Understanding Our Pandemic – Economy Predicament

The world’s number one problem today is that the world’s population is too large for its resource base. Some people have called this situation overshoot. The world economy is ripe for a major change, such as the current pandemic, to bring the situation into balance. The change doesn’t necessarily come from the coronavirus itself. Instead, it is likely to come from the whole chain reaction that has been started by the coronavirus and the response of governments around the world to the coronavirus.

Let me explain more about what is happening.

[1] The world economy is reaching Limits to Growth, as described in the book with a similar title.

One way of seeing the predicament we are in is the modeling of resource consumption and population growth described in the 1972 book, The Limits to Growth, by Donella Meadows et al. Its base scenario seems to suggest that the world will reach limits about now. Chart 1 shows the base forecast from that book, together with a line I added giving my impression of where the economy really was in 2019, relative to resource availability.

Figure 1. Base scenario from 1972 Limits to Growth, printed using today’s graphics by Charles Hall and John Day in “Revisiting Limits to Growth After Peak Oil,” with dotted line added corresponding to where the world economy seems to be in 2019.

In 2019, the world economy seemed to be very close to starting a downhill trajectory. Now, it appears to me that we have reached the turning point and are on our way down. The pandemic is the catalyst for this change to a downward trend. It certainly is not the whole cause of the change. If the underlying dynamics had not been in place, the impact of the virus would likely have been much less.

The 1972 model leaves out two important parts of the economy that probably make the downhill trajectory steeper than shown in Figure 1. First, the model leaves out debt and, in fact, the whole financial system. After the 2008 crisis, many people strongly suspected that the financial system would play an important role as we reach the limits of a finite world because debt defaults are likely to disturb the worldwide financial system.

The model also leaves out humans’ continual battle with pathogens. The problem with pathogens becomes greater as world population becomes denser, facilitating transmission. The problem also becomes greater as a larger share of the population becomes more susceptible, either because they are elderly or because they have underlying health conditions that have been hidden by an increasingly complex and expensive medical system.

As a result, we cannot really believe the part of Figure 1 that is after 2020. The future downslopes of population, industrial production per capita, and food per capita all seem likely to be steeper than shown on the chart because both the debt and pathogen problems are likely to increase the speed at which the economy declines.

[2] It is far more than the population that has overshot limits.

The issue isn’t simply that there are too many people relative to resources. The world seems to have

  • Too many shopping malls and stores
  • Too many businesses of all kinds, with many not very profitable for their owners
  • Governments with too extensive programs, which taxpayers cannot really afford
  • Too much debt
  • An unaffordable amount of pension promises
  • Too low interest rates
  • Too many people with low wages or no wages at all
  • Too expensive a healthcare system
  • Too expensive an educational system

The world economy needs to shrink back in many ways at once, simultaneously, to manage within its resource limits. It is not clear how much of an economy (or multiple smaller economies) will be left after this shrinkage occurs.

[3] The economy is in many ways like the human body. In physics terms, both are dissipative structures. They are both self-organizing systems powered by energy (food for humans; a mixture of energy products including oil, coal, natural gas, burned biomass and electricity for the economy).

The human body will try to fix minor problems. For example, if someone’s hand is cut, blood will tend to clot to prevent too much blood loss, and skin will tend to grow to substitute for the missing skin. Similarly, if businesses in an area disappear because of a tornado, the prior owners will either tend to rebuild them or new businesses will tend to come in to replace them, as long as adequate resources are available.

In both systems, there is a point beyond which problems cannot be fixed, however. We know that many people die in car accidents if injuries are too serious, for example. Similarly, the world economy may “collapse” if conditions deviate too far from what is necessary for economic growth to continue. In fact, at this point, the world economy may be so close to the edge with respect to resources, particularly energy resources, that even a minor pandemic could push the world economy into a permanent cycle of contraction.

[4] World governments are in a poor position to fix the current resource and pandemic crisis.

In our networked economy, too low a resource base relative to population manifests itself in a strange way: It appears as an affordability crisis that leads to very low prices for oil. It also appears as terribly low prices for many other commodities, including copper, lithium, coal and even wholesale electricity. These low prices occur because too large a share of the population cannot afford finished goods, such as cars and homes, made with these commodities. Recent shutdowns have suddenly increased the number of people with low income or no income, pushing commodity prices even lower.

If resources were more plentiful and very inexpensive to produce, as they were 50 or 70 years ago, wages of workers could be much higher, relative to the cost of resources. Factory workers would be able to afford to buy vehicles, for example, and thus help keep the demand for automobiles up. If we look more deeply into this, we find that energy resources of many kinds (fossil fuel energy, nuclear energy, burned biomass and other renewable energy) must be extraordinarily cheap and abundant to keep the system growing. Without “surplus energy” from many sources, which grows with population, the whole system tends to collapse.

World governments cannot print resources. What they can print is debt. Debt can be viewed as a promise of future goods and services, whether or not it is reasonable to believe that these future goods and services will actually materialize, given resource constraints.

We are finding that using shutdowns to solve COVID-19 problems causes a huge amount of economic damage. The cost of mitigating this damage seems to be unreasonably high. For example, in the United States, antibody studies suggest that roughly 5% of the population has been infected with COVID-19. The total number of deaths associated with this 5% infection level is perhaps 100,000, assuming that reported deaths to date (about 80,000) need to be increased somewhat, to match the approximately 5% of the population that has, knowingly or unknowingly, already experienced the infection.

If we estimate that the mean number of years of life lost is 13 years per person, then the total years of life lost would be about 1,300,000. If we estimate that the US treasury needed to borrow $3 trillion dollars to mitigate this damage, the cost per year of life lost is $3 trillion divided by 1.3 million, or $2.3 million per year of life lost. This amount is utterly absurd.

This approach is clearly not something the United States can scale up, as the share of the population affected by COVID-19 relentlessly rises from 5% to something like 70% or 80%, in the absence of a vaccine. We have no choice but to use a different approach.

[5] COVID-19 would have the least impact on the world economy if people could pay little attention to the pandemic and just “let it run.” Of course, even without mitigation attempts, COVID-19 might bring the world economy down, given the distressed level of today’s economy and the shutdowns experienced to date.

Shutting down an economy has a huge adverse impact on that economy because quite a few workers who are in good health are no longer able to make goods and services. As a result, they have no wages, so their “demand” goes way down. If the economy was already having an affordability crisis for goods made with commodities, shutting down the economy tends to greatly add to the affordability crisis. Prices of commodities tend to fall even lower than they were before the crisis.

Back in 1957-1958, the Asian pandemic, which also started in China, hit the world. The number of deaths was up in the range of the current pandemic, relative to population. The estimated worldwide death rate was 0.67%.  This is not too dissimilar from a death rate of 0.61% for COVID-19, which can be calculated using my estimate above (100,000 deaths relative to 5% of the US population of 33o million).

Virtually nothing was shut down in the US for the 1957-58 pandemic. When doctors or nurses became sick themselves, wards were simply closed. Would-be patients were told to stay at home and take aspirin, unless a severe case developed. With this approach, the US still faced a short recession, but the economy was soon growing again. Populations seemed to reach herd immunity quite quickly.

If the world could somehow have adopted a similar approach this time, there still would have been some adverse impact on the economy. A small percentage of the population would have died. Some businesses might have needed to be closed for a short time when too many workers were out sick. But the huge burden of job loss by a substantial share of the economy could have been avoided. The economy would have had at least a small chance of rebounding quickly.

[6] The virus that causes COVID-19 looks a great deal like a laboratory cross between SARS and HIV, making the likelihood of a quick vaccine low.

In fact, Professor Luc Montagnier, co-discoverer of the AIDS virus and winner of a Nobel Prize in Medicine, claims that the new coronavirus is the result of an attempt to manufacture a vaccine against the AIDS virus. He believes that the accidental release of this virus is what is causing today’s pandemic.

If COVID-19 were simply another influenza virus, similar to many we have seen, then getting a vaccine that would work passably well would be a relatively easy exercise. At least one of the vaccine trials that have been started could be reasonably expected to work, and a solution would not be far away.

Unfortunately, SARS and HIV are fairly different from influenza viruses. We have never found a vaccine for either one. If a person has had SARS once, and is later exposed to a slightly mutated version of SARS, the symptoms of the second infection seem to be worse than the first. This characteristic interferes with finding a suitable vaccine. We don’t know whether the virus causing COVID-19 will have a similar characteristic.

We know that scientists from a number of countries have been working on so-called “gain of function” experiments with viruses. These very risky experiments are aimed at making viruses either more virulent, or more transmissible, or both. In fact, experiments were going on in Wuhan, in two different laboratories, with viruses that seem to be not too different from the virus causing COVID-19.

We don’t know for certain whether there was an accident that caused the release of one of these gain of function viruses in Wuhan. We do know, however, that China has been doing a lot of cover-up activity to deter others from finding out what actually happened in Wuhan.

We also know that Dr. Fauci, a well-known COVID-19 advisor, had his hand in this Chinese research activity. Fauci’s organization, the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, provided partial funding for the gain of function experiments on bat coronaviruses in Wuhan. While the intent of the experiments seems to have been for the good of mankind, it would seem that Dr. Fauci’s judgment erred in the direction of allowing too much risk for the world’s population.

[7] We are probably kidding ourselves about ever being able to contain the virus that causes COVID-19. 

We are gradually learning that the virus causing COVID-19 is easily spread, even by people who do not show any symptoms of the disease. The virus can spread long distances through the air. Tests to see if people are ill tend to produce a lot of false negatives; because of this, it is close to impossible to know whether a particular person has the illness or not.

China is finding that it cannot really contain the virus that causes COVID-19. A recent South China Morning Post article indicates that roughly 14 million people are to be tested in the Wuhan area in the next ten days to try to control a new outbreak of the virus.

It is becoming clear, as well, that even within China, the lockdowns have had a very negative impact on the economy. The Wall Street Journal reports, China Economic Data Indicate V-Shaped Recovery Is Unlikely. Supply chains were broken; wholesale commodity prices (excluding food) have tended to fall. Joblessness is increasingly a problem.

[8] If we look at deaths per million by country, it is difficult to see that lockdowns are very helpful in reducing the spread of disease. Masks seem to be more beneficial.

If we compare death rates for mask-wearing East Asian countries to death rates elsewhere, we see that death rates in mask-wearing East Asian countries are dramatically lower.

Figure 2. Death rates per million population of selected countries with long-term exposure to the virus causing COVID-19, based on Johns Hopkins death data as of May 11, 2020.

Looking at the chart, a person almost wonders whether lockdowns are a response to requests from citizens to “do something” in response to an already evident surge in cases. The countries known for their severe lockdowns are at the top of the chart, not the bottom.

In fact, a preprint academic paper by Thomas Meunier is titled, “Full lockdown policies in Western Europe countries have no evident impacts on the COVID-19 epidemic.” The abstract says, “Comparing the trajectory of the epidemic before and after the lockdown, we find no evidence of any discontinuity in the growth rate, doubling time, or reproduction number trends.  .  . We also show that neighboring countries applying less restrictive social distancing measures (as opposed to police-enforced home containment) experience a very similar time evolution of the epidemic.”

It appears to me that lockdowns have been popular with governments around the world for a whole host of reasons that have little to do with the spread of COVID-19:

  • Lockdowns give an excuse for closing borders to visitors and goods from outside. This was a direction in which many countries were already headed, in an attempt to raise the wages of local workers.
  • Lockdowns can be used to hide the fact that factories need to be closed because of breaks in supply lines elsewhere in the world.
  • Many countries have been faced with governmental protests because of low wages compared to the prices of basic services. Lockdowns tend to keep protesters inside.
  • Lockdowns give the appearance of protecting the elderly. Since there are many elderly voters, politicians need to court these voters.

[9] A person wonders whether Dr. Fauci and members of the World Health Organization are influenced by the wishes of vaccine and big pharmaceutical companies.

The recommendation to try to “flatten the curve” is, in part, an attempt to give vaccine and pharmaceutical makers more time to work on their products. Is this really the best recommendation? Perhaps I am being overly suspicious, but we recently have been dealing with an opioid epidemic which was encouraged by manufacturers of Oxycontin and other opioids. We don’t need another similar experience, this time sponsored by vaccine and other pharmaceutical makers.

The temptation of researchers is to choose solutions that would be best from the point of their own business interests. If a researcher gets much of his funding from vaccine and big pharmaceutical interests, the temptation will be to “push” solutions that are beneficial to these interests. In some cases, researchers are able to patent approaches, even when the research is paid for by governmental grants. In this case they can directly benefit from a new vaccine or drug.

When potential solutions are discussed by Dr. Fauci and the World Health Organization, no one brings up improving people’s immunity so that they can better fight off the novel coronavirus. Few bring up masks. Instead, we keep being warned about “opening up too soon.” In a way, this sounds like, “Please leave us lots of customers who might be willing to pay a high price for our vaccine.”

[10] One way the combination of (a) the activity of the virus and (b) our responses to the virus may play out is as a slow-motion, controlled demolition of the world economy. 

I think of what we are experiencing as being somewhat similar to a toggle bolt going around and around, moving down a screw. As the toggle bolt moves around, I picture it as being similar to the virus and our responses to the viruses hitting different parts of the world economy.

Figure 3. Image of how the author sees COVID-19 as being able to hit the economy multiple times, in multiple ways, as its impact keeps impacting different parts of the world.

If we look back, the virus and reactions to the virus first hit China. China’s recovery is moving slowly, in part because of reduced demand from outside of China now that the virus is hitting other parts of the world. In fact, additional layoffs occurred after Chinese shutdowns ended, because it then became clear that some employers needed to permanently scale back operations to meet the new lower demand for their product.

Commodity prices, including oil prices, are now depressed because of low demand around the world. These low prices can be expected to gradually lead to closures of wells and mines extracting these commodities. Processing centers will also close, making these commodities less available even if demand temporarily rises.

As one country is hit by illnesses and/or shutdowns, we can expect supply lines for manufacturing around the world to be disrupted. This will lead to yet more business closures, some of them permanent. Debt defaults tend to happen as businesses close and layoffs occur.

With all of the layoffs, governments will find that their tax collections are lower. The resulting governmental funding issues can be expected to lead to new rounds of layoffs.

Natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes and forest fires can be expected to continue to happen. Social distancing requirements, inadequate tax revenue and broken supply lines will make mitigation of all of these disasters more difficult. Electrical lines that fall down may stay down permanently; bridges that are damaged may never be repaired.

Initially, rich countries can be expected to try to help as many laid-off workers as possible with loans and temporary stipends. But, after a few months, even with this approach, many individual citizens and businesses will likely not be able to pay their rent. Default rates on home mortgages and auto loans can be expected to rise for a similar reason.

We can expect to see round after round of business failures and layoffs of employees. Financial systems will become more and more stressed. Pensions are likely to default. Death rates will rise, in part from epidemics of various kinds and in part from growing problems with starvation. In fact, in some poor countries, lower-income citizens are already having difficulty being able to afford adequate food. Eventually we can expect collapsing governments (similar to the collapse of the central government of the Soviet Union) and overthrown governments.

Longer-term, after this demolition ends, there may be some surviving pieces of economies. These new economies will be much smaller and less dependent upon each other, however. Currencies are likely to be less interchangeable. The remaining people will need to learn to make do with many fewer goods than are available today. It will be a very different world.

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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3,000 Responses to Understanding Our Pandemic – Economy Predicament

  1. Tango Oscar says:

    Good post and I agree with most of it. Been in lock down for 2 months now, just leaving the house a few times. Working from home still with no prospect of when that’s going to change, if ever. The volume of trucks/trains crossing the US/CA border has up-ticked slightly in the last 2 weeks but we’re still down at least 30% in real terms since March 1st. Who knows how this all plays out but I can imagine that many people are becoming restless with this situation in the US.

    The Federal Reserve and Federal Government are still doing their parts I see. Another $3 Trillion dollar stimulus package passed last night, spear headed by Nancy Pelosi. It probably won’t pass but that isn’t going to stop them and I imagine more bills are forthcoming. The Federal Reserve is going to be stepping up their QE some more I expect and the “we’re not doing negative interest rates” talk is just funny. Of course they’re going to do negative interest rates because if it’s that or the economy collapses they would do anything to remain in power.

    I’ve been keeping busy with exercise, gardening, and trading stocks. People need to keep their immune systems up as long as possible and to the maximum extent possible. Stock up on vitamins/supplements and try to get 30+ minutes of exercise at least 5 days a week even if it’s a treadmill or doing chores around the yard. You do not want to be sick, get the virus, or be heading into a bad situation with a weakened immune system. Use the time we have right now as preparation for the future.

  2. John Day says:

    Thank You again, Gail.
    I have appreciated your work since around 2008, in TOD. Good crowd.
    I am a public health MD in Austin, Texas.
    I have the professional opinion that vitamin-D deficiency is the underlying condition that makes this virus so horrible in some vulnerable people.
    That hypothesis is finally supported by data, which should have been out 3 months ago.
    Take 10,000 Units vitamin D3 for 2 months, then 5000Units/d after that, until you die of old age.
    http://www.johndayblog.com/2020/05/vitamin-d-day.html

    • Thanks! People whose skin is darker in color have less Vitamin D, I understand.

      I have started taking more myself, but what I am taking is about 1,000 units a day. Some articles seem to suggest 2,000 units a day are safe.

      This article says “Too much vitamin D may harm bones, not help.” Another article says, Excess Vitamin D linked to kidney damage.

      Given the risk from COVID-19 now, I suppose we might want to err on the side of taking a little too much.

      • Matthew Krajcik says:

        I think rather, that people with darker skin need longer sun exposure to produce vitamin D, as they are adapted to areas with more sunlight. The darker skin gives them some resistance to skin cancer, but can lead to rickets when living in northern climates. That’s basically the enter function of having lighter and darker skin tones, to adapt to different amounts of sunlight.

    • Matthew Krajcik says:

      Dr John Campbell was talking about Vitamin D and disease resistance two months ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5yVGmfivAk

      • Thanks! That is a very fine video. It indicates that for people with low Vitamin D, supplementation to get to the proper level can reduce respiratory illnesses by 70%.

        I found an different video earlier talking specifically how helpful that they seem to be with respect to COVID-19. Vitamin D is definitely helpful.

        • DB says:

          Probably the most comprehensive information on vitamin D in a single place is at the Vitamin D Council: http://www.vitamindcouncil.org. You can find evidence there for the 5,000 IU daily recommendation. (The site appears to be down just now when I checked, but maybe that is a fluke.)

          • I couldn’t get that link to work either. I did find another link that seems to be quite worthwhile:

            https://www.vitamindsociety.org

            It seems to be an Australian site. I noticed that it lists the recent studies about COVID-19 and Vitamin D. I didn’t notice anything about the 5,000 IU daily recommendation, but I did recommend that the blood level of Vitamin D be above 100 nmol/L (or 40 ng/ml in the notation used in the US).

  3. Who had “return of child labor” on their dystopian future BINGO card?

    They’re even clawing back $2 from middle-school students. (rimshot)

    “Middle school students must have permission from their parents and will make about $13 an hour.

    High school students will be paid about $15 an hour.”

  4. Hubbs says:

    My daughter just elected to go work at a fast food joint (Sonic Burger ) in NC for a starting wage of $8 hr now that school, has been shut down and she is taking her courses on line. I tried to convince her to work on her studies instead. Every 8 dollars an hour she gets now for working will cost her $80 an hour later for not having studied. I tried to explain to her that straight A’s in today’s public schools are meaningless and that whether you believe in them or not, the colleges will rely on mostly her SAT or ACT board scores, as they are the only metric left to evaluate and compare applicants. I bought her an SAT prep test manual and explained to her how she had to “play the game has done only three tests in 6 months while her ACT and SAT scores have remained flatlined at the 1150 / 26 range. “Of course, unless she goes to a decent college like NC State she is probably wasting her money on tuition. I now refuse to sign for any school loan. She had the ability to make it to UNC-Chapel Hill if she had worked, but that is now beyond her reach at the end of her junior year. I have even just purchased her a 27” Mac Desktop to give her the best learning environment, and with her 90 WPM typing ability, should have an advantage over her fellow students in typing on-line essays. She has squandered her opportunities handed to her on a silver platter.

    I guess sometimes tough love is the only thing left.

    • Herbie Ficklestein says:

      See you still believe in BAU – Business As Usual for her generation in the upcoming future times. Sorry, but I don’t agree that the brand of degree will propel her to a secure future. Of course, the ABILITY to learn and apply in a useful manner to ones social 😁 network will be of prime necessity. What to learn? That is the question of utmost importance! Unfortunately, for recent graduates a good many will not be able to utilize their degrees in their major. Pity those in the Aviation majors, Hotel and Hospitality graduates, to name a few. One aspect overlooked is good fortune, being at the right place/ right time, and seizing the moment!🤩
      Hope you and yours are one of the fortunate few that will escape the upcoming hard times ahead. A good many are heading it right as we type.😣

    • Rodster says:

      Unless your daughter is majoring in a field that is “HOT or in demand”, she is better off working at the Burger joint for $8 hr. Becoming a debt slave just to say she went to College is a waste of money. So many kids today go to College just to treat it as a vacation. Then when they graduate there’s no job waiting but now there’s 10’s of thousands to pay back. Walmart pays a good portion of an employees tuition.

      • horseofadifferentcolor says:

        Rodster is correct. Its better to work at the burger joint than go to the worlds most expensive summer camp for four years and THEN work at the burger joint $80k in debt. You dont know how many kids I have seen with decent degrees and GPAs become plumbers or electricians. Everyone cant be a plumber or electrician. Walmart is not a bad employment option nowadays. There are still opportunities for small business. maybe… when this is over… I hope.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        People need to wake up. There will be no recovery from this. It’s the end of the road.

        I’d suggest advising a student to drop out put on a backpack and travel the world …. but that’s not possible… so the next best thing is travel around the country you live in and experience BAU while it still exists.

        There is NO future.

    • beidawei says:

      There’s not just one path to success. She might become an apprentice of some kind and learn a trade, join the military, work abroad, etc. (Not all of these are possible right at this moment, of course.) And she could always go back to school later. Embedded as I am within academia, I see how much of it is bs, and sympathize with students who rebel against or abandon the system. If a student is not intellectually inclined, and has no specific career goals, then much of it is indeed a waste of time, useful only for obtaining an increasingly worthless credential. And the sad thing is, this charade isn’t even necessary. After a certain point, nobody will care about your degrees, or how you got them, or the schools they came from.

      I personally think experience working, and having relationships, is just as important for young people as their formal schoolwork. I mean, most of them are going to work for a living, and be in relationships. It’s only right that they should learn what these are like, and develop the skills necessary to maintaining them.

      • beidawei says:

        I also think a big part of growing up is making decisions (good or bad) for yourself, and figuring out how to support yourself. At some point you have to just let your daughter make her own mistakes.

      • James says:

        Only have one issue with your comment: Job suggestion “join the military”
        That is absolutely the LAST thing that anyone with a functioning brain should do.
        With America’s history of attacking 3rd world Countries & experimenting in a bad way with Soldiers, Sailors & basically every service person it’s terrible choice & should be avoided at all costs.

        • Fast Eddy says:

          What’s wrong with attacked other countries – particularly if they have the resources that allow you to live large?

          Let me guess – you subscribe to the NYT.

    • Lidia17 says:

      Maybe she perceives that a bird in the hand ($8/hr. now) is worth two in the bush (4 years of college expenses, and *then* $8/hr.). Maybe she understands that half the country is out of work.

      As an Apple user for 36 years, I can say that I am ready to throw the thing out the window. It is not a “learning environment”; it is a corral. The best thing going in the tech universe are YouTube videos on how to knit, sew, make shoes, grow a garden, change your own oil in your car, breed goats, etc.

      Tell her to rent out her typing skills. Maybe she could learn a bit of editing and jump on the college plagiarism essay-selling bandwagon.

      Besides not co-signing for a student loan, what is the “tough love” you envision?

      If you have the means, why not buy her a small plot of land and/or house rather than contribute to college? I have 30-yr.-old friends with student debt: they say their parents had been amenable towards helping pay for schooling, but would not give them money towards their small self-built house or establishment of a homestead.

    • Lan says:

      You sound like my father, except that I finished school while he pulled out of his end of the bargain halfway through and signed me up for private bank loans to finish my worthless education. I work at a grocery store now – probably a much more stable job than I would have “aspired” to before I wised up. Unionized, benefits, and gravy as hell.

      Your daughter is doing what she needs to do to stay sane in a precarious, ever-shifting economic landscape and job market.

      Be careful how you treat her. I’m still debating on whether or not I plan on taking care of my father in my own home when he’s old, or whether I want to leave his ass to rot in a convalescent home because of this very attitude.

    • I am afraid the other commenters are right. The time to spend a lot of money on college (mostly borrowed) is probably past. If your daughter has finished her junior year, working for $8 per hour is probably a good experience for her. Things are changing quickly. I know I started taking summer jobs when I was the equivalent age, and I encouraged my children to do that as well. It is probably a good idea to work now, and watch how things develop.

  5. Welp. There goes Bill’s chance to achieve world domination through vaccination.

  6. Lastcall says:

    This event has enabled the NZ government (not that many with experience outside of academia) to put together a budget ‘to change the world’.

    Doublespeak abounds:
    A Reset (new restrictions)
    Regenerate (‘Sustainable’ investments)
    Renewal (Re-education on correct living)
    Pivot (down the sh.tter)
    …that was about all I could listen to of the budget before feeling ill.
    …and spend Spend SPEND.
    Its a huuuuuuuge chance to refocus people away from their populism and return us all to the safe fold of the experts. All this cash will dominate the economy here for years to come and you better use the right words when you come crawling to the government to get some.
    You know the words; inclusivity, diversity, moving forward, sustainability blah blah.
    Planned economies equals cronyism, nepotism, and finally despotism.

    • In other words, nothing will change.

    • Duncan Idaho says:

      I’ve been around the planet quite a bit.
      NZ s one of my favorite places- get out a bit, and loses the ideology.
      As things keep falling apart, it will be one of the last standing, in my opinion.
      A friend guides there– not near the hassles and oppression of the States.
      Hint:
      Immigration there is almost impossible (gee, I wonder why?)

    • Fast Eddy says:

      I suspect we’ll be dead before any of that can happen.

      I wonder how long the burning ship can stay afloat…

    • A person might get ill simply from all of the liberal panaceas spewed out!

      • Very Far Frank says:

        Liberalism is very much the ideology of growth; understandably its advocates believe that any threat to liberalism derives from other ideologies, but this is not the case. Ideology is dictated by resource availability almost mechanistically. In times of abundance societies are more willing to allow self-preservation instincts to erode in favour of the novel; similarly resource deprivation brings patterns of preservation sharply back into vogue. As the decline continues unabated in the real economy, liberal permissiveness will give way to increased localism, trade protectionism, calls for autarky, identity politics and conflict. We are already beginning to see this in the tensions between the West and China.

        The liberal or ‘progressive’ ideology is a legacy worldview of a bygone age. It’ll be interesting to see how long people keep believing in these panaceas when they are quite so divorced from reality on the ground.

      • Duncan Idaho says:

        The sauvignon blanc is way overrated—
        But I’m from Sonoma.
        The Fly Fishing isn’t.
        A stable and rich country, with benign socialism.
        You can’t move there– everyone would be on the way.

        • Lidia17 says:

          Why isn’t there a global outcry about allowing immigration to NZ?

          • Fast Eddy says:

            NZ follows very similar rules to countries like Canada. You can buy your way in … you can enter on a skilled worker visa .. or you can come in as an entrepreneur….

            If you can meet the criteria you can get in … it’s far from impossible.

            https://www.visabureau.com/new-zealand/visas-and-immigration

            One thing that is an issue for a lot of people is the very stringent medical requirements… if you have spent your life as a fan of KFC and Big Gulps…. you are unlikely to pass the checkup…. we were told by the clinic when we did ours that NZ was one of the most comprehensive of all countries…

            They will never admit it… but I am pretty certain that if you are white – and from a commonwealth country — you get accepted and you get your residency more rapidly (as much as I like to think it’s the 700IQ being acknowledged)…. they may also be looking at how much they can drain from you in taxes… again they will not admit that

        • Fast Eddy says:

          One reason not so many people move to NZ is the salaries are low – and cost of living high.

          We had a friend who wanted to move here — she had managed some fairly substantial businesses and trained and worked as an executive chef… She tested the waters and found that the best she could do in a management role was NZD25/hour… that’s under USD15….

          Consider a litre of petrol is USD5 per gallon (more in places like QT)… and just about everything including food – is expensive.

          We priced some search lights for the anti-horde driveway gate — 6-8 weeks for them to come into the country — checked Australia – in stock — just slightly over half price including delivery…. that puts it into perspective…. (and the cost from Aussie would be significantly more than buying in the US)

          • When I visited Hawaii to give a talk in November, representatives of Hawaiian Companies were trying to recruit actuaries to come there. The population of Hawaii has been falling slightly in recent years, because living costs are terribly high relative to wages. People no longer want to come, when they figure out that it is very hard to live on the wages.

            Now with COVID-19, Hawaii is having a real problem with lack of tourists. There have been many fewer tourists, even though the number of reported COVID cases is not very high. Hawaii has had a total of 17 deaths, compared to New Zealand’s 21 deaths. Hawaii has a smaller population, however, with 1.4 million people compared to New Zealand’s 4.9 million.

  7. Chrome Mags says:

    https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

    Here’s our ‘Something’ burger for the day – 4.7 million cases, 311,919 deaths and who knows how much organ damage to the 1.8 million that recovered (to possibly get infected later). That burger’s got some meat between the buns, a sheet of cheese, some condiments and over time it will get bacon strips and eventually onion rings. India adding 4,800+ cases just today and that number has steadily been rising and will just keep going up. Oh it’s a something burger all right and we’re just a few months into this pandemic.

    I’m also wondering if attempts at vaccines will only force the virus to mutate into more virulent strains. Remember there already are 3 versions of this. There is no indication so far that it is similar to a flu from the standpoint of going away during the warmer months. It’s just out there and steadily building numbers as seen already in hot weather India.

    • Fast Eddy says:

      Lies in – lies out.

      Bali has minimal infections and minimal deaths. That is something I can confirm.

      Elsewhere I can only confirm that:

      – the Javits centre is empty
      – the white hospital ship that was in NY sat their empty for two months
      – there are endless videos of empty ER/Covid wards across America
      – there are two ER doctors stating that they and others are being pressured to mark Covid as the cause of death when it is not
      – there is a tent hospital in central park that is empty (yet headlines state it is overwhelmed)
      – CBS News has been caught twice presenting fake news 1. using ICU footage from Italy pretending it was a US hospital 2. creating fake queues at a hospital in Michigan (they acknowledge both fakes)

      In light of this you can shove your worldometer up your dog’s a ss. If this ‘crisis’ was so bad there would be no need to fake anything.

      This is what I want to say to people I encounter here in NZ when they regurgitate their MSM BS … but for obvious reasons I cannot ….

    • Rodster says:

      “Here’s our ‘Something’ burger for the day – 4.7 million cases, 311,919 deaths and who knows how much organ damage to the 1.8 million that recovered (to possibly get infected later)”

      Out of a population of, ready……..7.8 billion. Call me when it hits 10 million. As far as the speculation of future organ damage, who the hell knows? This whole thing has been hyped more than a category 5 hurricane off the coast of Miami.

      Here’s a little nugget of life. As you age your organs begin to age and fail. So can we say it was age that caused the deterioration or Covid 19? I’ll bet the Covid people will tell us it was the virus. Just like the Florida man who jumped out of a plane without a parachute only wearing his Speedos.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        Normally … it takes years of meticulous research and analysis to come to conclusions like those we are being fed regarding Covid. That’s just the way it works.

        Yet ‘scientists’ are reaching these conclusions within a couple of months of this virus presenting itself.

        It cannot get more ridiculous.

        However we need to be locked down to prevent us from ripping each other’s faces off and eating the neighbour’s children…. so we do not want to convince the cattle that the Covid story is a Big Lie.

    • horseofadifferentcolor says:

      I think its about as something as the tooth fairy but who cares. Maybe saddanm did have those WMDs they were moved to syria…Who cares. Its silent. No planes in the air. Few cars on the road. its like moving to nova scotia without moving. IC is toast.

    • Any kind of mutations could in theory make the virus more of a problem, especially if we find ourselves with several different variations traveling around the globe simultaneously.

  8. beidawei says:

    What went wrong in Armenia? (Reddit discussion)

    I particularly liked SrsSteel’s comments.

    • Armenia is a rural area. It tends to get the virus later than area than areas more connected to China and other epicenters of the virus. Even if an area does clamp down tightly, long before the virus gets to them, it doesn’t stop disease transmission very well, as long as essential industries need to go on. The disease continues to transmit.

      We can look at Armenia new cases relative to US new cases, on a per capita basis. They follow a very different pattern.

      Armenia’s new cases are not approaching the level of the US’s average new cases. The trajectory is fairly different, however.

      Looking at some US data by state gives some indication of how more rural areas can develop. For example, Minnesota is more wealthy and more rural than Georgia. It clamped down harder on activities within the state about the same time as Georgia, in mid-March, even though the virus hadn’t yet had much impact of Minnesota. Now Georgia is letting up more than Minnesota.

      When we look at Minnesota – Georgia data, we see that reported COVID-19 cases have recently been accelerating in Minnesota, while they have been slowing in Georgia. (It took a while for COVID-19 to get to their essential industries, such as meat packing.)

      On a cumulative reported case basis, we see that Minnesota appears headed to catch up with Georgia.

      In fact, on a total death basis, Georgia and Minnesota seem pretty comparable as well.

      I cannot put Armenia on the same chart as Georgia and Minnesota using the graphing package I am using because Armenia is a country and Georgia and Minnesota are states. If we look at the one week average new cases counts, we see that Armenia was reported at 56 per million population. This is a little above Georgia’s most recent lower average. If in fact there are 239 new cases, it may be popping up to a Minnesota type level. Russia’s average new case per week level is 70. It may be thought of popping up to that level as well.

      Holding new cases down for a while doesn’t necessarily mean that they will stay down.

  9. Lastcall says:

    This modern economy is like a large modern aeroplane; there is a minimum speed required for controlled flight. The turbulence of the reaction to Con-vid may have reduced us to stall speed. The descent has begun, and is from a too low altitude to regain control. Most won’t realise the plunge is underway and will not awaken from their blue-pill world until their own life suffers the impact of the crash landing. Until then its just a news item.
    Only those from outside NZ can make the claim that NZ got it right! Our country is now heading for a soviet style command economy.

    • Covidinamonthorayearoradecade says:

      “Most won’t realise the plunge is underway and will not awaken from their blue-pill world until their own life suffers the impact of the crash landing. Until then its just a news item.”

      yes, I agree that there is a huge plunge underway… general public awareness? maybe later in the year, maybe when Summer is turning to Autumn and things just refuse to get better…

      though… this modern economy is not equal to any metaphor…

      it could be a train that has to reduce its speed by half so that it doesn’t fall apart…

      no one knows yet… by the end of 2020 and into 2021, it will be clearer…

    • You are definitely right about the stall speed problem.

      Also, without enough energy, it is not possible to maintain an elected, representative form of government. It is too energy expensive and cumbersome. A king or queen or some equivalent dictator seems more likely.

      From the outside, New Zealand looks to be resource rich. But it cannot really “go it alone.” It needs a lot of trading active partners, including China and Australia. Not having many COVID-19 cases on the first round simply means that New Zealand has a relatively more vulnerable population on the second round.

  10. Speaking about colleges, only HYPS counts. And maybe MIT. If your child can get into there, mortgage your parent’s house to pay for the tuition. NEVER, never borrow money for college if the school is not included above.

    • Lidia17 says:

      Send your kids to MIT if you want them to work for the Borg: Monsanto, Big Pharma, Big Defense/CIA/Sandia Labs, Bain Capital, Wall St. algo traders, FAANGs.. that sort of thing. I had no idea how limited the “opportunities” really were.

      • Robert Firth says:

        Send your kids to MIT if you want them to learn that the only way to do research is to find the answer the big company paying your grant wants you to find. That outfit were the pioneers of “science for hire”.

    • I have hardly ever encountered an actuary who went to a “Big Name” university. Almost everyone went to unpretentious schools.

      My husband (who teaches computer science) got his undergraduate degree at Princeton and his Ph. D. at Harvard. He was strongly in favor of sending our children to unpretentious schools.

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