Did COVID-19 Cause Economic Devastation, Or Was It The Response?

Ghana

“The pandemic and shutdown of advanced economies could push as many as 60 million people into extreme poverty – erasing much of the recent progress made in poverty alleviation.” - World Bank Group President David Malpass.

As it becomes horrifyingly clear that the "lives vs. profits" argument used to justify a global lockdown will harm and end far more lives than the coronavirus itself, media and politicians are scrambling to deflect blame and avoid accountability.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the narrative promoted by governments and mass media has been consistent: Normal human activity would result in tremendous loss of life. The only way to avoid this is to shut down all non-essential activities (including education and childcare), and keep everybody home until the spread is contained.

Anyone who questioned the potential toll of a worldwide economic shutdown was told that they were choosing to "support profits" instead of "saving lives."

Now that the global death toll from COVID-19 has been found to be only slightly worse than a bad flu season, with the vast majority of infected individuals experiencing mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, the bill for the lockdown has come due. And it is a steep one.

US retailers now expect to close a record-shattering 12,000 stores this year, and the National Restaurant Association predicts that over 100,000 restaurants may close permanently. Tens of thousands of other businesses have also shuttered. Every business that closes represents lost jobs, lost tax revenue, and shattered dreams.

Globally, the picture is even darker. By the World Bank's calculation, the lockdown will push over 60 million people into "extreme poverty," which it defines as living on less than two dollars per day. Researchers have calculated that the mental anguish and distress caused by the lockdown will extinguish seven time more human life than the virus itself.

Faced with this balance sheet, the media is running headlines that scream, "Pandemic could force 60 million more people to live on less than $2 a day." But it wasn't the pandemic that caused the damage, it was the ill-considered and hysterical response that they promoted.

In 1968-1970, the "Hong Kong Flu" pandemic swept the globe, killing a million people worldwide, and over 100,000 today. Factoring in demographic differences, that number is equivalent to roughly 200,000 Americans dying today.

Yet, as reported by the American Institute for Economic Research, the pandemic was treated as a medical issue, not a political one. Schools remained open, and major gatherings - including the legendary Woodstock music festival - were held with only minor precautions, such as extra medical personnel on hand.

Although people did die - just as they die every year, from a litany of other causes - the sustained impact of the pandemic on the population at large was virtually nil. There was no lockdown, and no "new normal," because society never relinquished the old normal.

As the CDC recommends guidelines for schools that one can only imagine were written by someone who has never met a child or been in a school, it is past time to push back. We need to de-criminalize normal human behavior, we need to let people live, work, study and play without virus-justified restrictions, and we need to recognize that the treatment has indeed been much worse than the disease.