On the Caplan cost-benefit test of lockdown II

Readers will recall that I calculated various cost-benefits ratios for the lock-down policy that was pursued in Australia, based on a method suggested by Bryan Caplan and adapted for Canada by Douglas Allen.

Depending upon the assumptions in the scenarios, they estimated a range from 6,882 through to 194,953 people dying from Covid. Let’s look at the worst case scenario – 194,953 would have died with an unmitigated response (i.e. not mandatory social distancing and no voluntary social distancing either). The cost-benefit ratio is then 2.24. Even in the very worst case the Australian lockdown cost twice as much as the benefits.

Well today Scott Morrison boasted that 30,000 lives had been saved.

“The average fatality rate in the OECD countries, so I am talking about countries that have similar health systems, similar advanced economies, the average fatality rate in OECD countries is 1314 per million. In Australia that figure is 35.7.”

“Now, what that means is had Australia experienced the same rate of fatality from COVID as countries like us all around the world, there would have been more than 30,000 more fatalities here in this country.”

Okay – plugging 30,000 saved lives into the cost-benefit formula implies that saving those lives cost a mere 14.9 times more than the benefits.

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42 Responses to On the Caplan cost-benefit test of lockdown II

  1. FlyingPigs says:

    But “if only one life is saved”.

  2. Sinclair Davidson says:

    But “if only one life is saved”.

    It would have cost the economy eleventy billion dollars, but only if those saved Australian lives are in Australia. Australian lives in India, apparently, are worth nothing.

  3. FlyingPigs says:

    I’m not disagreeing with you at all, Sinclair.

    As far as I am concerned the whole of ‘Public Health’ throughout Australia can be legislated out of existence.

  4. FlyingPigs says:

    Australian lives in India, apparently, are worth nothing.

    yeah… but they might have taken some ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine and real Australians don’t do that you know.

  5. m0nty says:

    Actuarial ghoulishness is not a good look, Doomlord. Triage in peacetime turns people off fiscal rectitude.

  6. Sinclair Davidson says:

    I’m not disagreeing with you at all, Sinclair.

    I realised. Just pointing out government hypocrisy.

    Actuarial ghoulishness is not a good look, Doomlord.

    Yes – I know. Yet speaking truth to power is important.

  7. FlyingPigs says:

    government hypocrisy.

    Australian Parliament House is the natural ‘roost’ for pigs might fly.

  8. Leo G says:

    Why neglect cost-effectiveness studies?
    It might be informative to produce opportunity cost comparisons, in terms of loss-of-years-of-life (with discounted life expectancy), for various COVID response scenarios, including comprehensive stratified quarantine for at-risk groups and their support personnel.

  9. The Barking Toad says:

    Where does the ScoMo 30,000 figure come from? Made up.

    Like the 50 year age – under 50 one vaccine, over 50 a different one. What was that based on? Made up.

  10. Rayvic says:

    If Scott Morrison is honest, he should have no hesitation in providing the calculations that were used to conclude that 30,000 lives were saved.

    Again, if he is honest, he should acknowledge the fact that it was relatively simple to control and screen the air and sea access of all visitors (including returning residents) in Australia’s case. Even so, our inept NSW and Victorian bureaucrats managed to let thousands of virtually-virus-unchecked passengers into the country.

  11. Botswana O'Hooligan says:

    If we apply the same method the White House used to take the cost of fuel and food out of the equation as far as inflation goes, our death rate from the virus was nil!

  12. Sinclair Davidson says:

    If Scott Morrison is honest, he should have no hesitation in providing the calculations that were used to conclude that 30,000 lives were saved.

    He is multiplying (well, actually someone in his office is) the OECD average death rate per million by the number of millions in the Australian population. So 1314 x 25.69 = 33,757.

  13. egg_ says:

    Actuarial ghoulishness

    Shiny @rsed clown has no concept of risk management in any of its forms.

    News at 11.

    /Frankenvaxees-R-Us

  14. egg_ says:

    the OECD average death rate per million by the number of millions in the Australian population. So 1314 x 25.69 = 33,757.

    On an island continent in the Southern Hemisphere.

    “Died with COVID”.

    GFC Mk.II, Scummo?

  15. Damon says:

    People 60 and over are going to die. Some sooner than others, and many from flu, or other respiratory diseases. What is so special about Covid? We survived all the previous flu pandemics. I myself went on several international trips during them, but now I can’t go anywhere for a year or more because someone in Sydney or Perth sneezes? Insanity on steroids.

  16. C.L. says:

    A stupid, fatuous comparison by Morrison. It isn’t about similar health systems and similar advanced economies. It’s about similar populations on similar island continents. There are, in other words, no comparisons available.
    He’s comparing a lone house atop a hill to multiple apartment buildings.

    The truth is Australia had far more deaths than it should have.

  17. thefrollickingmole says:

    monty.

    Triage in peacetime turns people off fiscal rectitude.

    What do you think of this admission then?
    UK women forced to wear face masks during labour, charity finds

    or
    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/may/13/hospital-waiting-list-numbers-in-england-hit-record-high

    The pandemic’s disruption of hospital services means that in March 4,950,297 people in England were on the NHS waiting list for treatment that under the health service’s constitution it should provide within 18 weeks. That is a record high, and means that 251,949 people have been added to the list in a month.
    ..
    The already ballooning list looks set to become even bigger soon. Hospitals report that people who did not seek or could not access care for non-Covid conditions such as cancer and heart disease are now visiting their GP and being referred on to their local hospital, thus swelling the list.

    Feel free to have a snark but realize there were deliberate tradeoffs made and thousands would have died of otherwise preventable conditions because of restrictions on normal treatments anyway.

  18. Sinclair Davidson says:

    The truth is Australia had far more deaths than it should have.

    Well, yes. But Daniel Andrews is to blame for that.

  19. The Barking Toad says:

    Well, yes. But Daniel Andrews is to blame for that.

    And he’s still in hiding

  20. Roger says:

    the average fatality rate in OECD countries is 1314 per million

    That’s about where Sweden came in and they had nothing but voluntary social distancing measures.

  21. Lee says:

    The truth is Australia had far more deaths than it should have.

    A certain Victorian premier who, bypassing tender, awarded a contract to a small, incompetent security firm (purely on political grounds and run by mates of the state government), must take the most blame for that.

  22. C.L. says:

    Yes, I took that as read.

  23. Mark M says:

    “ … saved 30,000 lives …”

    Gee ScoMo, you could have saved 30,900+ lives and ended the virus if only …

    Goa recommends Ivermectin to all above 18 after scientists say its use can ‘end covid-19 pandemic’

    https://in.news.yahoo.com/immediate-global-ivermectin-end-covid-105900450.html

    If only ScoMo, if only …

  24. Tim Neilson says:

    It’s about similar populations on similar island continents. There are, in other words, no comparisons available.

    Not only that. There’s probably no other OECD country with a climate as warm as Australia, and most would be way colder. Given that COVID, like any other respiratory virus, is more virulent in cold weather, if we hadn’t way outperformed the OECD average there’d be something seriously wrong, even before we get to population density, isolation etc.

  25. The Barking Toad says:

    Winter is coming guys & gals – and it will be a cold miserable one.

    Wuhan lab flu will be no worse than the usual cold/flu season – except for the political & media hysteria .

  26. MACK says:

    That’s all GIGO. The key structural issues with this virus are high density living, contiguous borders (ie not an island continent), age profile of the population, and number of international travellers. So you cannot make direct comparisons of Australia with European countries or the US, which are much higher risk. ScoMo did the right thing by shutting the borders internationally and ordering vaccines. Most states and especially rural areas were never going to have a pandemic. Of the risky places, NSW managed it well and Victoria cocked it up monumentally. ScoMo definitely saved some lives, but how many is unknowable. The main villain is D Andrews.

  27. Roger says:

    ScoMo did the right thing by shutting the borders internationally and ordering vaccines.

    Stuffed up aged care and the vaccine orders though.

  28. Farmer Gez says:

    Lee says:
    May 14, 2021 at 4:37 pm
    The truth is Australia had far more deaths than it should have.

    A certain Victorian premier who, bypassing tender, awarded a contract to a small, incompetent security firm (purely on political grounds and run by mates of the state government), must take the most blame for that.

    When Dreamtime signalling meets virus, virus wins.

  29. The Barking Toad says:

    Aged care a state responsibility.

    Vaccine orders done but supply didn’t come.

  30. Roger says:

    Aged care a state responsibility.

    No, Commonwealth.

  31. Roger says:

    Vaccine orders done but supply didn’t come.

    Put all their eggs in one basket.

    Over promised and under delivered.

  32. Roger says:

    Aged Care Act 1997 and several other pieces of Commonwealth legislation.

    The Commonwealth is the principle funder and overseer of aged care.

  33. The Barking Toad says:

    The Commonwealth is the principle funder and overseer of aged care.

    But don’t the states run it – China Dan managed to fark it up with deaths – that wasn’t the Federal Government’s fault surely.

  34. Roger says:

    But don’t the states run it – China Dan managed to fark it up with deaths – that wasn’t the Federal Government’s fault surely.

    The Victorian government stuffed up majorly, but the Commonwealth minister was asleep at the wheel. Responsibility is shared, but the majority falls on the Commonwealth as the chief stakeholder (other than the residents and their families, that is). There’s a pattern here; cf. the Belt & Road fiasco and “treaties” with indigenous groups.

  35. Tim Neilson says:

    The key structural issues with this virus are high density living, contiguous borders (ie not an island continent), age profile of the population, and number of international travellers.

    Also being either (or both):
    (a) freezing cold (which Australia isn’t – maybe Tasmania in the depths of winter might just fall into this category);
    (b) a dysfunctional third world shithole with next to no operative health system and a population largely already suffering serious health problems (which our governments are working on, but haven’t achieved yet).

  36. Tim Neilson says:

    Responsibility is shared, but the majority falls on the Commonwealth as the chief stakeholder

    Maybe so, but didn’t our revered “National Cabinet” decide that the States and Territories would handle virus related matters except at the national borders?

    A certain Victorian premier who, bypassing tender, awarded a contract to a small, incompetent security firm (purely on political grounds and run by mates of the state government),

    One of the best succinct summaries I’ve seen. Should have been published instead of the official Coates enquiry report.

  37. Perfidious Albino says:

    So what you’re saying is that global warming is saving lives downunder? Huzzah!

  38. Rex Anger says:

    (b) a dysfunctional third world shithole with next to no operative health system and a population largely already suffering serious health problems (which our governments are working on, but haven’t achieved yet).

    I respectfully disagree, but only because I’ve worked in it. 😉

    Fire about 89-90% of the jobsworths and Executives above the Middle Management level, and half of the problems related to service delivery and budgeting will disappear.

  39. Tim Neilson says:

    Rex Anger says:
    May 14, 2021 at 8:58 pm

    I don’t think we’re fundamentally disagreeing. A friend of mine who’s a senior medico in the hospital system in the People’s Republic of Victoriastan says that the problem isn’t lack of expenditure, it’s grotesque misallocation of resources, excessive deference to healthcare unions, and pandering to the public service mentality.

  40. Rex Anger says:

    @ Tim-

    Same in WA. And from my brief exposure to SA’s Health System.

    A toxic system that promotes and shelters toxic people. But that’s all perfectly OK to the general public, because the people at the sharp end generally work so incredibly hard to look after their patients…

    Suffice to say, I am much happier driving trains. 🙂

  41. DP says:

    Dear Prof Davidson

    All-cause mortality in England and Wales was 65,000 higher in 52 weeks of 2020 (a 53 week year) than 2018, the last ‘bad’ ‘flu season, an increase of 12%.

    Almost all the increased mortality was in the over 70’s age group.

    Excess deaths compared with the average of the previous 5 years to Friday 30 April 2021, week 17 is graphed here:

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/51175327468/in/dateposted-public/

    The 0-44 year age group is barely affected through 2020, but is noticeably higher in 2021, as illustrated in the adjacent graph to the right.

    Locking up 59 million people, trashing our freedoms, our economy, our society in an effort to prolong the lives of those who close to death in any event suggests a failure to prioritise. Making an Englishman’s home his prison is not progress.

    The fall-out from the lockups will resonate down the years. The final accounting of the costs, done honestly, will show a huge deficit in lives and treasure, as has been indicated here.

    DP

  42. Peter Gallagher says:

    I’m not sure if this has been mentioned, but Sinclair’s recalculation based on the Morrison number is shows a cost-benefit ratio (15:1) that is the same as Caplan estimated for the USA. Coincidence?

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