It is easy to overdo COVID-19 quarantines

We have learned historically that if we can isolate sick people, we can often keep a communicable disease from spreading. Unfortunately, the situation with the new coronavirus causing COVID-19 is different: We can’t reliability determine which people are spreading the disease. Furthermore, the disease seems to transmit in many different ways simultaneously.

Politicians and health organizations like to show that they are “doing something.” Because of the strange nature of COVID-19, however, doing something is mostly a time-shifting exercise: With quarantines and other containment efforts, there will be fewer cases now, but this will be mostly or entirely offset by more cases later. Whether time-shifting reduces deaths and eases hospital care depends upon whether medical advances are sufficiently great during the time gained to improve outcomes.

We tend to lose sight of the fact that an economy cannot simply be shut down for a period and then start up again at close to its former level of production. China seems to have seriously overdone its use of quarantines. It seems likely that its economy can never fully recover. The permanent loss of a significant part of China’s productive output seems likely to send the world economy into a tailspin, regardless of what other economies do.

Before undertaking containment efforts of any kind, decision-makers need to look carefully at several issues:

  • Laying off workers, even for a short time, severely adversely affects the economy.
  • The expected length of delay in cases made possible by quarantines is likely to be very short, sometimes lasting not much longer than the quarantines themselves.
  • We seem to need a very rapid improvement in our ability to treat COVID-19 cases for containment efforts to make sense, if we cannot stamp out the disease completely.

Because of these issues, it is very easy to overdo quarantines and other containment efforts.

In the sections below, I explain some parts of this problem.

[1] The aim of coronavirus quarantines is mostly to slow down the spread of the virus, not to stop its spread.

As a practical matter, it is virtually impossible to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

In order to completely stop its spread, we would need to separate each person from every other person, as well as from possible animal carriers, for something like a month. In this way, people who are carriers for the disease or actually have the disease would hopefully have time to get over their illnesses. Perhaps airborne viruses would dissipate and viruses on solid surfaces would have time to deteriorate.

This clearly could not work. People would need to be separated from their children and pets. All businesses, including food sales, would have to stop. Electricity would likely stop, especially in areas where storms bring down power lines. No fuel would be available for vehicles of any kind. If a home catches fire, the fire would need to burn until a lack of material to burn stops it. If a baby needs to be delivered, there would be no midwife or hospital services available. If a person happened to have an appendicitis, it would simply need to resolve itself at home, however that worked out.

Bigger groups could in theory be quarantined together, but then the length of time for the quarantine would need to be greatly lengthened, to account for the possibility that one person might catch the disease from someone else in the group. The bigger the group, the longer the chain might continue. A group might be a single family sharing a home; it could also be a group of people in an apartment building that shares a common ventilation system.

[2] An economy is in many ways like a human being or other animal. Its operation cannot be stopped for a month or more, without bringing the economy to an end. 

I sometimes write about the economy being a self-organizing networked system that is powered by energy. In physics terms, the name for such a system is a dissipative structure. Human beings are dissipative structures, as are hurricanes and stars, such as the sun.

Human beings cannot stop eating and breathing for a month. They cannot have sleep apnea for an hour at a time, and function afterward.

Economies cannot stop functioning for a month and afterward resume operations at their previous level. Too many people will have lost their jobs; too many businesses will have failed in the meantime. If the closures continue for two or three months, the problem becomes very serious. We are probably kidding ourselves if we think that China can come back to the same level that it was at before the new coronavirus hit.

In a way, keeping an economy operating is as important as preventing deaths from COVID-19. Without food, water and wage-producing jobs (which allow people to buy necessary goods and services), the deaths from the loss of the economy would be far greater than the direct deaths from the coronavirus.

[3] A reasonable guess is that nearly all of us will face multiple exposures to the new coronavirus. 

Many people are hoping that this wave of the coronavirus will be stopped by warmer weather, perhaps in May or June. We don’t know whether this will happen or not. If the coronavirus does stop, there is a good chance the same virus, or a close variation of it, will be back again this fall. It is likely to come back in waves later, for at least one more year. In fact, if no vaccine is found, it is possible that it could come back, in various variations, indefinitely. There are many things we simply don’t know with certainty at this time.

Epidemiologists talk about the spread of a virus being stopped at the community immunity level. Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch originally estimated that 40% to 70% of the world’s population would come down with COVID-19 within the first year. He has revised this and now states that it is plausible that 20% to 60% of the world’s population will catch the disease in that timeframe. He also indicates that if the virus cannot be contained, the only way to get it under control is for 50% of the world’s population to become immune to it.

The big issue with containing the coronavirus is that we cannot really tell who has it and who does not. The tests available for COVID-19 are expensive, so giving the test to everyone, frequently, makes no sense. The tests tend to give a many false negatives, so even when they are given, they don’t necessarily detect people with the disease. There are also many people who seem to spread the disease without symptoms. Without testing everyone, these people will never be found.

We hear limited statements such as “The United States surgeon general said Sunday that he thinks the coronavirus outbreak is being contained in certain areas of the country as cases of the virus rise across the United States.” Unfortunately, containment of the virus in a few parts of the world does not solve the general problem. There are lots and lots of uncontained cases around the world. These uncontained cases will continue to spread, regardless of the steps taken elsewhere.

Furthermore, even when we think the virus is contained, there are likely to be missed cases, especially among people who seem to be well, but who really are carriers. Getting rid of the virus is likely to be a major challenge.

[4] There is an advantage to delaying citizens from catching COVID-19. The delay allows doctors to learn which existing medications can be used to help treat the symptoms of the disease.

There seem to be multiple drugs and multiple therapies that work to some limited extent.

For example, plasma containing antibodies from a person who has already had the illness can be injected into a person with the disease, helping to fight the disease. It is not clear, however, whether such a treatment will protect against future attacks of the virus since the patient is being cured without his own immune system producing adequate antibodies.

Some HIV drugs are being examined to see whether they work well enough for it to make sense to ramp up production of them. The antiviral drug remdesivir by Gilead Sciences also seems to have promise. For these drugs to be useful in fighting COVID-19, production would need to be ramped up greatly.

In theory, there is also a possibility that a vaccine can be brought to market that will get rid of the virus. Our past experience with vaccine-making has not been very good, however. Out of 200+ virus-caused diseases that affect humans, only about 20 have vaccines. These vaccines generally need to be updated frequently, because viruses tend to mutate over time.

With some viruses, such as Dengue Fever, people don’t ever build up adequate immunity to the many disease variations that exist. Instead a person who catches Dengue Fever a second time is likely to be sicker than the first time. Finding a vaccine for such diseases seems to be almost impossible.

Even if we can actually succeed in making a vaccine that works, the expectation seems to be that this will take at least 12 to 18 months. By this time, the world may have experienced multiple waves of COVID-19.

[5] There are multiple questions regarding how well European countries, Japan and the United States will really be able to treat coronavirus.

There are several issues involved:

(a) Even if medicines are identified, can they be ramped up adequately in the short time available?

(b) China’s exports have dropped significantly. Required medical goods that we normally import from China may not be available. The missing items could be as simple as rubbing alcohol, masks and other protective wear. The missing items could also be antibiotics, antidepressants, and blood pressure medications that are needed for both COVID-19 patients and other patients.

(c) Based on my calculations, the number of hospital beds and ICU beds needed will likely exceed those available (without kicking out other patients) by at least a factor of 10, if the size of the epidemic grows. There will also be a need for more medical staff. Medical staff may be fewer, rather than more, because many of them will be out sick with the virus. Because of these issues, the amount of hospital-based care that can actually be provided to COVID-19 patients is likely to be fairly limited.

(d) One reason for time-shifting of illnesses has been to try to better match illnesses with medical care available. The main benefit I can see is the fact that many health care workers will have contracted the illness in the first wave of the disease, so will be more available to give care in later waves of the disease. Apart from this difference, the system will be badly overwhelmed, regardless of when COVID-19 cases occur.

[6] A major issue, both with COVID-19 illnesses and with quarantines arising out of fear of illness, is wage loss

If schools and day care centers are closed because of COVID-19 fears, many of the parents will have to take off time from work to care for the children. These parent will likely lose wages.

Wage loss will also be a problem if quarantines are required for people returning from an area that might be affected. For example, immigrant workers in China wanting to return to work in major cities after the New Year’s holiday have been quarantined for 14 days after they return.

Clearly, expenses (such as rent, food and auto payments) will continue, both for the mother of the child who is at home because a child’s school is closed and for the migrant worker who wants to return to a job in the city. Their lack of wages will mean that these people will make fewer discretionary purchases, such as visiting restaurants and making trips to visit relatives. In fact, migrant workers, when faced with a 14 day quarantine, may decide to stay in the countryside. If they don’t earn very much in the best of times, and they are required to go 14 days without pay after they return, there may not be much incentive to return to work.

If I am correct that the illness COVID-19 will strike in several waves, these same people participating in quarantines will have another “opportunity” for wage loss when they actually contract the disease, during one of these later rounds. Unless there is a real reduction in the number of people who ultimately get COVID-19 because of quarantines, a person would expect that the total wage loss would be greater with quarantines than without, because the wage loss occurs twice instead of once.

Furthermore, businesses will suffer financially when their workers are out. With fewer working employees, businesses will likely be able to produce fewer finished goods and services than in the past. At the same time, their fixed expenses (such as mortgage payments, insurance payments, and the cost of heating buildings) will continue. This mismatch is likely to lead to lower profits at two different times: (a) when workers are out because of quarantines and (b) when they are out because they are ill.

[7] We likely can expect a great deal more COVID-19 around the world, including in China and in Italy, in the next two years.

The number of reported COVID-19 cases to date is tiny, compared to the number that is expected based on estimates by epidemiologists. China reports about 81,000 COVID-19 cases to date, while its population is roughly 1.4 billion. If epidemiologists tell us to expect 20% to 60% of a country’s population to be affected by the end of the first year of the epidemic, this would correspond to a range of 280 million to 840 million cases. The difference between reported cases and expected cases is huge. Reported cases to date are less than 0.01% of the population.

We know that China’s reported number of cases is an optimistically low number, but we don’t know how low. Many, many more cases are expected in the year ahead if workers go back to work. In fact, there have been recent reports of a COVID-19 outbreak in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, near Hong Kong. Such an outbreak would adversely affect China’s manufactured exports.

Italy has a similar situation. It is currently reported to have somewhat more than 10,000 cases. Its total population is about 60 million. Thus, its number of cases amounts to about 0.02% of the population. If Epidemiologist Lipsitch is correct regarding the percentage of the population that is ultimately likely to be affected, the number of cases in Italy, too, can be expected to be much higher within the next year. Twenty percent of a population of 60 million would amount to 12 million cases; 60% of the population would amount to 36 million cases.

[8] When decisions about quarantines are made, the expected wage loss when workers lose their jobs needs to be considered as well. 

Let’s calculate the amount of wage loss from actually having COVID-19. If workers generally work for 50 weeks a year and are out sick for an average of 2 weeks because of COVID-19, the average worker would lose 4% (=2/50) of his annual wages. If workers are out sick for an average of three weeks, this would increase the loss to 6% (3/50) of the worker’s annual wages.

Of course, not all workers will be affected by the new coronavirus. If we are expecting 20% to 60% of the workers to be out sick during the first year that the epidemic cycles through the economy, the expected overall wage loss for the population as a whole would amount to 0.8% (=20% times 4%) to 3.6% (=60% times 6%) of total wages.

Let’s now calculate the wage loss from a quarantine. A week of wage loss during a quarantine of the entire population, while nearly everyone is well, would lead to a wage loss equal to 2% of the population’s total wages. Two weeks of wage loss during quarantine would lead to wage loss equal to 4% of the population’s total wages.

Is it possible to reduce overall wage loss and deaths by using quarantines? This approach works for diseases which can actually be stopped through isolating sick members, but I don’t think it works well at all for COVID-19. Mostly, it provides a time-shifting feature. There are fewer illnesses earlier, but to a very significant extent, this is offset by more illnesses later.  This time-shifting feature might be helpful if there really is a substantial improvement in prevention or treatment that is quickly available. For example, if a vaccine that really works can be found quickly, such a vaccine might help prevent some of the illnesses and deaths in 2021 and following years.

If there really isn’t an improvement in preventing the disease, then we get back to the situation where the virus needs to be stopped based on community immunity. According to Lipsitch, to stop the virus based on community immunity, at least 50% of the population would need to become immune. This implies that somewhat more than 50% of the population would need to catch the new coronavirus, because some people would catch the new virus and die, either of COVID-19 or of another disease.

Let’s suppose that 55% would need to catch COVID-19 to allow the population immunity to rise to 50%. The virus would likely need to keep cycling around until at least this percentage of the population has caught the disease. This is not much of a decrease from the upper limit of 60% during the first year. This suggests that moving illnesses to a later year may not help much at all with respect to the expected number of illnesses and deaths. Hospitals will be practically equally overwhelmed regardless, unless we can somehow change the typical seasonality of viruses and move some of the winter illnesses to summertime.

If there is no improvement in COVID-19 prevention/treatment during the time-shift of cases created by the quarantine, any quarantine wage loss can be thought of as being simply in addition to wage loss from having the virus itself. Thus, a country that opts for a two week quarantine of all workers (costing 4% of workers’ wages) may be more than doubling the direct wage loss from COVID-19 (equivalent to 0.8% to 3.6% of workers’ wages).

[9] China’s shutdown in response to COVID-19 doesn’t seem to make much rational sense.

It is hard to understand exactly how much China has shut down, but the shutdown has gone on for about six weeks. At this point, it is not clear that China can ever come back to the level it was at previously. Clearly, the combination of wage loss for individuals and profit loss for companies is very high. The long shutdown is likely to lead to widespread debt defaults. With less wages, there is likely to be less demand for goods such as cars and cell phones during 2020.

China was having difficulty before the new coronavirus was discovered to be a problem. Its energy production has slowed greatly, starting about 2012-2013, making it necessary for China to start shifting from a goods-producing nation to a country that is more of a services-producer (Figure 1).

Figure 1. China energy production by fuel, based on 2019 BP Statistical Review of World Energy data. “Other Ren” stands for “Renewables other than hydroelectric.” This category includes wind, solar, and other miscellaneous types, such as sawdust burned for electricity.

 

For example, China’s workers now put together iPhones using parts made in other countries, rather than making iPhones from start to finish. This part of the production chain requires relatively little fuel, so it is in some sense more like a service than the manufacturing of parts for the phone.

The rest of the world has been depending upon China to be a major supplier within its supply lines. Perhaps many of these supply lines will be broken indefinitely. Instead of China helping pull the world economy along faster, we may be faced with a situation in which China’s reduced output leads to worldwide economic contraction rather than economic growth.

Without medicines from China, our ability to fight COVID-19 may get worse over time, rather than better. In such a case, it would be better to get the illness now, rather than later.

[10] We need to be examining proposed solutions closely, in the light of the particulars of the new coronavirus, rather than simply assuming that fighting COVID-19 to the death is appropriate.

The instructions we hear today seem to suggest using disinfectants everywhere, to try to prevent COVID-19. This is yet another way to try to push off infections caused by the coronavirus into the future. We know, however, that there are good microbes as well as bad ones. The ecosystem requires a balance of microbes. Dumping disinfectants everywhere has its downside, as well as the possibility of an upside of killing the current round of coronaviruses. In fact, to the extent that the virus is airborne, the disinfectants may not really be very helpful in wiping out COVID-19.

It is very easy to believe that if some diseases can be subdued by quarantines, the same approach will work everywhere. This really isn’t true. We need to be examining the current situation closely, based on whatever information is available, before decisions are made regarding how to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. Perhaps any quarantines used need to be small and targeted.

We also need to be looking for new approaches for fighting COVID-19. One approach that is not being used significantly to date is trying to strengthen people’s own immune systems. Such an approach might help people’s own immune system to fight off the disease, thereby lowering death rates. Nutrition experts recommend supplementing diets with Vitamins A, C, E, antioxidants and selenium. Other experts say zinc, Vitamin D and elderberry may be helpful. Staying away from cold temperatures also seems to be important. Drinking plenty of water after coming down with the disease may be beneficial as well. If we can help people’s own bodies fight the disease, the burden on the medical system will be lower.

 

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.
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4,403 Responses to It is easy to overdo COVID-19 quarantines

  1. Chloroquineinamonthorayearoradecade says:

    oh man it’s late and I’m tired… must carry on…

    I went shopping earlier, and the bread shelves in the local supermarket were actually much fuller than a week ago… yes, people only have so much room in their freezers…

    I also made a long trip to a Whole Foods Market, which for those who may not know is the high end highest priced chain of supermarkets in the USA (organic! this and organic! that)…

    the shelves there were mostly full as I expected… the last place people will go to stock up on things…

    all in all, it’s still quasi BAU here… the big difference of course is that most states seem to be in lockdown mode… it’s BAU without much B…

    I don’t think most people are aware of how distorted/damaged BAU will be getting in the coming weeks…

    food electricity gasoline… check check check… for now…

    • Yep, we had this debate before. At this very moment people are past the point of filling their small freezers and pantries and the JITs still seems to (continue) function, but this is just temporary charade a mirage of normalcy. Instead, the proper reaction now would be to ..

  2. GBV says:

    Has this been posted yet? I just stumbled across it myself:

    https://kunstler.com/podcast/kunstlercast-327-conversation-with-gail-tverberg-of-our-finite-world/

    Cheers,
    -GBV

    • NikoB says:

      the show must go on

    • I did the audio recording a few days ago. Jim Kunstler didn’t tell me it was up, though.

      I hope it turned out sort of OK. JHK is one who has followed my writing for years. I was a big fan of his “Long Emergency” way back when, as well. I have met him in person on a number of occasions.

  3. Chloroquineinamonthorayearoradecade says:

    https://www.yahoo.com/news/putins-big-fail-russia-braces-101837896.html

    “the real number of those who are sick is significantly higher,” Sobyanin said. He added that the number of tests conducted to date has been extremely low “and no one on earth knows the real picture.”

    kind of like everywhere else…

    no one knows for sure the real picture…

    • When we look at China, with its very dense population, they can have an awfully lot of deaths, but those deaths still represent a tiny share of the population.

      The share of those infected who die could still be 0.5%, or something like that.

  4. Chloroquineinamonthorayearoradecade says:

    https://www.yahoo.com/finance/news/coronavirus-why-germanys-death-toll-is-so-low-125400840.html

    “These are predominantly people who are younger than 80 and who are fit enough to ski or engage in similar activities. Their risk of dying is comparatively low,”

    • Also,

      “The reason why we have so few deaths compared to the number of infected people is because we do a lot of laboratory diagnostics,” Drosten said at a press conference on Thursday. In Germany, over half a million coronavirus tests are currently being carried out every week.”

      So there are a lot of people with very light cases of the disease represented in the German sample.

  5. Chloroquineinamonthorayearoradecade says:
  6. Chloroquineinamonthorayearoradecade says:
  7. Mansoor H. Khan says:

    Questions for Gail and commentators on this site (edited and placed on first level of comments).
    Before I go on with my questions, I would like to state that: Yes, ultimately BAU must collapse and I don’t see a way for most humans to survive the collapse. And probably all livings things die per Fast Eddy and his radiation contaminated oceans.

    However, this does not mean we can have a light BAU for sometime (maybe years even) depending on EROI (In Joules for energy terms and not dollar terms).

    Note that BOJ has been doing what the Federal Reserve is doing now (buy everything in sight) for 20 years.

    My question is about challenging your thoughts on MMT and UBI ideas which I know Gail and most commentators on this blog do not believe in and dismiss as rubbish. But hear me out:

    1. The near-term issue is lack of demand to make commodity manufacturing viable financially. The long-term issue is too scarce resources because of viability of extraction in physical energy terms.

    2. But we can stimulate demand by paying UBI with Fed created currency (digital dollars issued by the Federal Reserve Bank).

    3. This will create demand. Of course, money creation would have to be “metered” to match what the economy can deliver in terms of goods and services.

    4. Note that even this scheme will fail when extraction of real resources and their conversion to goods and services in physical energy terms does not add up.

    5. One thing debt does is bring demand forward so can UBI payments too. Does inflation HAVE to be the result when main issue now is demand destruction (deflation)?

    6. Think of it this way. What if the Federal Reserve gave a loan to each citizen interest free but with very small principle payment per month? Which would eventually be forgiven if payment becomes too large. This is just a mental experiment to understand implications of UBI by relating it to loaned money (debt).

    What do you guys think?

    • CTG says:

      Please read this. Our world is too interconnected. Any modern convenience needs a fully functional BAU. The complex machines, parts, software, expertise required a fully functional civilisation.

      https://consciousnessofsheep.co.uk/2020/03/26/liebigs-law-writ-large/

      Eggs cannot be delivered without cartons. Carrying on further, the Carson’s factory cannot produce cartons without cardboard and glue. The cardboard factory cannot produce the cardboard because the supply of wood chip cannot be delivered because its major supplier is bankrupt or the glue factory has a major machine breakdown and the part is from Wuhan

      Now, think if the complex machines, drilling machine, computers, nuclear power plants, hydroelectric plants, etc. Liebig’ Law of Minimum

      • Mansoor H. Khan says:

        Agreed somewhat. Debt markets will be (are) screwed. If companies need funding and there are dollars out there (due to UBI) it is possible for firms to capitalize based on equity and even pay extinguish their debt. Yes. There will be much chaos because not all debt can be repaid. But Europe survived total chaos during WWII.

        • CTG says:

          If you don’t the complete supply chain, BAU lite will not work. If it is not working, what is the use of money? debt? UBI will work?

          • Mansoor H. Khan says:

            I see. You are saying supply chain is too complex and intertwined. One link breaks and no cell phone from Apple!

            • Harry McGibbs says:

              The debasement of currency is an age-old workaround for civilisations bumping up against resource limits: “Roman emperor Nero began debasing Roman currency around 60 AD by reducing its silver content from 100% to 90%. Over the next 150 years, the silver content was reduced to 50%.” [wiki]

              More recently, in 1971, we saw Nixon cancel the direct international convertibility of the US $ to gold, which was around the time the US passed peak conventional crude production and their imported oil was rising in cost.

              But as a civilisation’s throughput of energy dwindles and even more so on a per capita basis, the ability to of financial sleight of hand, currency debasement and debt accrual to stimulate real economic activity likewise dwindles. I liken it to giving stimulant drugs like amphetamines to someone in worsening nutritional deficit. It works for a while but it is very much ‘the end game’.

              Eventually we find ourselves pushing on a string. As Tango Oscar points out in his excellent comment a few pages back, Fed interventions are now equivalent to 31 times greater than they were after the GFC, so we are nearly there.

              Also the side-effects of the monetary/fiscal stimulus start becoming increasingly toxic for the system. A simple example would be the impossibility of maintaining reasonable pensions in a negative interest rate environment:

              https://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/global-economy-struggles-negative-rates

              But as CTG says, it is the ever-rising complexity of our civilisation and its manifold vulnerabilities that will prove our undoing, well before we hit a ‘light’ BAU with a lower EROEI. This growth-dependent complex system does not have a reverse gear and yet the coronavirus has just given us a powerful shove backwards.

          • Mansoor H. Khan says:

            Maybe Jesus will return and show us how to have BAU light. Both Islam and Christianity believe something like that. Also, many Muslims believe peace will come after anti-Christ (Dajjal) emerges. Even so, Muslims believe Jesus’ return will be in end-times and peace will be short lived.

            • Tango Oscar says:

              Jesus, if he even ever existed, would never approve of material possessions being created by near slave labor overseas so that Americans can hoard 45 pairs of shoes in their closets. The idea of salvation completely disregards Samsara or karma even. Humans did this to ourselves, one way or another. We cannot tilt the balance of the planet so much to one side and cause the 6th mass extinction then in our infinite hubris think a magical being is coming to save us so our wasteful and disgusting lifestyles can continue. We wanted to play god and keep everyone alive, natural selection be damned. There are severe consequences for that.

              We go back to the lifestyle the Native Americans had or we’re unsustainable. Period. Don’t look to the Bible or other holy texts for a prediction of the future other than the broader collapse clues like the fall of Babylon. The Bible was written by men who feared lightning and smeared blood on their doorways to keep the Boogey Man away. It’s as relevant as Grimm’s Fairy Tales for what’s coming. Accept our fate. We are the ones who stacked this deck. It was inevitable that we were going to start getting cards that we don’t like.

            • The Bible tells us that wage and wealth was a big problem historically, and that collapse occurred then. It also warns us of collapse. In fact, any kind of literature probably tells of similar issues.

              We can see in our own lives, and through self-organizing systems, how things work together in strange ways. We don’t need ancient texts to tell us this. Some of us would consider this a higher power active today.

              I would agree that exactly what happens in the future is likely not foretold in any ancient text. They warned us of collapse, but how things would turn out in the future was not something that they understood.

            • Xabier says:

              The great teachers and the saints are, perhaps, always present.

            • Tango Oscar says:

              We are all one. The illusion of separation is precisely how we got ourselves into this situation. Death and being born are opposite sides of the same coin, yet one is feared and the other celebrated. This is ignorance. And America is the king of ignorance and separation. It’s no surprise the virus has made us the new international hot spot. Everything is connected and nothing is a coincidence. All that happens around you is for your own personal growth.

              The Bible is actually filled with many excellent stories that are universal truths. Unfortunately it also contains a lot of fables like Yahweh and the myth of a jealous god that destroys and places like hell. Hell is no more true than flying pigs. Nothing is permanent and we can observe this by looking around us. Hell and heaven are more mindsets than anything else and this is alluded to in many religions and texts. Nirvana is a state of mind, not a physical place. You can attain that, right here and right now. Once you’ve tasted this blissful freedom and love, everything here pales by comparison.

            • Mansoor says:

              Tango Oscar,

              You think like a Buddhist (no god, no soul) yet there are confused beings who need enlightenment. We are utterly connected but that is not the same as we are all one.

              Even in Buddhism one exists after death just enough to be in complete bliss.

            • Chloroquineinamonthorayearoradecade says:

              enlightenment is realizing that all religions are man made and that all concepts of God are man made…

              perhaps there is a God who made the universe(s)…

              quite possible, maybe even probable…

              but the leap of faith to the belief that the reality of this God would then actually care about the hundreds of billions of humans who have lived and will yet live…

              that leap of faith is absolutely beyond reason…

              others may disagree…

              it looks obvious that we all are headed for the nothingness of eternal death…

              oh, but hey, have a nice day!

            • God doesn’t speak in the ear of anyone. Instead, people give us their insights regarding how they perceive the system to operate, and what a god must look/act like for the system to operate as it does.

              The fact that god doesn’t speak in anyone’s ear doesn’t mean that we need to throw everything out. It certainly doesn’t negate the possibility of a god who organized this whole self-organizing universe, and who still seems to be active today.

    • 09876 says:

      It may work. Maybe for a while. Only because of dollar demand from other countries. That demand is high. Even from countries that politically dont like the USA. Dollars are specified on most of the worlds contracts. Its just the way it is. Dollars are baked into the cake in the financial world.
      I just dont like it. I value work ethic. I guess i still believe in “earning”. Above all I feel once the government is the sole provider of your sustenance you are a slave. Right now we have to do it, sort of. If it works why stop? Virus or no virus. Im scared of that. More than the virus actually. Just a silly boomer.
      Not that i wont cash the check…

    • BeachBum says:

      Great comment. It occurred to me to ask something like this as a thought question some months ago—before the epidemic—whether a robust redistribution regime and/or MMT and UBI would boost demand for energy products and services—everything!—among non-elites, leading to greater ultimate FF extraction rates and prolonging BAU. Or would it inevitably lead to hyperinflation? Would “metering” be possible in practice, or even in theory?

    • 1. The near term issue is lack of demand. It is people who are too poor to afford the goods, and because of this prices fall too low for the system. This is what puts an end to the system.

      You need a new local system. One with less complexity, easier to extract resources, and many fewer people.

      I don’t think the rest of these things really fix the problem. Some of them may be band aids for the near term.

  8. beidawei says:

    Do you think the coronavirus will lead to deflation (as in the Great Depression) due to lack of affordability, or hyper-inflation (as in the Weimar Republic), due to world governments printing money and dumping it out of the proverbial helicopter?

    What about countries which are relatively unaffected by the virus? How will deflation / hyper-inflation elsewhere affect them?

    • CTG says:

      Deflation will come in first. Financial chaos because people cannot pay their bills and rents. Banks and other service providers will suffer. Mortgages, loans will turn sour as businesses shut down. Velocity of money will crash and suddenly there is a lack of money to spend. That is the deflation part. Governments realized this and starts to give out money to the public. It happens in most countries and since all of them are doing it, there is no standout in hyperinflation yet. How much are the governments going to spend? I read that in USA, the USD1200 may come in only in May. That is just too late for many. Their unemployment benefit may kick in earlier. However, governments are prone to overdo and will print a lot more. With limited or even reducing supply, with a lot of money chasing limited supply, it is ripe for high inflation. I doubt we will reach hyperinflation. People must have jobs and wages and there has to be a functioning economy in order to have hyperinflation.

      If a large enough section of the population is jobless and surviving only on handouts from government, then deflation and financial failure (bank and utilities failure) will happen. Inflation on food will high if governments over print. The rest will be deflation. Buying discretionary stuff will reduced tremendously thus causing more job losses. It is a circular effect.

  9. Harry McGibbs says:

    “A global shortage of condoms is looming, the world’s biggest producer has said, after a coronavirus lockdown forced it to shut down production.

    “Malaysia’s Karex Bhd makes one in every five condoms globally.”

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/27/global-condom-shortage-coronavirus-shuts-down-production

  10. Fast Eddy says:

    I had to listen to a diatribe against Trump earlier today… and that is the catalyst for this post.

    I am neither here nor there with Trump — he is a puppet just like Obama and Clinton and Bush and all other POTUS’s since December 23 1913 (anyone know where I am going with this based on that date?)

    Unlike Obama who pretended he was in charge and put on a serious face… Trump acts like the stooge that he is… what does it matter what he says or does? He is a jester… and errand boy… a grocery clerk with a very large jet.

    Before I take you on this journey, let me be up front with you… most of you will disagree with me … that’s ok… there are really only a handful of people (outside of the actual inner circle) who ‘get it’.

    If you don’t get it, it’s not because you lack the IQ…. or the education … actually it would be easier for someone with a far lower IQ and less education to understand what I am about to say…

    The problem with higher IQs and education levels is that you are knee deep in the ‘system’… you got to the position you are in by embracing it… by believing what you were told. You absorbed the ‘training’ that you have been receiving since you first watched Sesame Street.

    Anyway… don’t beat yourself up — it’s really not your fault that you cannot rise to the exalted level of The Great And Wondrous Fast Eddy. Few do.

    Let us begin…

    Recall how Mr Obama — not long after he was elected won the Nobel Peace Prize. Did you not think that odd? He as only some months into office and had done absolutely ZERO to deserve that award.

    Based on his record (he kept Guantanamo in play…. he increased NSA spying.. he continued in Afghanistan and Iraq… he fokked up Syria and Libya…) he deserves the Nobel WAR Prize.

    Back to my point. How in the FOCK does someone who has done ZERO to promote peace win the Nobel Peace Prize????????

    Who has the power to tell the committee that Obama should get that prize?

    And how does someone with next to minimal experience get the Democratic nomination and win the presidential election????

    Kinda like how did a bartender become a major spokesperson for the Democrats? As has been reported AOC won the equivalent of American Idol … for politicians… she was ‘discovered’ and groomed because she ticked the right boxes…. unfortunately she didn’t make the final cut and will fade into obscurity.

    Let’s swing across to another talking point.

    Has anyone watched this? If not it is a MUST watch:

    https://www.pbs.org/video/moyers-company-deep-state-hiding-plain-sight/

    Mike Lofgren, a congressional staff member for 28 years, joins Bill Moyers to talk about what he calls Washington’s “Deep State,” in which elected and unelected figures collude to protect and serve powerful vested interests. “It is how we had deregulation, financialization of the economy, the Wall Street bust, the erosion or our civil liberties and perpetual war,” Lofgren tells Moyers.

    Let’s apply LOGIC to this. LOGIC!!!

    This program insists that the Deep State runs America. Ok cool. But if they run America why would they allow PBS (a publicly funded broadcaster at that) to run this? What is the upside?

    None. Zero. Zilch.

    Yet it ran.

    But there must be a reason the Deep State allowed PBS to out them.

    Could it be .. might it be… that someone wants to deflect attention from themselves by exposing this Deep State?

    Now who might want to do that?

    Oh I know … the people who really control America. The people who want to remain in the shadows — because that means they never become a target… no matter how badly things might go….

    The same people that not a single US politician will ever criticize. The people who control (own) the MSM.

    The people who have extensive representation in the highest unelected positions in the US government.

    The Deep State DOES exist. But like POTUS…. the Deep State is an errand boy … a grocery clerk… that takes orders from a higher power. They do NOT call the shots.

    But you say how can a higher power control POTUS, the military, the CIA and various other instruments of power in the United States?

    Easy. Money.

    When you have own the money making machine you have unlimited power.

    You can pay generals to carry out your bidding – you just give them cushy 500k per year jobs upon retirement.

    And if you are a big player like Potus…. you get some serious money — Obama gets USD400k per speech!

    Barack Obama to make $1.2m from three Wall Street speeches
    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/barack-obama-speeches-fee-wall-street-latest-a7954156.html

    It pays to not rock the boat!!! It pays a LOT!!!

    But you say that some presidents cannot be bought… they will not be told what to do.

    The last Potus to do that was dead within months of vetoing https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Northwoods

    And in the big picture if someone or some country tries to stand against this very powerful entity… well… the entity has the power to destroy them … all it takes is to push their borrowing costs through the roof … and they will be flattened overnight.

    Google December 23 1913 – then think about who controls that entity.

    And you will have your answer.

    Feel free to disagree. But like I said, it’s not your fault that you are wrong.

    You’ve been indoctrinated since you could speak to believe in democracy. To believe that your politicians run the show – that if they do not carry out the will of the people – they will be tossed out.

    What sheer genius this is.

    You hide in the shadows and accuse anyone who tries to out you of being a crazy, racist conspiracy theorist… put forward The Deep State as the fall guy to assuage those who get suspicious…

    And let politicians take the heat when you screw things up (e.g. the Iraq War)… then identify the zeitgeist, get the PR team to slap a tagline on it (Hope and Change… MAGA…) then rinse repeat over and over and over…

    Why do you think that Obama did not prosecute anyone in the Bush administration over the obvious WMD lies?

    Of course that is bad etiquette…. how can you put the errand boys in prison when you yourself are an errand boy who is going to at some point be asked to carry out a war crime (eg. Libya)…

    LOGIC.

    • Fast Eddy says:

      They say it’s a good idea to learn something new in lockdown…

      My newest hobby:

      • DJ says:

        If youre going to a knife fight- bring your guns.

        • Chrome Mags says:

          My advice is if someone breaks out a knife, walk, run do anything to avoid it or like you say use a gun. That’s a quick way to die. Not worth engaging in. I had someone pull a switchblade on me in a bathroom on the ferry that goes to SF from Sausalito when I was 12. He threatened me and I just said, Ok and put my hands out to my side palm out. He didn’t do anything to me. I think he was checking to see a person’s reaction. But it’s amazing – when you see that knife your whole state of being goes into serious survival mode.

      • Xabier says:

        Brigadier Gerald, of the French Foreign Legion, has a helpful video on staying fit in lock-down: you assault the walls, try to tear a bar stool apart, that sort of thing.

        I think its getting to him a bit.

        He may end up sneaking up on the cushions and killing them silently with a kitchen knife.

      • doomphd says:

        coincidentally, our neighbors have brought out their Kendo swords, and are practicing in their front yard most evenings.

      • psile says:

        The best self-defence video, ever!

    • Tango Oscar says:

      Only someone who drone bombs a wedding killing dozens deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. Tragic comedy at its finest.

    • doomphd says:

      agreed. to give another example of the group think that goes on in academia, of which i am a part, i have always been amazed at the time and effort (away from teaching, mentoring and research duties) placed in the democratic process at the department or research unit level, as opposed to the administration. we even have a faculty senate that meets and makes non-binding resolutions to the administration, after much democratic discussion and voting among themselves.

      there is an additional, middle layer of power at the dean and VP for this and that level. they’re the rooks that stand between the provosts, chancellors and presidents, all authoritarian, and the democratic faculty (plebes). they control state budget alloacations and supervise (control) extramural funding awards.

      the administration is headed by an appointed president, and he/she reports to a select, appointed board of regents. they make the real laws and decrees, and must approve all hires and dismissals. they control the budget (that money thing, again) and effectively approve or dismiss all democratically considered motions from the faculty, who are left to beg for reconsideration, if overruled. the only potential monkey wrench to this anti-democratic process is the faculty union, which most faculty normally only tolerate, but it is the only group to stand up to any state-controlled decisions that may affect faculty-staff salaries and appointments/retenchment.

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