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!”
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.
Hence, one assumes, why those EXPERTS GRANT ACKNOWLEDGES WERE RIGHT WHEN HE WASN’T .. DID SO.
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.