Disregard of the empirical; optimism of the will: The abandonment of good government in the covid-19 crisis



The ‘lockdown’ policy adopted in response to an outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 has been the worst example of government failure in peacetime history. Justified by the perceived grave emergency, lockdown was based on epidemiological and medical advice at the heart of which was a Report by the Imperial College Covid-19 Response Team. This Report predicted 510,000 deaths on the basis of absurd assumptions about a zero probability event and advocated a ‘suppression’ policy the empirical possibility of implementing which was never remotely adequately assessed. But though it had consequences of a quantitatively different order to other government failures, lockdown was qualitatively merely an example of the common form of such failures. The work of assessing empirical possibility is rarely adequately addressed, and difficulties of implementation are dismissed by what will be called the ‘ceteris paribus reasoning’ which follows from, as the Report makes particularly clear, an inchoately communist belief in political will.

Keywords. Covid-19 pandemic; Ronald coase; Government failure; Blackboard economics; Ceteris Paribus reasoning.

JEL. F51; F52; P16; P26; P48.


Covid-19 pandemic; Ronald coase; Government failure; Blackboard economics; Ceteris Paribus reasoning.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1453/jepe.v9i1.2291


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