The Single Most Common Economic Fallacy in COVID-19 Reporting


Last week I shared my curated COVID-19 reading list, which is keeping me relaxed and confident in my belief that we are overreacting. While we should worry about the incursions of civil and economic freedoms being brought about in response, people like Jacob Sullum of Reason and Jeffrey Tucker of AIER are doing a service by calming people down about the virus itself.

Don Boudreaux over at Cafe Hayek also deserves special mention for leading me to most of my trusted sources with his blog’s daily links. It’s hard to keep up with all of the outstanding writing he’s highlighted over the past weeks, including his own increasingly relevant review of Robert Higgs’s Crisis and Leviathan for the American Institute for Economic Research, and a must-read article for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Essential Questions about Essential Medicine.

Twitter has reportedly begun to censor non-certified-expert advice on matters related to the coronavirus, so I will limit this Sunday’s show to the subject of economics and politics where we are still free to opine (for now). I predict that future economics and political science students will look back in horror at this period – not for the mortality rate, which appears to be marginally higher than an average flu season – but for the acquiescence to draconian restrictions, unprecedented spending, and enlargement of state, local and federal bureaucracy (not to mention the failure of basic functions by the existing apparatus, i.e., FDA).

Most media analysis misses what Frédéric Bastiat called “that which is unseen.” Dead bodies being carted away by truck to the morgue is a striking image, and is seen by millions on media loop. Business closures, economic hardship, and looming inflation are harder to see and thus get downplayed in the calculus.

Trump’s “VERY BIG & BOLD” $2 trillion stimulus produces highly visible benefits in the short-term, but the costs are unseen – postponed to be paid by future generations.

Don returned to the show to help me settle the question on all thinking people’s minds: is it worth it?

Is it worth the loss of liberty?

Is it worth trillions in damage to the economy?

Is it worth the separation from friends, family, and the myriad economic relationships that have been severed?

For the sake of argument, Don and I will assume that the more dire predictions about mortality are true.

Join us in asking the hard but important questions on the show of idea - not attitude.