Who Wants To Go To Work?

I don’t especially want to go to work. I’m doing just fine, sitting in my office at home and telecommuting. As long as I keep getting paid with money that has sufficient purchasing power in the economy, I’d just as soon not have to drive to someone else’s office to do what I can to across the hall from my kitchen. (And my coffee is better than the Folger’s junk that seems to infest so many workplace coffee pots.)

Looking around the neighborhood, I can see several other professionals who have moved their work into their homes and who are continuing to do well economically. Other neighbors aren’t doing so well. They normally engage in businesses, trades, and professions that require close one-on-one interactions with people. Some of them haven’t earned anything for weeks.

Gentle Reader, can you guess which group is more favorably disposed to reopening the economy quickly?

On the leading edge of the Wuhan virus pandemic, most Americans were willing to put up with some significant disruptions in their personal lives in order to protect the public health. There really was a sense of “we’re in this all together,” but that has dissipated as people who want to feed their families are told by a governor that they can’t buy seeds to plant in their gardens because of a virus lockdown. Another governor’s sending Covid19-infected patients to old folks’ homes has not increased the public’s trust in government’s competence either. Thus, we have a large group of Americans who are wanting to and are ready to go back to work—and who are losing or have lost patience with the “experts.”

Meanwhile, those of us doing “essential” work have been paid all along—at least so far—but now, the lack of tax revenue is eating away the ability of many states and localities to make payroll. Oh, and advertising is now down, resulting in media layoffs. It may be that some of the less protected members of the “essentials” may begin to favor reopening the economy as well.

So, who is still in favor of broad, non-targeted lockdowns? Cui bono?

That should be an interesting topic for research by a good investigative reporter.

You know, I once saw a movie about investigative reporters. The line in the film that helped them put their big story together was the advice, “Follow the money.” I’ll bet that would be good advice for this story.

Team Kimberlin Post of the Day

When you’re writing about a bunch of psycho, you can wind up writing about psychology. This TKPOTD appeared six years ago today.

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This post is about Team Kimberlin and psychology, that is to say, their crude attempts at the practice of psychology. One of the characteristics that I noticed fairly soon into my coverage of these folks was their continued reference to the alleged mental illnesses of those who wrote about them. This has included such absurd claims as that someone might be dangerously violent because he has ADD. Or that another person has substance abuse problems. I’m supposed to have OCD.

According to the DSM-IV (that’s the psychologists’ diagnostic bible), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a ego dystonic disorder. That means that the sufferer actually suffers because he is distressed by his own behavior. I am pleased to say that I’m not usually bothered by my own behavior, so if I have anything like OCD, it would be Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder which is ego syntonic, meaning that the behavior fits with the person’s self-image and doesn’t cause him distress. Someone with OCPD is not aware of anything abnormal. He explains why his actions are rational, it is usually impossible to convince him otherwise, and he tends to derive pleasure from his obsessions or compulsions. Those around him suffer.

I’m told neither OCD nor OCPD fits me; however, Jerk NOS has been suggested by a friend who is a psychologist. I think she was joking.

But back to Team Kimberlin …

If I remember my Pysch 101 from 1966 (or there about) correctly, Sigmund Freud defined psychological projection as a defense mechanism by which a person unconsciously rejects his own unacceptable attributes by ascribing them to objects or persons in the outside world instead. Projection involves psychically expelling one’s negative qualities onto others. It’s a common psychological process, and I suppose projecting one’s own propensity for violence and lying or one’s own obsessive behaviors onto others makes it easier to live with a corrupt personality.

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Crazy People Are Dangerous™

Crudely Modeling Herd Immunity

So what is this “herd immunity” that people keep talking about?

It works something like this:

Adam becomes infected with some disease. We’ll call it Batpox for this example. It turns out that the statistics of Batpox’s transmissibility are such that it is about as contagious as measles. Measles has a basic reproduction number (R0) of about 12. When Adam goes to visit his friends Betty and Chuck, the odds are high that they will both become infected as well—unless they are already immune because of a previous encounter with the disease or a vaccine. OTOH, if enough of the people Adam contacts while he’s sick are immune to Batpox, the disease isn’t likely to spread any further. A population has reached herd immunity for a disease when enough of the population is immune to prevent the disease from easily spreading.

The percentage of population required for herd immunity is greater for larger values of R0. The formula for the approximate percentage of immune individuals necessary for herd immunity is

X = (1 – 1/Ro) X 100

For measles X is about 92 %. That’s why it’s important for kids to be vaccinated in order to get the number of immune individuals as high as possible.

The initial estimate of R0 for the Wuhan virus was around 2.7. That would imply that we’d need about 63 % of the population to be immune in order to achieve herd immunity. However, the Real World data for Covid-19 shows much lower values for R0. That’s values, plural, because different places have different factors that affect transmissibility.

Take a look at these charts of how R0 has varied over time in various states. (Source: rt.live) The solid lines represent the calculated values for R0 and the shaded areas around the lines show the confidence intervals for the calculations based on the amount and quality of the data. These plots are for entire states; the New York and Michigan numbers would be even lower with the effects of New York City and Detroit removed.

Note that these states have all achieved an R0 of about 1. Plugging that value into our formula for herd immunity gives a required immunity percentage of … pokes at calculator …  zero.

Now, I’ve been engaged in modeling here, and we know how problematic that can be, but I believe this gives us a hint about why people are ready to get back to their normal lives in large swaths of the country. Certainly, a value of R0 below 1 explains why the death toll hasn’t spiked in Georgia.

There are still places in the country struggling to contain the Wuhan virus outbreak, and they should be supported in their efforts. However, the data support letting the rest of the country get on with our lives.

I’m So Old …

… I remember when they taught this sort of stuff in ECON 101.

What happens when people are out of work and lots of stores are closed? Income tax and sales tax revenue drops. Bloomberg is reporting that New York’s tax collections have dropped by over two-thirds. Meanwhile, over on the left coast KPIX reports that Governor Hairgel is proposing pay cuts for California state workers because state revenues are down over 20 percent.

As the old Russian proverb says, “Го́лой овцы́ не стригу́т. (One doesn’t shear naked sheep.)” I suspect that we’re about to see a large portion of the bureaucracy begin to favor an expeditious reopening of the economy.

Fighting the Last War

There’s an old adage which states that most armies are prepared to fight the last war. It has a deep basis in Reality. After our 1892 medium-power Krag rifles were outclassed by the full-power Mausers used by the Spanish in 1898, we adopted the Mauser-clone 1903 Springfield for World War I. The lessons learned about firepower in that war led to the adoption of the M1, which would have been a superior weapon in WW1, but was outclassed by the German Strumgewehr 44 (the original assault rifle) by the end of WW2. We entered the Viet Nam War armed with the M14, which would have been a great weapon for WW2, only to be outgunned by the other side’s AK47s, true assault rifles. I went through basic training with an M14, but was finally issued an M16 in Viet Nam.

Armies aren’t the only bureaucracies that cling to outdated “solutions.” The public health response to the Wuhan virus pandemic is a case in point.

The 1918 influenza pandemic was worse than it had to be, in part, because of the failure of some communities to take proper measures to prevent rapid spreading. The proper lesson from that pandemic is that dangerous communicable diseases must be contained by reducing interpersonal contact until other means of fighting it are available.

The initial restrictions imposed as public health measures dealing with Covid-19 were reasonable and cautious responses to a potentially catastrophic situation. They would have been excellent in combating the 1918 flu, but it appears that they’ve been overkill in vast swaths of America with disastrous unintended (I hope) consequences. For many the cure is worse than the disease.

Most Real World situations don’t track well with our attempt to model them because we never seem to be able to understand all of the ways that things interact. Experience and common sense and a willingness to take risks are necessary live in the Real World. Credentials are not the same thing as experience, and non-expert expertise has failed. It’s time to get back to living in the Real World. That will require that public health concerns take their rightful place among other factors to balances with economic realities and civil rights.