Review: The Price of Panic

Axe, Briggs and Richards, Regnery, Oct. 2020, 287 pages, 4 of 5 stars

This post could also be called Fourteen Reasons Not to Fear Covid, or, RIP (Read if Panicked). The media wants you to think RIP will be on your tombstone this year if you don’t separate and scrub daily. The three authors of this timely and superb book on Covid are here to tell you there is no reason to panic. 

There are fourteen chapters. To help my readers, I broke them down into fourteen reasons not to panic. The authors didn’t state these items exactly this way, but out of the goodness of my heart, I’m here to make your life easier. If you should be limited with time, read chapter ten. It’s the best in the book.

This list is for pastors who think their churches should cancel services. It is for the driver that wears a mask while alone in the car. It is for those that think lockdowns and ubiquitous masks are a good idea. It is for the fearful and the desperate.

1. We’ll always live in a dangerous world.

In the US alone, 1,700 people die of heart disease every day. In 1968 the Hong Kong flu killed one million people globally, far more than Covid. In 2009 the swine flu may have killed a half million. In neither was their panic or a global lockdown. What is spreading the quickest is not Covid but panic. Nothing spreads like fear. In reality, Covid is a really bad flu strain that can be dangerous especially for the elderly because it leads to pneumonia which then leads to respiratory failure. 

2. WHO is a bad example.

The World Health Organization (or WHO, the arm of the UN focusing on public health) is compromised. The WHO director charged with leading the world Covid response is a longtime Communist who wants socialized medicine worldwide. WHO made the global panic go viral with dubious stats like a 3.4% causality rate, 30 times more severe than a bad flu strain. Another example is they based hospital capacity on total cases rather than on cases needing treatment. 

3. The world wants you to panic.

How? First, excessive noticing through constant media coverage. Second, obsessing over cases, many of which are false. We’re told of Covid deaths by gunshot wounds or “spikes” in cases but not told it was because free testing had just been offered. Third, comparing apples with oranges. In the past, the underlying issue was attributed to those that died with the flu. Now its the exact opposite.  

4. Most media info is gullible, biased and weaponized.

Media is always trying to scare us to bring people to their sites. First it’s mad cow disease, then global warming, bird flu, Ebola or the zika virus. A main reason the global scare is so extreme compared to past pandemics is the way social media has exploded in size.

Whatsapp, Youtube, Twitter and Facebook have grown exponentially in just the past ten years. Now everyone is an expert. Moreover, Youtube tries to censor opposition to WHO (like the video of US doctors saying Californians have a .03% chance of dying of Covid). It’s not about what you know. It’s not about truth. It matters what team you represent.

5. The worldview behind most Covid lockdowns is leftist.

Progressives love big government. They think Caesar can and should fix every major problem. They want you to think that the lives of others are at stake. Not to mask and not to shut down is unloving. Hence, many pastors have agreed to shut down their churches, something they never would have considered doing in times of war or persecution. Lockdowns of this kind are unprecedented. In a few short months in 1918, 50 million died from the Spanish flu. A hundred million died during WWI/WW2. In the early 1900’s, a million died of tuberculosis every year. There was never any shutdowns or closed churches. “And yet, in 2020, we did all those things—subjecting ourselves to the biggest social experiment the world has ever seen” (p. 50).

6. Covid is minor compared to past pandemics.

In surveying eighteen historic pandemics, Covid is relatively small. The Plague of Justinian in 541 AD killed 20% of the population in one year. The Black Death killed 100 million. AIDS has killed tens of millions, about .02% of the population per year. The Asian flu of 1957 experienced no panic or lockdown, though it killed over two million. This doesn’t mean Covid hasn’t killed many people, it simply means Covid is just a fraction of previous pandemics.

Here are some reasons the Covid panic is so severe. (1) We conflate dying of with dying with. (2) We imply Covid is the sole cause of death (like Ebola) when most often it simply contributes to death (like the flu). (3) We ignore that Covid usually targets only a small portion of the population (the sick or elderly) as opposed to the swine flu of ’09 that went after the youth. The average age of flu and Covid deaths is 67 and 80 years old respectively. This is why nursing homes are hit so hard. (4) We ignore that “more cases” is often because of “more testing”. (5) We record pathogens that have led to respiratory failure, which previously was not done except for a severe cause like anthrax. (6) We call “suspected” cases “probable” if inconclusive.

7. The “experts” have a bad track record.

If Neil Ferguson were a relief pitcher, he would have walked the bases loaded. In 2002, he predicted 150,000 would die of mad cow disease (actual: 177 people). In 2005 he predicted 200 million people would die of the bird flu (actual: 440). In 2009 he predicted 65,000 could die of the swine flu (actual: 457). So guess who has been forecasting what Covid would do? Neil Ferguson. Let us not forget the Imperial London College once predicted 40 million deaths!

8. Masks and Social distancing don’t do much.

WHO itself has said in 2019 that there is no evidence that hand washing and face masking is effective in reducing the transmission of the flu. Lockdowns can actually spread disease because it forces the most susceptible into close quarters. In fact, almost all outbreaks end when enough people build up an immune response. This is why there are rarely repeat infections. A vaccine would only speed up the process.

Six feet social distancing doesn’t stop small droplets, as the coronavirus can hang in the air for an hour. There is no hard evidence that surgical masks (which protects the environment) or N95 masks (which protect the wearer) are helpful. If if they do, the vast majority don’t even wear the mask correctly. Masks may very well do more harm than good (e.g. they are easily contaminated). 

9. Lockdowns don’t work.

Lockdowns have devastated the economy and harmed millions. Think of the thousands of empty beds. The USNS Comfort was unemployed in the Manhattan harbor. A $21million field hospital sat unused. Stats show “flatten the curve” or “stop the spread” didn’t work through lockdown. There were 200,000 infected in UK after lockdown, probably 80% not recorded.

Consider countries that didn’t lockdown. Taiwan, Japan, and Ethiopia had few deaths and no lockdowns. Belgium had many reported deaths and significant lockdowns. Sweden had fewer deaths with no lockdowns than the UK did with lockdowns. South Dakota did significantly better with no lockdowns than Chicago that did. Because there is little evidence that lockdowns work well, using them cannot justify the human costs. 

10. The human cost of lockdowns is devastating.

Consider these ten human costs of lockdown. (1) Dollars. The first US stimulus bill was $2.2 trillion (more like $3 trillion). The entire US budget for 2019 was $4.4 trillion. The 1918 Spanish flu killed about 675,000 Americans. President Wilson never addressed it in public. (2) Unemployment. It was at a historic low 3.5% in February 2020. In seven weeks, there were 34 million jobless claims, then up to 40 million. This rate has never happened in American history.

(3) Deaths from Despair. Drug and alcohol deaths are surging. A doctor in San Francisco said he saw more deaths by suicide than by C19. Then there are drug and alcohol deaths. Medical journals have said that enforced isolation and closed churches would lead to suicides. Anxiety is rampant. Help lines have increased four-fold. (4) Deaths from Poverty. The rich have a safety net. The ultra poor are hit hardest by lockdowns, with those in extreme poverty doubling.

(5) Deaths from delayed medical care. ER calls are way down because people are afraid of going to the hospital. Others can’t get heart procedures or cancer diagnoses. One doctor said lockdown results in 700,000 lost years of life every month. (6) Wasted goods. There has been tons of wasted food that normally went to restaurants. (7) Crime. Prisoners have been released. The ACLU sued a governor for banning such releases. Fraudsters have stolen hundreds of millions through false unemployment claims.

(8) Government tyranny. Lockdowns have brought the most sweeping growth of government in history. Tattoo parlors have remained open but not churches. There have been massive draconian measures to long held freedoms. Emergencies have long been the pretext to erode liberty. People that once hated government programs are now depending on them. (9) Educational and spiritual losses. Schools and churches have been shut down. Porn, depression, and drugs are on the rise. Weddings and funerals are cancelled. (10) Physical death. Lockdowns force the healthy and sick inside together. The deaths in the UK and Wales are no higher than the flu in 1999. There were no lockdowns then. 

11. Rights are more important than life.

We do not force a healthy prisoner to give his organs to a dying girl. His rights are more important than life. This is why doctors shouldn’t have the final say on government procedures. Doctors are trained to be hyper-vigilant, risk averse and overly cautious—often to avoid blame and lawsuits. For example, Dr. Fauci once said we should never shake hands again. Ever. The goal should not be the quantity of life in the short term but the quality of life in the long term. The chief goal of public safety is not just reducing deaths. We all take risks. Traffic deaths are far more costly than Covid, but we still drive. Safety is rarely the main goal. Instead, we should take moderate precautions, carry on as normal and seek to protect the elderly and sickly. 

12. There are no solutions, only tradeoffs.

That’s a quote from the great Thomas Sowell. The “do-whatever-it-takes-to-save-life” mindset is foolish. It presents lockdowns as a false dichotomy of saving lives on one side and making money on the other. Instead, it’s saving lives on one side and saving lives on the other. Which presents the most risk? Airlines allow infants to sit on a parent’s lap, even though it presents a slightly higher risk, because they know if they don’t, they’ll lose business to drivers willing to take a much higher risk on the road.

In 2004, 43,000 died on US highways but only three on commercial flights. People still drive more than they fly. Good economists are willing to risk smaller present evils by pursuing greater future goods. Bad economists (like politicians and journalists) only consider the immediate visible effects. In other words, lockdowns may cause some more immediate deaths, but they could also cause far more damage in the future. 

13. Follow those that got it right.

Taiwan learned from SARS in 2003 and decided against aggressive quarantines and lockdowns. They didn’t panic (along with South Korea and Hong Kong), all to WHO’s disdain. Japan didn’t lockdown and had fewer deaths than ultra-lockdown UK and California. 

14. Common sense and wisdom is the best policy.

Don’t panic. Balance expert advice with common sense. Care for the most vulnerable like the elderly and sick. Beware of expert overconfidence. Choose freedom over central planning. Be skeptical about the mainstream news. Keep social media accountable. 

A final word

Finally, I should say that it shouldn’t surprise us that our fatherless world has become so fragile and fearful over sickness and even death. We have shown that we’ll surrender anything if our lives are at stake. Our “girls-are-just-as-tough-as-boys” world has shown us that girls aren’t tough and neither are the boys that say they are. The solution to Covid, as is the solution to everything, is the truth found only in Scripture and the gospel found only in Christ. 

Quotables:

  1. “Proximity is usually associated with intimacy, and distance with strangeness. The public challenge at the moment is that we must learn to express our care and concern by maintaining distance, which is counter-intuitive.” (48)
  2. “As far as historic pandemics go, the coronavirus was unremarkable. What was remarkable is how we reacted.” (73)
  3. “Coronavirus didn’t shut down business. Governments did.” (129). 
  4. “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive.” C.S. Lewis (197)

3 thoughts on “Review: The Price of Panic

  1. This is interesting ” Japan didn’t lockdown and had fewer deaths than ultra-lockdown UK and California. “. What happened in Japan after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011? Panic! Not a single person died from radiation exposure, yet Japan is still fearful of nuclear and still locked down from that experience. They replaced nuclear energy with fossil fuels that kill many thousands with pollutants every years.

    • Martin,
      I can’t speak intelligently about the Japan nuclear disaster. They may be showing unnecessary panic as you say. But we should be careful not to make a mistake the authors of this book warn us about: comparing apples with oranges.

      The Daiichi disaster was followed by an evacuation, not so much a lockdown, and it was only in a very small area of the country affecting about 150,000, or .1% of the population. Compare that to locking down a country of 350 million.

  2. I LOVE when I see Between Two Cultures in my email…I know there is something offered which will edify. Thanks for the time and thought you always take to give us food for thought! Continuing to trust the Lord to meet all your needs. Elaine

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