The coronavirus has divided the right

Lion and Jim are in agreement that the Coronavirus is a very serious problem. Of course, it is serious, but they are subscribing to the claim purported by experts that the morality rate is 2-4% and that it will kill millions of people unless drastic action is taken such as mass quarantines. Looking though the comments and recent blog posts, it has divided the ‘right’ into two groups: those who believe the virus is a crisis and the government isn’t doing enough, and those such as myself who believe the fears are overblown and an attempt by the media to make Trump lose. A few days ago Quillette put out a massively viral article about the need for quarantine, which Lion praised. I think the article went more viral than the virus.

From Lion:

I think I have a lot of commenters who are morons, and are listening to bozo Trump instead of what actual epidemiologists and virologists and medical doctors are saying, who don’t understand the problem of infected people doubling every so many days, and how that will overwhelm healthcare facilities. People focusing on low fatality rates not understanding that fatality rates go up because it takes four weeks to die, and not factoring the seriousness of the illness for people who are hospitalized and put into ICU even if they survive, or the increase in fatalities once the hospitals are full.

I think Lion and Jim are falling for the genetic and argumentum ad verecundiam fallacies, in which the expertise of whoever is espousing an argument makes it true or lends additional weight to the argument. Experts are wrong all the time. Second, there is no actual consensus about that the morality rate is, due to the huge amount of variance depending on variables such as patient history, geography, and ethnicity. Some areas have a morality rate as high as 20% (King Country, WA) to as low as zero percent (Germany). The reason why the former is so high is because it infected a nursing home.

Experts were wrong about:

failed predictions of a double dip recession between 2009-2020
failed predictions of a bear market between 2009-2020
failed predictions of US dollar collapse
failed predictions of US bond market collapse
failed predictions of the EU breaking up (despite Brexit, the EU is very much intact)
predictions that the Trump tariffs would cause a crisis, recession, inflation, trade war, etc.
that Trump winning would tank the US economy and stock market
that Trump could not win, that Hillary would win
that Brexit would tank global economy
that Trump would leave office before the end of his first term
failed predictions of increased civil unrest in the US due to Trump
that Trump broke the law (he was impeached, but the senate didn’t convict, as he did nothing wrong)
that Trump colluded with Russia (Mueller report showed nothing)

…the list goes on and on. I can list dozens more but I think I made my point.

This does not mean that expert opinions should be ignored but rather weighted also with empirical evidence and other factors. Unlike hard sciences such as math and physics, these are just projections, not laws of nature.

For example, according to the John Hopkins virus app, many countries have very low mortality rates:

South Korea: 7041 cases, 44 deaths (may seem like a lot of deaths, but the morality rate is .6%)
Germany: 670 cases, 0 deaths
Switzerland: 214 cases, 1 death
Singapore: 130 cases, 0 deaths
Netherlands: 130 cases, 1 death
Belgium: 110 cases, 0 deaths
Norway: 108 cases, 0 deaths
Sweden: 101 cases, 0 deaths
Malaysia: 83 cases, 0 deaths
Austria: 66 cases, 0 deaths
Bahrain: 60 cases, 0 deaths
Kuwait: 58 case,s 0 deaths
Canada: 54 cases, 0 deaths
UAE: 45 cases, 0 deaths
Iceland: 45 cases, 0 deaths
Greece: 45 cases. 0 deaths

Yeah, it’s “doubling every so many days” as lion puts it, but by that logic, we should have all died of Aids, Ebola, or whatever the last epidemic or pandemic was. Obviously, exponential growth of epidemics cannot be extrapolated for indefinite time horizons. These viruses have a tendency of spontaneously petering out, just when it feels like things cannot get worse. It’s possible that next week or the week after that, the number of non-China cases will transition from exponential growth to linear growth. And then month or so from now there will be no more cases.

Lion says that bars, cruise ships, and religious services (anything in which a lot of people congregate) need to be closed. Ironically, he leaves hospitals off his list, but you are more likely to get sick going to the hospital than going to a religious service or sporting event. There is no need for the govt. to shut down such services. The free market is doing that instead as people change their plans. Carnival Cruise stock has fallen 50% since the virus began. Airline stocks have also done poorly. American Airlines stock has fallen 45% in the past month, versus a 10% decline in the overall market. We’re definitely see the “big government” aspect of the right resurface in the wake of this virus. Some blame religion and religious services, yet many religious countries such as India, Palestine, Turkey, Iran, Lebanon, UAE, Kuwait, and Thailand have not been hit hard. India has 1.34 billion people, is highly religious and has high population density in many areas, but just 31 cases and no deaths. Iran looks like a huge outlier than the norm. Brazil , which is heavily Roman Catholic and has a population of 210 million, has just 13 cases. Meanwhile, these secular, tiny countries such as Iceland, Denmark, and Norway have lots of cases relative to their populations. Iceland has 30 cases and Denmark 23.

People keep predicting that hospitals will be overwhelmed, yet millions of people are hospitalized every year for conditions such as cancer, infection, food poisoning, and influenza, yet evidently things are still working. Why would some corona cases suddenly cause mass, systemic failure. In 2016, there were 37 million hospital stays in the US. Even an additional 1 million cases would not strain resources that much. What it would probably mean, assuming there is a shortage, is that hospitals would prioritize corona cases over elective procedures, so that means fewer cosmetic surgeries and hip replacements. Also, if there is a shortage, there is no reason to expect the govt. won’t pass a massive spending program to create additional hospital accommodations.