Some time ago, it was apparent from UK data that the Covid crisis is a hysteria. Data from the United States tells the same story. The harms that have been done in the name of the hysteria are unforgivable and we should be furious. There should be outrage and anger over the Covid response.
I have previously discussed that the statistics for age-adjusted mortality in the UK show that the age-standardised rate of mortality in 2020 was the same as in 2008. These are official statistics from the UK government’s Office for National Statistics. Similarly, the Mises Institute uses data from the Centre for Disease Control and shows that the US mortality rate for 2020 was the same as in 2004. These statistics demonstrate that the lethality of Covid has been grossly exaggerated by governments and the media. Indeed, it is apparent that governments have sought to deliberately use scare tactics over Covid, with much of the media acting as cheerleaders.
The age-adjusted mortality rates from the UK and US tell us something very profound, which is that we are witnessing a hysteria; the first every global hysteria. The mortality rates for 2020 are unremarkable but have been turned into a crisis. 2004 in the US and 2008 in the UK were perfectly normal years. You will be lucky to find even a minor news story about mortality rates.
It seems reasonable to say governments have long known and understood that Covid was not the danger they claimed it to be. How could they not know the age-adjusted mortality rates data, when this would be a crucial element in the evaluation of the impact of the disease and the policy response? The idea that nobody has presented this data to governments is simply absurd. Also, we have seen many politicians, health officials, scientists, and bureaucrats breaching their own rules, regulations, and guidelines. If they actually believed that Covid was the kind of threat that they have told the public, they would surely not act in this way.
Nevertheless, here we are, hurtling to year two of the pandemic hysteria. It may be a good time to pause and consider what has been done to us and think of the consequences going forwards. There are three key impacts that need to be considered; human, economic, and governance. As these are going to be very general commentaries that apply to all of the countries of the Anglosphere, I will not be using heavy referencing as is my normal habit.
The Economic Cost of Hysterical Covid Policy
The idea that large swathes of the world’s economy might be completely shut down for months at a time would have been viewed as absurd before Covid. It sounds more like the plot of a dystopian science fiction novel. Nevertheless, that is what has taken place. The result of this shut down is that the engine of the world halted, stuttered, halted again. And this has been an ongoing process. In place of people going about the world engaging in productive activity, they were locked in their homes. Businesses were shuttered for months at a time.
The most obvious impact has been on small businesses. Although government support ameliorated the effects, the result for many small businesses has been dire. Even as they closed their doors during the lockdowns, many of their costs continued unabated. With little or no revenue, this forced businesses into debt or, in the worst cases, insolvency. The potential long-term effect of this ongoing disaster is that the entrepreneurial class is being hammered, and it may take a generation for a recovery in entrepreneurship. Meanwhile, large businesses, who are better able to ride out the costs, will see a host of competitors disappear. They will, in the long term, benefit from the loss of competition. This hammering of small business is the economic impact that comes to mind to most people most readily.
However, in the background, there are even larger impacts. We are starting to see these impacts emerge. The first impact should be obvious but seemingly is not obvious to those who govern us. If shuttering businesses, the goods which we all need are no longer being made. It really is blindingly obvious that if you shut down a manufacturing plant for several months, the total output of that plant will fall in line with the length of the shutdown; there will be fewer goods from that plant. This, when taking place over the entire world economy, means that goods will be in short supply.
The problems of shortage of goods from shutdowns will have been exacerbated by lean supply chains, which operate on so-called “Just in Time” principles, whereby components for the manufacture of goods are only supplied at the last moment. One example of the problems that can arise is the semiconductor shortage. These are now key components in all modern cars. With no chips, car manufacturing plants are shutting down or reducing production. In addition to lowering the output of cars, the costs of an idle car plant do not bear thinking about. This is a relatively high-profile example, but these kinds of problems are ubiquitous (see here, for example).
The result of the lockdowns and ongoing restrictions is that the supply of goods into the world economy is constrained. The shortage of goods can only have one effect. Inflation.
Even as the supply of goods into the world economy has been falling, we have seen central banks reach for what has become the modern policy of first resort; quantitative easing. Despite the fancy jargon and a modern methodology, quantitive easing is just money printing by another name. The result is identical to what would take place if running a printing press and trucking the printed banknotes to a local bank. The use of quantitative easing has been ongoing since the economic crisis of 2008 and has reached new highs with the Covid hysteria. I have chosen the example of the US to illustrate the result, as the $US is the reserve currency, the currency of international trade, and as the US is so important for the world economy. The figure below, taken from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, shows the M1 money supply in the US and is truly terrifying.
All of the money that is being printed around the world, and it is an international phenomenon, is being used to fund the massive increases in borrowing by governments to pay for the insane responses to Covid. At the most superficial level, we can see that the borrowed money has been used to pay potentially productive workers to be unproductive and locked in their homes. However, it is also apparent, depending on the country we look at, that much of the money is being directed into a multitude of policies that can only be described as wasteful/profligate.
It is when we start meshing together the different elements of the policy responses to Covid that a very, very worrying picture emerges. Even as the supply of goods in the world is constrained, central banks are printing money and governments are using that money to pay for non-productive activities. We have a massive increase in the money supply meeting a constrained supply of goods. We can then add in the energy crunch that has gripped much of Europe and even China. This has driven energy prices sharply upwards. A key cause of the crunch has been that the wind has not been blowing enough in Europe, which has hit wind energy production; the chickens are coming home to roost for foolish climate change policies. When putting all these influences together, this is the perfect route towards huge inflation and quite possibly hyperinflation.
I warned that these policies were going to be inflationary in one of my first posts on this website, and inflation is now springing up everywhere. Again, looking at the United States, the narrative was that it was transitory, a blip, but now transitory is being described as if it is much longer than a blip. For many of us, we do not need statistics, as it is becoming evident in our daily shopping and now appearing in the news.
Predicting the course of a single economy is perhaps, even in normal times, a fool’s errand. Predicting the direction of the world economy after the madness of the responses to Covid is an impossible task. It is quite possible that sanity will return over Covid, normality of economic activity will return, and that the current problems in the world economy will ease rapidly as the bottlenecks disappear. However, the alternative worst-case scenario is that we are about to see a hyper-inflationary economic crash of huge proportions. Or it might be something between the two. There is only one thing that is certain. The Covid hysteria-driven policies have placed the world economy on a very worrying knife-edge, where the potential for disaster is very, very real.
When looking at the mortality rates for the UK and US, it is apparent that there was no need for the policy responses that have so disrupted economies. Even if inclined to reduce the impact of Covid with policy responses, the proposals of the Great Barrington Declaration would have served this purpose, but without the monstrous economic cost that came with the extreme and irrational policies of lockdowns. If the wheels do fall off the world economy, we should know where to look and where to direct our anger; at those who have governed us during the last two years. They will be entirely responsible.
The Human Cost of Covid Hysteria
I will start with the potentially most controversial cost, which is the cost to those in aged care homes. I start with this example as ‘saving granny’ captures a theme used to justify the most extreme Covid control measures. What is rarely discussed is what the hysteria has meant for those that we are supposed to be saving. One of the broad commonalities of the lockdowns has been the practice of locking away aged care residents in their rooms. There is a description for this practice; imprisonment. For many of these aged care residents, these were/are the sunset years of their lives and they were spent in enforced prisons of isolation and loneliness. They could not see their family and friends. It is almost impossible to comprehend the heartache and loneliness that millions of such people must have lived through. And one can only wonder at how many of these people would have traded their prisons for the risk of Covid, but they had no choice and no voice.
Another human cost is the appalling rate of business closures and indebtedness that have resulted from lockdowns and other Covid measures. We need to put this into a human context. For most small business owners, their business is their livelihood but it is much more than that. It is nearly always the result of struggle and heartache. For example, nearly all small food businesses like restaurants go bust in their first year. For those that survive, they will typically have to fight to survive and put their heart and soul into the business. To have come through such a process and succeeded tells you something about the emotional importance of that business to the owner. To have that business ripped away by bureaucrats and politicians is beyond cruel. It is life-shattering for all but the most resilient. And even where a small business survives, for many, there will be years of struggle to lift a crippling burden of debt that was accumulated during lockdowns.
We can then look at what became mundane, a working family going through a lockdown. One or both of the family members may be on restricted income or one or both might have lost their jobs. These are not the wealthy professionals smugly enjoying baking and time with their family in suburban homes, where working from home is a relief from the daily commute. These are the people who make the world move, make things, use their hands, have to be somewhere to work. And many such families live in small and cramped apartments/houses. And they are stuck in their cramped home, with their children at home for school. The education of the children is suffering from schools closed and with distance teaching not an adequate replacement for in-person teaching. In some cases, with schools closed, one of the parents will be unable to work. Their income suffers as a result. These are the lives of so many people, it is beyond count. But they are not people the journalists and commentators know or care about. We are talking about the loss of dignity accompanying unemployment, the loss of income and gathering of debt, and the sheer difficulty of life cramped between four very small walls.
Then there are the young people. Many are at university and have had their education disrupted and curtailed. During lockdowns, the lives of the young and single are immeasurably small. They do not see their friends, their boyfriends, or girlfriends. There is no going out. And for single people living by themselves; loneliness and isolation. A loss of any real human contact is replaced with Zoom and Skype. And for those who have dreamed of spending their youth travelling and seeing the world, that dream evaporates. Their world, instead, has shrunk down to a small residence and a trip to a supermarket. Their horizons have shrunk immeasurably, and they are berated for their selfishness if they dare complain.
And then there are the momentous life events that suddenly are constrained, the events where the bonds of family and friends matter. These are the canceled weddings. The funerals where friends and family are unable to attend and show their grief and loss. Or, as bad, the relative who is about to die, but cannot have the comfort of their family and friends in their last hours. And the other side of the equation; the loss of those who want to see a loved one or friend one last time before they are lost forever. This is heartbreaking stuff.
And there are the health effects. Wherever lockdowns have been, mental health has nosedived. It takes no additional explanation to see why. The examples above tell the story. But there is worse than that. As the medical system was turned over to an obsessive focus on Covid, the cost was to everything else. The testing, the elective procedures, and so on and so forth. We will see the results of the Covid obsession and hysteria for years, in late diagnosis of illness and a host of other ills. And some of the canceled and delayed surgeries were for conditions that were causing real pain and suffering. The people suffering in pain, sometimes agony, were told to go hang; everything was for Covid. The negative health impacts of Covid will likely be far greater than the actual effect of Covid, especially if looked at over the long term.
As for education. What can anyone say, except that taking children out of school will see all children’s education take a hit? The only argument that needs to be addressed is how much their education suffered and which children saw the greatest cost. There have been strong indications that it is the poorest children who will have been hurt most. As for higher education, it is hard to tell what the impact will be at this stage. For example, some universities put in provisions for lower pass marks for exams and so forth. What this will mean in the long-term, only time will tell. For sure, it will not be good.
As for the police, the enforcers of all the restrictions, their behaviour will have laid barriers between themselves and many law-abiding people for years, and perhaps forever. The great principles of Sir Robert Peel, that the police are members of the community, were forgotten and were replaced by dogmatic enforcers of often arbitrary rules. It may be a long time before the police are seen in the same light, in particular in countries like Australia which have seen exceptionally brutal policing. The loss of trust in the police by so many law abiding people will have long-term effects that can only be negative.
I now come to the petty and the small. I refer here to our lives of the masks and social distancing and the other often mindless petty dictates which we have all endured. Everyone will remember the silent and strange experience of going through supermarkets during lockdowns. The people not contacting you by eye, the fear that you might encroach on someone’s space, the loss of humanity that goes with public muzzling. People viewing their neighbours as potential vectors of disease and death. And then there were and are the government snitch lines to report breaches of the rules, where neighbour turns on neighbour. And the busybodies and petty officials who appeared out of nowhere, and barked at you like you were serfs. We all experienced this and could see the diminishment in the respect and humanity we attributed to each other. As the absurd rules multiplied, our dignity and our sense of our own agency were diminished in lockstep with both the petty and large infractions on our basic freedoms. How does one even start to think about the cost of this?
There is no way to encapsulate the degree of suffering and heartache that has flowed from the absurdity of the extreme responses to Covid. It is hard to capture because so many people will have their own particular story of the cost, and which will be unique to them. Losing a job, missing a funeral, canceling the dream holiday saved for over many years, the delayed surgery, seeing the shattering of dreams with a business closure. The costs can be both small and large and often a combination of both. In my mind, I cannot help but see a picture of a lonely old lady locked away in a room before a solitary and lonely death without the comfort of family and friends. It is an image I cannot remove from my mind, as it was so cruel and so unnecessary. It is what I first think of whenever I think of the cost of the Covid hysteria. I think of the plight of the grannies that we were supposed to be saving.
The Cost to Our Governance
The restrictions on some of our most basic freedoms are entirely unprecedented and beyond what was even experienced during periods such as World War II. I do not think I need to elaborate on this point as it is so self-evident that locking people away from their lives is a massive intrusion on the most basic of rights. The only point of issue is how many petty, absurd, and often self-contradictory measures, were implemented in each particular country, or the degree of tyranny wrought on the public in the cause of enforcing the measures. In all cases, the measures have been tyrannical. The latest tyranny is over the immoral vaccine mandates.
As I pointed out in a recent post, governments were deliberately using fear to ensure compliance with their tyrannical rules. Much of the public was practically begging for ever-harsher measures. That the Covid hysteria has seen the implementation of tyranny should be beyond doubt. Nevertheless, some will argue that it is “for our own good” or “it is for the good of society” – these are the excuses of tyrants throughout history. The many voices that have argued for and defended the tyrannical measures have been well-received and this has given a green light for authoritarianism. The media have been central in this and acted as the cheerleaders for governments, and governments have been further encouraged towards more authoritarianism by the media support that they have received.
What is the long-term cost of what has taken place? In many cases, the tyrannical rules that were implemented were illegal, of questionable legality, or at least a breach of the norms of governance that are expected in a free society. The politicians have (so far) gotten away with this. The big lesson both for governments and those with authoritarian inclinations is that, if you scare the public enough, they will endure any amount of loss of freedom – and even thank those who took those freedoms away. The latest round of authoritarianism, vaccine mandates, suggests that now that we have allowed governments to accrue so much power over us, they are not going to easily give up that power. Liberal democratic norms and basic freedoms have been trampled upon and there is still no sign of their resumption. My worry is that we may all rue that we allowed this to happen.
Behind the tyranny in practice, we have the tyranny of the experts. One of the defining features of the hysteria has been the voice of the so-called experts. These so-called experts have cloaked themselves in the mantle of “the science” as they have stoaked the hysteria and advocated for the most extreme policy measures. As the cost of their policy advocacy comes to light, the cost will be to public confidence in the institutions of science. The notion of “the science” was always absurd and was illustrated by the admirable Great Barrington Declaration, which was developed by highly credentialed scientists.
The most worrying part of the role of the so-called experts is that they became the cover for the politicians enacting the extreme measures. There has been universal deference of politicians to “the science” and this has led to a growth in an already worrying trend towards rule by a technocracy. The principle of this technocracy is, never mind what the public wants or thinks, everyone needs to shut up and listen to the experts.
This technocratic impetus has been supported by much of the media, who cloak themselves in the mantle of “the science” as a way of signifying that they are well-educated and sophisticated. And anyone who questions “the science” must be cast out and destroyed. This translates in turn to the smug fools that we will all encounter on social media who will proclaim that they are following “the science” and they thus provide further support for the technocratic regime. It translates into the truly appalling social media censorship that we have witnessed throughout the hysteria.
It has been evident for some time that our democracies have been slowly evolving towards technocracies, and the Covid hysteria has been the moment in which the technocrats came to full ascendency. We see the same process in the economy, with the technocrats manipulating the economy according to their (absurdly wrong) models. Indeed, wherever you look now, the government seems increasingly dominated by technocrats. It is one of the many reasons for the rise in so-called political populism, which actually means electing politicians who will represent the public rather than following the policy orthodoxies of the technocratic elites. The Covid hysteria has further elevated these technocrats, and that can only further undermine the public’s trust in democracy. In particular, as the real costs of the lunacy of Covid hysteria becomes more apparent.
What of the Future?
I have given a very broad outline of some of the costs, and potential costs, of the Covid hysteria. It is when we start to pull these threads together that we can see that the hysteria is going to have a very profound effect on the world, and in particular on the countries of the Anglosphere. It seems highly probable that we are now heading to a profound economic crisis. We cannot be sure of this, but it seems very likely. This is the direct result of the technocratic health response to the crisis meeting the technocratic economic response to the crisis. It is all technocracy.
I do not think we, the public, are in any position to be able to respond positively to any economic crisis. Any such crisis will come into countries that are already starting to tear themselves apart with the rise of Wokeism. The rise of Wokeism is, of itself, serving to destabilise political, social, and cultural institutions. As a result, there is already a growing loss of confidence in our institutions, and often outright distrust of those institutions (the media is the most prominent case). An economic crisis in this environment could be truly toxic. It will almost certainly fan the flames of division and will allow for further extremism from the followers of Wokeism. There may even be an extremist response to Wokeism. The reason is simple; unemployment and economic woes are fertile ground for fomenting extremism, especially amongst the young.
In other words, the Covid hysteria has arrived in countries that have already been steadily moving to a political/cultural crisis. The Covid hysteria itself has mirrored the Wokeism-technocratic driven climate change hysteria. Climate change and covid hysteria both share in common the idea of “the science” and the same media and social media response, and the same kind of social media support from the true believers. The only difference was that the Covid hysteria simply deployed the existing tools that have been used to engender fear and hysteria over climate change. The Covid hysteria was like watching a compressed version of the climate change narrative, but with more extremism and more of the public impacted by the scare tactics.
What this all amounts to is that the very trends that drove me to start this website in June have been ratcheted up, or accelerated, by the Covid hysteria. These trends are Wokeism, extremist environmentalism, and the economic policy of quantitative easing. If there is an economic shock that emerges from the Covid hysteria, which is likely, then we are in for very troubled times. I can only hope that I am wrong about that possibility, but do not believe that this will be the case. I think we have barely touched the true cost of the Covid hysteria, and the real price will be very high.
I have hoped that providing the figures for Covid mortality rates, and what they mean, would make an impact. I did not expect that this site would make that impact but did hope that others with more influence would pick up on the figures and run with them. When the Mises Institute published similar US CDC data, I was even more positive that some influential media outlet or influencer would pick up the story. In both cases, those hopes have not been realised. I think it may be the case that the figures point to such a radical revision of what we have been told to believe, with such profound implications, that people cannot process them. I wanted to see the figures gain attention because they provide a compelling reason to stop the madness that is taking place under the Covid hysteria. The cost has been appalling and is growing day by day.
In addition to stopping the madness, I also want to see those who are responsible for the hysteria held to account. What has taken place in the hysteria has been so harmful to us, the general public, that it can only be called criminal. When sitting down to write this, the problem was where to even start with the harms caused. There are just too many over too many areas of our lives, our economies, our politics, and even our culture. And there are indications that the harm still has a long way to go. It is why I titled this ‘why we need to be angry’ – institution after institution let us down. I have previously tried to understand why. I came to no firm conclusion but, in a sense, it does not matter. What has taken place in the name of the hysteria, and what may take place going forwards, are so appalling that it almost does not matter why. What matters is that those responsible are held accountable for what they have done. This must never happen again. That is why we need to be angry.