The High Cost of “Covidization”

John wrote yesterday about how the case for the lab leak hypothesis for the origin of COVID is now more firmly locked down than a university president’s brain. Now we come to add a brand new paper, circulating in pre-print form on SSRN (Social Science Research Network) that is devastating about the collateral costs of our COVID policy madness, especially the lockdowns.

The paper is titled “How Did the COVID Pandemic Response Harm Society? A Global Evaluation and State of Knowledge Review (2020-21),” and was written by Kevin Bardosh of the University of Washington & University of Edinburgh. (Bardosh as authored or co-authored several studies challenging COVID orthodoxy over the last couple years.) This study is what is known as a “meta-analysis,” that is, a synthesis of studies of various particular aspects of the subject. (A layman would call this “literature review,” but academia requires the use of some kind of specialized term. By whatever term, this is the same method of the periodic climate reports from the UN; in other words, this is a widely accepted method in the scientific and academic community. The only people who don’t use this method are government policy makers.)

Here is the abstract (with highlights added):

Early in the Covid pandemic concerns were raised that lockdown and other non-pharmaceutical interventions would cause significant multidimensional harm to society. This paper comprehensively evaluates the global state of knowledge on these adverse social impacts, with an emphasis on their type and magnitude during 2020 and 2021. A harm framework was developed spanning 10 categories: health, economy, income, food security, education, lifestyle, intimate relationships, community, environment and governance. The analysis synthesizes 600 publications with a focus on meta-analyses, systematic reviews, global reports and multi-country studies. This cumulative academic research shows that the collateral damage of the pandemic response was substantial, wide-ranging and will leave behind a legacy of harm for hundreds of millions of people in the years ahead. Many original predictions are broadly supported by the research data including: a rise in non-Covid excess mortality, mental health deterioration, child abuse and domestic violence, widening global inequality, food insecurity, lost educational opportunities, unhealthy lifestyle behaviours, social polarization, soaring debt, democratic backsliding and declining human rights. Young people, individuals and countries with lower socioeconomic status, women and those with pre-existing vulnerabilities were hit hardest. Societal harms should challenge the dominant mental model of the pandemic response: it is likely that many Covid policies caused more harm than benefit, although further research is needed to address knowledge gaps and explore policy trade-offs, especially at a country-level. Planning and response for future global health emergencies must integrate a wider range of expertise to account for and mitigate societal harms associated with government intervention.

The complete study, like this abstract, is mostly written in the bland prose of academia, though this one is mostly free of specialized jargon and is therefore readable to the layman. But even with this understated prose style, there are devastating findings in the complete study. And like many academic articles, sometimes the best action is found in the footnotes. At one early point in the paper, Bardosh notes that COVID policymakers were resistant to considering the kind of tradeoffs this paper explores, and dismissed any caution against collateral harms from lockdowns and other measures. In a footnote he explains:

One appears to have been a form of motivated reasoning (which I call covidization) that over-emphasized the benefits and necessity of Covid interventions and downplayed their risks and societal costs. Covidization has meant that people were much more willing to accept greater multidimensional societal harm for hypothetical benefits against the virus.

“Covidization” is a term we should file away for future use, as it is certain our overlords will try it again when the next excuse for a power grab comes along.

And the discussion at the end of the paper includes this smackdown:

This should support a higher level of healthy skepticism about simplistic narratives and technocratic governance that aim for unrealistic goals presented to the public as urgent moral imperatives.

Even if you aren’t interested in reading a long academic paper like this, do the author a favor and click on the SSRN link for it and consider downloading it as a PDF, as the views and downloads are tabulated, and it means something when a paper on SSRN racks up a high number of views/downloads.

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