What has surprised me about the politics of the pandemic
I'm surprised, given your other writings, you can't see some obvious factors here:
1. Complete manipulation of the narrative and the "data" by those who benefit from said narrative. This includes people in media, government bureaucracies, pharma companies.
2. The difference in risk-tolerance between many kinds of people. People in white collar jobs, generally more coddled in life, are going to have a different response to risk than those who have very different lives.
3. A great many people don't agree w/ the local COVID policies, but have no power to change them until elections. This has actually happened in jurisdictions all over the US, but is largely not covered (VA elections had this as a bigger factor than was reported)
4. People, in the end, aren't as dumb as the experts want to proclaim. They can look around and see what's happened as part of their own, lived experience, and notice that the restrictions are entirely BS, have done basically nothing, COVID isn't nearly as dangerous as portrayed, and that the vaccines don't do virtually anything that was initially advertised. Being skeptical of utopian claims is actually a mark of wisdom, not something to be scorned (unless you're in the expert class trying to prove your worth to society).
Should these facts make us more skeptical of empirical research methods predicated on assumptions that two groups are basically similar? For example, the differences-in-differences technique requires an assumption of parallel trends--the trend of the control state post treatment maps out what would have happened in the treated state, in the absence of treatment. If neighbor regions that appear to be so similar on the surface can differ so wildly in response to covid, this seems to be a stronger assumption than previously thought. Of course, this assumption may be reasonably valid in non-outlier situations, but I see a lot of papers making assumptions like this to study Covid itself which seems inappropriate given your observations here.
“ nobody will ask obvious questions like how “the science” can allow for radically different policy responses in neighboring jurisdictions without much of a difference in results.”
The questions were asked, but censored or deplaformed as “misinformation”
I live in a state where children are masked. Most people don't want it but they have no ability to change it. The schools and the state government are not responsive to what people actually want.
We can eventually elect a new school board and we will, but they'd rather be voted out than actually do something popular.
"Partisanship is much stronger than I thought.... Most “Red/Blue Team Go” behavior has little influence on people’s lives. For example, deciding to vote D or R, or watch MSNBC or Fox, really doesn’t matter for your personal well-being. Not getting vaccinated or never letting your children leave the house does, and I don’t recall many cases where partisanship has been such a strong predictor of behavior that has such radical effects on people’s lives."
I don't know, man. This argument is starting to feel more like statistical slight of hand than anything else.
I live on Long Island. Suburb of New York City. Blue state/Blue City, right? One of the biggest. So we must largely be for school masking and closures.
But school board meetings are close to riots over masking and school closures and have been for awhile. Across the board. People mostly don't want it. So we're proof that this isn't correct, then? No, of course not! We're actually RED, because on November 2 the Republicans swept in Nassau County, where before it was a sea of blue. So we don't count in this analysis. But wait! It turns out the only reason we turned Red was because of the awful corruption and nepotism of the Nassau County Dem establishment (https://vulgarmarxism.substack.com/p/inside-jay-jacobs-deteriorating-democratic), so we're actually an exception. Blue at heart, just a bad slate of Ds this year.
My point is that if you want an area to be Blue to prove your point, you can figure out a way it's Blue. If you want it Red, you can figure out how it's Red. I don't think the partisanship analysis will hold up in hindsight.
for the lefties of NYC/SF/LA (and i know bc I used to be one) masks and vaccines are their version of the MAGA hat or are what wearing a cross is for Christians...a tribal signal, more or less.
one thing the last 2 years have taught me is that you can get 9 out of 10 people to do ANYTHING if their peer group is doing it.
Is it conformism though when you are coerced into doing something ? In some jurisdictions (Australia for instance) even voicing concern about the vaccine, or demonstrating (in France) can lead to hefty fines and penalties...
> When I saw polls on anti-vax sentiment early in the pandemic, I actually said it would disappear when people would have to make decisions about their own lives and everyone could see vaccines work. This largely didn’t happen.
Well... *can* everyone see vaccines work? There are official statistics and they look great. But before any vaccine came out, what harm were people seeing in their own lives? Imagine someone at the 80th percentile for being harmed by covid. What exactly was the impact on their life? What pain are the vaccines alleviating?
I have yet to see anyone in my life harmed by covid, including two acquaintances who come from Wuhan, and, indirectly, all of their friends and families. But I have seen a family friend who became mentally unstable due to lockdowns and had to be temporarily committed.
So I might argue that the idea "anti-vax sentiment will disappear when people can see vaccines work" is mostly fine (though I understand there is some justified fear of American vaccines elsewhere in the world after a CIA plot used vaccination as a pretext for something nefarious). But the idea that people can currently see covid vaccines work is on about the same level as the idea that they can see measles vaccines work. The vaccines work, but there isn't enough of a problem for the fact that they work to be visible.
solid musings, thank you!
a thought for you: you mentioned 'democratically elected officials.' What I've seen is stuff happening at the local health dept level. A local "18 and under" swim meet in Dec 2020, I was told took tons of coordination with the local county parks and rec and health dept folks. Those folks were making up rules as they saw fit, citing 'CDC guidance.' One kid told me after swimming 500 yards, putting a mask on right after swimming was what waterboarding must be like. The kids all kinda-wore masks.
The second 'unelected officials' actions had were playbooks. They spent time prepping for a pandemic, and this was an opportunity to do more than discuss at a boring Hilton in Fairfax, or Gaithersburg, or Bonn or Brussels. They could put these plan in action! Power for them, excitement even. Since they all went to the same conferences, these unelected employees had +/- the same playbooks, cross county, and state lines. The unelected officials 'following the science' deferred to them. Initially all of the governors deferred to them, then the smart ones looked at the data and starting taking charge. The unelected officials turned out to be dummies, as we all know, the smart ones go into business, and succeed on their merits. Or mess things up in PA so bad they get some honorary title and are put in charge in the US gov of some thing that has to do with health.
The Covid vaccine works? Flu vaccines changed every year based on new strains. But a vaccine based on pre-delta Covid works? And the NYT article is not a prospective randomized controlled study which controls for confounding factors. How easy would that be to do? Yet they keep saying the vaccine works based on these tedious indirect indices? From the New York Times? Are you kidding me?
On a bit of tangent, there is a meta-data study by a Canadian academic which shows there is little correlation between the severity of "lockdowns" and the propagation of Covid. Look for "Covid Lockdown Costs/Benefits: A Critical Assessment of the Literature" by Douglass W. Allen published in April 2021.
I live on Vancouver Island, in Canada, and in this province (British Columbia, we have a left-wing provincial government) masks are mandatory in all indoor spaces ... unless you're sitting and eating in a restaurant, bar or other site like a ferry. So you can remove you mask and eat/drink but when you walk to the toilet, you MUST put it on. Crazy and illogical. I'm refusing to wear a mask indoors. I'm double-vaxxed as are almost 90% of the people around me. I figure it's time to take a stand. I am stunned, though, by how compliant people are, even wearing a mask outside, which again, is illogical. I've heard it may not be until the end of 2022 before COVID-19 is considered vanquished. Time to change the channel.
Hey from Europe,
thanks for your article!
As masking kids in school helps in preventing deaths in the kids families (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/science/science-briefs/transmission_k_12_schools.html#conclusions) at the cost ,of nor knowing your classmates face’ and as vaccines help prevent deaths in these families as well - isn’t promoting both good policy? Why would you frame masking kids in school as bad or even unreasonable, when in Germany the infection rates are the highest among 8-16yr olds? I think both are arguably good policy and the groups you present are arguably divided along the lines of ,good’ and ,bad’ policy - and both sides are absolutely not the same regarding the acceptance of science and the willingness to act accordingly.
I concur with the bullet points. The willingness of the American people across the political spectrum to yield freedom for safety, seemingly without question, caught me completely by surprise. The Covid pandemic response was unprecedented and counter accumulated wisdom. And yet the people demanded it and many have expected such extraordinary measures to persist indefinitely.
It appears the only check on unconstrained authoritarianism is the character of our political leaders. It is this above all else that dictates to what extent a people can claim to be free or under the thumb of Covid controls.
Those variations in responses in Europe are very non-random. Generally postcommunist countries are way more chill about covid-related loss of life than non-postcommunists countries. I think in the US it is the same story with red vs blue states