Daily Archives: March 22, 2020
It is only one day, but the news from Italy are extremely encouraging.
If this continues in the next few days, it will be clear that the summit has been touched, and the virus is receding. For the record, today could have been the first day with more than 1,000 dead. Yesterday, the rolling 24 hours figures was 793. Today, we are at 651. Clear decrease in Lombardy, too, from 546 to 361 deaths. New cases also clearly retreating.
Some considerations on the spot:
- Lombardy was at the forefront. The data from there is the most followed, but it is easy to predict that even if the figures for Lombardy go down in the next days, those for other regions (like Emilia) might grow for a while. Still, Lombardy is no China and I believe the data. If the death recede there, they will soon recede everywhere in Italy.
- Please do not say that “this was not a great crisis after all”. Look on the internet for explanations of the effect, compounded for 30 days, of every infected person infecting 1 or 1.25 people as opposed to, say, 2.5. It is staggering, as you would expect for an exponential growth. This means that: a) social distancing saved a lot of lives, and b) China lied, people died.
- We will know in the next months (assuming the crisis has peaked already) what estimated effect the measures taken in different countries have fared. For example: how did the Dutch and the Swedes (after accounting for differences in population age and climate, as far as they can be estimated) fare compared to, say, Italy and France? This will give extremely valuable indications as to how to proceed for similar new cases.
- China will have to pay. Firstly, they should be made to pay for the immense damage the inefficiency, corruption and outright stupidity of the Chicom machine has caused to the West (I think tariffs will be ideal for that). Secondly, they should have to pay through the repatriation of many important strategic industries, from which the Western machine clearly depends, both to keep producing and for the safety of the Western citizen. Thirdly, they should have to pay through sanctions like the expulsion from the WTO and the loss of the “most favorite” trade clause, as a corrupt third world government does not deserve to be given a seat in the first row.
- All Western nations will have to provide for contingency plans, and adapt their production chain to the new circumstances. For example, it is easy to predict that the “just in time” production methods will get quite a hit after the experiences of the last weeks. It may be cheaper in normal times, it becomes extremely expensive in abnormal ones. Many factories were closing already, in the last days, not because the government ordered them to, but for sheer lack of parts.
I suggest my readers that they pray very hard, today, for the virus to be finally receding.
The situation has not changed. Therefore, it seems to me that the analysis should not change, either.
However, it seems to me that, in Italy at least, the emergency is now morphing into madness. I have little doubt that other Countries like Spain and France will very soon follow, then they tend to react in the same way. I can only hope that the United Kingdom and the United States will keep a cooler head, following a tradition of “stiff upper lip” in times of crisis.
Listen, people: factories do not close even in war times, with the enemy bombers flying over them. The decision of the Italian Prime Minister, Conte, to shut down the country’s factories starting tomorrow is exactly an example of what should not, never (not if we had enemy bombers on our heads!) be done.
The very cold shiver that went down my spine when I read the news was mitigated by the detailed information: post, transports, banks, insurances stay open. Fishery and Agriculture also go on. This is a big chunk of activity in a Country like Italy, particularly when you consider that working from home will obviously continue. But the damage of the most recent measures for the Italian economy is now estimated at at least 7-8% of the GDP if this does not stop soon; and really, one wonders how can a Prime Minister who ordered half the Country to stay home suddenly say to his people “today is the fourth of April, this means you all can go back to work in your factories”.
One cannot avoid but noticing this: that people like Conte have no downside in paralysing the Country, but they will face a huge wall of hysteria and possible political annihilation if they don’t. They all go with the flow, because the tide is too strong to be stemmed. Like every politician, they know that the art will be in letting people suffer first until the circumstances allow to change the course, and not be seen as the responsible for the suffering later.
There was, in Italy, a luxury tax on yachts some time ago. Everybody – and I say everybody – in the corridors of power knew that this would have resulted in a very fast, and very easy, exodus of yachts to nearby countries, like Croatia. They knew, and they did not care. It was more important to offer the country some sacrificial lambs (the hated “rich”) and let the economy living around around the rich (the tourism, the services, the caterers, the maintenance industry etc) suffer as the business moved abroad in a matter of hours. It was a move of such cold-blooded, calculated cynicism, that it provided a very raw example of what a politician will do to survive in a democracy.
I think that something like this is happening now. As the hysteria grows (which I am afraid it will), Conte and the other politicians will not have any interest in trying to plant their feet, draw a line in the sand and say that there must be a limit to the measures taken to prevent the diffusion of the China Virus. On the contrary, the temptation will be big to put themselves “at the head of the movement” and look “caring”, even as they carelessly destroy the lives of millions and cause untold suffering for years to come.
Social distancing is all fine. Work from home whenever possible is all fine. The enforcement of the end of mass gathering is something which has always been done for public order reasons. But when you begin to shut down factories and condemn to closure every shop that is not “essential”, you are playing with the very fabric of the country and making of Italy the next Venezuela.
This massive spending (authorised by Brussels, but nevertheless to be repaid by the Italians; without even the ability of printing the money and take the inflationary hit, because Italy is not even in control of its currency anymore!) will cause massive tax hikes, which will cause huge discontent and will castrate the Country’s growth for many years to come. Three, four, six weeks of madness will have consequences for years to come, and will likely change the trajectory of the Country. If we are lucky, they will be at least the end of the Euro, but we shall see about that.
The numbers I keep seeing, and the situation I keep observing, is still exactly the same that I have described here . The figures have grown, as expected; but the fundamental nature of what is happening (that is: who is dying, what ethical challenges this poses, and how we should react to them) hasn’t.
The coming weeks will cause a huge ripple effect on the economies of half of Continental Europe. The Left will rise, as it is always the case when misery and poverty do. This may result in an entirely home-made World War I, with the citizen shooting themselves out of sheer panic rather than being shot at by the enemy.
Also, consider this: when you get bombed, you see immediately that things are going badly, and can decide to work towards a peace agreement relatively fast. But this madness might only end when the pain has become unbearable on the moment, which means that it will become much worse still in the 4-8 months to come.
As the German poet Schiller said (about marriage, but you get my drift) “der Wahn ist kurz, die Reu’ ist lang” (the madness is short, the regret is long).
Caution, yes. Prudence, yes.
But panic decisions that shut down the Country are not prudent, they are criminal.