I shall attempt one. Recall that this sequence of posts is to some extent in the nature of a diary of the plague season, so I'm recording my thinking, and what I see around me. Let's suppose a life is worth £1 million (on the low end I know, but these are mostly elderly folk dying... let's hope my mother doesn't read this...) and we (in the UK) might end up with 500 k deaths if we do nothing, then that's a cost of £500 billion. Which sounds like a large number, but you have to be careful with things that look like large numbers. UK GDP is about 2 trillion, so if we lose 20% of GDP this year that would be... £400 billion. Did I get my numbers right? That suggests that at least in ballpark, costs and benefits about balance; in which case it doesn't seem unreasonable to err on the side of humanity. That's assuming no knock-on cost to GDP in future years, and on the other side, that 500 k mostly elderly deaths wouldn't affect much GDP.
Alternatives to lock down?
The current lock down looks like a very blunt instrument. You can argue, and probably will, that even that blunt instrument is misunderstood, and that the govt-to-public interface is incapable of transmitting anything but a blunt message. But that won't stop me thinking that it is all rather badly done and could be done better. Examples abound: I can't work-from-work, even though I'm about the only person on my floor, and the risk is negligible; certainly less that the risk from going into a supermarket. Speaking of which, at the local Sainsbury's, precautions seemed minimal: no hand-san on the way in, no staff wearing masks. It feels like everywhere is suffering policies that are more tuned to large cities.
Update: would wearing masks help?
There's almost no mask usage in the UK. And pols never wear them when gathered together. This Tweet points to the Czech's making their own; see this Google doc. As more and more people took to the streets and social media with masks, on March 17 at the daily government press briefing, all members were wearing masks. It seems to me this is at least worth considering. The point being that you don't need medical-grade-certified masks to make it less likely to transmit.
I'm not the only one to think of the obvious... Scarves now, masks later; and Bring on the Masks and Gloves! And Lithuania starts producing reusable N100 face masks. It took just 4 days from idea to government contract of 1 million units. Costs 1.5 EUR per unit, production capacity 10,000 / day.
FACE MASKS: MUCH MORE THAN YOU WANTED TO KNOW: slatestarcodex.
Uupdate: I wrote a post about it.
UK now in "lock down" by which we mean don't leave your house unless necessary; but with a fairly broad definition of necessary, including a free pass for going out for a run. In a token of madness, even single sculling is now banned, presumably in order to prove that the world is insane. On a personal level, work has now bowed to the inevitable and sent me home. I'm anticipating that the garden will be at its best this spring, especially if the good weather continues.
I had some blogs by others queued up to comment on:
* Trump Murders Someone: The weapon: stupidity: DA/QS. Meh, more like suicide by stupidity. Anyone dumb enough to follow Trump's advice deserves a Darwin award.
* New York vs Italy - EarlyWarning: New York is in serious and, I would guess, irrecoverable containment failure; or you may prefer his We Are About to Lose New York City to Covid.
* Let Decadent Airlines Go Bankrupt by Pierre Lemieux at EconLib.
* Some thoughts about science advice - ATTP
* Uncertainty in the COVID-19 model - JEB: I think one thing that can probably be concluded is that the parametric uncertainty isn't hugely important for the broad policy advice. Rather like climate science, in fact :-).
* That Oxford study, in full, in brief - JEB
* Harsh But True - Timmy suggests Africa may show what happens without lockdown; though a commentator points out that they skew young, which helps.
* Open Borders: Now Do You See What We're Missing? by Bryan Caplan
* A battle fought on a million fronts by Scott Sumner
* J-value assessment of how best to combat Covid-19 by Philip Thomas
* What About Economists’ Expertise?
* When Free-Market Prices Are Banned by Pierre Lemieux
* How long the lockdown lasts is not just a medical question – it's a democratic one; Richard Denniss - Graun
* Economic crash could cost more lives than coronavirus, says expert - The Times - Philip Thomas, Jvalue stuff.
* The UK lockdown and the economic value of human life by some bloke called Julian Jessop; a rather informal CBA.
1. and only a party of utter morons would have put up a candidate he could beat. It looks like they have actually learnt something this time round; I'm astonished.