The world’s most oppressive authoritarian regimes

When you think of an authoritarian governing regime, what countries spring to mind? Does Australia? It should now.

Take a closer look at this graphic to see the company we Australians are keeping. I included Japan to show where a more liberal country sits on this index. As the note explains, for sub-regions within a country, the most stringent sub-region is used. It is Victoria that is driving the Australian figure.

Brutality and incompetence in Victoria

The State of Disaster declared by Premier Andrews will not have any effect on the COVID19 virus. Severity of lockdowns do not affect mortality outcomes, as many emerging studies of the northern hemisphere experience show. But Andrews’ suspension of democracy, the instant political disenfranchisement of the people, the social and economic catastrophe he has unleashed under the stamp of the heavy handed police state is not going unnoticed outside Victoria.

Two cases in point, first from Greg Sheridan.

and second from Jeffrey Tucker.

Move along, buddy, you’re holding up the line.

It’s time to get back to the business of life, if only our political masters would permit us. There is nothing to see anymore. The media fascination with counting each new COVID-19 case ought to be over.

What is notable from the next two charts is the shape of the curves. First, some larger countries and secondly smaller, (just to make the data easier to see).

Conclusion: the daily deaths have been falling everywhere, even bad boy Sweden, since the peak in late April. This is despite the rapidly growing number of reported cases globally for the last month.

Next, look at the excess deaths from the continuous mortality study, Euromomo, with 24 participating countries:

Conclusion: the spike in deaths, relative to normal, was 4 months ago. Also notable is that there is a spike in deaths every European winter. In 2017, the excess deaths reached 70,000 per week. In 2018 and 2019, they reached 60,000-65,000 per week. In 2020, there were two spikes: the ‘normal’ winter spike around 60,000 per week and then the COVID-19 spike reaching 90,000 per week.

Time to get back to living, working, schooling, business, socialising and recreation.

Perspective

Where is the global panic about deaths from road accidents? Or HIV/AIDS? Or tuberculosis? Why is COVID-19 worthy of a 6 month on-going panic when TB doesn’t rate a mention?

Currently, the global total death toll from COVID-19 is 562,000 people. Round that out to 0.6 million.

In other news, annual deaths from road accident trauma total 1.2m people, tuberculosis also kills 1.2m people annually and HIV/AIDS is killing about 1m people each year. Each and every year.

Let’s tally up the score over the last three years in terms of aggregate deaths:

  • Combined road trauma, TB and HIV/AIDS: 10.2m deaths
  • COVID-19: 0.6m deaths

Why weren’t economies busted and free people locked down years ago?

Photo by Tobias Rehbein on Pexels.com

COVID-19, the economics teacher

COVID-19 is both a virus and a teacher. The virus bit, you know about. The teaching angle is the subject of this post.

We earn a living only by serving somebody else. Everyone in a market economy has a boss, from Company directors to the newly hired casual in the basement, from the small business owner to the freelancer. To do their job, they must organise inputs in some way to deliver outputs to the satisfaction of the end user. COVID-19 restrictions have disrupted those inputs, the production process and sales, drastically so in some cases. It makes not a jot of difference to the principle at stake whether you are the CEO of the world’s largest corporation, or just starting out in the basement on a casual contract. All that varies is the complexity of the process to be restored.

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I am their leader; I must follow them

In an episode of Yes, Minister, Jim Hacker, in a discussion of a serious political issue says to Sir Humphrey that "It is the people's will. I am their leader; I must follow them."

There are signs all around the world of Jim Hacker right now among political leaders fumbling for a way out of this COVID-19 mess. They are looking for guidance from the people.

The severe lockdown restrictions imposed in most, but not all, countries to contain the spread of COVID-19 were a response made in large part through political fear. No political leader wants to be accused of doing nothing. The decision tree is asymmetric - do nothing and if things turn out to be really bad, you are shamed into the political wilderness. Do nothing and things turn out not very bad at all, you are criticised as being reckless and lucky. Whereas, take action and things turn out bad, you are justified. Take action and things are not bad, you claim that your actions saved your country. 

So severe lockdown measures were imposed, in the main. Now, a month or so into the lockdowns, it is readily apparent that the initial predictions of hundreds of thousands of deaths in each country, and millions in the more populous, were wildly wrong. Those predictions were used as the basis for scaring people into accepting the lockdowns. Now the bind tightens - continue the lockdown or ease? Continuing the lockdown is decimating economies. Easing the restrictions risks a second wave of virus infections. 

Governments are clearly unsure what to do. The messages coming out are mixed and incoherent. In some cases, we hear that the shutdown will continue for at least 6 months. In other cases, we hear the governments are working on plans for phasing out restrictions in the next few weeks. There are obviously some individuals in government who have begun worrying that the cure is worse than the disease. They are flying kites signalling possible future courses of action to see which ones get shot down by public opinion. 

The asymmetric decision tree that got the political leaders into the shutdown mode is now showing its asymmetry again, but this time they can't win. They can take one of two courses of action: ease or maintain the shutdown. The outcomes will be either continued reduction in infections as the virus disappears or a second wave of exponential growth and rapid rise in deaths. Now, whichever course of action is followed, the government cannot win - they will be either pilloried or criticised as reckless and lucky, depending on the outcome.

It is little wonder that they are behaving like Jim Hacker and looking for their people to lead him out of this mess.