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Lockdowns Hurt the Poorest

File under Sherlock...
 
LAST WEEK the World Health Organization threw a petard into the Lockdown/No Lockdown debate, writes Bill Bonner in his Diary of a Rogue Economist.
 
WHO envoy Dr.David Nabarro said such restrictive measures should only be treated as a last resort, the British magazine the Spectator reported in a video interview.
 
"The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to reorganize, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted, but by and large, we'd rather not do it."
 
Nabarro said tight restrictions cause significant harm, particularly on the global economy.
 
"Lockdowns just have one consequence that you must never, ever belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer," he said.
 
"Look what's happened to smallholder farmers all over the world. Look what's happening to poverty levels. It seems that we may well have a doubling of world poverty by next year. We may well have at least a doubling of child malnutrition."
 
Hungry children? Millions of them?
 
Trillions' worth of real output are at stake...trillions' worth of phony stimulus...and millions – maybe billions – of lives.
 
But America's President looked at the news and saw only his own reflection:
 
"The World Health Organization just admitted that I was right," he tweeted.
 
And America's most important "newspaper of record", The New York Times, could only think of a political angle: "Trump Overstates WHO's Position on Lockdowns"
 
Meanwhile, much of the world – with quack experts in the drivers' seats – heads for a crack-up.
 
In the UK, GDP is said to be running about 10% below last year.
 
In the US, in GDP alone, it looks like the lockdowns will take about $1 trillion out peoples' pockets. But the losses are not distributed evenly.
 
If the Federal Reserve pushes up a billionaire's wealth by just 10%...99 million other people could actually get poorer. But the headlines would still tell us we were all getting richer – on average.
 
At the top, even millions of Dollars – up or down – don't make much difference.
 
But at the very bottom – where the World Bank says there are some 700 million people living on less than $2 per day – an economic slowdown can mark the frontier between life and death.
 
The "experts" say to lock the doors...stay at home...cover up...and stay away.
 
But it wasn't the medical experts who brought us longer lives; it was the plumbers, the farmers, and the builders. It was the entrepreneurs, tinkers, and business builders, not the public health professionals.
 
Improved living standards raised life expectancies all around the world. This from professors Maryaline Catillon and David M.Cutler, both of Harvard, and Thomas E.Getzen of Temple University:
 
"Growth in life expectancy during the last two centuries has been attributed to environmental change, productivity growth, improved nutrition, and better hygiene, rather than to advances in medical care."
 
Keep the plumbers and bakers at home and living standards fall.
 
So, it is reasonable to expect, as the WHO implies, that when the economy goes down, life expectancies will decline, too.
 
And we can guess what happens next: For every year of life saved for the rich geezers by shutting down the economy...there may be hundreds of years lost by the poor all over the world.
 
Last Monday, we got word that our province here in Argentina – Salta – has gone back into panic mode. There are new cases of the coronavirus in the city; the roads in the region have been closed.
 
From Europe, word comes that Ireland has banned home visits...France has imposed a curfew in its major cities...and London has closed bars and restaurants.
 
A waste of time? Worse? A dear reader, Rich B., comments:
 
"Last week, I looked up Covid-19 deaths, as reported by the Johns Hopkins University Covid-19 website. It turns out that Sweden – a country that did NOT lock down its businesses and schools – has suffered 575 Covid-19 deaths per million residents. But Sweden's surviving residents are enjoying the lifestyle that Americans were enjoying a year ago.
 
"Lockdown-USA, on the other hand, has suffered 600 deaths per million, high unemployment, and a miserable lifestyle, ie alive, but not really living.
 
"So who says that lockdowns save lives? Nonsense.
 
"Further, Sweden isn't worried about if/when a vaccine will appear, because its populace is now mostly immune. While other Europeans are now being assaulted by a second wave of the plague, Swedes remain largely unaffected."
 
But in the simple-minded view of the Coronavirus Cavalry, détente is out of the question. Only one thing matters: beating the virus.
 
Liberty? Constitutional rights? Happiness? Child hunger? Who cares about those when there's a killer on the loose!
 
Within two weeks of President Trump announcing his State of Emergency back in mid-March, it was clear that there was no emergency at all.
 
From the initial numbers coming from Italy, we saw that the killer was no mass-murderer. Instead, he was like a nursing home psychopath, singling out the weakest, the oldest, and the sickest.
 
The first data told us that an old person – over the age of 80 – was about 1,000 times more likely to die from the coronavirus than a person under the age of 20.
 
The prudent approach would have been to bring in a few good detectives; let them figure out how to keep old people and the virus away from each other.
 
Instead, the feds declared war, with almost the whole economy put on a war footing!
 
Now, seven months and $4 trillion down the drain...the data hasn't changed much. A lot of people get the virus. But few are harmed by it.
 
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if you are aged between 20 and 49, there's no point in worrying about it. Only 0.02% of the people in that age group who get it will die from it.
 
Even from there up to the age of 70, it shouldn't be a big worry. If you get the disease, you have only a 0.5% chance of dying – that's one in 200.
 
Over 70, the odds get worse. The old-timers should stay away from it. But even for them, nearly 19 out of 20 who get the disease come out okay.
 
But the sword wavers had their blood up. It suited their vanity...their careers...their lust for power and glory. They saw that by frightening the public with a health scare, they could get away with almost anything.
 
In a matter of days, they had much of the country under martial law. And their field marshal, Anthony Fauci, after sitting in his lonely National Institutes of Health (NIH) barracks polishing his boots for the last 52 years, was now on the cover of magazines...and on TV, at the right-hand side of the Commander-in-Chief himself.
 
Then, of course, state governors began grandstanding...and the whole spectacle soon became a sordid political issue.
 
The Democrats were determined to show that Trump was cruel and incompetent, even though he had mostly gone along with the experts' crackpot advice.
 
The Republicans were afraid to contradict the experts...and couldn't come up with an alternative anyway.
 
And the result was yet another god-awful debacle, a health crisis made worse by the feds, the media, politics...and the experts themselves.
 
At least the World Health Organization seems to be coming to its senses.

Bill Bonner has co-authored a number of New York Times Bestsellers including Financial Reckoning Day, Empire of Debt and Mobs, Markets and Messiahs. In his own opinion, Bill's most recent title, A Modest Theory of Civilization: Win-Win or Lose, is his best work yet. Bill also founded The Agora, a worldwide community for private researchers and publishers, in 1979. Financial analysts within the group have exposed and predicted some of the world's biggest shifts since that time, starting with the fall of the Soviet Union back in the late 1980s, to the collapse of the Dot Com (2000) and then mortgage finance (2008) bubbles, and more recently the election of President Trump.

See full archive of Bill Bonner articles

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