The Nation That the Left Forgot

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

(And Other Heretical Realms)

Do you remember, back in the good old days, that whenever the subjects of socialized medicine or socialism came up, you could practically bet the farm on Sweden being held up -- incorrectly -- as an example of those ideas working? I do, too. And -- if life and liberty weren't at stake -- I'd find it quite amusing that now, whenever the subject of Sweden comes up at all, it is framed in such a way as to frighten us from following its once-unimpeachable example.

This is, of course, because that nation stands almost alone among civilized, developed countries, as having chosen not to "lock down" in order to control the course of the coronavirus epidemic within its borders.

Writing about Sweden's sane response to the pandemic, Michael Fumento raises a couple more issues pertinent to the discussion.

One of these issues, which I believe I heard during a podcast I can no longer find (and featuring Yaron Brook, Alex Epstein, or both), is that Sweden's policy decisions were not based on the pursuit of herd immunity.

While we're on the subject of Iceland, finding an image for this post was a real treat. Go here and start scrolling to see what I mean. (Image by Tim Trad, via Unsplash, license.)
This is not invoking the ... issue of "herd immunity," which many advocates of the "Swedish model" (including Sweden's own ambassador to the U.S.) have proffered, but is one that Tegnell has explicitly rejected for Sweden or any other country. [Chief Epidemiologist Anders] Tegnell speaks, instead, of "some immunity," meaning perhaps 20-25%. Herd immunity requires extremely high proportions of a population protected by vaccination, for example 85 -- 90% to prevent transmission of mumps. [original links omitted, one link added]
So, no, Sweden hasn't been acting as if the virus doesn't exist, let alone aiding its spread, as the incorrect framing of its program of voluntary social distancing and minimal government intervention would imply.

Second, Fumento draws several comparisons between Sweden and some other countries, incidentally mentioning a few other nations which have also not locked down -- and have not seen their medical facilities overwhelmed with Corona patients.
Sweden isn't the only European country that didn't lock down. Iceland didn't either, and can point to a minuscule death rate/per 100,000 population of 2.83. "We have taken a middle of the road approach, rather than lockdown," reports Kari Stefansson, founder and CEO of deCODE, an Icelandic subsidiary of U.S. biotech company Amgen. "Elementary schools, childcare and stores are still open, for example, but we have banned gatherings of more than 20 people and closed theatres and concert halls."


(Don't be deceived: There's no inherent advantage to having a small population in a tiny geographic area. The European microstates of Andorra and San Marino locked down and yet have extremely high per-capita death rates. As for any island effect, Ireland's death rate is ten times that of Iceland's.) [links omitted, bold added]]
I might add that neither Sweden nor Iceland are warm, a factor I've heard some use to dismiss the apparent success Florida and Texas have had controlling their epidemics with less severe or lasting lockdowns. But back to the roll-call of international honor: Fumento also lists Taiwan, South Korea, and Hong Kong as polities that have escaped Armageddon without locking down.

This is not to say that the propriety of mass indefinite home detention is purely a scientific matter: It is not. But it should give everyone pause to consider the fact that so many proponents of this policy claim disease control as their motive, while pretending that there is no need to admit of any evidence to the contrary, let alone consider it.

-- CAV