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Further thoughts on Washington State

Summary:
In a recent post, I pointed out that Washington State had much lower Covid fatality rates than California, which were in turn much lower than Arizona. I argued that the difference was probably cultural. An alternative hypothesis is that the difference is due to tighter regulations in Washington State. To get at this issue, consider the death rate from Covid in Washington and Idaho: Washington 1060/million Covid deathsIdaho 1744/million Covid deaths Now consider the death rates in King county (Seattle area) and Spokane County, which is way over along the Idaho border: King County: 846/millionSpokane County 1745/million Some of this may be vaccination rates, but probably not all. I recall that even a year ago (i.e. before vaccines), the Covid death rate in the Bay

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In a recent post, I pointed out that Washington State had much lower Covid fatality rates than California, which were in turn much lower than Arizona. I argued that the difference was probably cultural.

An alternative hypothesis is that the difference is due to tighter regulations in Washington State.

To get at this issue, consider the death rate from Covid in Washington and Idaho:

Washington 1060/million Covid deaths
Idaho 1744/million Covid deaths

Now consider the death rates in King county (Seattle area) and Spokane County, which is way over along the Idaho border:

King County: 846/million
Spokane County 1745/million

Some of this may be vaccination rates, but probably not all. I recall that even a year ago (i.e. before vaccines), the Covid death rate in the Bay Area of California was far lower than in Southern California. The exact same state, but different cultural attitudes toward risk.  It’s not about state mandates; it’s about culture.

The example of Sweden might seem to point in the opposite direction, as its Covid death rate is far higher than in Norway or Finland.  In my view, however, the biggest problem in Sweden was not the lack of mandates; it was (misguided) government recommendations that people not wear masks.  The Swedes are more likely to follow government recommendations than most other cultures.  In America, you do not see differences in Covid death rates between similar states that are anywhere near as large as the nine-fold difference between Sweden and Norway.  Sweden really is an outlier.

BTW, I’m not suggesting that being more cautious is always best; I believe that roughly 1/3 of the country is too cautious and 1/3 are not cautious enough. Of course I’m in the rational middle group. 🙂

Further thoughts on Washington State

Scott Sumner
Scott B. Sumner is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, the Director of the Program on Monetary Policy at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and an economist who teaches at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. His economics blog, The Money Illusion, popularized the idea of nominal GDP targeting, which says that the Fed should target nominal GDP—i.e., real GDP growth plus the rate of inflation—to better "induce the correct level of business investment". In May 2012, Chicago Fed President Charles L. Evans became the first sitting member of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) to endorse the idea.

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