by Jon Guze
Senior Fellow, Legal Studies, John Locke Foundation
In “Statewide lockdowns unnecessarily divide, divert us from task at hand,” I suggested that “even in the absence of statewide lockdown orders, voluntary social distancing would have had more or less the same effects on both the spread of COVID-19 and on the economy,” and I provided evidence compiled by demographer Lyman Stone that supports the epidemiological part of that suggestion. Raj Chetty and his team of Harvard statisticians have just published a paper that provides evidence supporting the economic part.
The paper is called “Real-Time Economics: A New Platform to Track the Impacts of COVID-19 on People, Businesses, and Communities Using Private Sector Data.” It introduces the team’s new, publicly available economic tracker, and it uses that tracker to measure “the economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on people, businesses, and communities and estimate the causal effects of recent local policy decisions.” As the following charts illustrate, Chetty and his team found that the economic downturn preceded the lockdown order by a significant period of time, which pretty well proves that it was volutary social distancing and not the lockdowns that caused the downturn:
Statewide lockdowns have unjustifiably violated the rights of millions of Americans. Someday, I hope, the politicians and bureaucrats who imposed those lockdowns will be held accountable for their tyranical recklessness. Right now, however, I think we have more important things to do. For the time being, I suggest we spend less time fighting about the shutdown orders and more time figuring out how to get back to work safely. (And by “we” I mean everybody: left and right, Democrats and Republicans, technocrats and ordinary people.)