Brilliant letter. Since the optimal policy response to a pandemic is also an economic policy, and not just a health policy, I hope that there might be a consensus forged across both epidemiology and economics too. I for one concur with the prescription in this text.
Really, the matter also draws in political scientists. Because both the prescribed poilcy and the do-nothing counterfactual entail novel and dramatic political-economic forces.
The do-nothing policy envisages a hefty multiple of the circa 60k deaths we have seen; we talk often about how the financial crisis scarred attitudes towards the status quo - how would 200k deaths leave its imprint on politics and civil society?
The do-something policy involves many tricky trade-offs, between groups, over time. It is possible to overdo lockdown policies [perpetual lockdown would stop the virus, but starve us too] so there are health/econ trade-offs around the optimum.
The dynamics of the virus/ economy will be greatly affected by behaviour, and therefore by the consent, or lack of it, to whatever policy is chosen. The best thing to do depends partly on the feasibility of fashioning consent over the choices available, or proceeding without it.
A virus amongst other animals is mostly a scientific matter; a virus amongst ourselves is not just a scientific matter, but as much a social scientific one; and a consensus about the best way to respond to it knits together all of this expertise.
Given the uncertainties in the epi-econ questions, reasonable disagreements possible about how to resolve some of the trade-offs, it's unlikely there would be consensus about the fine details [how much of a lockdown, for how long initially, locking down what exactly?].
[..followed by what kind of temporary measures when later outbreaks happen?...] But the overall strategy - of suppress... transit to test trace isolate... wait for lowering of mortality rates/spread as knowledge/therapies/vaccines arrive - would be agreed on by many, if not most.

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More from @t0nyyates

17 Oct
OK, I'll bite. This is an excellent question, not just a genuine one.
There is not a mechanism in place to write off most of each other's debt. There doesn't need to be.
Not all governments are borrowing, for starters. The ones that are are borrowing from their citizens, and foreign citizens, who have stuff to lend.
Read 33 tweets
17 Oct
What would be a short term crisis business plan to get test/trace/isolate working again?
Whatever the behind the scenes qualities or lack of them, I think it would have to involve the letting go of Dido Harding, and the termination of the existing contracts to Serco. To instill confidence that there was a recognition a fresh start was needed.
Never having had a business, or written a plan, this task is not my forte. Also complicated by a lifetime, until now, of lacking curiosity in logistics.
Read 5 tweets
17 Oct
Relative to where the government was at the time of the first lockdown in March, it seems much less enthusiastic about 1) doing what is necessary to stop the virus spreading and 2) providing compensation for those affected and to encourage them to comply with new meaures.
This is perplexing. The opposite should be the case. Relative to March, we are in some ways in a much better position to accomplish this.
To begin with, even at this late stage, things are not as bad as they had been allowed to get by the 23 March. It therefore would not take such draconian measures, or for so long, to get control again.
Read 18 tweets
16 Oct
It’s a cruel irony that when policy makers most need high quality data - in the midst of an economic crisis - they are least likely to have it.
New things happen to people [covid] and you have to collect data on them from scratch, developing new systems and standards.
Government measures to react to the crisis affect national accounts and labour market status, close markets for goods, confusing income, employment, unemployment, welfare and price data.
Read 4 tweets
15 Oct
I have mixed feelings about the @ecb moving to introduce Green criteria for eligibility of corporate bonds in its QE asset purchase program.
The urgency of climate change mitigation policy gets ever greater, so, on the one hand: good, a new tax on brown [as in not green] activities.
The ECB is saying this because it thinks greening QE is a reasonable reading of the Treaty requirements of it to support the EU's economic policies.
Read 22 tweets
30 Aug
1. Covid has shown us that we need a bigger, better, state. 2. Taxes will eventually have to rise to pay for that.
3. Many other economies with high GDP/head function well with higher taxes, larger states, so 'high tax damages business', is, to a point, a canard.
4. Macro stabilisation priorities mean that it is too soon to be thinking of raising taxes yet.
5. Not the case here, but often on the right the 'high tax will damage business' is just cover for 'small state means the rich keep more for themselves'.
Read 5 tweets

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