Terence Corcoran: Flattening the economy II

When do the costs exceed the benefits? The risks of death may in fact be nowhere near as great as once estimated by scientists

When the history of the COVID-19 pandemic is written, what will it say about the vast army of professional economists — in banks, academia, consultancies, think-tanks — along with science experts and members of the media who have mostly failed to publicly challenge the riskiest global policy initiatives ever contemplated, let alone implemented?

When politicians and public health officials appeared daily seven months ago to declare that they have our backs and we’re all in this together, their lockdown decisions went unchallenged. As officials claimed the need for a lockdown to “flatten the curve” of the spread of COVID-19 through the population, most of the professional and intellectual communities just kept their heads down as the global economic meltdown spread.

Last March, one week after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, I wrote “Flattening the economy,” a column that argued Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government in Ottawa, along with other nations fired up by bureaucrats at the WHO, had launched “a giant social and economic experiment: the temporary shutdown of the $100-trillion world economy to fix a real looming crisis they long ignored. And it is an experiment. Governments around the world are using the global economy as a test tube for science and behaviour theories that the COVID-19 pandemic can perhaps be managed and controlled by imposing draconian limits on most economic activity.”

It is now clear the lab experiment using the world’s seven billion people as guinea pigs was launched without any serious attempt to assess whether The Great Lockdown (as the International Monetary Fund likes to call the global war on COVID-19), was scientifically or economically justifiable.

Economically, the lockdown has delivered devastating economic blows to nations around the world. In Canada a new forecast from the Conference Board last week was titled “COVID-19 and Uncertainty to Flatten the Curve of Economic Recovery.” While the board’s outlook says Canada’s economy is “on the mend,” the fact is “a gaping chasm remains to be closed before Canada’s economy is back to normal.”

The pace of recovery “is expected to flatten, if not stall, over the coming quarters.” Industries and firms might never recover, thousands of job losses are permanent, immigration is stalled, unemployment measures will not return to pre-lockdown rates until 2025, stalled international trade will drag on the economy, business investment may not recover until 2022, taxes will have to rise or government spending be slashed as federal and provincial debt soars. Such is the impact of the lockdown on Canada. This Thursday the IMF is set to deliver “The Great Lockdown: Dissecting the Economic Impact,” a review that should prompt more research into whether the massive lockdown costs are justified.

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Source: Terence Corcoran | Financial Post

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