it's always the counterfactual.

developed countries fall broadly into two categories, failures w/cumulative mortalities ~1/1000 (within a factor of 1.5) and successful suppressors (NZ, KR, DE etc) with much less death. the US is a failure. 1/
the Trump administration deserves condemnation unequivocally. it sabotaged and undermined all of the tactics successful suppressors employ, ignored pre-existing plans and sidelined experts, intentionally starved the states of resources that might have let them step in. 2/
but was the US well-placed to be a success, if it had not been for this active sabotage by the Trump administration? 3/
arguments for the prosecution: the US is a rich country, had (what used to be) the world's preeminent communicable disease management agency in the CDC, is home to the vanguard of medical research. ex ante, most of us would have thought the US better placed than its peers. 4/
arguments for the defense: actually executing on suppression requires extraordinary public trust, and politicians capable of imposing restrictions + inconveniences while they appear to be overreactions, and offset those with large, contentious support and public health pgms. 5/
under a different administration, one that wasn't actively denialist and saboteur, would an American government have been able to succeed? 6/
we'll never know. but i think it's more than fair to hold the Trump administration responsible. it might not in the end have succeeded, we'll never know, but it could have meaningfully tried, or the very least made it as easy as possible for others to act. it did the opposite. 7/
and the bitter divisions in the public that render America, um, exceptional among developed countries in our inability to coordinate intelligently at a political level have been multiplied, intentionally, by the Trump administration. 8/
the US (so far) is an ordinary, not extraordinary, failure in terms of developed world cumulative mortality. but it could have and should have been a success. 9/
we can't know the counterfactual under a different administration, but we can know this one did the opposite of maximizing our chances of success. the failure might have happened anyway. but this one is on them. /fin

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More from @interfluidity

20 Sep
One of the more interesting and nuanced calls for devolution to address bitter US political divides, by @RajaKorman. 1/
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When we look back on the pandemic, it may simultaneously be true that (i) “herd immunity”, if that’s what we’re seeing in eg Sweden, may have been achievable at lower mortality, and so less unreasonable to pursue, than COVID hawks predicted; and (ii) countries that succeeded 1/
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