in distribution the vaccine.  But the UK has done a horrendous job of distributing the vaccine; indeed Israel is doing the job 5 times faster.

So why does Tyler praise the UK? Because almost every country in the world is screwing up even worse than the UK. Regulation has made things so bad that even “pretty inept” starts to look good on a comparative scale.

[And don’t say, “Israel is small”.  Israel is roughly the size of many American states (such as New Jersey), each of which is doing a horrible job.]

Here’s another example:

A hospital Covid-19 vaccination team shows up at the emergency room to inoculate employees who haven’t received their shots.

Finding just a few, the team is about to leave when an ER doctor suggests they give the remaining doses to vulnerable patients or nonhospital employees. The team refuses, saying that would violate hospital policy and state guidelines.

Incensed, the doctor works his way up the hospital chain of command until he finds an administrator who gives the OK for the team to use up the rest of the doses.

But by the time the doctor tracks down the medical team, its shift is over and, following protocol, whatever doses remained are now in the garbage.

Isolated incident? Not a chance, Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told NBC News.

“This kind of thing is pretty rampant,” Jha said. “I have personally heard stories like this from dozens of physician friends in a variety of different states. Hundreds, if not thousands, of doses are getting tossed across the country every day. It’s unbelievable.”

People consistently underestimate the responsiveness of industries to market signals.  I’d be happy to pay $2000 to get a vaccine today, rather than have to wait a few months.  Yes, health care workers are overworked.  But if I offered a nurse $2000 to give me a jab on the way home from a grueling 12-hour shift, would he refuse?

People gave Charles Barkley a hard time for suggesting that NBA players should get priority.  But why not? They are highly productive.  I don’t recall many people criticizing President Trump for getting special treatment when he contracted Covid, and I’d say the average NBA player is more productive than Donald Trump. So why the double standard?  BTW, if the NBA shuts down then lots of average workers also lose their jobs.

I could understand the “social solidarity” argument against a free market if this were a zero sum game.  But as Israel has demonstrated, the inefficient distribution of vaccines is a negative 80% game, that is, we are vaccinating 80% smaller share of our population than Israel. Yes, eventually we’ll catch-up.  But time is of the essence.

Under a free market, most people would receive vaccines sooner than under our current system.  Thousands of lives would be saved.  Perhaps it might seem a bit less “fair”, but what is fair about needlessly killing thousands of people just to be politically correct?  The price would likely fall sharply once the first few tens of millions were vaccinated.  And if there are some people too poor to pay for vaccines, then we have public charities like Medicaid and private charities like the Bill Gates Foundation.  As the Maoist experiment in China demonstrated, egalitarian intentions are not enough—you need incentives to produce goods and services.

People seem almost hardwired to resist the idea of deregulating health care.  Whenever there is a problem, they instinctively reach for even more regulation.  The FT has a long article discussing all the ways that bureaucrats have screwed up the distribution of vaccines, which ends as follows:

But some worry it is too late for money to have much of an impact and argue that the federal government should take control of the process rather than leaving it to states.

“The federal government could send a few thousand vaccinators,” Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University school of public health. “They have a public health workforce. They’re just not for reasons that neither I nor the states can figure out.”

So the federal government has completely screwed up “for reasons that neither I nor the states can figure out” and thus we can conclude that “the federal government should take control of the process”?  Hmmm.

Here’s another thought.  Doesn’t this quote suggest that capacity limits are not the core problem?  We have “thousands” of vaccinators who are available but for some strange reason are not being used.

This is the whole point of markets.  To connect up desperate consumers with unmotivated providers.  The price system will provide the motivation that providers need to speed up the process.  You may find free markets in health care to be distasteful, but you should find thousands of needless deaths to be even more distasteful.


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The costs of not maximizing aggregate utility

Many people don’t like utilitarianism. They advocate alternative (often deontological) approaches to ethics. In 2020, we saw the immense costs of some of those misguided ethical systems.

Scott Aaronson has an excellent post that begins with a discussion of why he believes our response to Covid was inexcusably slow. He discusses challenge trials of vaccines, and also a WWII-style plan to build manufacturing capacity just in case the vaccines were successful.  But he also considers possible objections to his arguments, such as the fact that moving faster imposes risks:

Let me now respond to three counterarguments that would surely come up in the comments if I didn’t address them.

1.  The Argument from Actual Risk. Every time this subject arises, someone patiently explains to me that, since a vaccine gets administered to billions of healthy people, the standards for its safety and efficacy need to be even higher than they are for ordinary medicines. Of course that’s true, and it strikes me as an excellent reason not to inject people with a completely untested vaccine! All I ask is that the people who are, or could be, harmed by a faulty vaccine, be weighed on the same moral scale as the people harmed by covid itself. As an example, we know that the Phase III clinical trials were repeatedly halted for days or weeks because of a single participant developing strange symptoms—often a participant who’d received the placebo rather than the actual vaccine! That person matters. Any future vaccine recipient who might develop similar symptoms matters. But the 10,000 people who die of covid every single day we delay, along with the hundreds of millions more impoverished, kept out of school, etc., matter equally. If we threw them all onto the same utilitarian scale, would we be making the same tradeoffs that we are now? I feel like the question answers itself.

And it’s not just vaccine development; we’ve also prioritized “ethics” over saving lives in the distribution of the vaccine:

Update (Jan. 1, 2021): If you want a sense of the on-the-ground realities of administering the vaccine in the US, check out this long post by Zvi Mowshowitz. Briefly, it looks like in my post, I gave those in charge way too much benefit of the doubt (!!). The Trump administration pledged to administer 20 million vaccines by the end of 2020; instead it administered fewer than 3 million. Crucially, this is not because of any problem with manufacturing or supply, but just because of pure bureaucratic blank-facedness. Incredibly, even as the pandemic rages, most of the vaccines are sitting in storage, at severe risk of spoiling … and officials’ primary concern is not to administer the precious doses, but just to make sure no one gets a dose “out of turn.” In contrast to Israel, where they’re now administering vaccines 24/7, including on Shabbat, with the goal being to get through the entire population as quickly as possible, in the US they’re moving at a snail’s pace and took off for the holidays. In Wisconsin, a pharmacist intentionally spoiled hundreds of doses; in West Virginia, they mistakenly gave antibody treatments instead of vaccines. There are no longer any terms to understand what’s happening other than those of black comedy.

Everyone is entitled to choose their own preferred ethical system as a guide to their daily life.  But there is only one reliable ethical system to be used in public policy—maximizing aggregate utility.  As soon as you ignore that goal, you end up killing lots of people for no good reason.

In retrospect, none of this should have been a surprise (although I admit to being caught off guard.)  I had assumed that our disgraceful policy of banning kidney markets was a one-off exception.  Now I see that the same instinct that leads to tens of thousands of excess deaths of people with kidneys disease also pervades our entire public health system.

Aaronson understands that this failure goes well beyond one individual or even one country; it’s a broader failure of society:

Furthermore, I could easily believe that there’s no one agent—neither Pfizer nor BioNTech nor Moderna, neither the CDC nor FDA nor other health or regulatory agencies, neither Bill Gates nor Moncef Slaoui—who could’ve unilaterally sped things up very much. If one of them tried, they would’ve simply been ostracized by the other parts of the system, and they probably all understood that. It might have taken a whole different civilization, with different attitudes about utility and risk.

At the same time, I do believe that utilitarianism is gradually gaining ground.  But there’s still much more work to be done.

HT:  Matt Yglesias


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COVID-19 Hits the Poor Harder, but Scaled-Up Testing Can Help

By Allan Dizioli, Michal Andrle, and John Bluedorn Across the world, poor neighborhoods have experienced more COVID-19 infections and deaths than wealthier ones. The pandemic and the efforts to control it have disproportionately hurt the poor, both within and across countries. Gaining a better understanding of what accounts for the disparate health impacts across income […]

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