E The Cost Of Our Coronavirus Insanity

Globally, the World Food Organization is reporting that the economic effects of our shutdowns could leave over 130 million additional people facing starvation by the end of 2020.

Together with the locust infestations that is over a quarter of a billion people facing preventable starvation.

Prioritizing only one good inevitably leads to great evil.

The sad irony of this is that our efforts to sacrifice in the face of the Wuhan Respiratory Syndrome might not actually save many lives. While those in the developing world can’t survive a month without work, Western economies can’t survive a year. We won’t have a vaccine by next March. Nonetheless, we will be forced to reopen. And the virus, which will never leave the third world, will come back to every country that can’t completely seal its borders. 

In the end the cost of our efforts won’t just be borne by faraway Africans. The bill will come to us as well. Our shutdowns will lead to healthcare systems that will be unable to deal with the regular cadence of illness. Over 12 million Europeans and Americans die annually – of causes other than the Wuhan Respiratory Syndrome. Many more become seriously ill. Our economic collapse will prevent us from affording the same level of care. And our supply chain issues will mean that even money won’t be able to buy the supplies and equipment needed to save lives. This year, we failed to deliver pesticides to save millions in East Africa. Next year, we may well fail to deliver the vast array of products necessary to sustain a modern hospital.

This is a marathon. Winning the first 100 meters might actually hurt your chances of coming out ahead in the long term.

What can we do now?

First, we should stop acting as if those calling for an end to the lockdowns are somehow immoral or callous. We should argue about the impacts of our options, but not brand those we disagree with as immoral people. These seems like a lesson today's US needs more than ever before. 

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Anne Barry 11 months ago Member's comment

Just keep getting worse for some...


Susan Miller 1 year ago Member's comment

Saw this news out of Israel about bringing some good out of locust swarms and thought of you Joseph:


Joseph Cox 1 year ago Author's comment

Crunch all you want... we'll make more!

Gary Anderson 1 year ago Contributor's comment

So thanks to no masks, Joseph, meds including my meds is delayed. This is serious for some seniors. Anti mask is a sure ticket to an explosion of cases as Fall is right around the corner. talkmarkets.com/.../trade-wars-are-killing-pandemic-cooperation

Joseph Cox 1 year ago Author's comment

Seasonality seems to have had little impact. Hot areas that didn't have previous spikes spiked just in the summer. I doubt fall will be any worse than the present.

Before the pandemic, the US spent almost 18% of GDP on healthcare. The economy has since shrunk 8+%. This implies that if healthcare spending remained constant (it hasn't) we'd be spending 19.5% on healthcare. If we keep going and achieve the 33% annualized contraction we'll be looking at 26% of GDP being spent on healthcare.

At what point does out capability for delivering healthcare being to recede due to economic contraction?

At one point the goal of shutdowns was to "eradicate" the virus. When that wasn't possible, we went to "bend the curve" so that the healthcare system had enough capacity. We bent the curve. If we keep trying to push it with overwhelming economic constraints, we'll find that our *healthcare* capacity will drop below what was needed before the pandemic.

Then we'll be in serious trouble.

Gary Anderson 1 year ago Contributor's comment

Just take it from the military or from those who benefited at the top with tax breaks. Take it from the Fed who says they have a big balance sheet capacity.

Joseph Cox 1 year ago Author's comment

I never said no masks.

Gary Anderson 1 year ago Contributor's comment

I agree. But the problem I see with opening too soon is that the social distancing and will to wear masks erodes. You have called for an opening of society. People just don't want to wear masks if they think things are not bad enough to lock down!

Danny Straus 1 year ago Member's comment

Saw this article and thought of you @[Joseph Cox](user:127658). hadn't even known this was an issue before I read your post:


Joseph Cox 1 year ago Author's comment


Joseph Cox 1 year ago Author's comment

More from the WSJ on the costs of our reaction. This just makes me want to cry...


Weed Investor 1 year ago Member's comment

Are the locusts seasonal? Will they be going away soon?

Joseph Cox 1 year ago Author's comment

They typically die out in July when the moisture levels drop. I think we have another one or two generations to go.

Joseph Cox 1 year ago Author's comment

I wrote a more generalized article about the the costs of shutdowns on a structural economic level. The locusts are really a particular example of the wider problem I explored in the other piece... talkmarkets.com/.../some-of-my-best-friends-are-economists

Gary Anderson 1 year ago Contributor's comment

Actually you made a case for increasing efforts against the Coronavirus as the African nations did not do against the locusts. Yet you made the west be guilty of fighting the virus instead? What makes you think that the locusts would have been dealt with if we didn't have the Covid-19?

Joseph Cox 1 year ago Author's comment

Supply chain breakdowns prevented the locusts from being sprayed. Our response to the Wuhan Respiratory Syndrome is responsible for supply chain breakdowns.

The corollary is this: If the Chinese had actually dealt with the virus in its infancy (in Wuhan) instead of arresting doctors and those who reported the problem then the virus would have been killed before it spread. That time has long since passed. In most countries the virus exists in the community and while we can slow the spread we will not prevent it altogether. Even if the US, for example, were to eradicate it, it would continue to come from Central and South America. We are far past the 'spray the locusts where they reproduce' stage of Coronavirus.

Gary Anderson 1 year ago Contributor's comment

So didn't Trump's trade war also hurt supply chains? As for slowing the virus, we won't know until society is partially opened. If people try to protect themselves fewer people will be subject to the virus.

Joseph Cox 1 year ago Author's comment

Trump's trade war may well have raised prices and thrown some industries into some confusion, but people could still get everything.

Michelle Bell 1 year ago Member's comment

Why will the virus never leave the the third world country and then bring it back to the US. I would think that if the virus ravishes those countries, every one will be infected and they will either die or recover and then become immune. Problem solved.

Angry Old Lady 1 year ago Member's comment

"Third world" is now considered to be derogatory. Better to be PC and say "developing country."

Joseph Cox 1 year ago Author's comment

Except maybe they aren't developing? Perhaps, like Haiti, they are just stuck. Do we thus need a new more accurate term? Or do I risk entering Trump territory?

Ayelet Wolf 1 year ago Member's comment

What can we do to help? Are any non-profits raising money to benefit those in need?

Joseph Cox 1 year ago Author's comment

Money isn't the problem. A broken supply chain is.

Ayelet Wolf 1 year ago Member's comment

While nothing to do specifically with Africa, I've read about lots of governments and organizations sponsoring chartered flights to help with various COVID-19 related issues. Perhaps something like this could be done.

Joseph Cox 1 year ago Author's comment

Goes back to the laser focus on Corona - and everything that gets lost.

Texan Hunter 1 year ago Member's comment

Not to sound like an ass, but how can they be starving? Locusts are considered a delicacy in Africa and eaten with relish. I've seen the locust swarm pictures and they are every where! People can literally scoop them up in their hands and chow down like manna from heaven. I realize that may be gross to many here in the suburbs, but not in Africa.

Joseph Cox 1 year ago Author's comment

And without refrigeration I imagine even locusts go bad. Plus, you can't plant them and grow new locusts the next year. Locusts are a short-term food, not a permanent one. Oh, and they fly away. You probably can't collect a year's worth to make up for lost crops.

Dick Kaplan 1 year ago Member's comment

Locusts are indeed edible. But they also destroy all the local crops. People can not survive on locusts alone.