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Dealing with Covid was easy

Summary:
We don’t say that dealing with Covid was well done but we do insist that it was easy. We’ll also admit to a certain fondness for the Swedish Method - government action on the really big things and leave most of life to the good sense of the population - and also for Jesse Norman (despite an historic contretemps there). For Jesse was, according to reports, the only person within half a mile of the Cabinet who actually asked the important question: “How much is this going to cost?” Not, we hasten to add, in anything so crude as the mere monetary sense, but in the proper one of what is being given up as a cost of this plan? Tom Chivers starts our point for us:But the valuable lesson, I think, is not “we should have done X” or “we should have done Y” specifically, but that we should be less

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We don’t say that dealing with Covid was well done but we do insist that it was easy. We’ll also admit to a certain fondness for the Swedish Method - government action on the really big things and leave most of life to the good sense of the population - and also for Jesse Norman (despite an historic contretemps there). For Jesse was, according to reports, the only person within half a mile of the Cabinet who actually asked the important question: “How much is this going to cost?” Not, we hasten to add, in anything so crude as the mere monetary sense, but in the proper one of what is being given up as a cost of this plan?

Tom Chivers starts our point for us:

But the valuable lesson, I think, is not “we should have done X” or “we should have done Y” specifically, but that we should be less confident in our ability to predict highly complex situations. And more than that: we should look at the possible results of being wrong in our attempts to predict those highly complex outcomes.

A reasonable estimate is that there are, currently in London, 1 billion things on sale. Not 1 billion items, but different things, left handed, right handed, brass, steel, tin, half inch, 3 mm screws and on with the combinations of nails and hammers and on to cars and hoovers and…. Karl Marx was astonished that century and a half ago that one could buy 500 different types of hammer in that city.

Now note that the billion in London are different from the same billion in Birmingham, both ditto Bradford, all three from Brighton and on.

The economy., that is, is a complex thing. Compared to managing, planning and running that economy dealing with covid was elegant simplicity. Yet having observed the performance - and not just of our own government, many did equally badly - with respect to covid there are those who insist that the economy can be run by dictat. Without all of us falling about with laughter. Or, perhaps, without us all rising up to remonstrate with those who could say something so observably stupid.

Covid was simple compared to the economy. Yet there is still that delusion, despite the very evidence before our eyes, that the more difficult task will be achieved more easily than the simpler, or even better.

We wonder if one of those 500 types of hammer can be described as a cluebat? If not, can someone get on with the invention bit please?

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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