On Damien Grant On Damien Grant On Covid-19, Hindsight, And Playing Russian Roulette With A Semi-Automatic Aimed At One’s Own Foot


Like a diminishing quotient of New Zealanders, I have the occasional expectation of finding something enthusing and enlightening in my Sunday newspaper. I also expect there is Damien Grant.

Sunday’s Star Times was no exception, and his column therein makes for frankly bizarre reading. In it, he sets out at some length, and by his own admission, just how repeatedly wrong he was at seemingly every turn about Covid-19.  I give him credit for that, it’s rarely an easy thing to do to admit to being even somewhat wrong. Let alone, as I say, about just about everything.

Although what he THEN does, is spend the last few paragraphs attempting to justify how despite all that he had aforementioned … he was not, in fact, wrong – but rather, everybody else (i.e. the no-doubt ‘collectivist’ Government of New Zealand and all in favour of Her) was instead.

By this stage, I have basically come to the conclusion that Damien Grant is being a contrarian – particularly when he writes, although probably not just restricted to that sphere

I mean … he’s a libertarian, over the age of 15; who is working in an industry whose key characteristic is the ongoing failure of private individuals and capitalist enterprises. That is literally his bread and butter, and he somehow thinks “MORE OF THAT KIND OF THING!”

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Oh wait, I think I just reasoned my way to why a liquidator might want MOAR CAPITALISM. Disregard that bit ..

Anyway, I can’t fathom why on EARTH a man would write a column about “How I Was Consistently Wrong At Every Turn On Covid-19”, specifically emphasize that he was opposing highly informed expert opinion that was correct , presumably partially because it was “collectivist” …

And then conclude by saying that because of “fat tail risk” [effectively the risk of catastrophic negative consequences as the result of an (in)action], New Zealand shouldn’t have done all the stuff that made us a success –

i.e. should have acted as if Grant was right … every single time … particularly the times that contradicted the other times.

Now yes, sure, ‘risk of really bad thing happening’ is an acceptable thing to factor into calculations when it comes to what one intends to do facing a complex and changing situation.


But straight-up … why is it that his definition of ‘risk of things going VERY badly’ is restricted to “the economy might do rather poorly”, rather than “THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE MAY DIE”.

The very linchpin of Grant’s analysis – that one should not do the thing that might lead to Really Bad Thing Happening – ALSO militates that one should not do … a rather large array of things other than what New Zealand did. [i.e. exactly what Sweden, the UK, USA, etc. etc. etc. decided to do instead, largely in evidently futile bids to stave off economic slowdowns]

Because it’d be WORSE.

The evidence from overseas is pretty clear about this: those countries that DID NOT engage in a proper lockdown and/or other rather serious measures [open question as to whether you count Taiwan as having ‘serious measures’ – although I suspect Grant wouldn’t be keen on theirs..] … have wound up with BOTH a) a public health crisis AND b) an economic injury of notable proportions .

Why? Turns out that even when you DON’T lockdown .. people don’t go out and spend money so much , wind up taking time off work , and other things that aren’t great for economy

So, again, what’s the real ‘fat tail(ed) risk” here ? That we wind up with both a) what Grant’s concerned might have happened thanks to our successful pandemic response [i.e. economic impairment] AND b) what Grant hasn’t considered [i.e. significant health impairment]

From where I’m sitting, Grant can go on about playing Russian Roulette all he likes – but NOT adopting the stratagem New Zealand did is tantamount to playing with a gun with five bullets , not one.

In fact, it’s worse than that.

Going down Grant’s “we shouldn’t have done [whatever it is at any given stage of the pandemic]” approach … we’d have been playing Russian Roulette with a semi-automatic instead of a revolver.

New Zealand, by contrast – by doing, it would appear, the literal opposite of what Grant thought was a good call at every step of the process up to and including ‘Hindsight’

… instead chose to remove the firing pin.


  1. Your link directs to a reading list of recipes. Tasty, but nothing to do with a newspaper baboon. I like the photo though. Very 1930’s Spanish Civil war nobel prize just round the corner type posture. Maybe he’s just wondering where his mum keeps the ashtray.
    But anyways, the thing we are missing here is that both alternatives work in our favour. Therefore, and notwithstanding, it is more like playing russian roulette with a beanbag shotgun aimed at your face. The upside of that is so many people are terminally stupid here in NZ that most of them will miss.
    Did you know the safest place to hide from covid now is on a bus? I often see buses running past with just the driver at the front, and one passenger in the far end back seat. Safer than a car. Safer than going to the supermarket.

  2. Fron the World clock total deaths world wide in this world wide pandemic year with 7 days to go as of 9.55PM is 57.699 million. Last years total was 58.6 million , so 900 000 to catch up in the last week. Probably will go a wee bit past but by less than normal annual increase , not more.
    When the news of the new virus first came out our response was undoubtably the right one from what was known at the time, which was basically nothing except it looked bad. But in hindsight the normality of overall fatalities after a year of the disease running rampant through overseas populations it is clearly not as devastating as was feared. And the measures taken closing down economies in failed attempts to contain it are starting to look worse than the disease.
    hindsight will be clearer at a little more distance , but it looks like it might have been an overreaction. Those overall mortality figures are hard to ignore.
    D J S

    • 1.72 million covid deaths is not devastating? What would NZ stats look like if we kept, as you say, the economy open( open borders)?
      We will never know the answer to that but the epidemiologists tell us the infection rate would be a far greater ratio.
      What we can see is that the countries that took measures to combat covid compared to those that arrogantly sought heard immunity have saved more lives than the latter have lost.

    • There are lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics… A readily available vehicle for totally misinterpreting, and malleable enough to make whatever case one wishes to, simply by leaving out certain, inconvenient statistics.. The real issue, to those of us who are particularly vulnerable to this particular lung affecting virus, is the way it is constantly mutating, initially to make itself much more contagious ( as per Gt Britain)… At which point does the mutations start to make this into a more virulent entity as well? Yes, the Spanish flu killed more people than coronavirus, up to this point, but that, I suspect, is not a static situation.. At that time, there wasn’t even penicillin to combat it.. Today we have a wealth of knowledge, which this virus is challenging to the maximum, and if the mutation rate is as fast as has been reported, will continue to be a challenge, simply to keep pace with the mutations.. Conspiricy theories aside, this looks like it may be a problem foe a long while yet… I hope not, for all our sakes, but I’m not making any assumptions just yet as to when, and if we get a handle on it…

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