By: Mark Glennon*

We got a nice email from a professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business complimenting us on a recent article and pointing us to a paper he has in draft that makes the same point but with academic rigor. The email is from Prof. Joseph Pagliari and it was about our article, “Huge Flaw in Federal Guidelines Feeds Wrongheaded Thinking on ‘Opening Up’”

This is particularly timely because Greg Hinz at Crain’s just published a new article illustrating beautifully what so many don’t understand about this crisis and about economics in general. Hinz says we just want to “throw grandma under the bus” and let survival of the fittest rule. A teaching moment is at hand.

Our article that Pagliari liked had two points. First, poverty, recessions and depressions kill, too, and those deaths must be weighed against the deaths directly from the virus, along with all the other costs. Second, the balancing has to change each day as we plunge deeper into an exceptionally severe economic hole that will be difficult to dig out of. The “gating factors” for opening up, in other words, should not be fixed and static.

Prof. Pagliari put that in the chart below. Now, don’t panic if you don’t like charts and economics. The concept here is actually very simple.

The red line is the all-in direct cost of the virus, including lost lives. Moving further to the right means keeping stay-at-home rules in place longer, which brings that cost down. The longer we keep the rules in place the more lives we save. So far so good.

The green lines, however, show the all-in indirect costs of keeping stay-at-home rules in place. That’s not just the trillions of dollars government is paying out but the other lives lost over the long run due to a crippled economy. Those costs soar as the rules stay in place longer.

That description is my simplified version. Read Pagliari’s whole paper to do full justice to his work.

The point, however, should be clear: We are dealing with two killer curves, not one. Reasonable people may differ on what to do with stay-at-home rules, but we at least have to think about this rationally and balance the deaths, costs and risks on both sides, and the calculation changes every day. At Wirepoints we happen to think the rules should be redirected to laser focus on protecting the high risk groups where the vast majority of deaths are occurring.

Note that the red line, which includes deaths directly from the virus, eventually flattens out. But the green lines, which include deaths and other costs of a wrecked economy, just goes up and up as more time passes.

We will be writing more about Hinz’s mischaracterization of us. We sure as heck don’t believe in some sick version of social Darwinism Hinz used as a straw man. To the contrary, it’s those with Hinz’s view of the world who are throwing an unknown number of victims under the bus.

*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.

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r neville
7 months ago

Medical professionals talk about the risk of Covid-19, but it’s far from the only risk we face.
Crashing the economy has the potential to make far more people suffer far worse for far longer than the vast majority who might catch the virus.

Anonynous
7 months ago

There are many who want to “protect the vulnerable” and “won’t throw grandma under the bus”. Good. I am one of those people, who seem to be in the vast majority and have “prevailed” in the lockdown battle. Except —
Who is dying of Cv-19? Where are they dying?
Well… the oldest and sickest are dying. They are dying in professionally staffed nursing homes, which were built for the protection of the vulnerable.
Maybe we don’t know how to achieve our objective.

Illinois Entrepreneur
7 months ago
Reply to  Anonynous

I think you’ve hit on why Pritzker annoys me. He speaks with certitude on predicting future events in this thing — without really knowing what could happen.

A little more humility and introspection would go a long way into getting people to have faith that his actions are coming not from a political place, but a human place.

debtsor
7 months ago

There’s a quote from a 2005 movie filmed in Chicago, called The Weatherman, with Nicolas Cage, where a character is watching the weatherman on TV and comments:

“He’s an a**hole. I don’t like his face. His a**hole face.”

That basically describes what I think when I see Jabba on my teevee screen.

The Truth Hurts
7 months ago
Reply to  debtsor

Pritzker Derangement Syndrome. The left has Trump and you have Pritzker. Fat man bad.

debtsor
7 months ago

Yet, you still manage to bring Trump into this. TDS really is terminal.

James
7 months ago
Reply to  debtsor

Its every bit as logical as your Always-Trump Derangement Syndrome. Somehow you think otherwise, I’m sure.

The Truth Hurts
7 months ago
Reply to  debtsor

I don’t dislike Trump one bit. He says what many people are thinking. I’m just pointing out that you are behaving exactly the same way towards Pritzker. You can’t see that because fat man bad.

James
7 months ago
Reply to  debtsor

What a remarkably logical way to think!

James
7 months ago

“A little more humility and introspection would go a long way into getting people to have faith that his actions are coming not from a political place, but a human place.” Oh, you man like our hero here, President Trump?

debtsor
7 months ago
Reply to  James

There you go again, Trump lives in your head, you can’t get him out, and even when talking about Jabba, you find a way to bring Trump get. Terminal case of TDS.

Illinois Entrepreneur
7 months ago
Reply to  James

James, respectfully, I did not mention Trump, and in all my comments, I don’t think I have. This website is about Illinois, which is my biggest concern. Pritzker condescends. He whines. He’s always pointing the finger elsewhere. He talks down. This is not leadership; heck it’s not even good frontline leadership 101. He needs to learn how to have a public conversation with the people, and accept that there will be challenges to his way of thinking. It comes with the job, and the best at it use it as an opportunity to further engage and persuade. All I hear… Read more »

James
7 months ago

To me and maybe a few—and I do mean FEW—others here all you have to do is insert “Trump” when you say “Pritzker,” the traits so many here use for the latter apply most of the time to the former as well. Truly, that’s how I read what you’re saying here, so to me its hypocrisy even if that’s not your personal intent.

Illinois Entrepreneur
7 months ago
Reply to  James

You don’t do your comments any service by claiming an argument that I haven’t made is hypocrisy.

James
7 months ago

Yes, that’s probably true and certainly so as you’d see it. On other hand, interpretation of one’s written thoughts are not likely to ever to be quite as the writer intended. It’s sort of like “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” One would think red has the same image to anyone thinking of it, but there are varying shades of red. “My bad” here, and I apologize. But, to me what you say about J.B. applies about as equally to Trump, but your “red” and mine bring forth different images to each of us.

debtsor
7 months ago
Reply to  James

Are you talking about Homer’s ‘wine dark sea’? It was blue then just as it was now. It was likely just a euphemism that we don’t’ understand today. The sea was still blue. And red is red.

James
7 months ago
Reply to  debtsor

Your mind lives in a binary world in this case: some thing or idea is or it isn’t “x.” I’m trying to say that often there are shades of intermediary possibilities in lots of situations, words, paragraphs, and stories. Interpretation varies from person to person.

Illinois Entrepreneur
7 months ago

I majored in economics so…I love this stuff! Econ graphs make a complex subject so easy to understand. This idea — that there are two graphs to consider out there — is a key point that now needs to be driven home to the general public. Everyone has argued thus far in ambiguous terms, with “coronavirus deaths” having no opportunity costs that were considered morally equivalent. Much like we need to know the data on hospitalizations and deaths, we now need to be focused on the data on the other side. What data in the green line above would be… Read more »

DantheMan
7 months ago

Wirepoints does one thing exceedingly well. It presents facts as numbers. The opposition arsenal lacks this particular ammunition, however they have an overwhelming advantage in firepower with their media partnership. In the end the facts/numbers will win the war, however the opposition strategy is to leave nothing of value to the victors. This opposition strategy is likely to succeed despite Wirepoints increased popularity.

Do you want to stay in Illinois as it steals your wealth to fight an unwinnable war on debt, and then to rebuild after that? Did you know you don’t need a passport to leave Illinois?

PensionActuary1058
7 months ago

Excellent article. The modern left is not capable of winning a logical or well reasoned argument so they resort to name calling, shouting, or creating straw men, among other scumbag tactics. If we can make them argue the actual issues then they are the ones who will sound like extremists to the vast majority of Americans

debtsor
7 months ago

But a political smear IS a win if the game isn’t presenting logical or well reasoned arguments. Hinz’s game was only about smearing and trying to make others look foolish. You’ll never win against journalists because the game is always rigged in their favor. Trump is showing his degenerate side again trying to win an argument that is unwinnable. His polls have gone down because of it. We already all hate the media and pointing out their biases doesn’t change anyone’s mind. My father called CNN the Clinton News Network even in the 90’s so nothing has changed in my… Read more »

Susan
7 months ago

May we first define “saving lives”?
Only if the shutdown lasts until COVID-19 is eradicated can the shutdown claim to “save lives”.
COVID-19 is carried by non-human vectors so, like polio, “eradication” equates to ‘effective vaccine’.
So more accurate characterization than “saving lives” would be “delayed loss of life”, unless the plan is to remain shut down 1.5-or more years for effective vaccine.

Yoz
7 months ago
Reply to  Susan

There are various ways to calculate the value of life saved as this article awhile back describes:
https://www.forbes.com/sites/theapothecary/2020/03/27/how-economists-calculate-the-costs-and-benefits-of-covid-19-lockdowns/#1df3d65a6f63

The problem in politics though is that it sounds better for people like Pritzker to be pounding the podium about lives saved, which will justify almost any action, than to talk about quality-adjusted life years, which won’t.

Susan
7 months ago
Reply to  Yoz

QALY analysis is a good way to quantify squishy and emitionally appealing assertions by politicians. One Rockford hospital is now refusing Medicaid patients. This will, by direct effect, “cost lives”.The hospital argues that Illinois Medicaid is insolvent and they cannot afford more losses. I do not hear a peep from governor about this. Illinois has been mute on the effect of issuing CON to the politically favored. Certificate of Need limits amounts of hospitals or surgical centers permitted in Illinois, on a very subjective basis. In Woodstock, it was arranged to grant a new CON 10 miles south of Woodstock… Read more »

George
7 months ago

My fellow patriots please make these two links below part of your everyday listening and reading habit. My patriots we need to be woke too.

https://warroom.org/listen-live/
https://560theanswer.com/content/all/stevecortes