(See also previous recent posts: “Where are the high-profile opinion-leaders for the Corona Anti-Panic Side?” (Feb. 20); “Wuhan-Corona vs. previous flu-waves: You’ve lived through these, unaware, many times;” and all posts on the Corona-Panic.)
All Life-Years Matter
Short Version / Summary of Content (800 words).
(Full version, 6100 words, follows.)
Moral Premise: All human time (“life-years”) has value.
Background: To the extent the “Pro-Panic vs. Anti-Panic” debate on the 2020-21 Wuhan-Coronavirus consists of rational argument (a big qualification), the Pro-Panic side’s Achilles Heel is how easy it is to demonstrate the following Thesis: FAR more life-years are lost to the effects of the Panic and Response than to the Virus, and it’s not even close.
Problem: The concepts of “life-years” (against “lives”), and “lost life-years,” “life-years lost to the effects of the Corona-Panic and Lockdowns,” and “life-year-equivalents lost” to the same, are either not understood, or not believed, or not appreciated, by many on the Pro-Panic side. The argument, when made directly, is often less-than-compelling to Pro-Panic and Neutrals. Why?
Understanding the Pro-Panic Side: I propose two types of core member of the Pro-Panic side: The “ceteris paribus carefree Anti-Covid Crusader” and the “Terror-Virus Fanatic.” The two have different psychological approaches to the Corona Question and self-justifications for why they support the Panic. Understanding the different types of Pro-Panic partisan help us understand the difficulty in persuading people of the above (on lost-life-years). Some on the Pro-Panic side are theoretically persuadable if the idea that pursuing a Pro-Panic policy line can be “cost-free” were to be broken.
With the understanding that any argument at all is pearls-before-swine before many of the more extreme Pro-Panic partisans, but also understanding that some can be persuaded, the “lost life-years” concept could be demonstrated with data, quantified rather than relying too much on intangibles and abstractions. Doing so may help anchor the argument and allow moderates on the Pro-Panic side to think again before more damage is done.
Proposal: The dataset “Unemployment” can be used. How many jobs were lost due to the Panic, Shutdowns, Lockdowns, CoronaPanic-Recession? How many aggregate life-years does this represent? For work-life and income and social standing and social/career advancement terms, these are “lost” years. “Aggregate life-years lost to unemployment” is quantifiable and also comparable to the same calculation for “Covid” deaths. We can also roughly quantify Covid-deaths in life-years-lost terms in the same way, given that we know the age-condition profile for Corona-Deaths, to create and apples-to-apples comparison.
Discussion: The Wuhan-Corona “flu”-wave is surprisingly mild when measured in aggregate-lost-life-years, though this argument itself is often unpersuasive to emotionally committed Pro-Panickers.
On the other hand, life-years lost (and to-be-lost) to the Corona-Panic and Response often come in ways neither immediately intuitive nor ‘sexy.’ There are several categories of losses, including public health, economic, social, and fertility (the latter alone potentially swamping losses to Wuhan-Corona in lost-life-years terms and even in absolute terms).
Slightly or moderately worse health outcomes at population-scale over a period of years will, it looks certain, easily swamp ‘Covid.’ They will also be invisible. Other effects are real and important to social, political, and (dare we say) civilizational health, but can hard to calculate and so simply get dismissed. Things like frayed relationships, weakened broad social ties, delayed relationship-formation, loss of opportunities for normal life-enhancing experiences, disrupted or distorted socialization and education of children, proliferating psychological problems, worsened working-life experience for young adults, and much more.
There are some natural objections to using unemployment life-years to compare with Corona-Deaths’ social impact, we can firmly and uncontroversially calculate unemployment, which anchors the analysis and signposts the way towards some of the other losses.
Data: Employment ‘Hard’ Losses: CoronaPanic-induced unemployment, which is ongoing at severe-recession levels, swamps the effects of the Virus in terms of aggregate lost-life-years. We now have one year of data, so a Lockdown-Recession and major unemployment is not prospective or hypothetical, as it was one year ago at the cusp of the Panic. It is now observed-data. We can also calculate the ongoing aggregate-lost-worklife-years and compare them to Covid-Deaths’ aggregate lost-life-years.
Data: Employment ‘Soft‘ Losses: The ‘hard’ number of jobs lost is, in some ways, of limited value. There are also work-life ‘soft’ losses relating to lowered quality of work, and what one is able to both give and get from it, due to the shutdowns, disruptions, work-from-home regime, and general Panic atmosphere. Lowered interaction with dedicated workspaces, (theoretically) lower productivity by many, much lower (and less meaningful) contact with colleagues and other potential contacts and new professional contacts, all are theoretically quantifiable in terms of “lost-life-year-equivalents.”
Results: On “hard losses”: At least 13 million life-years have been lost, as of this writing, to Corona-Unemployment, which is several times higher than the total number of life-years lost to the Virus (2.5 to 5 million). In the latter case many of the lost life-years are to those in seriously bad health condition, e.g. dementia or late-stage cancer, so a fairer comparison would require the calculated Virus Loss to take a deflating multiplier of some kind.
Results: On “soft losses”: Adding in the effects of worsened work experiences, etc. (as proposed above), Panic Losses probably double.
This puts direct Employment-related losses from the Corona-Panic, in life-years-lost terms, at around 10x the losses from the Virus, and that is (1) before any kind of quality-of-life multiplier is applied, and (2) before longer-term second-order effects of unemployment are considered. As the recession continues and unnecessary joblessness from the effects of the Corona-Panic continues, even as the virus fades away, the ratio will also continue to increase. When all is said and done, the ratio could be 50x more employment-related lost-life-years and lost-life-year-equivalents, again before second-order effects such as slightly worse health outcomes at population scale from income losses.
Implication: The employment “life-year losses” is real and important but also demonstrative of how the Panic affects everything. Lost life-years already logged and those impending. The ratio, once one starts making similar estimates for other losses, turns out to be so lopsided that the question is not which is worse, Virus or Response (“the disease or the medicine”), but rather how many orders-of-magnitude worse the Panic will end up being than the Virus. 100x? 1000x? More?
Prediction: The Corona-Religion which burst on the scene one year ago may roll on a while longer, but real damage has been caused, and by metaphor this fiasco is an undersea earthquake of great power, which causes a tidal wave to form beneath the surface, at first only observable as a minor ripple.
Follow-on effects of the Corona-Panic in coming years, unforeseen by the Pro-Panic side’s cheerleaders in their fervor, could be a big deal. Why would the millions of core-working-age people, the primary victims of the CoronaPanic, do nothing? (A future essay will be a continuation of this thought, on the subject of “Corona and Regime Stability”).
(End of Summary / End of Short Version.)
(Below, start of Full Version.)
“All Life-Years Matter“
An appeal to the Pro-Panic side.
If all human life is valuable, then all human time is valuable.
What is life? Our lives are the sum of our time, the opportunities we have and what we do with them. Life is valuable because it is limited, which means our time has value in a way indistinguishable from life itself. Part of maturing into adulthood is the process of coming to realize this truth: Time is valuable, your time is limited, do not waste it.
Such talk dances closely around the core Anti-Panic position on the Coronavirus Question. (Sometimes called “Team Reality;” with the Pro-Panic side sometimes called “Team Apocalypse.”) The Anti-Panic position is simple and forcefully life-affirming but sometimes not enunciated clearly. The Anti-Panic position if also often strawmanned by the gargantuan monster that is the international Pro-Panic coalition and its petty juntas in power, in government after government, since the Panic began its breakthrough now one year ago.
I believe I can further winnow down or distill the Anti-Panic position into a single slogan of some three-and-a-half-words. The slogan is, as you may have seen already:
ALL LIFE-YEARS MATTER.
Many will immediately understand what I mean by “All Life-Years Matter” (and what the slogan is based on). A google search tells me no one has ever used this phrase despite how obvious it seems in retrospect, tying one of the biggest slogans (or counter-slogans) of 2020 in with the contemporaneous Corona-Panic. That no one has ever apparently coined this phrase shows just how little the concept “life-years” has occurred in the Corona-Discourse. As long as Hail To You exists in the Internet sands, let the slogan “all life-years matter” stand. A 21-character accusation against the Pro-Panic side for the disaster that was the Corona-Panic.
The problem with the bitter-ender Corona-Panickers is this: They have mentally maneuvered themselves into a dark, dark place, namely into a belief that only some life-years really matter. Their world has collapsed into a bizarre kind of obsessive virus-suppression game. I know it makes them feel good, many of them, to be in this thing, but that’s no excuse.
To become obsessed with one virus at the exclusion of all else can only seem irrational, . Or maybe even a sign of a society or civilization with a death-wish. How else would we interpret this kind of behavior from a great distance of time or space, if observed in an uncontacted group on a South Seas island ? (They wouldn’t know what viruses are, but you get the point.)
I note how little attention this topic has gotten, as the Pro-Panic coalition has shut down any discussion of this uncomfortable matter, presumably because they are worried they would lose, by knockout, if the discussion is even allowed. As late as April 3, 2020, Reuters published a surprisingly quaint “investigation” which hits on key Anti-Panic points on how disastrous Lockdowns can be, implicitly warning that far more lives (or life-years, in the terminology of this essay) can easily be lost to an extended Panic/Lockdown. The title the Reuters editors gave the April 3, 2020, report: “Researchers warn the COVID-19 lockdown will take its own toll on health.”
A lot changed in the meantime in Corona-Discourse. If you can remember early April 2020, you’ll remember that Pro-Panic forces had not yet decisively won the war, even if they’d won the battle and gotten many to cave in to their extreme demands; some at the time were pushing for a full-on reopening for Easter; others would eventually come to say, in April, that all restrictions had to be lifted by May 1. But as April proceeded, these voices were increasingly silenced by the weight of the Pro-Panic behemoth and the religious cult it was rapidly erecting around itself.
I therefore wonder if our friends on the Pro-Panic side, by the latter months of 2020, and in the present, still understood that there are real, non-trivial costs to Pro-Panic policy, and that at least hypothetically these costs could outweigh, even vastly outweigh, the impact of one flu-virus?
As I write, I worry I am doing it merely academically. The question is not an academic one, though, and the damage continues. It’s unclear how much longer it could drag on.
After the triumph of the Pro-Panic side and the ascension of CoronaPanic-juntas across the Western world starting in March 2020, the disruptions began. The Corona-disruptions continue very much, in many places, into 2021. Some Pro-Panic fanatics are now insisting (or making demands tantamount to insisting) on keeping the disruptions going through all of 2021 and into 2022. Their demand is to keep feeding the Corona-Moloch. Their demand is to satisfy the evil demands of their Corona-god.
(The logic of the religion being, like all human-sacrifice cults, that sacrificing human beings to the Corona-Moloch may seem evil to you, bigoted outside observer, but it’s a LOT better than the alternative of not placating the angry gods. Have you ever seen Corona-Moloch really angry? Thought so.)
Before proceeding to show how the Panic has cost far more life-years than the Virus, and pursue one avenue of evidence (unemployment), I think it’s important to face, head on, the uncomfortable question, Do the Corona-Panickers and Lockdown-pushers not recognize/understand/agree that “all life-years matter”? What are they thinking?
Does the Pro-Panic Side Agree that “All Life-Years Matter”?
To answer the question of whether the Corona-Panickers and Lockdown-supporters “agree” with the premise that all life-years matter, I feel it necessary to take something of a detour into the psychology of the true-believers over there on the Pro-Panic side. I see two main types active over there which are relevant here. I call one the “Ceteris Paribus Carefree Covid-Fighter” and the second the “Terror-Virus Fanatic.”
1.) The Ceteris Paribus Carefree Covid-Fighter. These are people with a realistic view of the virus’ threat who reject the implied idea that anchors much of the Corona-Panic, i.e. that “Covid” is Ebola, BUT they concurrently believe (at least implicitly) that all else in complex-reality is, or can be, somehow held equal (ceteris paribus) with no, or extremely minimal, or no long-term, collateral damage of any consequence.
With no consequences of importance, why not “Fight Covid”? Those who say ‘No,’ who don’t want to Fight Covid despite the trivial costs of some minor inconveniences, must be immoral, or lazy, or unpatriotic, or in some cases some kind of weird conspiracy-theorists or dupes thereof (poor souls sucked into dark, the-virus-is-a-hoax rabbitholes!)
These are not pig-picture thinkers. They are not necessarily deranged or malicious people, and their fatal flaw is failing to think in big-picture terms, but normally the job of doing that is not up to them. They find themselves in support of the throwing of all possible resources to stop this one moderately bad flu virus which they keep hearing about (another big motivation is to placate their more extreme comrades of the second type).
The problem is, of course, that ceteris paribus (all else held equal) is a conceit for which we classically used a Latin phrase (more often today back-translated into English) specifically because it’s not realistic! Even if useful in the hypothetical and intellectual exercise, “magic-wand it” into reality at your own risk.
2.) The Terror-Virus Fanatic. These are people who DO understand that there is collateral damage from the Panic itself and from a sledgehammer-type-approach Corona-Response (or even a gentle Corona-Response), BUT they are also under the impression that Wuhan-Corona is “Ebola.” They are therefore trapped in a bad-thinking box.
The terror-virus will kill millions indiscriminately, just like they’ve seen in all those movies, unless Lockdowns and other measures save the day. All measures are justified to stop the terror-virus!
These are those who heard of visions of the Apocalypse foretold, and became believers. They were the key group on which the “Corona-Cult,” Covid-Religion, was based. As time rolled on and the apocalypse showed signs of washing out, they had a strong emotional commitment to whatever narrative could keep the faith alive, to which they had become emotionally addicted as with any classic mind-control cult, and the list of things like Long Covid, “you can get reinfected multiple times,” Covid causes Kawasaki Disease, new variants, and much else, is long.
When a Terror-Virus Fanatic hears someone say Wuhan-Corona is a moderately severe flu-virus within the normal historical range which poses some risk to some elderly and infirm but no one else, the person saying it is flat-out not believed. Heresy. In the Pro-Panic media environment and discourse, they seldom hear this view anyway.
Yes, here in the second type we find the more hardcore zealots, true-believers, orthodoxy-insisters, heresy-haters, and Forever-War-Against-Covid-addicts operating under t heir religious imperative.
The Terror-Virus Fanatic type was of course much more common in the early stages, including among people who really should have known better. They dove in, head first. A lot of people were just very wrong. Most can be forgiven for getting it wrong early on, but very many soon got stuck within the trappings of the Cult (and, remember, no one realizes he is entering ac cult, rather thinking he is meeting a great group of friends who share bonding experiences and have access to a hidden truth).
Many, especially low-info people, still believe the assumptions behind the Terror-Virus Fanatic type outright; many others still believe it emotionally, the latter including, I believe, the core constituency still driving the Panic after all this time.
Type 1.) Does NOT believe/understand/appreciate collateral damage, implicitly believes the Covid Fight is waged under ceteris paribus conditions and therefore anything goes to “Fight Covid” even if it’s true that it’s “not that bad.”
Type 2.) DOES believe/understand/appreciate collateral damage, but is also a WuhanCorona-as-Apocalyptic-Terror-Virus believer; the latter easily trumps the former.
Both types are riding the waves of a religious energy, which keeps them loyal and on-message, suspicious of heretics and evildoers over here on the Anti-Panic side. The second type is really the core of the cult, but the cult is much bigger than the individuals of this second type alone (Corona-Gestalt.)
Both of these mainstays of the Pro-Panic side are irrational, at least from our perspective (though a tangential discussion would be how all New Religions have some logic to them, with cultural, political, socioeconomic rationales converging). Both are demonstrably wrong on the arguments, and, looked at for what they are in the light of day, they look rather ridiculous. It’s hard to judge which type is more irrational.
(Also tangential: Around the true-believers, lots of opportunists came to attach themselves. Some of the Corona-Opportunists had an equally silly belief of the “Step 1: Promote PANIC, Step 2: ?, Step 3: Profit!” model.)
In any case, this was to demonstrate that some on the Pro-Panic side do understand the life-years concept, and the Corona-Panic’s collateral-damage losses, as meaningful. But those who do understand/agree/appreciate that “all life-years matter” and remain on the Pro-Panic side are blocked by a religious belief centering around quasi-worship (negative-worship) of a “Terror-Virus god,” with the religious menagerie of saints, prophets, angels, visions, special religious garb, and other religious strands tossed in to fill out the whole.
I still believe it is possible to convince fence-sitters (Corona-Neutrals) and wavering members of the core Pro-Panic coalition, especially some of the moderates of the first type (people under the often-innocent mistaken assumption that the Corona-Response is in a ceteris paribus world). There are all kinds of ways that the Corona-Panic and its shutdowns, lockdowns, rules, disruptions, and culture-distortion effects can be shown to have cost life-years. The informational-apparatuses of Western societies have failed totally in not raising this issue in any serious way.
I have written about this before but next I’ll write about four categories of how the Panic and Lockdowns costs life-years, before expanding on the “Economic lost life-years” category via unemployment data.
Okay, on with it.
The Corona-Panic’s Cost in Life-Years
“All life-Years Matter” as a slogan alludes to four types of effects, as I see it, things generally overlooked by the Pro-Panic side.
(1) Worse Health Outcomes. Lost-life-years to early death, both near-term and medium-term and long-term. This refers to people who end up (ironically) in worse health and/or early death due to the effects of Panic/Lockdown or to the follow-on effects of Panic-Lockdown (economic recession, to name a big one). Near-term are the deaths attributable to the Panic already logged — the classic example are the spike in heart-attack deaths by those terrified to visit a hospital at Peak-Panic, but there are a lost of other types here.
In the rest of the 2020s there may be millions of deaths to some degree earlier than needed due to the social and economic disruptions of 2020-21. I know this is hard for the variety of Panicker I have above labeled the Ceteris Paribus type, but recessions kill. Loss of income kills. Loss of hope kills.
It’s not a mass-death-at-once scenario but a slow burn, much like that which in the 2000s and 2010s succeeded in lowering White life-expectancy in the USA in the 2010s, a phenomenon Steve Sailer labeled the “White Death.” If one understand what the White Death was, one can understand what the medium- and possibly long-term effects of the Corona-Panic will be. (But just as the White Death was quasi-“covered up,” there will be no drumbeat of attention to moderately worse health outcomes between now and 2029, say, as a a result of the disruptions of 2020-21.)
Consider the person who lost his job skipping a medical checkup or not seeing medical care for pain, then ending up dead. To take one example of many on the medium- and long-term early deaths that will result from the Corona-Panic (one commonly given on the Anti-Panic side): Every 100 skipped cancer screenings represents ‘x’ early death before (say) 2035 that needn’t have been, at a media loss of life-years ‘y.’ Why are these lost life-years worth less than those from Wuhan-Corona?
(2) Economic lost life-years: Financial hit, career hit, small-business hit. The heavy blow of the shutdowns, lockdowns, and other disruptions to economic life is real. We can quantify job losses and aggregate unemployment burden. I will come back to this shortly below.
(3) Social development and advancement. The heavy blow of the shutdowns, lockdowns, and other disruptions to social life, basic civic freedoms, social advancement, personal growth, happiness, new friendships, romantic relationships: All have been subject to distortion or disruption for one year and running.
To the extent that hundreds of millions have pressed “pause” on what could have been, to at least some degree, everyone’s a victim here. Every single one of us, being mortal, has limited time in this life-cycle to make a meaningful and fulfilling life, and this time matters.
Pick the best year of your life. Maybe it was when you were 21. What if a Virus-Panic ‘cancelled’ your entire age-21 year? This is reality for many; there are millions who would’ve been living their best year, but instead it was “cancelled,” or at least majorly disrupted.
Pick the year you met your significant other, or the mother/father of your children (if you have any), and then imagine that year was Virus-Panicked out of existence, and no one met new people. You’d have never met your wife/husband/girlfriend/fiancé/etc.; there are millions for whom this was true in 2020-21. “Hey, they can just look for a relationship/wife/husband/etc. after the Terror-Virus passes and is finally slain by Our Frontline Heroes.” Okay, but you’ve just conceded that the entire year+ was lost to them. It was a lost life-year in regards to relationship-formation. For many, the only practicable way to try to try to meet new people would be online, which presents a variety of problems, but is in line with the Corona-Religion as Digital-Age Cult thesis I’ve argued for.
(4) Lost life-years of babies never-born. This follows from (2) and (3), the economic and social disruptions which especially fall onto prime-age people trying to make transitions or make starts, either economic or social. Family formation is a transition, from single life to married, or at least stable-pair-bonded, life. The decision to have a child also requires, for many, the sense of stability you only get from steady employment and optimistic social-cultural conditions, the latter already a serious problem for Western Mankind in recent decades, and the former showing signs of wobbling as well, pre-CoronaPanic.
Early data now looks set to confirm our fears, the warning many of us of the Anti-Panic side made back in March/April/May 2020:
There are likely to be millions fewer babies born in the West in the early 2020s than should have been. The fertility hit from the Corona-Panic is still an untold story, not least because it’s subject to a nine-month-delay.
The drop could be 5% to 20%, depending on the place. If a long Lockdown-induced recession is upon us, there is every reason to believe the birth-dearth will continue to some degree, and recall t hat Western fertility was already below replacement everywhere, in many places closer to 1.0 than 2.0 babies per woman.
Every one of these lost births, if not recovered by a future baby boom, represents a full loss of a life’s-worth of life-years. If a million fewer babies are born than would have been, and if the life-expectancy at birth is eighty, that is 80 million lost life-years. Life-years lost this way alone (babies never born) could easily exceed life-years lost to Wuhan-Corona by a factor of 50x, or 100x, or more, depending in part on how long the fertility hit lasts.
The Panic as a social force causes real damage to real people.
The damage is widespread and (much) greater than Wuhan-Corona as a virus. The damage caused by the Panic is also diffuse and sometimes subtle such that it is hard to drumbeat in the way that the Pro-Panic side drumbeats its Big, Scary, Out-of-Context Numbers.
A demonstrative exercise on how the lost-life-years thing works with a simple, tangible, data-driven example: Unemployment. Then discussion on how to quantify the data in terms of life-years, life-years-lost, and life-year-equivalents-lost and objections to this framework. Then comparison between the Unemployment losses and the Covid losses. On unemployment alone (hardly the only effect), we see it’s not even close: The Panic was/is much worse than the Virus.
Something we can firmly quantify are job losses. Here is the graph from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics:
The entire USA and much of the world depends on the health of the US private sector (as does the US ‘government sector’ and the US military). So here it is:
Total US private-sector employment (non-farm, non-government) was:
- Jan. 2020: 130m
- Apr. 2020: 108m
The April jobs report was the low-point of the CoronaPanic Shutdown Shock. The Panic strangled the life out of 17% of all private-sector jobs.
“Deal with it. There’s a virus, idiots. The jobs will be back.”
The recovery seemed, at first, to come fast and strong: Eight million net jobs gained back by June. But then gains became much slower. Real economic damage had been done…just as the Anti-Panic side had warned. Then the jobs-recovery stopped entirely.
- Sept 2020: 120m
- Oct 2020: 121m
- Nov 2020: 121m
- Dec 2020: 121m
- Jan 2021: 121m
- (Update for Feb. 2021 to be released March 5.)
Still painting with the broad-stroke brush, we see nine million net private-sector jobs have been lost. There has been no movement in six months.
Also remember that the USA operates (for some reason) under a policy whereby it must always have a growing population, topped-up by the heroic millions of undocumented persons and the diversity-visa enrichers and the children of both. It means the USA adds something like 175,000 new net working-age people,via immigration and population momentum, per month. (White non-Hispanics in the USA, for our part, are now in the sixth year of shrinking population, with steady contraction ahead unless fertility shoots up significantly.)
To match the Feb. 2020 private-sector employment situation, there would need to be 132m jobs today. Instead we have 121m jobs, with no sign of movement. That means 11m people frozen out of opportunity, with some millions more of the long-term disengaged, society-dropouts, NEETs, sundry other victims of social-malaise (I’m looking at you, opioids) who are out of the workforce but should be in it. The latter number (the “disengaged”) is harder to calculate. I plan to return to the topic in the follow-up to this essay.
It could be that for every 100 people who should be filling private-sector job-slots, only 80 to 90 are actually doing so, leaving an effective disengagement rate as high as 1/6th after (because of) the Corona-Panic.
Remembering that all our time is valuable, that “all life-years matter,” the lost time for these millions, to unemployment, to life-disruption and delay and deferred dreams of all kinds, to despair — we should also consider that it is not only the unemployed who have suffered real work-related losses.
The discussion so far in this essay is driven by the quantifiable, the ‘hard’ numbers of employment data. I can already hear two kinds of objection: One from the Pro-Panic side, one from the Anti-Panic side.
The Pro-Panic side will say “Unemployment is not as bad as mass death!” — this falls into the Terror-Virus Fanatic’s fallacy (see above). Some more moderate people on the Pro-Panic side will more calmly say, “Unemployment is not morally comparable to death, because death is the end, but you can always get another job.” This itself is a moral argument — “Death is the end” is an implicit moral position that most people throughout most of human history would not have agreed with. For the concise argument on social and economic disruptions “costing” life-years, see above “Social development and advancement.”
The Anti-Panic objection is that a dry look at numbers fails to adequately capture the spirit of how bad the Panic has been. the Anti-Panic objection goes on that a year of this bizarre witchcraft-panic has caused much bigger losses than shown by unemployment alone, as bad as the job losses are.
I agree with that objection, but when one makes that the lead element of argument, one is immediately in a weaker position for being unable to argue from evidence or data, except perhaps for some kind of inevitably unsatisfying survey data about job satisfaction.
But the subject of intangible losses should not be neglected, and before comparing the losses from the Panic/Lockdown to the losses from the Virus, a word on the “soft losses” which may even exceed the “hard losses” of unemployment.
Hard Losses and Soft Losses
For most of 2020, the number of people participating in usual, meaningful, empowering, gainful social-economic-cultural life was at an all-time low. This was true regardless of whether a person was on the books of someone’s payroll, doing some kind of “job” in some kind of circumstances, or not. In fact, the phrasing “usual social-economic-cultural life” short sells what I mean because we might just as well call it the ongoing work of upholding the banners of civilization.
Corona-Disruptions to the ongoing work of civilization (and, yes, I think we can and should go that far) is a big, big topic. I am going to return to this to in the second part, follow-up, to this essay in early March, with something I am going to call “The Corona-Panic and Regime Stability” or similar, using some of the same datasets I’ve used here but towards a different type of analysis.)
Keeping it on the topic of “jobs”: It ought not be controversial to anyone to say that one’s “job,” or “career,” serves an important social role. it’s more than taking a salary, of course. It consists of socializing with colleagues, being around them, around the workspace, around mentors and bosses (the good as well as the bad and the ugly). This is, can be, should be, empowering, opportunity-enabling, and at the least experience-building. (One’s workspace not as a “work-station 34598a” soundproof-walled-off from but next to an identical work-station 34598b, next to…etc., everyone anonymous and isolated. That is the stuff of horror or dystopian literature.)
That working-life is an important part of one’s identity is also why most retired people maintain, or even expand, their “work-like” commitments, as to civic groups, church groups, or the like, rather than become full-time couch potatoes the day after retirement.
Now, as for remote-work, a very common feature of the Corona-Panic across the rich world. Almost all of us have done work of some kind, at some time, with some kind of team that includes one or more persons physically present and one or more physically remote. My experience is, while the remote-work team member might contribute something of some value in some kind of GDP sense, or towards some other goal, no relationship building occurs. One is unlikely to even remember the remote-work coworker’s name in time, much less anything else relevant about them. In some cases, you literally never even learn their names. These kinds of coworkers may as well be AI bots and not humans, from the perspective of social bonding and all that flows from it.
And, yes, the Corona-Panic of course turned this up to max. A lot of the people who were still employed ended up locked away in a metaphorical box somewhere — their homes, whatever their living arrangement, became their ‘work’-box. They became forced into awkward “Zoom” interactions, many now literally never seeing their coworkers except through electronic intermediation. Very few jobs escaped some kind of disruption from Corona-Religion rituals. This represents a soft form of lost life-years, which is something the kind of Pro-Panicker who makes impassioned please to “Wear your mask” doesn’t seem to comprehend. The masks represent and perpetuate the Panic; the Panic as a social-force costs real in life-years terms.
“All life-years matter,” including one in which normal professional-growth is stunted, either through termination (hard losses), through a freeze on jobs/hiring, through the Corona-Remote-Work experience, the “soft losses” effects potentially even outweigh the “hard losses” of termination and the like.
Another sort of “soft loss” is anyone who was planning a transition. Anyone who, as of early 2020, was on the job market, including those who held jobs but were dissatisfied with them and wanted to move into a better position or a different type of job altogether. When the Panic hit, these ambitions were dropped and people clung tight to what they had. This is also a form of lost time, quantifiable in aggregate as lost life-years. How is it not? The person who wanted a change in 2019 and into early 2020 might try again in mid-2021. But even this ambition for change might see the person forced into ridiculous and unsatisfying remote-work, frustrating the whole point.
We can wonder at what share of employed people had their work-lives disrupted in ways I’ve tried to sketch out here and to what extent they did. I think it may be half of those employed. Without necessarily any major income losses, they were still pushed over into some kind of “Zoom”-based ersatz work. (Note on income losses: This is not necessarily a ‘money’ question, for the same applies to non-paid or intern-type employment; money isn’t the supreme goal at all stages of all people’s lives. Filling some kind of social role or making some kind of progress, though, generally is.)
I’ll now synthesize the Unemployment Hard Losses (firmly quantifiable) and Unemployment Soft Losses (‘ballpark’ estimate) and compare them to the dreaded Covid-Deaths, measuring it all in the unit of lost-life-years.
Corona-Unemployment vs. Covid-Deaths
- CoronaPanic-induced Unemployment: I calculate, using BLS data, 13 million person-working-years lost, so far (March 2020 to February 2021), to unemployment. I calculate this by pegging Feb 2020’s 130m to have risen to 131.75m absent any Corona-Recession. I subtracted actual employment each month and divided the sum by 12 to generate this lost-life-year aggregate.
With each passing month at the current rate, another 800,000 life-year-equivalents are lost to unemployment, “hard losses.” Hitting working-age people.
There also also effective losses to people who still remained employed, “Soft Losses.” Were I more ambitious, I might try to quantify these in a more rigorous way, but I am sure others have tried and will be trying, even if the Pro-Panic side’s domination of discourse does not allow such things much light of day. The losses are to worsened work experience, frayed connections, diminished ability to collaborate and meet new people (workplace connections), weakening of work friendships under the Panic regime, lack of ability to engage with the workplace or grow professionally.
Again these things mainly hit the young and up-and-coming, with established people less likely to care and it being irrelevant to retired people or those who do not work (e.g., “stay-at-home moms”).
Soft Losses: If 40m or 60m or 80m private-sector workers who held jobs (plus, presumably, millions of government workers) have had a year’s-worth of work-experience that was 15%, 25%, 35% worse than it would have been absent a Corona-Panic disruption, we can say this represents 10m to 30m worklife-year-equivalents lost.
Working life is more than about being on a payroll or drawing a salary or steady hourly pay for some task. It is about connections, opportunity, friendship, face-to-face interaction, and sense of identity. “Lowered quality work experience is not as bad a full-unemployment,” you say, but it still represents real losses for real people in the real world, and aggregated as a whole represents a social hit. In other words, some people in a given month of working under these conditions might achieve about 65% of what they would achieve in normal times (even if they enjoy working at ‘home’ and not having to commute, etc.), across the broad spread of the set of interactions and experiences that constitute “work.” These are at least hypothetically quantifiable losses.
The sum of the “hard” and “soft” work losses due to the Corona-Panic are:
13m (unemployment, direct) + ca. 17m? (undermined/disrupted/dissatisfying/lower-productivity work experience) = circa 30m worklife-year-equivalents lost.
How does this compare to the Wuhan-Corona flu-deaths?
- Corona Flu Wave (“Covid”) Deaths: US losses probably amount to 2.5 million to 5 million person-years lost (circa <5% of the loss predicted by the Pro-Panic side’s modellers at Peak-Panic, March/April 2020). Hitting mainly retired-age people.
I derive this by taking low and high bounds for likely remaining life-years for those said to have died of “Covid.” There is great downward pressure from many angles from all we know about the deaths. High share of deaths in nursing homes; average age-and-condition profile is old and otherwise less-healthy-than-normal; many of the reported deaths clearly died of some other cause but were incidentally positive at death.
Using the “500,000” attributed Corona-Deaths figure current as of late February 2021, I see three sorts of Covid deaths from which we can estimate the life-years-lost number:
- “Those who would have died anyway at the same time.” If 30% of the attributed deaths were to deathbed patients (e.g., late-stage cancer patients) or people who died of some other specific cause but who had gotten a positive test-result within 30 days of death, then we have 150,000 of the deaths which give us ~0 life-years lost to the virus. They were “dying anyway;” maybe some, or many, of this category died a few days or weeks or even months earlier than they would have, but the aggregate lost-life-years in this category is measurable in the low tens of thousands.
- “The Sick and Infirm.” If 40% of the attributed deaths were to already sick or weak people who were not necessarily imminently dying but who certainly had limited time left, the kind of person who, if you’d heard of their death you’d be sad to unsurprised, e.g. the nursing home patients, we may be talking about 3 lost life-years for these people, often of particularly low quality. This is 200,000 people @ 3 lost life-years = 600,000 lost life-years.
- “The Not-so-Sick and Not-so-Infirm.” Let’s assume the remaining 30% of attributed Covid-Deaths were people who could have lived almost as long as their actuarial-table life-expectancy suggests, absent Wuhan-Corona. Given that we know the average ages of the deaths, and the typical pre-existing conditions of the deaths, we are probably dealing with around 12 life-years as a mean for this group. (Only the very rare individual who truly died “of” Wuhan-Corona had decades of expected-life left.) This is 150,000 people @ 12 lost life-years = 1,800,000 lost life-years.
- Summing up the three groups: 2,400,000 aggregate lost-life-years to the Virus.
- If we are generous and give the Pro-Panic side all the benefit of the doubt, we could perhaps double the Virus losses in life-year terms to 5 million. But there’s very little other room to maneuver given the age-condition profile of the attributed deaths and given the reasonable scope of the “deaths with the virus but not from the virus” problem.
- (As I have pointed out many times, these Covid-losses are an extremely miniscule share of total, society-wide aggregate-expected-life-years. The total for the USA is around 15-20 billion, higher if you also add in expected births in the next few years and those prospective babies’ expected life-years. Wuhan-Corona deaths, for all the hysteria and hype, represent a loss of around 0.01%-0.03% of society-wide aggregate-expected-life-years. This is the equivalent to you losing 60 to 90 minutes, in your 365-day year, to a sickness.)
- Corona-Panic employment hit, direct effect: 13m lost life-years, steadily rising;
- Corona-Panic employment hit, loss of work-quality, etc.: 10m to 30m lost life-year-equivalents.
- Corona-Virus deaths: 2.5m to 5m life-years
- Panic-to-Virus loss ratio: At least 5-to-1, potentially as high already as 20-to-1. Rising as the recession goes on.
Caveat: “All life-years matter,” yes, but there is also such thing as Quality-Life-Years, and a large portion of the 2,400,000 or so person-years lost to the Corona Flu Wave to the end of February 2021 are to people in seriously poor health (as discussed above), constant pain, or, say, debilitating conditions like dementia, or late-stage cancer. In the Corona-Unemployment category, such cases are minimal. A fair comparison would require applying some kind of downward-multiplier on the Corona Deaths number to more accurately estimate the relative social impact. The ratio, which may already be 20-to-1, may be doubled if applying a quality-life-years modifier.
Caveat: Eventually the Wuhan-Corona flu-virus pandemic ends, especially once spring comes back. But unemployment could linger for years. The final count on this ratio could be that CoronaPanic-induced Unemployment effect exceeds Corona Flu Wave Deaths by 30-to-1, even 40-to-1, and again something like doubling under a quality-life-years modifier.
Recall also that this is far from the only form of loss, measurable in lost life-years (or lost life-year-equivalents); unemployment and work-related losses are just one, and contribute to some second-order effects such as worse health outcomes over the coming years, and potential recession suicides, as well as potential connection to the murder spike of 2020, and much more.
They say (implicitly): “Lost life-years to this one flu-virus matter!”
We say: “All Life-Years Matter.”
Which is the more defensible position in front of God? Which is the more defensible position in front of the stern eyes of History? As those yet unborn look back upon the Virus Panic of 2021-21 in decades, even centuries from now?
Closing Thoughts, and a Step into Bolder Territory
There are effects of the Corona-Panic most people scarcely understand and have never thought about because they do not think in terms of giant systems. Lost life-years from unemployment have an outward spiral effect on things like disrupted career trajectories, despair, stunted opportunities for family formation, and more.
If adding these things up, including the Lockdown- and Panic-induced deaths (which signs point to exceeding genuine virus deaths in many places), the damage done by the Panic looks to be easily hundreds of times worse, and I believe the final toll could be thousands of times worse.
Digging into the social impact of the Corona-Panic, it is actually so alarming that I am led into bolder:
The whole thing has been a giant social experiment; the gargantuan monster that is the international Pro-Panic side’s Corona-Response may be hurting (if I may be so bold) civilizational health — ironically, in the name of health. I ask: Is the Corona-Panic itself destructive enough to be a serious threat to regime-stability in those countries which embraced Lockdownism and Self-Imposed Recession?
I am reminded of the proposition that the core-age male “employment-population ratio” is a very important social-health indicator, and here we see the same story. I present a Bureau of Labor Statistics chart again:
This next one goes back to the late 1970s and is limited to males age 25 to 54:
There are several stories in these employment-population ratio datasets. For Corona-Panic Studies purposes, though, the long story short is 1930s-level sudden unemployment for core-working-age males during the Peak-Panic period and severe-recession levels thereafter.
But the Corona-Panic’s place in our broader civilizational narrative is too tempting, and this essay has covered far too much ground to continue it here. I’ll turn up the heat a notch and turn to this “civilizational analysis” in the next post.
(To be continued…)