And the Stupidity Continues

Scott Alexander's Adumbrations Of Aducanumab is a great review of FDA snafus – with deeper lessons about regulation in general. Yes the outcome is dumb, but incentives are to blame. That’s important to understand if we are ever to fix this mess.

And the Stupidity Continues

By Capital Thinking • Issue #908 • View online

WWII started badly for the United States. Our tanks blew up. Our torpedoes were duds. Our airplanes were outclassed.

Many commanders were incompetent, soldiers green, supplies chaotic. We lost a lot of battles. But we learned.

The lessons of each mistake were incorporated, incompetent commanders sacked, soldiers learned their terrible craft.

-John H. Cochrane

Adumbrations of FDA

John H. Cochrane | The Grumpy Economist:

Delta is the fourth wave of covid, and amazingly the US policy response is even more irresolute than the first time around.

Our government is like a child, sent next door to get a cup of sugar, who gets as far as the front stoop and then wanders off following a puppy. The policy response is now focused on the most medically ineffective but most politically symbolic step, mask mandates.

All all-night disco in Provincetown turns in to a superspreader event so… we make school kids wear masks in outdoor summer camps?

Masks are several decimal places less effective than vaccines, and less effective than “social distance” in the first place.*

Go to that all night disco, unvaccinated, but wear a mask? Please.  

If we’re going to do NPI (non pharmaceutical interventions), policy other than vaccines, the level of policy and public discussion has tragically regressed since last summer. Last summer, remember, we were all talking about testing.

Alex Tabarrok and Paul Romer were superb on how fast tests can reduce the reproduction rate, even with just voluntary isolation following tests. Other countries had competent test and tracing regimes. Have we built that in a year? No. (Are we ready to test and trace the next bug? Double no.)

What happened to the paper-strip tests you could buy for $2.00 at Walgreen’s, get instant results, and maybe decide it’s a bad idea to go to the all night dance party? Interest faded in November. (Last I looked, the sellers and FDA were still insisting on prescriptions and an app sign up, so it cost $50 and insurance “paid for” it.)

What happened to detailed local data? Did anyone ever get it through the FDA’s and CDCs thick skulls that even imperfect but cheap and fast tests can be used to slow spread of disease?

Last summer, we were talking about super-spreader events, and the idea that you don’t have to have disastrous lockdowns of everything but maybe packed all-night disco parties are a bad idea? (Reopen smart, I wrote at the time, for example here)

Today, silence. Masks. Nice big symbolic masks. Period.

And then we indulge another round of America’s favorite pastime, answers in search of a question. Delta is spreading, so… extend the renter eviction moratorium. People who haven’t paid rent in a year can stay, landlords be damned.

Usually our government mandates A shall give to B because it isn’t willing to spend the money directly. Hilariously in this case it’s because the government is simply unable to shovel rent money out the door, even to the scammers who have gotten so much unemployment money.

Somehow throwing people who don’t pay rent into “the street” is our major source of covid spread, but releasing a wave of illegal undocumented migrants into “the community” in the next story does not, and the same people free to go to all night disco parties is not a danger. (Disclaimer: I’m all for immigration, but not for hypocrisy.)

By and large the Administration and commenters can’t even bother to pretend that stopping evictions has anything to do with stopping the spread of covid, the only source of government’s authority. (One example I just happened to hear as I was writing this, PBS’ interview of Secretary Fudge.) The rent is too damn high is all you need to know.

In the talk “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” I hear, basically, resignation. We offered you vaccines. If you won’t take them, fine, we’re done.

We’re back really to what quite a few people argued for and were pilloried for in March 2020. Let it sweep through, get to herd immunity, it peters out, bury the dead and go on with life.

The good news. A reproduction rate of 6 means Delta will spread really fast, peak really fast, and decline fast.

The bad news: a lot of people will needlessly get sick and quite a few will die.

The economy will slow down as people voluntarily pull back. Evolution got one more step ahead of bureaucratic bungling. A variant that transmits even more easily through vaccinated people can’t be far behind.

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Adumbrations of FDA

Photo credit: Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash