Saturday, April 4, 2020

What Is Counted And What Is Not

     Not long ago, in promulgating his entirely unConstitutional lockdown orders over New York State, the scrofulous Andrew Cuomo said that “if it saves even one life, I’ll be happy.”

     I have a question: How is he to know?

     Remember Barack Hussein Obama’s “jobs created or saved” scam? You should. It was Obama’s way of claiming that his “stimulus” measures were “saving the economy.” The “gentlemen of the press,” any of whom would have wiped Obama’s ass for him, so completely enamored of the man were they all, let him get away with it.

     It’s all about what is counted and what isn’t: two figures that often – usually? – depend on who’s doing the counting.

     One who seeks hard information about the overall health of a nation must start by looking at daily death rates and the trends therein. What can we learn thus?

     Plainly, the crudest datum is how many deaths per thousand of population the nation has recorded. If there’s disaggregation by nominal cause of death, we can get some sense for that. However, there are ambiguities, uncertainties, and exercises of discretion buried in any such array of putative causes. Ferreting them out is usually impossible without access to details far lower than those amassed in statistical presentations.

     Consider a typical but interesting case. Smith has died by his own hand: a suicide. His method may be of interest to cranks who seek to ban firearms or some assortment of drugs, but no further than that. The key fact is that Smith chose to take his own life. His demise is thus included in the death rates as a suicide; the charts tell us nothing further about it.

     But why did Smith choose to kill himself? Isn’t that a more significant datum than the mere fact of his death?

  • Was Smith depressed over his financial situation?
  • Was he hopelessly addicted to alcohol or another drug?
  • Did his wife empty his bank account and abandon him?
  • Was he in terrible, uncontrollable pain from an incurable disease?

     Those are only a few of the reasons Smith might have had for killing himself...and he is only one of roughly 50,000 suicides that will occur in these United States in 2020. If Jones wants to reduce the suicide rate, it is far more important that he know and address Smith’s reasons than know how many Smiths will attempt to suicide.

     Consider another interesting case, hopefully less typical. Davis, an AIDS sufferer, has just died. What does his death certificate say about the cause of his death?

     If the listed cause of death is AIDS, the coroner has scamped his duty. No one dies of AIDS: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Death is caused by some disease AIDS has made possible: an opportunistic infection, a cancer such as Kaposi’s Sarcoma, or something else virulent that can afflict a patient with a destroyed immune system.

     Yet quite a number of death certificates issued in Third World countries list the cause as AIDS...because aid money from First World nations depends on the rate of AIDS affliction.

     So it’s not enough to know the nominal death rates, nor the rates of deaths officially attributed to particular causes.

     A couple of commentators have emphasized the importance of deaths in excess of prevailing rates as measures of the significance of a new threat. Their logic is thus: if the prevailing rate before threat T emerged was X, but since threat T has risen to X+ΔX, then the increment ΔX can be attributed, prima facie, to threat T. It seems sensible at first...but only at first. What it omits is the list of factors that are beyond statistical control.

     In our current circumstances, “threat T” is the Wuhan virus (a.k.a. Covid-19). But both the virus and the responses to it have impacted the statistical universe of American death rates. The nationwide shutdown of enterprise, social mechanisms, and much else has undoubtedly had an effect on death rates. How large? We cannot know:

  • Did Smith suicide out of loneliness or financial despondency?
  • Did Jones die from not being able to afford medicines or food?
  • Did Davis die because local paramedics are badly overburdened?
  • Did White kill his own family out of lockdown-induced insanity?

     Those are some of the secondary consequences of the “social distancing / stay at home” regime we currently suffer. Yet as real as they are, it is practically impossible to measure them – and they contribute to the “excess deaths” we suffer in this era of the Wuhan virus.

     There is no way to disentangle the secondary-consequence deaths from the rest of the statistics. There is no way to know, were the “social distancing / stay at home” regime not to have been imposed, whether the “excess deaths” would be higher or lower than we currently suffer. These are “experiments” we cannot perform, in the nature of things.

     Neither can we trust the many government-paid “experts” who orate to us daily to be honest, much less correct, in their pronouncements.

     Today’s calendar date, April 4, is one of the most famous dates in all of fiction. It’s the day on which 1984, George Orwell’s novel of a totalitarian future England, begins. A snippet from this classic is relevant:

     Down in the street the wind flapped the torn poster to and fro, and the word INGSOC fitfully appeared and vanished. Ingsoc. The sacred principles of Ingsoc. Newspeak, doublethink, the mutability of the past. Winston felt as though he were wandering in the forests of the sea bottom, lost in a monstrous world where he himself was the monster. He was alone. The past was dead, the future was unimaginable. What certainty had he that a single human creature now living was on his side? And what way of knowing that the dominion of the Party would not endure for ever? Like an answer, the three slogans on the white face of the Ministry of Truth came back to him:
     He took a twenty-five cent piece out of his pocket. There, too, in tiny clear lettering, the same slogans were inscribed, and on the other face of the coin the head of Big Brother. Even from the coin the eyes pursued you. On coins, on stamps, on the covers of books, on banners, on posters, and on the wrappings of a cigarette packet — everywhere. Always the eyes watching you and the voice enveloping you. Asleep or awake, working or eating, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or in bed — no escape. Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull.

     Reflect on that, Gentle Reader. Reflect on what our acceptance of this “social distancing / stay at home” lockdown portends. Reflect on what those who worship power could do with such a regime — what the vilest members of the political class surely will do with it, given time and opportunity.

     To enforce our isolation and subjugation will require the functional equivalent of Orwell’s telescreens. Many Americans voluntarily carry one around with them – and state governments are already using them to monitor our movements. Despite a complete lack of Constitutional or charter authority to do so, law enforcement agencies are pursuing and harassing Americans who choose to ignore the decrees from “our rulers.” Do they confine themselves to disapproval, or are they using force? What becomes of those who refuse to submit?

     What will be counted, and what will not?


Andy Texan said...

I live in a very large metropolis in Texas. We have a stay at home order like most others. Fearful folks seldom leave their domiciles. Others (like myself) go on like normal albeit somewhat more careful of interactions. There is no real push back from authorities (after all this is the (late) great state of Texas). But most people comply without protest (including all the Republican office holders). Some in fact revel in the virus statistics as justification of hysterical and obedient behavior; preening in their virtue and moral superiority. Totally disgusting.

FredLewers said...

I live in east texas. In the country. You can make a cow move by impinging on their 'space' to a point. But if you put that peaceful vegetarian beast in a corner you've got a 1200-2000 pound problem. Gun owners are kind of like that. They'll walk away, they'll stay at home if the perceived benefit isn't worth the hassle. But if you put the type of man that carries a personal firearm into an untenable situation, somebody's getting shot... And the first one gets you into legal trouble. All the rest are free.