To shut down or not to shut down, that is the question – Hamlet

Posted By on July 18, 2020

As politicians and most of us in the United States (and probably world) debate how to live under the shadow of the Coronavirus pandemic, researchers, doctors and academics are floodingRichCNewMaskwLips the Internet with studies and opinions both for and against opening up the country. Some have our best interest at heart … and likely some are playing politics – at least that is my cynical view.

Like most people, I certainly don’t want to suffer the economic and long lasting harm that comes from shutting down again unnecessarily, but also don’t want to accelerate deaths due to being careless. Perhaps that’s why I’m “playing the mask game” and reducing my unnecessary social activities; yes, staying home more than usual (my new neck gaiter face covering with exaggerated “lips” photo for the humor – don’t tell Brenda since I bought her too – her birthday is coming).

My son, Taylor is back working from home as his office closed again due to someone with COVID19. He’s fine, just depressed having to work from his apartment again. I hope he’ll continue to take a few hikes on the weekends if only to get some exercise outside and clear his head. I can’t image what this does for a person’s mental health, particularly those who struggle with depression in normal times?

Back to my point: I read an article this week focused on shutting downs verses remaining open. Although much has been made and conclusions interpreted one way or the other, depending how you “want” to interpret the data, the look at Sweden has them looking reasonable considering they remained open when other countries and states locked down. Who knows how to calculate the economic and psychological costs of shutting down a country? 


The first thing one notices about the comparison is that Sweden was able to “flatten the curve,” so to speak. Though the phrase is largely forgotten today, flattening the curve was originally the entire purpose of the lockdowns. To the extent that there was a scientific basis for lockdowns, it was in the idea that they were a temporary measure designed to help hospitals avoid being overwhelmed by sick patients.


If flattening the curve was the primary goal of policymakers, Sweden was largely a success. New York, on the other hand, was not, despite widespread closures and strict enforcement of social distancing policies.

The reason New York failed and Sweden succeeded probably has relatively little to do with the fact that bars and restaurants were open in Sweden. Or that New York’s schools were closed while Sweden’s were open. As Weiss explains, the difference probably isn’t related to lockdowns at all. It probably has much more to do with the fact that New York failed to protect the most at-risk populations: the elderly and infirm.

“Here’s the good news: You can shut down businesses or keep them open. Close schools or stay in session. Wear masks or not,” says Weiss, a graduate of Harvard Business School. “The virus will make its way through in either case, and if we protect the elderly then deaths will be spared.”

Worth repeating “.. and if we protect the elderly then deaths will be spared.”

So far we’ve been living under the orders of those who advocate that the “preeminent good” requires us to following their orders. At some point in studying the numbers, many of us are beginning to question their dictatorial demands … especially if their reasoning was to “flatten the curve.” We’re beginning to see people defiantly resist the mini-dictators in cities and states, preferring instead “individuals be left free to pursue their own interests and weigh the risks themselves.”

Personally I’m in favor of government giving me unbiased information (although who am I kidding) and letting people decide what is being a good citizen and appropriate for ones own family and life (again, in my case, I’m glad to wear a mask, social distance and reduce my outings. It is a prudent thing to do – but not all agree. Hey, it is … or was at last check .. a free country).

If you are an American who grew up with freedom and a believer in personal liberty, the wise remarks of Ludwig Von Mises (1881-1973) will strike a chord“the central planner is primarily concerned with a single factor: the pre-eminence of his own plan.”

“Whatever people do in the market economy, is the execution of their own plans. In this sense every human action means planning.

What those calling themselves planners advocate is not the substitution of planned action for letting things go. It is the substitution of the planner’s own plan for the plans of his fellow men.

The planner is a potential dictator who wants to deprive all other people of the power to plan and act according to their own plans. He aims at one thing only: the exclusive absolute pre-eminence of his own plan.”     
      — Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis

And because I can’t let this “socialism” thing go … here’s a great video on “Who was Karl Marx?” (and if you are reading Aaron, note the GCC connection. 😉 )


Desultory - des-uhl-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee

  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
  2. digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: a desultory remark.
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