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Tag Archives: public health

Regulation: It’s much worse than you think

The distribution of vaccines is being held up by regulation. But I suspect that even opponents of regulation underestimate its pervasive effects. Regulation goes far beyond things like price controls and mandates regarding distribution, it extends into all aspects of our society (including the “private” sector), in ways that many people don’t even think about. Let’s start with health care: 1. We have a tax system that pushes people into gold-plated health insurance...

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Noubar Afeyan on Academia, Business, Immigration, and the American Dream

Tyler Cowen has posted an outstanding interview of Noubar Afeyan, co-founder of Moderna, which produces one of the two COVID-19 vaccines approved so far by the Food and Drug Administration. Tyler is at the top of his game, asking really good questions, and you can just see the respect that that creates in Afeyan. Some highlights follow. On individualized medicine We have a program in cancer vaccines. You might say, “What does a cancer vaccine have to do with...

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Thoughtful Pieces on the Lessons of COVID-19

Janan Ganesh, in the Financial Times, forcefully argues that the Covid19 has “no grand lessons for the world”. The significance of the pandemic is being stretched as implying the triumph of a “system” over another, but on the basis of poor evidence. Covid19 has taken the world by surprise and it is difficult to claim that systems characterized by more civic trust, or with stronger government, or with more liberal governments, performed better than their opposites....

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The Big Lesson of 2020: Government Failure

The year 2020 gave us a huge amount of evidence about the relative merits of government intervention and free markets. The bottom line is that government failed massively and free markets triumphed spectacularly (with one major exception) within the constraints that government placed on them. The one apparent exception to government failure is Operation Warp Speed but, as we shall see, that apparent exception may not be an exception at all. This is the opening...

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890 Thousand Excess Deaths Due to Covid and Lockdowns

We find that shocks to unemployment are followed by statistically significant increases in mortality rates and declines in life expectancy. We use our results to assess the long-run effects of the COVID-19 economic recession on mortality and life expectancy. We estimate the size of the COVID-19-related unemployment to be between 2 and 5 times larger than the typical unemployment shock, depending on race/gender, resulting in a 3.0% increase in mortality rate and a 0.5% drop in life expectancy...

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There are no non-Bayesians in a COVID foxhole

There is some level of danger that pushes even the most stubborn government bureaucracies to start acting semi-rationally. Tyler Cowen has a brilliant new post that clearly demonstrates that the US has not reached that point. But things are much worse in the UK, due to a new variant of Covid-19 that spreads much more rapidly. As a result, the UK has switched to the “first dose first” approach, which is very likely to save lives.  And even if it doesn’t, the approach...

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The costs of not maximizing aggregate utility

Many people don’t like utilitarianism. They advocate alternative (often deontological) approaches to ethics. In 2020, we saw the immense costs of some of those misguided ethical systems. Scott Aaronson has an excellent post that begins with a discussion of why he believes our response to Covid was inexcusably slow. He discusses challenge trials of vaccines, and also a WWII-style plan to build manufacturing capacity just in case the vaccines were successful.  But he...

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I, Vaccine: How to Appreciate the Beautifully Simple

What a marvelous spectacle we have enjoyed this week, as the first wave of Covid-19 vaccines began shipping from Pfizer’s facilities in Michigan. Watching the news with my pre-teen son, as those box trucks rolled away carrying such precious frozen cargo, he said, “Wow, I bet that truck driver feels pretty good about his job right now.”  I nodded and replied, “Well said, son. I think maybe this is something we can all feel good about.” Who can’t feel good about the...

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The FDA’s Deadly Caution

The earliest Moderna probably would have sold the mRNA-1273 vaccine would have been after it began scaling up manufacturing. A company doesn’t begin manufacturing until it believes in a product. In the timeline above, that’s March 23. But manufacturing takes some time to get going. Let’s assume that by April 1, five weeks from the date the first batch was shipped, Moderna begins offering mRNA-1273 for sale. Sales start slowly. Supplies are limited. Only the bold and...

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Lockdowns and Political Realignment

A few days ago the Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed of mine, on the new Christmas restrictions that the Italian government passed for coping with Covid19. Here’s a link (gated). I am not a fan of the restrictions. Italians are no longer free to move through the country; they may travel only within their respective regions or between regions rated as having a similar risk status. Regions are classified according a “color code”, depending from their infection rate and...

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