Look at the Long Term and Don't Focus on One Variable
By David Henderson
Cyril Morong, an Associate Professor of Economics at Northeast Lakeview College in Universal City, Texas, sent me a letter that he had sent to the Wall Street Journal. The Journal decided not to publish it and I got Cyril’s permission to run it here.
His letter was in response to an interview that Tunku Varadarajan did with Dr. Jay Bhattacharya and Professor (not Mr.) Martin Kulldorf in the Journal. It’s titled “Epidemiologists Stray from the Herd,” WSJ, October 23, 2020. (October 24-25 in the print edition.)
The paragraph he singled out was this:
Mr. Kulldorff says the Covid-19 restrictions violate two cardinal principles of public health. First, “you can’t just look at Covid, you have to look holistically at health and consider the collateral damage.” Among the damage: a worsening incidence of cardiovascular disease and cancer and an alarming decline in immunization. “People aren’t going to the doctor,” he says. Dr. Bhattacharya also points to the suspension of tuberculosis programs in India and of malaria-eradication programs elsewhere.
Mr. Kulldorff’s second principle: “You can’t just look short-term.” Dr. Bhattacharya says we will “be counting the health harms from these lockdowns for a very long time.” He says anti-Covid efforts are sowing the seeds of other epidemics: “Pertussis—whooping cough—will come back. Polio will come back because of the cessation of vaccination campaigns. All these diseases that we’ve made substantial progress in will start to come back.”
Epidemiologist Martin Kulldorff seems to channel Henry Hazlitt, the author of the book Economics in One Lesson, in stating two cardinal principles of public health (“Epidemiologists Stray From the Covid Herd,” Opinion, Oct. 24.) Hazlitt said “The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.” One of Kulldorff’s principles is “you can’t just look at Covid, you have to look holistically at health and consider the collateral damage.” The other is “You can’t just look short-term.” Both Hazlitt and Kulldorff say you can’t focus on how policy affects just one group or disease and that the long run matters, not just the short run. Maybe more of our leaders, including both politicians and scientists, should read Hazlitt.