do zoom meetings cause lockdowns?
what was different about this pandemic that drove such different response?
wow, here’s a fun thought experiment from the always hilarious (though rarely in the manner he intends to be) eric ding.
imagine a 1984 pandemic! leaving aside that in the orwellian sense, we just very much had a 1984 pandemic, the question itself is interesting. alas, as with so many of the utterances of this emoji-addled purveyor of panic, it more or less completely misses the point.
he’s looking at the wrong axis and the wrong causal direction.
i think the better question is this:
if our elites and knowledge workers had not had the ability to telework, would they ever have championed these unprecedented and contra-indicted pandemic responses?
personally, i doubt it very much.
interestingly enough, there is quite ample evidence of just what we would have done in such a case: lived our lives.
here’s what telework looked like in the pandemic of 1968-70 (the hong kong flu) which was considerably worse than covid. this happened literally right in the middle of it.
young people did not cower at home, close stores and restaurants and schools, wear masks, or otherwise descend into all the pseudoscientific and superstitious absurdities which were mandated in 2020-1 in contravention of all prior standing pandemic guidelines.
they did this:
and those not inclined to turn on, tune in, and drop out went to work, went to school, and lived their lives.
we did not upend the world over an elites driven epidemiological LARP complete with cosplay because people then knew what people in 2019 knew: it would have made no difference anyway. no matter how deeply you might wish it to be so, you just cannot stop an airborne pandemic that way. never could. and the costs are extreme. (source in link above)
and absolutely nothing has changed this year.
and this has been stunningly clear since april and may of last year when certain internet felines started using google mobility data to track lockdowns and their effects on rate of pandemic change.
there is near zero correlation between changes in lockdown and later changes in the path of pandemics.
so what changed?
so, we never used to lock down, the guidelines said not to lockdown, and where we used to party in the mud with jimi hendrix we now cowered in our homes too afraid to eat at applebees or get our nails done.
it’s tempting to say that the humans just became a much more fearful lot and that our ancestors would mock us, but i think the reality is something more interesting:
the pandemic response did not cause telework.
telework caused the pandemic response.
consider: much of life is about the response to price signals. for the allegedly educated elites and knowledge workers, the ability to telework vastly reduces the price of not going into the office. frankly, i barely missed a beat while working. many others were the same.
this newfound ability to hunker down and keep being productive and keep getting paid is not distributed evenly. the knowledge worker/peleton bike class has access. the factory worker/hospitality worker/service economy worker does not.
but which group makes the decisions on epidemiology and policy?
do you really think that all the teachers and university professors and epidemiologists and CDC and NIH staff would have pushed these policies if it meant they too had to stay home, miss work, and not get paid?
call me mr cynical paws, but i’m guessing they would not. they certainly never did so in the past. they certainly never put this kind of response in their guidelines. heck, they flat out contra-indicated it and warned that policy makers might panic and try something like this.
but this time, it was different:
this time, when they heard “two weeks to flatten the curve” these folks thought “two weeks of WFH in my bunny slippers and a nice little staycation with pay! huzzah! sounds fun!”
then it got out of control because it clearly didn’t work but now reputations were on the line and lunatics like the IHME and SAGE doubled down and then doubled again.
this made the epic mess you just watched where we swerved the global economy around a chipmunk in the road as it if were a dinosaur (and as if swerving could help).
we reacted to “models” that had never evidenced even remote predictive ability as though they were stone tablets handed down on high.
but it all started because the people who got to make these decisions had a bad incentive set.
the massive damage to small business and middle and lower class lives did not apply to them. the incredible harm inflicted upon the most vulnerable in the US and around the world did not apply to them. it was not their business going under. it was not their children unable to tele-school and missing vaccinations and becoming food-insecure. that all happened somewhere else.
“let them use zoom” became the new “let them eat cake” because, let’s face it, it’s sure a lot easier to blather on about social duty and community spirit when your paychecks keep hitting and you get to do it from your comfy home with full pantries.
it’s probably easier still when your agency keeps functioning, you get bigger budgets, and you get more power and fame.
the damage is someone else’s problem, and therein lies the crux: when those making policy are not those paying the price for bad policy or being wrong, you get TRULY awful policy.
if these folks shared in the pain they inflicted, they would have thought much longer and harder about doing it and would never have let it go on so long. they probably never would have done it at all.
it’s been fascinating to watch the liberal classes who so proudly proclaim that “we need to tax the rich and give to the poor” spend a whole year flush and happy while crushing the poor more aggressively than any peacetime policy in human history so that they could feel a little safe and a little smug in their invented from whole cloth epidemiological religion.
them virtue signaling from their home gyms while ordering a kale smoothie from doordash while you wonder how you can possibly keep your hair salon alive is really not a great look. but boy, it was a popular one. and without it, i don’t think this would have happened.
if the court of the aristos (of which i am admittedly one in means if not inclination) had been forced to pay the price along with the proles, this would not have happened.
i have a simple proposal to head this off in the future:
every government official who suggests that we lockdown or close businesses immediately stops getting a paycheck the minute we do.
it will not be accrued.
it will not be paid back.
every salary derived from every government grant for health and health sciences is suspended.
nobody gets paid.
the minute you start putting others out of work, you join them.
you can keep the project going or the agency, but YOU get no pay.
those who would wield such power must immediately know how it feels to be subject to it and share in the pain.
where i come from, we call this “eating your own cooking.”
how many of this group do you think will find it to their taste?