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John Tamny - When politicians panicked: The new corona virus

"... History never repeats itself, but it rhymes. ..."

John Tamny 2021 "When politicians panicked: The new corona virus, expert opinion, and a tragic lapse of reason", New York & Nashville, 286pp, ISBN: 978-1-64293-837-1

This webPage is a [random, scattered] selection of notes that I wrote in the book while I was reading it. It is a small subset of my notes, and doesn't cover very many of Tamny's themes. 16Jan2022 It won't be expanded, as I have run out of time.

Most of my comments time] went into a "sister webPage", which is also linked near the end of this webPage.

Table of Contents

Overall impressions



No matter how much one likes a [paper, book], there are always weaknesses. In my view, no review is satisfactory unless at least some weaknesses are listed, no matter how trivial, and even if some or all are wrong. These can help the author, and also can show the author where the reviewer is weak. It also helps the reviewer.


I am out of time for this review, and will leave this section empty.

Contrasts - Tamny versus Howell

As mentioned above, for the most part I agree with the author's perpective and comments. But there are some interesting points where there is considerable contrast. "Open mouth, insert foot" - I've done this routinely in my [life, career], and this is not at all hard to spot in my review. Sometimes the fastest way to learn is when your comments get shoved back down your throat.

Detailed comments

While I made extensive notes throughout the book, as can be seen below for just the first 3 chapters, it would have taken an enormous amount of time to make a complete list for the entire book. "Time economics" cannot be avoided...

Foreword by George Gilder

p-x-h0.15 "... Politicians embody 'this time is different,' ..."
>> This is a long-standing saying of Wall Street, as they laugh and watch [trader, investor]s walk lemming-like over the cliff, again and again. "Fools and their money are soon parted ways" (that's a great description of me.)

p-x-h0.15 "... Tamney argues that freedom must be the first and last answer to any government response ..."
>> I've long felt that way, but observations over the decade now lead me to think that 'some are built for freedom, rare are men who aren't libertarians of good fortune'. See my section on "The cancer that is modern democracy?".

p-xi-h0.1 "... Whether merely stupid or demagogic or driven by polls or by a nefariously political media, the politicians from Trump on down simply blundered like no others in the history of public policy. ..."
>> Stupidity is the root answer, as per my section "Stupidity is the most powerful force in the human universe ". Other labels are strongly correlated, and also often arise from stupidity.
>> Covid-19 policy isn't really much worse than a lot of policy!!

p-xi-h0.25 "... 'Proper history,' Tamney writes, 'will indicate that what happened in 2020 was a great debacle.... The reaction by pols...amounted to the highest crime against humanity [in two centuries]. ..."
>> Overall, this is probably incorrect : covid merey conforms to the rule, it is not an exception, nor is its quantiative impact, depending on how one calculates it.
>> I question the 2 centuries. It's hard to beat [socialism, existential science], all backed by good intentions.

p-xi-h "... According to a UN study he cites, some 285 million people may die of starvation [because] of "an American middle class that was making decisions for everyone and for whom lockdowns were merely an inconvenience or vacation."
>> Well put. I've seen comments by Europeans to the same effect. ..."

p-xi-h "... We have undergone a vast breakdown of moral, educational, intellectual, and journalistic standards. ..."
>> Amen, but he leaves out a root cause in the covid case and many others : [science, scientists]! This is important!


p-xiv-h0.1 "... stock markets had been at all-time highs to reflect broad optimism about the future ..."
>> This statement is probably more insightful than the author suspects. Robert Prechter, famous as a modern "Elliot Wave theory" expert, has developed "Socionomics" (he calls it the first quantitative sociology, with some reason) on the basis of stock market behaviours, but this posits that market levels are a best measure of current mood, and variability may be much less a result of fundamentals than we want to believe.
>> Since 2000, and especially since 2008, the social engineering of the financial system may have "blinded" key price signals of the markets - especially the 10year T-bill rates. Although bond markets used to be considered as "smarter" than stock markets, perhaps with the social engineering of financial markets, that may no longer be the case?

p-xiv-h0.1 "... Stock markets are never a barometer of the present; rather, they're a price signal about how investors see the future. ..."
>> Be Careful!! That's what everyone likes to say, but that doesn't describe markets very well. Precious few know what that really means, and that "the future" may only be as long as basic trends continue (1 <= year <= 40+ years), based on current mood?

p-xiv-h0.75 "... The answer is that politicians on the local,. state, and national levels in the US panicked in response to the discovery that the novel coronavirus, a virus with origins in the Chinese city of Wuhan, had found its way around the world. ..."
>> This is the mainstream explanation, but not the explanation of many with good long-term forecast results (eg Harry Dent, maybe Ray Dalio of ?Bridgewater Hedge fund?, etc, etc]. To me, covid-19 was a strong catalyst of what had been coming for a decade, and still lies in wait given the responses to covid have probably made the core problems much worse.

p-xiv-h0.05 "... Though references will regularly be made to the virus, illness, and death rates throughout, it would be a major mistake to write about subjects that I have no reasonable understanding of. ..."
>> This is unfortunate, as the best commentators on [medical, science] failures are amateurs who have taken the timer to research it. There are vastly more smart people outside of specialities than in it, and if they can access papers etc they can outdo almost all scientists on points of failure.

Note : I will cut my review comments short here. The author makes many great statements, and of course there are many different ways to look at his points.

p-xv-h0.85 "... What happened is that politicians panicked about the corona virus. ..."
>> WRONG! Politically-correct scientists panicked and goofed, the media and voters picked up the panick and ran. Politicians also panicked, but that is a requirement of the cancer of modern democracy. Most writers also ignore the legal-liability and moral hazard issues, which are fundamentlly important influences and omissions.

p-xvi-h0.05 "... the more threatening anything is, the more important it is that politicians do nothing. ..."
>> Try that with war. Contrast to "Si vous voulex la paix, preparez pour la guerre".

p-xvi-h0.4 "... Lockdowns shouldn't happen ..."
>> I suspect that is correct for covid-19. But "shouldn't" may not even be relevant at all when dealing with behaviours like this. I doubt the basic human animal will change, and education has proved ineffective in many ways.
>> I never liked Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" or "The Fountainhead" as I found the characters "tinney" and the books too [soap opera, day care center]. But there are gems in that, and perhaps a major arising theme is that there must be a way to escape the mob thinking (of scientists in particular).
>> More and more I think "hybrid societies" are needed, not a monolithic political system with uniformity. At the very least [libertarian, socialist, corporate] sub-societies, without recourse to rob one another, and where freedoms arise from fulfillment of responsibilities? In other words, make your choice, and livbe with the consequences. Ideas are [random, scattered] at present.

p-xvi-h0.95 "... decentralised knowledge of millions and billions of humans is ignored in favor of the centralized and highly limited knowledge of very few politicians, and even fewer experts ..."
>> WRONG in a sense - as with "CO2 is the primary driver of climate since 1850" covid perceptions are widely shared, probably by the majority. The issue isn't some kind of socialist collective thought, nor even of braod diversity of thought. The issue is how to pick out the less than one-in-a-million thinkers and ideas. The ONLY thing that seems to work here is their interconnection on the web, and the one-in-ten-thousand who can identify promising thinking. But they are completely drowned out by the overwhelming majority of scientists ("essentially all").

Chapter One : They already knew it wasn't lethal, didn't they?

p1h0.65 "... On March 18 [2020] FedEx founder and CEO Fred Smith was interviewed by Fox News Channel's Bret Braier about the new corona virus. ... ..."
>> Great example about the virus, Fox News being alone, and the failure of essentially all Western media.

Chapter Three : The initial "coronavirus" was a socialist politician

p16h0.0 Wall street saying "... The markets can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent. ..."

p16h0.1 "... Looking back to 1929, the surprising news was word that President Hoover would indeed sign the Smoot-Harley Tariff in 1930. ..."
>> Embarrassingly, I had forgotten this bill, which was well described in a favourite publication by Lawrence reed (see references) :
p7c2h0.9 of Reed pamphlet "... The crowning folly of the Hoover administration was the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, passed in June 1930. It came on top of the Fordney-McCumber Tarriff of 1922, which had already put American agriculture in a tailspin during the preceding decade. The most protectionist legislation in US history, Smooot-Harley virtually closed the borders to foreign goods and ignited a vicious international trade war. ..."
p9c1h0.1 of Reed pamphlet "... When tariffs made it nearly impossible for foreign businessmen to sell their goods in American markets, the burden of their debts became massively heavier and emboldened demagogues like Adolph Hitler. 'When goods don't cross frontiers, armies will' warns an old but painfully true maxim. ..."
p9c2h0.25 of Reed pamphlet "... Commenting decades later on Hoover's administration, Rexfoord Guy Tugwell, one of the architects of Franklin Roosevelt's policies of the 1930's explained, 'We didn't admit it at the time, but practically yher whole New Deal was extrapolated from programs that Hoover started.' ..."

p19-20 Brilliant explanation that the known effects of coronavirus were already reflected in the market, but not the expectation that stupid policies would ensue.

link - Howells' "Icebreaker unchained : we should have lost WWII" - Roosevelt as an unknowing puppet of Stalin, but much deeper, Hitler as Stalin's perfect choice. The only two guys who understood WWIII and each other. Even Churchill said later "I think we got the wrong guy" a bit too late. (if I remember correctly)

p21h0.0.05 "... Still, stocks declined a fair amount on February 20 and 21, and then share declines picked up speed on the 24th and 25th. Something new jolted investors that seemingly wasn't apparent to them midway through the previous week. What was it?
In aiming to answer the question, it should be said that doing so is a fool's errand for anyone. That's why headlines about what caused stocks to go up or down are so ridiculous in real time and often preposterous when looked at in hindsight. If headine writers possed a clue about what moves stocks, or even if they posessed a clue about whom to ask about what moves stocks, they wouldn't be headline witers. ..."
>> This point exactly is brilliantly illustrated by Robert Prechter (see references)
>> Brilliant! My sentiments, except if you go to the right wall street online news (eg Barrons, Wall Street Journal) they often do consult people with a track record and [interesting, contrarian] ideas. That doen't make them right, it does provide insight for thinking. There is never conformity of thinking - that means intellectual death, which characterizes much of academia.
>> Writers wouldn't be headline writers - like saying about university profs : "... Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. ..."
>> If I remember correctly, up to ~18Feb2020 Dr. Fauci stated that the coronavirus wouldn't be a problem.

p23 Trashijng of Bloombereg as Democrat candidate
>> Brilliant! I hadn't thought of this.

At this point, I have stopped re-tying annotations that I have made throughout the book, as it would simply take to much of my time. Annotations after this point tend to be more sparse, but I did continue up to the end of the book. Instead, I have picked out [random, scattered] comments of author Tamny in the section below.

[random, scattered] comments of author Tamny

I'm out of time, and have to skip this!

A bag of [random, scattered] quasi-principles for commentaries

I have posted a collection of "quasi-principles", none of them "true", on a separate webPage. The principles were prepared during the rew of Tamny's book, based on years of musings. No doubt they will grow in the separate webPage along with additional "principles" long scattered around my webSite.

References beyond the norm

These references were initially prepared for this webPage's review of Tamny's book, but they also appear on my webPage "A bag of [random, scattered] quasi-principles for commentaries", where they may be expanded in the future for much more general purposes.