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. Harry McGibbs says:

    “…movements on financial markets have real-world consequences.

    “Tumbling asset prices hit the pensions of millions and make it harder for firms to access finance. Surging bond yields make it costlier to fund spending plans, particularly in poorer nations, where the threat of a new debt crisis alongside the health emergency could spell disaster.”

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “…an orderly round of fiscal-monetary co-ordination in all major economies would require strong global co-operation. In the current absence of G7 or G20 co-ordination, or even deeper support for existing international financial institutions, synchronised debt monetisation will potentially disrupt foreign exchange (FX) markets.”

      • Yes, it’s possible that even few more (-semi) IC nations will be smashed on FX similarly to that recent Australian case.. Apart from irrational speculative vultures appetite it would depend on what kind of industrial / product / service sector / demand is about to be smashed the most – so that’s for example why Italy is now well protected under EUR or at least ~30% devaluation is not possible in the near time..

    • There is a big difference in interest rates. Short-term rates of governments perceived to be fairly safe may be negative. Debt of businesses and governments perceived to be risky tends to be high cost, because of the (rightful) perception that it is not likely to be paid back according to the terms of the debt.

  2. Yoshua says:

    India under lockdown. 100 million people are trying to reach their villages by walking. They will starve to death before they reach home?

    Total chaos.

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “India’s sudden lockdown threatens food supply chains. Curfew on nation’s 1.4bn people leads to severe disruptions, hardship and widespread confusion.”

    • If there were a few cases of COVID-19 in the big population centers, this is a good way to redistribute the cases back to the many villages around India. It is a little like sending the migrant workers in China home for the New Years’ holiday, just as the crisis broke out.

      What are these people thinking? I am sure that there are not many fancy hospitals in the villages around India.

      • if the world has a collective intellect, there’s no better way than this to rid itself of the human cancer

        in just a few weeks, we’ve gone from booking flights, buying cars and tv’s, to foraging for food

        how long does this have to go on before we are killing each other for food?

        when that starts to happen, the world can consider the cancer-surgery successful and can revert back to normal

        • Kowalainen says:

          What makes you think humans is not a part of the process?

          It’s just a bit over the top now. It’s about time to start the culling and to crack down on the consumerism so that the Machine can take over this obnoxious comedy.

          A pesky little rapacious monkey with sociopath tendencies need some proper chastisement.

      • Dennis L. says:

        Perhaps we have an excess of people whose main job is policy totally disconnected from reality. We need government, it will always be inefficient which may be good as the mistakes are also poorly done, but it may be much leaner as there will not be the resources to support it.

        It could be all the angst on the woke side is secondary to this coming downsizing and realization that the product of woke, policy, is no longer needed.

        What I am hearing you say is “lousy policy.”

        Dennis L.

  3. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Poultry giant Sanderson Farms Inc. on Monday reported the first case of a worker at a major U.S. meat producer testing positive for coronavirus. The employee and six more from the McComb, Mississippi, plant were sent home to self-quarantine, with pay, but operations continued as normal.

    “A few days later Smithfield Foods Inc., the world’s biggest pork producer, confirmed a positive case at its Sioux Falls, South Dakota, facility. On Friday, beef producers in Canada and Argentina shuttered plants after virus cases.”

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “The coronavirus has heaped pressure on complex supply chains that stretch across borders and rely on a fine sequence to ensure products from medicines to vegetables arrive in time.

      “The past few weeks of empty shelves, stripped bare by panic buying, and online food delivery websites crashing, have raised questions about the resilience of those chains.”

    • Marco Bruciati says:

      No more near?

    • Can/Argentina (and US) beef slaughterhouses down, that’s getting serious..
      These are probably the very last hours and days even for the less affected (well stocked) regions to get into serious panic buying mode..

      • Xabier says:

        Probably the last week or two to stock up on anything useful and storeable with a good chance of getting it delivered.

        Inventories must be running down everywhere by now.

        • Yes, it seems the last “bell call” has arrived.
          Unfortunately, yet predictably, even lot of the low tech (house hold / homestead stuff) is turning into unobtainable items pretty quickly..

    • CTG says:

      Then comes the banks, power plants, internet service providers, utilities? Do they have plans in place just in case they have many cases of virus or if the workers decide not to turn up?

      What if the parts that they need are considered non essential? (Cue the egg cartons shown in the earlier posts?)

      • What if the wholesale price of electricity is chronically too low? This seems to be what is happening now. It parallels the low price in oil. If utilities have built a system that accommodates home use, plus business and industrial use, then scaling back business and industrial use will cause a great oversupply problems. Utilities costs are largely fixed. The need the same number of employees, for example, regardless of whether industrial plants are operating or not.

    • Big buildings with lots of workers are a good way to pass around the virus.

      • Kowalainen says:

        Ventilation with air conditioning and recirculating unfiltered air is a killer. I wonder how this works in locked down cities?

        Buy an air purifier to keep the aerosols away with the following features:
        1. Carbon pre-filter
        2. HEPA filter
        3. Air ionizer / plasma generators

  4. Around ~2min small scale ~2-3rd rate bar in Hollywood paying $1000 rent per day!
    Madness of the bubble, who is the landlord, nutty Nancy?

  5. Marco Bruciati says:

    Today start the final count Down . Minus 10 weeks to end collaps. Event Is started 4 weeks ago. In14 weeks virus killed sick Economy of world

    • matteo says:

      the machines that power industrial capitalism still exist and there is an energy glut now. Humans only provide 0.5% of the work needed by the economy, for the rest they operate machines. The probability of sudden collapse is zero, however to cope with the short term shock the probability of forced labour is very high, as well as the probability of the disappearance of many superfluous goods.

      • Kowalainen says:

        Exactly, this is not a computer virus or a bacteria that consumes oil. The Machine will continue to chug along perfectly fine.

        Expect an enormous automation push to get closer to a 99.99% completely automated production and logistics systems. Humans are way too non-robust and failure prone.

        The consumerism and era of humans is basically over.

        • VFatalis says:

          A big leap in automation is only possible with a prosperous economy and abundant energy and resources. While we currently have an energy glut, the global economy is in bad shape and crippled under massive debt. It will very likely never recover to where it was before the virus.
          I don’t foresee any of your predictions coming to fruition, quite the opposite actually.
          We’ve been living beyond our means for quite some time. The era of human labor is about to resume.

          • Chloroquineinamonthorayearoradecade says:

            “While we currently have an energy glut…”

            energy flow is now crashing…

            what we do have is plenty of FF…


            as Norman has taught us, it has no value unless it is burned…

          • Kowalainen says:

            The debt generation is driven by skimming and scamming the productive capital (know-how, humans and machines) and to enable consumerism to make it relevant, i.e. to make it appear to have value.

            An ever increasing amount of energy in circulation (goods and services) of course needs the right amount of “lubrication” in the form of money to function properly. Hence ‘print until tilt’.

            Most production is in principle simply waste and adds zero quality and sophistication to the ebbs and flows in the economy. Indeed, most of the economy is simply infectious gunk, a suffocating thick worthless mucus floating in the respiratory tracts of the economy.

            Most technology is actually not created by the private industry, but out of necessity. Have for example the Internet. It is a DARPA funded project for a resilient means of information exchange that went “viral”. Pun indented.

            The same holds true for modern telecommunications, it is basically military applications which found itself in consumer and industrial grade gear.

            The automation provides a number of sources of resilience:

            1. No machine demands a salary when it is switched off
            2. A machine only consumes the energy it needs for operation and during its manufacturing. Compare it with humans.
            3. A well built machine needs servicing and overhaul much less than humans.
            4. A well built machine can easily outlast a human.
            5. A machine does not go on strike.
            6. A machine can be throttled from barely moving to working 24/7/365.
            7. A machine is not prone to get infected by airborne viruses and if it gets hacked it does not bring down all machines in existence.
            8. A machine does not enjoy making more machines.

            The “superorganism” decided that enough is enough. Gaia isn’t picky of which of her children carries the memes and fundamental principles into interstellar space. A safe bet is that she definitely is not too impressed by the chauvinistic humanism of which socialism is the worst of expressions.

            The self entitled and pretentious little ape that want to be that little special creature which evolutionary speaking relatively recently climbed down the trees now gets the hurt.

            • Norman Pagett says:

              remember too, that machines do not buy other machines

              machines do not employ other machines in the sense of paying them wages

            • Kowalainen says:

              Machines need the occasional servicing and eventually replacement. Just as humans. There’s the economy in that. A better economy.

              The problem is actually the wages which causes the problems in the first place.

              You have to stop putting the cart before the horse. Gaia has greater plans than to busying self entitled rapacious monkeys with various forms of useless frippery.

            • CTG says:

              There is always a fantasy of humans that machines will take over everything. Can machines produce baby machines. Can machines mine iron ores independently ? Do they actually know how to go out and look for a nice place and say “Here is a good place to mine the palladium, iron, copper, etc”? Who is doing all the programming of the robots? Who is designing the circuitry.

              It is hard for the people to accept the fact that machines requires humans and the entire fossil-fueled IC to function – from food to universities to the janitors in order for machines to be produced.

              Don’t get me started on AI. AI is as dumb as the person who programs it.

            • Chloroquineinamonthorayearoradecade says:

              “There is always a fantasy of humans that machines will take over everything.”

              yes, you are spot on…

              it’s just science fiction rubbbish…

              don’t get me started on robots… robots and other machines do a lot of great work for us, as we designed them to do… and as we were able to build so many because of abundant net (surplus) energy from cheap FF…

              but as the net (surplus) energy flowing through IC has peaked and is now forever lower, there will be less machines in the future, not more…

            • Kowalainen says:

              Ah, the irony of a doomer frantically poking away on a machine which they would have deemed impossible 60 years ago as “Star Trek fantasy”

              Actually less humans, the rapacious monkey is much more resource intensive to manufacture and to operate.

              The rest of the objections are quite weak and already answered. Below is a few irrefutable arguments more.

  6. ITEOTWAWKI says:

    As the crisis worsens, and people start to realize this is not a temporary setback à la 2008, for sure people will start checking out like this guy:

    German state finance minister Thomas Schäfer found dead

    • Dennis L. says:

      I saw that too, maybe it is the realization that a lifetime of beliefs didn’t work, never worked. That is psychologically very painful.

      This has been going on since the beginning of man, it is a speed bump.

      Dennis L.

      • craig m says:

        Maybe it was it was his guilty conscience, overseeing all the fraud and corruption in both banking and finance.

    • Well, as many psychologist would confirm the combo of leaving wife & kids and choosing a train for suicide files it in the very disturbed category of cases..

      You have to be thick skin (outward) psycho to be active in higher politics or big biz and he was likely not of that pedigree (inward type).

      • Dennis L. says:

        Thank you for that insight, it is outside my world of experience.

        Dennis L.

      • Kowalainen says:

        Or that he lost it all angering a few too many? Either it is him or his wife and kids.

        Who knows at this stage. The strain runs deep and wide.

    • According to the article:

      “His main concern was whether he could manage to fulfill the huge expectations of the population, especially in terms of financial aid,” Bouffier said on Sunday. “For him, there was clearly no way out. He was disappointed and so he had to leave us. That has shocked us, has shocked me.”

  7. Marco Bruciati says:

    Spain said it needs Europe cannot do it alone. and not even central-southern Italy.

    • VFatalis says:

      As problems arises, Europe is showing its limits and will probably not survive this crisis. The idea was interesting, but poorly executed anyway. Good riddance.

  8. Chloroquineinamonthorayearoradecade says:


  9. Ed says:

    120,000 dead maybe. At $15,000 socsec and $10,000 medicare that is 25,000*120,000=3 billion per year savings.

  10. Dennis L. says:

    This may be the real choke point, the Liebig minimum. From what I can see, after the grains are raised, agriculture is still very labor intensive which given the virus issue and social distancing makes for problems. The idea of smaller producers is seductive, but output is going to be much less which means there are social and population issues on the horizon not directly related to that population becoming ill. We are counting ventilators when the issue may be feeding the caregivers irregardless of whether or not they are sick. After a week without food, work becomes almost impossible and the biological imperative to survive probably becomes paramount.

    Interesting times

    Dennis L.

    • This is about the issue of too many absences in the food production industry from illnesses, making it hard to continue to produce as much food.

      • Chloroquineinamonthorayearoradecade says:

        US armed forces and reserves… national guard…

        all hands on deck…

        if US leadership doesn’t keep the food production going…

        I would expect a response of this sort, but a bit late, after shortages start to get serious…

        better late than never…

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