Category Archives: Health

Coronavirus: eight European countries are now “over the hump!”


I’ve been doing some more playing with the new-cases figures for coronavirus. I took the raw figures since March 17th from worldometers.info for the following countries: Spain, Italy, Germany, UK, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Sweden, Norway, Ireland, Denmark. I left out France, because of their recent data issues. I used Excel to smooth the figures over 7-day periods (so e.g. for March 20th I averaged the figures from March 17th to 23rd inclusive). I chose 7 days, because that is roughly the period of the “wobble” I saw in many countries’ data when I first looked into the detail a few days ago.

I came up with some interesting results. The countries divided clearly into three groups:

  • Eight in which the smoothed new cases have already peaked and are on a downward trend: Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Austria, Portugal, Norway.
  • One (Netherlands) where smoothed new cases have only very recently peaked, and it’s not clear whether or not that will be the final peak.
  • Four in which the smoothed new cases have not yet peaked: UK, Sweden, Ireland, Denmark.

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Are Coronavirus Lockdowns Working?


(Neil’s Note: This was a blog comment I made in response to Christopher Monckton’s article “Are Lockdowns Working?” at https://wattsupwiththat.com/2020/04/04/are-lockdowns-working/#comment-2956309, about the efficacy of lockdowns at lowering the rate of spread of the currently raging coronavirus epidemic. I made some further comments in replies, too).

The former mathematician in me decided it was about time to use the data we have to make a direct assessment of Christopher Monckton’s hypothesis that the lockdowns are working.

What I did was look, not at comparisons between countries, but at the graphs of total cases and daily new cases which are readily available on worldometers.info. As long as the reporting of cases within a country is done in the same way each day, I should be able to make reasonably reliable comparisons between the numbers of cases in a country at different stages of the epidemic. I simply picked the top 12 European countries in terms of total number of cases, and looked at the graphs for each.

First up was Spain. Something interesting jumped right out of the paper at me when I looked at the total cases graph. The curve comes in two parts; an exponential part, followed by a pretty much linear part. The transition in Spain was quite sharp, around March 24th. The daily new cases graph shows it, too; new cases were increasing exponentially up to about that date, and since then have been increasing far less, or even static. The Spaniards seem to have brought in their lockdown very quickly on March 13th and 14th, so the change in the regime came about 10 days after lockdown. Not at all far from the incubation period of the virus, of which the best estimate I have heard is 6 to 14 days.

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Why the State Shouldn’t Manage a Crisis


Why the State Shouldn’t Manage a Crisis

By Duncan Whitmore

Many libertarians, especially at lewrockwell.com, have written of their scepticism to the draconian responses of states around the world to the recent outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19). It is not difficult to share this scepticism given that at least some analyses – particularly of infections on cruise ships, which, given the unavoidably close social proximity, present the closest thing to a worst case scenario – suggest there is little cause for any heightened alarm. Indeed, for the very vast majority of us, there is probably more to be feared from state overreaction than there is from the virus itself. Even mainstream commentators, such as Matthew Parris in Saturday’s Times, are beginning to question the wisdom of trashing your economy to prevent the spread of an infection that is, at least at the moment, affecting only a relative minority of people of advanced age and/or with underlying health conditions (in common with many other inflictions). States always have ulterior motives when dealing with (apparent) crises as they always see them as an opportunity to expand the ambit of their power over the populace, given that a scared people is nearly always willing to sacrifice its liberty for the sake of security. In fact, if the true medical seriousness of this current virus turns out to be only a hill of beans then it may well have served as a dress rehearsal that has merely tested our pliability for some later calamity.

This essay, however, will not concern whether the spread of COVID-19 is quite the crisis it is being made out to be. Instead, let us assume, for argument’s sake, that the world was to be threatened by a very real and very serious pandemic threat. Would such a disaster warrant stronger, co-ordinated, globalised solutions managed by states and enhanced state powers to deal with the problem? Read more

The backstory behind the war on cars in the UK


On May 20th, 2019, I gave a talk to the Libertarian Alliance about the damaging political policies being imposed on car drivers in the UK, and the history behind them. Normally, these talks are recorded on video. But on this occasion, an unfortunate combination of circumstances prevented a recording. As this subject is a topical one – and becoming more so by the day – I thought it appropriate to create a “transcript” of the talk, re-constructed from my notes.

Introduction

On April 8th, 2019, London mayor Sadiq Khan’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) went live in the Congestion Charge area in central London. It now costs the driver £12.50 a day, on top of the congestion charge, to drive in this zone a diesel car built before September 2015, or a petrol car built before 2006. This is an outrageous amount; and it also has to be paid at week-ends! This scheme is planned to be extended to all of the area inside North and South Circular Roads in October 2021. And after that, who knows?

Beyond this, there is talk of charging drivers of diesel cars to enter any of 35 or so cities around the UK. Some cities, like Southampton, have decided not to do this. Others, like Birmingham, are pressing on. Meanwhile, on May 9th the Times began a campaign claiming that “air pollution on the streets is poisoning 2.6 million schoolchildren,” and that this is due to “clogged roads”.

And yet, a recent (May 2nd) Sky News poll showed that more than 50 per cent of a random sample of people in the UK were “unwilling to significantly reduce the amount they drive, fly and eat meat,” either to combat climate change or to protect the environment in a more general sense. This is evidence of a huge disconnect between the political classes and the people!

There is a long backstory behind all this, which not many people seem to be aware of. In the last two years, I’ve managed to pull a lot of this backstory together. So, tonight I’ll bring it out into the open for you. In the process, I’ll identify what I call the Ten Deadly Dishonesties. These are attitudes and ploys that anti-car and other green campaigners have used, many of them more than once, in the course of their political machinations. Read more

Universal Healthcare – an Economic Disaster


Given the recent announcement of a new, long term plan for the NHS it seems like an opportune moment to revisit the topic of universal healthcare. The essay below is a new version of a previously published piece, with some sections revised and elaborated, while figures and references have been updated.

Universal Healthcare – an Economic Disaster

By Duncan Whitmore

“Universal healthcare” (that is, an alleged “right” to “healthcare” provided in some form by the state) is a mainstay of social democratic thought – so much so, in fact, that the UK’s NHS is taken as a given, with any kind of proposed healthcare reform couched in terms of improving “our” state-funded health service rather than ever considering whether it should exist in the first place.

However the consequences of universal healthcare are grave indeed, including spiralling costs and ever increasing numbers of sick – pretty much the effects of the welfare state in general. This is without even considering the ethics of forcibly confiscating the money of one person to benefit another, although this essay will focus on the economic aspects of what is, in effect, the socialisation of medicine. Read more

School Shootings: A Moral-Health, Not Mental-Health, Problem


By ilana mercer

The tele-experts assert that to do what he did—kill 10 and maim 13, at Santa Fe High School, in Texas—Dimitrios Pagourtzis had to be insane.

Likewise, Nikolas Cruz—killer of 17 in Parkland, Florida—and many shooters before him: All were victims of mental disorder. Or, so say the experts.

Come to think of it, the structure of argument coming from conservative and progressive corners is the same:

Conservatives blame mental health.

Progressives blame the National Rifle Association.

Both factions see the locus of responsibility for these murder sprees as beyond the reach and bailiwick of the individual and of what were once formative and corrective institutions: the church, for example.

As the language deployed in the culture might suggest, crimes aren’t committed, but are caused. Perpetrators don’t do the crime, but are driven to do their deeds by a confluence of uncontrollable factors.

The paradox at the heart of the disease theory of delinquency is that causal theoretical explanations are invoked only after bad deeds have been committed. Good deeds, however extravagant, are in no need of extenuation.

The evidence our tele-therapists advance for a killer’s “madness” is … the murder or murders he has committed.

Whatever the logical fallacy the psychiatrists commit—circular reasoning or backward reasoning—thinking people can agree: This is bad logic.

Fact: When they suggest a shooter is sick, they do so based on the fact that he committed murder.

Let’s run with this “logic”: The reductio ad absurdum of what the mental-health mavens are saying is that to kill, an individual must be deranged.

Does that not imply that the default condition of humanity is goodness?

Indeed, evil has been cast as a symptom of illness. It’s certainly so if to judge by the language used by the experts.

This is dangerous, because evil responds to punishment, not to kid gloves, which is what medicalizing misbehavior amounts to.

The more we medicalize dysfunctional conduct, the more of it we will get.

Why? Because the therapist’s couch—the chaise longue sofa in the movies—or his hallucinogens are a lot more pleasant than the hard work involved in reforming conduct and character.

Pleasant is a reward. Reward evil and you’ll get more of it.

That’s where the disease theory of delinquency leads. It rules out evil and brings us closer to marginalizing goodness.

By all means, scan the brains of shooters in search of significant pathology. You’ll find none—not when variables like drug-taking are controlled for, and when the absence of baseline measurements for comparison purposes is factored-in.

Moreover, most individuals classified as mentally ill do not murder.

See, evil is part of the human condition, always has been, always will be. Evil can’t be wished away, treated away, medicated away or legislated away. Evil is here to stay.

Bad people—little Damiens included—do bad things. All the more so when barriers to bad behavior are removed across the board, and when everything goes.

The infamous Nikolas Cruz was a feral boy bereft of family, friends, faith and church affiliation. Cruz was loosely attached to a sprawling, impersonal, school system that taught him and his peers about safe sex, but shielded them from the Ten Commandments.

His example of systemic institutional failure typifies instances of school shootings across America.

Failure of state institutions—FBI, education and social services—and failure of familial and faith-based institutions came together to dreadful effect. The latter, in particular, are no longer there for bad boys in the forceful, firm way they need.

Ultimately, the disease theory of delinquency is as morally fraught as it is logically wrong. You will never solve pervasive problems of character and morality, personal and societal, by medicalizing them.

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Ilana Mercer has been writing a weekly, paleolibertarian column since 1999. She is the author of “Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America From Post-Apartheid South Africa (2011) & “The Trump Revolution: The Donald’s Creative Destruction Deconstructed (June, 2016). She’s on Twitter, Facebook, Gab & YouTube

The Crumbling Tower of Chaos, Known as the NHS


By Andy Duncan, Vice-Chairman of Mises UK

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), or as I prefer to call them, the Institute for Fiscal Stupidity, have proposed a 10% rises in UK taxes to further feed the ravenous maw of the useless Black Hole otherwise known as the communist National Health Service (NHS).

What kinds of economics courses do IFS staffers go on, anyway?

Let’s suppose we live in a handsome fairy land, where the UK government steals another 10% of the entire economy, without that seriously degrading and undermining that economy. Do they really genuinely think that a socialist organisation like the NHS can take that money and spend it wisely?

Or will it all just get wasted, like most of the current mountain of money they currently consume? Let us imagine a further Snowflake La-La-Land where absolutely everyone in the NHS is a complete well-meaning angel, including its hundreds of thousands of handsomely paid bureaucrats, who really do want to improve the NHS rather than award themselves and their drug-company friends even higher amounts in salaries, pensions, and expenses.

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