Western ostriches



And yes, I’m including myself.

This article linked to by Tyler Cowen caught my eye:

In the second week of February, Kobinger traveled to Geneva for a scientific meeting at the WHO that was attended by experts from around the world. The Asian scientists were all extremely nervous, Kobinger recalled, mentioning that a South Korean scientist he knew was shaky.

“I’ve never seen him like this, and I’ve known him for 15 years,” he said, without naming the scientist.

But a number of the Europeans at the meeting expressed the belief the virus would not come to Europe in a big way, noting they’d been testing and not finding anything at that point.

“In Europe, they … are convinced it’s going to die off, that it won’t come to Europe,” Kobinger said after the meeting. Looking back on it recently, he said: “I could not understand that rationale of saying ‘It’s not going to come here.’”

Hmm, I wonder if this somehow relates to the fact that there are more than 10 times as many people in Belgium with Covid-19 (active cases) than in Japan, Korea, China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Macao, Laos, Taiwan, Malaysia Cambodia, Thailand and Burma combined.

And no, this is not about government polices, it’s about whether people take the problem seriously.

As we approach the November election, GOP politicians are increasingly taking the problem seriously, but Trump is not yet on board. Here’s a WaPo headline:

Republican leaders now say everyone should wear a mask — even as Trump refuses and has mocked some who do

Of course Trump both favors and opposes masks, just as he favors and opposes lockdowns, just as he favors and opposes more testing, and just as he thinks Xi Jinping did a great job with Covid-19 and a horrible job with Covid-19. Trump may not be the most cowardly man that ever walked on planet Earth, but he’s surely in the top 10.

And here’s another example of “there are no mask opponents in a foxhole”:

Victoria’s chief medical officer said residents may be asked to wear face masks in light of the state’s surging coronavirus cases, contradicting earlier warnings that wearing personal protective equipment was unnecessary and potentially harmful.

I recall reading that Victorians are puritanical, so they should be happy to cover up a bit of skin with masks.

The Economist understands that the trade-off between health and the economy is mostly a myth:

The best performing rich countries, such as South Korea, are those that managed to keep the pandemic under control. The worst hit economically, such as Spain and Italy, are those with much higher death rates. When public opinion will not tolerate elevated death rates, the trade-off between public health and the economy dissolves. A healthy population and a healthy economy go hand in hand.

Austan Goolsbee and Chad Syverson say that mandatory lockdowns aren’t the main problem with the economy:

While overall consumer traffic fell by 60 percentage points, legal restrictions explain only 7 of that. Individual choices were far more important and seem tied to fears of infection. Traffic started dropping before the legal orders were in place; was highly tied to the number of COVID deaths in the county; and showed a clear shift by consumers away from larger/busier stores toward smaller/less busy ones in the same industry. States repealing their shutdown orders saw identically modest recoveries–symmetric going down and coming back. The shutdown orders did, however, have significantly reallocate consumer activity away from “nonessential” to “essential” businesses and from restaurants and bars toward groceries and other food sellers.

China also had a second wave in mid-June, but now it’s already gone:

China appears to have gotten a second wave of COVID-19 under control following an outbreak at a sprawling Beijing produce market last month that led to at least 328 new cases and the partial shutdown of the capital.

On Wednesday, Beijing reported just one new confirmed case — as well as two asymptomatic cases — following an aggressive campaign of testing around the Xinfadi wholesale food market in southwestern Fengtai district, where a new outbreak was detected June 11. While that broke Beijing’s run of 56 days without any new local infections, no new deaths have been recorded as a result.

No herd immunity in China; they are going to squash it down every time it pops up, until a vaccine is ready.

Off topic, here’s Slavoj Žižek on racism:

It’s interesting that when I’m attacked for racism, it’s always by white liberals. With black people, with Native Americans, I love them! Do you know my standard story, it happens to be in Missoula, Montana. A Native American told me why he hates the term Native American. Like, are you then cultural Americans, and we are native? He told me, “We much prefer to be Indian. At least our name is a monument to white men’s stupidity, who thought they were in India.” My Native American friends have told me, they especially hate white liberals who come to visit them and say, “Oh, I admire you, you have this holistic approach to nature, you know, you don’t exploit nature and so on.” And my Native American friend told me that he shouted back at them, “Look, come and live in my miserable hut and give me your LA summer house, I would quite like to be alienated from nature!”. You know, all Native Americans and blacks that I know, they know very well how hypocritical and condescending this liberal respect for their way of life can be. They knew that here the true racism is hidden. 

HT: Razib Khan, Sam Bowman