Famed Law Professor Richard Epstein's Ever Changing Claims About How Many People Will Die From COVID-19

from the armchair-epidemiology dept

Richard Epstein is a very famous law professor, known for his "libertarian" take on the world. Lots of people who know him insist he's a brilliant legal mind... who seems to think that his brilliance in that area allows him to be brilliant in fields where he has no experience at all. For years, I've followed him being just ridiculously wrong when it comes to internet law and (even more so) on any issue related to copyright or patents, which he views as identical to tangible property. He has long refused to even consider that he might be wrong about that. Still, it was pretty shocking last month to see him jump into the deep end of the debate over the seriousness of COVID-19 by writing a piece claiming that he expected US deaths to top out at 500 tops. This was on March 16th, at which time California and Washington were already shutting down and it was blatantly clear many more people would die. Still what he initially wrote was:

[I]t seems more probable than not that the total number of cases world-wide will peak out at well under 1 million, with the total number of deaths at under 50,000 (up about eightfold). In the United States, if the total death toll increases at about the same rate, the current 67 deaths should translate into about 500 deaths at the end.

Remember, Epstein is a law professor, not an epidemiologist, not a statistician, and not an economist (though he often acts as if he is one). That pronouncement, which bolstered the claims coming from the White House and Trump's supporters at the time that COVID-19 was still no big deal, quickly made its way to the White House, because clueless powerful people love an echo chamber.

As the death toll quickly passed 500, Epstein hastily revised his article to say he actually meant 5,000 US deaths, and that he regretted what he called "a simple stupid error" in his calculations. Epstein was roundly mocked for all of this, and continues to appear painfully unwilling to recognize his own ignorance in this issue, as was evidenced in this truly incredible interview Epstein gave with the New Yorker's Isaac Chotiner in which he tries to defend his indefensible argument, and comes off like a total condescending asshole who assumes that because he's a law professor he somehow knows more about epidemiology than a journalist who he insists must know nothing at all.

I know, but these are scientific issues here.

You know nothing about the subject but are so confident that you’re going to say that I’m a crackpot.

No. Richard—

That’s what you’re saying, isn’t it? That’s what you’re saying?

I’m not saying anything of the sort.

Admit to it. You’re saying I’m a crackpot.

I’m not saying anything of the—

Well, what am I then? I’m an amateur? You’re the great scholar on this?

No, no. I’m not a great scholar on this.

Tell me what you think about the quality of the work!

O.K. I’m going to tell you. I think the fact that I am not a great scholar on this and I’m able to find these flaws or these holes in what you wrote is a sign that maybe you should’ve thought harder before writing it.

What it shows is that you are a complete intellectual amateur. Period.

O.K. Can I ask you one more question?

You just don’t know anything about anything. You’re a journalist. Would you like to compare your résumé to mine?

No, actually, I would not.

Then good. Then maybe what you want to do is to say, “Gee, I’m not quite sure that this is right. I’m going to check with somebody else.”

Of course, Chotiner did check with many other people and added multiple fact checks to his interview, quoting actual experts who respond with things like saying that what Epstein is saying is "completely inaccurate."

Incredibly, earlier this week, Epstein tried again, with a new piece complaining that governors are overreacting with their lockdown decrees. Incredibly, he uses the evidence that these lockdowns are working and bending the curve to decrease the number of deaths as evidence that we should end the lockdowns, and that magically businesses will be able to handle the rest.

The question is why Cuomo thinks that doubling down on government restrictions is justified by the science and data. His own daily report of April 17 indicates that the rate of new infections is down and that the number of hospital discharges in the state now far exceeds the number of new admissions. Further data prepared by the New York Times reveals that the rate of infection is now slowing down rapidly throughout the United States. It also shows that new cases peaked at about 35,000 on April 3, with an erratic decline since that time.

That's because of the lockdown. If we lift the lockdown too soon, those infection and death rates go back up.

Still, when the article came out, I went to go look for the original Epstein piece claiming only 500 deaths, and was surprised to find that the link now contains this:

[Correction & Addendum as of March 24, 2020:

My original erroneous estimate of 5,000 dead in the US is a number ten times smaller than I intended to state, and it too could prove somewhat optimistic. But any possible error rate in this revised projection should be kept in perspective. The current U.S. death toll stands at 592 as of noon on March 24, 2020, out of about 47,000 cases.

So... uh... what? Everything about that appears to be gas lighting. First off, the original estimate was 500 deaths, not 5,000. And he claims that was due to a "simple stupid error." But now that we're rapidly approaching 50,000 deaths, he's claiming that it was the 5,000 that was the "original erroneous estimates" and that he "intended to state" 50,000? Really?

I was confused and really wondered what happened to that original 500 estimate, and thankfully John Macke figured it out making use of the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, and it appears that someone did some tricky shit to try to hide the original estimate -- whether it was Epstein directly or someone else at the Hoover Institution:

As Macke dug into how the original article changed over time, he found that in early April, after the original hubbub died down, Epstein (or someone else at the Hoover Institution) appeared to change the "correction" from one that admitted the original estimate was 500, to the one that claimed it was actually 5,000.

As plenty of others have pointed out, this is "beyond academic fraud":

Of course, now that those revisions have been caught and started to go viral, with little fanfare (and it appears to have happened while I was writing this post, someone quietly added a new correction to the old corrected correction (got that?):

[APRIL 21, 2020 EDITOR'S NOTE: DUE TO AN EDITING ERROR, THE CORRECTION & ADDENDUM ABOVE IS INACCURATE. IT SHOULD STATE:

That estimate is ten times greater than the 500 number I erroneously put in the initial draft of the essay, and it, too, could prove somewhat optimistic. But any possible error rate in this revised projection should be kept in perspective. The current U.S. death toll stands at 592 as of noon on March 24, 2020, out of about 47,000 cases. So my adjusted figure, however tweaked, remains both far lower, and I believe far more accurate, than the common claim that there could be a million dead in the U.S. from well over 150 million coronavirus cases before the epidemic runs its course.

WE REGRET THE ERROR AND ANY CONFUSION IT HAS CAUSED]

But again, that "editing error" was only introduce weeks later after the "correct" error message was there. What would make them go back and change an error message that was shown for two weeks and make it false? Is it possible that an editor somehow went in and changed around the correction to take it from accurate to false? Perhaps, but it still seems... quite odd.

Of course, the bigger question is why should anyone ever take Epstein's ideas on all this seriously, given his dreadful track record, and lack of expertise in this particular field?

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Filed Under: covid-19, economics, epidemiology, law, rewriting history, richard epstein


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 22 Apr 2020 @ 7:41am

    How's that saying go, 'Christ what an asshole'?

    With an ego like that I'm surprised that anyone is insane enough to want to interview such a pompous ass. Arrogant, dishonest, unwilling to admit to being wrong and more than willing to try to stuff words in someone else's mouth in order to keep them on the defensive... Outside of someone who literally and physically attacks the interviewer I'm struggling to think of a worse person to want to get in a room and have a talk with.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      aerinai (profile), 22 Apr 2020 @ 8:36am

      Re: How's that saying go, 'Christ what an asshole'?

      We elected Trump... we get the people we deserve.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Thad (profile), 22 Apr 2020 @ 10:19am

        Re: Re: How's that saying go, 'Christ what an asshole'?

        We elected Trump... we get the people we deserve.

        Oh, fuck off. Trump was elected with 46% of the vote.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 22 Apr 2020 @ 10:37am

          'I choose not X' 'Well you're getting X, too bad.'

          Or put another way, he was elected with three million less votes than the other choice, which pretty thoroughly destroys the idea that the US public somehow chose him and therefore deserves him, as opposed to 'he got elected thanks to the terrible, broken trainwreck that is the US voting system'.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 23 Apr 2020 @ 1:54am

          Re: Re: Re: How's that saying go, 'Christ what an asshole'?

          "Oh, fuck off. Trump was elected with 46% of the vote."

          You're both right. Just leaving a few things unsaid.

          Thanks to many years of the US citizenry having had a single fsck to give, and gave that one to anything other than participation in public politics the two parties were free to erode and rig an already obsolete and unrepresentative system the citizenry couldn't be arsed to force to change.

          As a result of which Trump got elected on the minority vote.

          You've been working hard for a long time to turn a blind eye to the flaws which in the end produced the current shit-show. So yes, you did get the leadership you deserve.

          Until you get the public interest up to where elections on all levels draw a lot more than just 50% of the voters, this is what you'll have to live with.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 23 Apr 2020 @ 1:58am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: How's that saying go, 'Christ what an asshole'?

            ...or as the above could be summarized;

            "One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors."

            • Plato

            Beati Pauperes Spiritu, I guess.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Thad (profile), 23 Apr 2020 @ 8:11am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: How's that saying go, 'Christ what an asshole'?

            Yeah, you can fuck right off with that victim-blaming horseshit too, Charlie. Voter suppression isn't the fault of the people whose votes are being suppressed.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 24 Apr 2020 @ 3:03am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: How's that saying go, 'Christ what an asshol

              "Yeah, you can fuck right off with that victim-blaming horseshit too, Charlie. Voter suppression isn't the fault of the people whose votes are being suppressed."

              You've spent several generations of not, as a citizenry, giving enough of a fsck to care about the leadership you end up with. When an indie movie maker can get the majority vote for a ficus plant in the gubernatorial elections of a state it's not "voter suppression" at fault.

              That carelessness is what has provided politicians in the US with the ability to knead your would-have-been-robust-enough system like playdough to fit their purposes.

              Until you decide to own up to just HOW a populist demagogue can sail to power on the minority vote of the bigoted and hateful the only options you'll ever get is with some version of GWB and Trump, or the guy you hold your nose while voting for.

              Trump is a symptom. Nothing more. The real disease is the fact that even when voter suppression wasn't as hot and ubiquitously regimented an issue as today, not enough people bothered to partake in politics to keep the greedy and inept opportunists out.

              The irony is that it was the US, after world war 2, which pointed these issues out to europeans - and jumpstarted the political research in how to avoid ending up with a narcissistic extremist for supreme leader in a democracy or republic. The answer in all cases was that everyone must vote.

              This isn't victim-blaming. This is about an entire nation where half the people gave up on democracy. That in itself is a choice.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 22 Apr 2020 @ 10:41am

        Re: Re: How's that saying go, 'Christ what an asshole'?

        First, more people voted for the 'not Trump' option than the 'Trump' option, so no, second, unless you were trying to say that Trump also has all those characteristics in which case I'd agree and the rest of my comment would also apply to him as well what does that have to do with the article or my comment?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 23 Apr 2020 @ 2:09am

        Re: Re: How's that saying go, 'Christ what an asshole'?

        That's always a bad attitude, as it means that the people who did not vote for him somehow deserve what they get. The people who didn't vote are more deserving than the people who voted against him.

        But, always remember - you didn't elect Trump, the Electoral College did. The will of the people was overturned because 3 million Americans lived in the wrong state when they cast their votes.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Thad (profile), 23 Apr 2020 @ 8:16am

          Re: Re: Re: How's that saying go, 'Christ what an asshole'?

          The people who didn't vote are more deserving than the people who voted against him.

          That ignores a lot of realities about our electoral system.

          Voter apathy is an issue, and one reason turnout isn't as high as it should be. But there are a lot of other factors. The systematic disenfranchisement of minority voters is a big one.

          There are a number of simple steps we could take to increase turnout: same-day registration, elections on Saturdays, increased access to voting by mail. Instead, we've got politicians -- mostly from one party -- going to considerable lengths to prevent people from voting, using spurious claims of voter fraud as justification for policies that make it harder for certain demographics to vote.

          I think we can expect this year to have more voter disenfranchisement than any election since the Voting Rights Act.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 23 Apr 2020 @ 7:06pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: How's that saying go, 'Christ what an asshole'?

            Yes you're right that is an oversimplification, apologies. My point was simply that if you did your civic duty, you voted and then your vote was effectively ignored because you live in CA and not the midwest, you hardly deserve any fault for the outcome. Whereas, a person who could have voted in one of the key states but didn't deserve a little blame. I wouldn't count those who were actually disenfranchised in that number.

            "I think we can expect this year to have more voter disenfranchisement than any election since the Voting Rights Act."

            Hopefully, there will be a much more motivated voter base this time as well. We will see.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 24 Apr 2020 @ 3:25am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: How's that saying go, 'Christ what an asshole'?

            "But there are a lot of other factors. The systematic disenfranchisement of minority voters is a big one."

            And that's essentially why you need to have as high a proportion of voters as possible. When too few people bother to vote at all the shenanigans pulled by entrenched politicians desperate to cling to power become force multipliers rather than mere outliers.

            Hitler only had 12% of the public vote. With only 30% voting though, that allowed his SA intimidation tactics and extremist following to render him King for life.

            And at the end of the day the electors are - themselves - elected. A high enough voter proportion is needed to ensure error margins cause by gerrymandering and disenfranchisement don't become a determining factor in the outcome.

            This is true even for direct democracies. Republics are even more vulnerable.

            I believe a US founding fathers said it best, regarding the price of freedom. And the entire western world is at a point where a full generation has now grown up in first-world conditions, conveniently forgetting that our rights were fought and paid for by our ancestors. And the instructions they left behind on how to KEEP those rights.

            "Instead, we've got politicians -- mostly from one party -- going to considerable lengths to prevent people from voting..."

            The pathogen will oppose the vaccine, naturally.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 22 Apr 2020 @ 9:36am

    Ego is one hell of a drug. And last I checked, the scientific term for that drug is dunningkruegeral.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2020 @ 9:38am

    I'm tired of hearing from US libertarians arguing that we need to reopen the economy because people not working and getting socialist government assistance is so much worse than increasing infections rates and a significantly higher number of people dying.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 22 Apr 2020 @ 9:42am

      Re:

      Libertarians? I heard that Trump was a Republican. Did I hear that wrong?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        James Burkhardt (profile), 22 Apr 2020 @ 10:44am

        Re: Re:

        Libertarians, while they hold a distinct political view, are quite small overall, and are most prominent as a wing of the Republican party, with libertarian thought pervading the Party and its politics. The Debates around the Obamacare repeal, specifically the difficulty reaching a republican consensus highlight the veins of libertarian thought.

        More importantly, the article is about Richard Epstein, who is obstensibly libertarian. The arguemnets he is making are obstensibly libertarian. The AC was not speaking incorrectly.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 26 Apr 2020 @ 12:32pm

      Re:

      One guy said the Democrats are going to try to use this to make permanent a requirement on businesses to provide sick leave to their employees, and WE CAN'T LET THAT HAPPEN. I wouldn't call him libertarian though, more of a plutocrat/kleptocrat.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 26 Apr 2020 @ 11:29pm

        Re: Re:

        That says all you need to know. Apart from the benefit guarantee sick pay would have had early in the current situation (COVID infected people stay home and don't spread it to colleagues and customers), it's a real benefit during normal circumstances (less sickness being spread to other employees, you can get a person working at 100% to cover for the sick person barely able to function, staff feel more valued and thus likely to be more productive).

        The only 2 reasons to oppose it are if you have so little trust in your employees that you think they will all be faking it for the time off or if you honestly value the money you save on benefits more than the welfare of your employees. In either case, you have deeper issues than whether your staff can pay their rent if they break something.

        Yet another situation where I'm glad to be in a "socialist" country, where if I become sick I neither have to worry about whether I can afford medicare care, nor whether I will be paid / remain employed. None of those are in question - my taxes have already paid for the safety net.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2020 @ 9:39am

    this is "beyond academic fraud":

    It is fishing for a job as Trumps spin doctor.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2020 @ 10:11am

    Well we know who Trump will put in charge of the next Pandemic..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Thad (profile), 22 Apr 2020 @ 10:20am

    Maybe Chotiner wasn't saying Epstein is a crackpot, but I sure will.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2020 @ 10:25am

    With protesters carrying around signs like, "sacrifice the weak, reopen <state>" (google it yourself), one wonders if these people think they are the hero of a novel, destined to live to the end of the story by author fiat.

    In the story, the hero wins the lottery, gets the girl, lives happily ever after. In reality, the hero buys $100 worth of lotto tickets a week and then wonders where the rent money went to.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2020 @ 10:49am

      Re:

      In ref to things like: "sacrifice the weak, reopen <state>"

      I like Gov Cuomo's response to a reporter's questions

      “You want to work? Go take a job as an essential worker,”

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        TripMN, 22 Apr 2020 @ 1:13pm

        Re: Re:

        Worse than that. If you look at the signs of the "reopen" crowd, they don't want to go back to work themselves. They want to force others to go back to work so they can get their hair cut or be able to buy gardening supplies. They want others to risk their lives and stop inconveniencing them. Selfish bleep-ing assholes.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 22 Apr 2020 @ 1:43pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          That's almost impressive, albeit for all the wrong reasons. Here I'd been thinking that they were just monumental idiots complaining that they were being told they weren't allowed to risk their safety and the safety of others, but whining that others should stop caring about their safety and the safety of their families and get back to work really ramps it up into self-centered jackass territory in addition to being incredibly stupid.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 24 Apr 2020 @ 4:52am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "...whining that others should stop caring about their safety and the safety of their families and get back to work really ramps it up into self-centered jackass territory..."

            Surely it's neither self-centered nor stupid to want a decent haircut despite the democratic hoax pulled as part of the sinister plot of the lizard people making up the NWO?

            I mean real americans don't need to be afraid of the "Chinese virus" which infects, as the name says, primarily the chinese - non-american ones, at that. Even if an honest white boy gets covid it's nothing a hefty dose of aquarium cleaner won't cure.

            I dunno about less real americans...like liberals and leftists. Maybe hating america just makes them a little bit chinese so the virus gets that much more deadly. Sad.

            And covfefe.

            /s

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2020 @ 3:42pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          They want to force others to go back to work

          Force? Nobody is forced to go back to work. They want the government to stop forcing them to not work.

          or be able to buy gardening supplies.

          Many of the stores stat sell gardening suppllies are open anyway to sell other things. And it's not like they can just plant next month and have their garden be OK. And people are legitimately worried about the food supply, especially if it's dependent on migrant labor.

          Yes, people will die if we reopen. But we can't stay closed forever, either. What exactly do we need to see to reopen? Zero cases? A vaccine? Do you think we can shut down the economy for a year and have everything just be OK? Do you think we can shut down for 2-3 months until it quiets down some, then another 2-3 months the next time it surfaces? Are we going to keep delaying "elective" procedure indefinitely? We've already given the hospitals time to prepare and the curve has been flattened, right?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2020 @ 3:59pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "Nobody is forced to go back to work."

            Yeah,except for the rent/mortgage, utilities, insurance, food and let's not forget taxes.

            I thought the point was to flatten the curve so that our health resources would not become overloaded, thus distributing the load over a longer period of time so that some may have a fighting chance to live rather than die alone at home - which has happened, a lot from what I've read.

            Do you watch/listen/read the news? If you were paying attention ...

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2020 @ 8:41pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Yeah,except for the rent/mortgage, utilities, insurance, food and let's not forget taxes.

              ... OK, but aren't they having a problem with those now, since they aren't allowed to work?

              I thought the point was to flatten the curve so that our health resources would not become overloaded, thus distributing the load over a longer period of time so that some may have a fighting chance to live rather than die alone at home - which has happened, a lot from what I've read.

              Yes, flattening the curve is something I've heard about. So what's the target infection rate/duration on flattening the curve? What's the percentage of the population that can get infected in a month without overwhelming our hospitals? 10%? So are we going to do this for 10 months minimum? And if the goal is simply to flatten the curve, is it truly necessary to ban small private gatherings and sales of gardening equipment? Is it necessary for a rural county with 0 cases to have the same restrictions as an urban county with 2300, just because they are in the same state?

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 23 Apr 2020 @ 2:05am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                "Is it necessary for a rural county with 0 cases to have the same restrictions as an urban county with 2300, just because they are in the same state?"

                You don't know how "infection" works, do you?

                That rural state with 0 cases gets a lot of cases if an infected rides public transport into or through the state. Each of those 20 then exposes as many or more individually. Three steps is all it takes and with some bad luck you just went from 0 to unstoppable spread.

                Isolated farms might get away with it, but you can say goodbye to any form of emergency service you have in any form of town or city.

                The problem about a pandemic is that trying to calculate when you can safely cease the quarantine rules is much like deliberating over how many matches you can safely light while standing in a puddle of gasoline.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2020 @ 4:40am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  I used "county" and you switched that to "state". There are rural counties where the county seat has fewer than 2000 people, and I'm not sure what kind of "public transit" you think they have.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  • icon
                    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 23 Apr 2020 @ 5:23am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    "I used "county" and you switched that to "state". There are rural counties where the county seat has fewer than 2000 people..."

                    So you did. Mea culpa.
                    However, sport, I don't think the decisions for or against quarantine comes out at anything other than state-level. Or, possibly, from the white house, if the shouty guy in chief finally decides governors have no right to govern their state.

                    Assuming Trump doesn't ride roughshod over the governors however, It'll be up to the governor to implement the rules of quarantine. And that decision will or should be statewide, not by county. You may just have a 2000-seat county consisting of Podunk village and a few dozen miles of pennsylvanian hills to the next-nearest community - but all it takes is for one guy with covid sneezing in a few faces downtown and that suddenly translates into a dozen dead people among those 2000 because the state as a whole doesn't have the emergency responders to send. Isolation, once breahced, just means its harder to get help.

                    And one unfortunate thing to happen in every pandemic is that a great many people in high-risk areas decide to head for the hills. Literally. Meaning that out-of-the-way sleepy little burg has a good chance of becoming the temporary asylum of infected people running from NY, Philadelphia or Chicago for an instant visit to dear old uncle Georgie they haven't spoken to in a dogs age.

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                    • identicon
                      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2020 @ 7:29pm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      However, sport, I don't think the decisions for or against quarantine comes out at anything other than state-level.

                      That just isn't the case. Cities and counties do have power. Also, it is possible for officials at the state level to quarantine just the areas that actually have an infection. That is, in fact, the ordinary way that quarantining is done.

                      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                      • icon
                        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 27 Apr 2020 @ 12:39am

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                        "That just isn't the case. Cities and counties do have power."

                        To override the state governor? I mean, I'm not saying you're wrong, just that I can't really imagine a state functioning if every decision is made by way of polish parliament.

                        "...Also, it is possible for officials at the state level to quarantine just the areas that actually have an infection. That is, in fact, the ordinary way that quarantining is done."

                        That is correct, and how things work when you are able to tell whether an area has an infection or not. It's a great idea if you are Taiwan where track-and trace of every infectees movements results in them being able to guess which areas are even at risk in the first place.

                        In the US no infrastructure exists which allows for that. The only way you can "guess" if there's covid in any given area is by having a doctor make a positive diagnosis - at which point it's already too late.

                        Without accurate ability to track the movements of covid infectees or the ability to test the population for infection, closing down the state will end up the default.

                        Even here you could probably compartmentalize the quarantine - IF you had the government manpower to handle the extra administrative load, but again - we're talking about the US, not an over-bureaucratized EU member state.

                        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 23 Apr 2020 @ 8:57am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Many states are doing a good job of crisis management, much more so than our federal government who seems to be tossing wrenches into the gears. Have a look at the graphs the states are presenting, there is info there that may answer some of your questions. Keep in mind each state will have different numbers to report because the infection started there at a different date/time.

                If you think living in the country will save you, have a look at the meat processing facilities that are shutting down due to high infection rates. We will become vegetarians I guess.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            That One Guy (profile), 22 Apr 2020 @ 4:10pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            We've already given the hospitals time to prepare and the curve has been flattened, right?

            And what do you think is going to happen to that 'curve' if a bunch of people start going back out?

            I'll give you a hint: there is historical precedent, and it's not good.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 24 Apr 2020 @ 4:55am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "And what do you think is going to happen to that 'curve' if a bunch of people start going back out?"

              Do you seriously expect a US politician to understand that some statistics can't be changed just by changing the spin?

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            nasch (profile), 26 Apr 2020 @ 12:37pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            What exactly do we need to see to reopen?

            My understanding is we need sufficient testing and contact tracing capacity so that when (not if) the virus starts spreading again, it can be quickly tracked down and contacts quarantined so it doesn't run rampant. I have not heard of any state or county that has that capacity currently, so I hope these reopenings go well. I fear the infection rate is going to spike again, the public health system will not be able to keep on top of it, and they'll have to go back into lockdown - with fewer people willing to cooperate with it this time.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 22 Apr 2020 @ 10:52am

      'Sacrifice the weak!' 'You're weaker than me, so...' 'Hey!'

      Most people likely think that they'd be one of the living heroes in a disaster, while very few if any pause to consider that the many injured and/or dead surrounding the heroes have to come from somewhere...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2020 @ 11:58am

        Re: 'Sacrifice the weak!' 'You're weaker than me, so...' 'Hey!'

        It bothers me that essential workers do not have access to the essentials for performing their job duties much less for having a life. These same people are heralded as heros yet treated as slaves, I don't get it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Bobvious, 22 Apr 2020 @ 3:54pm

        Re: 'Sacrifice the weak!' 'You're weaker than me, so...' 'Hey!'

        Pandemic 5:5 Blessed are the weak: for they shall be sacrificed for my convenience

        New American Coronavirus Version
        © 2020

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2020 @ 5:14pm

        Re: 'Sacrifice the weak!' 'You're weaker than me, so...' 'Hey!'

        Their attitude is likely to change when its their family, relatives and friends dying as the infection rate ramps up, and mass graves become a real possibility..

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 22 Apr 2020 @ 6:33pm

          Re: Re: 'Sacrifice the weak!' 'You're weaker than me, so...' 'He

          Hopefully anyway, just a pity that for far too many it will take someone close to them dying or being hospitalized for them to take the pandemic seriously.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          nasch (profile), 26 Apr 2020 @ 12:38pm

          Re: Re: 'Sacrifice the weak!' 'You're weaker than me, so...' 'He

          mass graves become a real possibility..

          Not just a possibility, New York City is already burying unclaimed bodies in mass graves.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Talmyr, 3 May 2020 @ 12:56pm

        Re: 'Sacrifice the weak!' 'You're weaker than me, so...' 'Hey!'

        I tried running from zombies when they attacked Philadelphia. It didn't go well...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    OldMugwump (profile), 22 Apr 2020 @ 10:30am

    Terrible shame

    So sad. Epstein is (or at least was) indeed a brilliant legal scholar - read his work and it's hard to come to any other conclusion, even if you disagree with him.

    He's 77 now, so may well have "lost it" (that was about the age when my father "lost it").

    But this surely goes to the long, long list of famous and respected people who dig themselves deep holes when they attempt to opine outside their field of expertise.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 22 Apr 2020 @ 10:46am

      Re: Terrible shame

      So sad. Epstein is (or at least was) indeed a brilliant legal scholar - read his work and it's hard to come to any other conclusion, even if you disagree with him.

      Except when it comes to copyright, patents, and internet law.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Pixelation, 22 Apr 2020 @ 11:55am

        Re: Re: Terrible shame

        "Except when it comes to copyright, patents, and internet law."

        And, clearly, Covid19.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        OldMugwump (profile), 22 Apr 2020 @ 12:16pm

        Re: Re: Terrible shame

        Could be; from your original post, it wasn't clear if you are unhappy with his statements about what the law is or about what the law ought to be.

        (On the latter I'm in agreement with you, Mike, 98% of the time. The former is a question of history and interpretation.)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 23 Apr 2020 @ 2:16am

          Re: Re: Re: Terrible shame

          "...it wasn't clear if you are unhappy with his statements about what the law is or about what the law ought to be."

          Epstein's stance on Imaginary Property relies on the assumption that a clause of law can successfully alter factual reality. Not unheard of by copyright maximalists, sad to say, but what it means is that Epstein's construction makes as much sense as Zeno's paradoxes. No matter how accurate his analysis on the legal terminology might be.

          It's not "brilliant" except as an ivory-tower logic exercise if a simple reduction ad absurdum finds that the presumption upon which the aergument is built is, in fact, a construct which can not exist in observable reality.

          If we operated from the assumption that unicorns existed any thorough analysis regarding the state regulations of keeping one might end up as brilliant as Epstein's arguments. Doesn't mean there isn't a serious problem assuming that his logic is valid in the real world.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            OldMugwump (profile), 23 Apr 2020 @ 10:12am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Terrible shame

            I haven't read Epstein's position on IP, so I don't know what he actually claims.

            However of course you're right in general - if the assumptions are flawed, all the conclusions of logical reasoning from those assumptions (however brilliant) are also flawed.

            The institution of property exists in every human culture - I think it's reasonable to think, based on experience and cultural evolution, that it's a useful institution.

            "IP" is a historically recent invention that doesn't exist at all in most historical cultures. So there's a lot less reason to think it's useful. The arguments that support rights to ordinary property don't apply - at all - to IP, because if I copy your idea or pattern of bits, you still have it.

            I find it interesting that F. A. Hayek, who came from a similar intellectual tradition as Epstein, was not supportive of IP.

            In The Constitution of Liberty he wrote on patents:

            The growth of knowledge is of such special importance because, while the material resources will always remain scarce and will have to be reserved for limited purposes, the users of new knowledge (where we do not make them artificially scarce by patents of monopoly ) are unrestricted. Knowledge, once achieved, becomes gratuitously available for the benefit of all. It is through this free gift of the knowledge acquired by the experiments of some members of society that general progress is made possible, that the achievements of those who have gone before facilitate the advance of those who follow.

            And in The Fatal Conceit, on copyright:

            Just to illustrate how great our ignorance of the optimum forms of delimitation of various rights remains – despite our confidence in the indispensability of the general institution of several property – a few remarks about one particular form of property may be made. […] The difference between [intellectual property] and other kinds of property rights is this: while ownership of material goods guides the user of scarce means to their most important uses, in the case of immaterial goods such as literary productions and technological inventions the ability to produce them is also limited, yet once they have come into existence, they can be indefinitely multiplied and can be made scarce only by law in order to create an inducement to produce such ideas. Yet it is not obvious that such forced scarcity is the most effective way to stimulate the human creative process.

            (Emphasis and elisions are mine.)

            He went on to say (this was 1988) that, however, he couldn't imagine anyone bothering to write an encyclopedia if not for copyright. :-) :-)

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 24 Apr 2020 @ 5:20am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Terrible shame

              "I find it interesting that F. A. Hayek, who came from a similar intellectual tradition as Epstein, was not supportive of IP. "

              I am not a lawyer, but my background in science tells me - emphatically - that assigning physical faith-based properties to immaterial concepts gets you in trouble. Trying to find a way to drink -1 glass of water, for instance, or relying on a rod blessed by a priest to possess bacteriocidal properties when applied heartily to someone's back.

              At least armchairing history I find only two close analogies to copyright law. The injunction of the medieval church making it an act of heresy for non-clergy to interpret the bible, and the various forms of government censorship imposed by dictatorships. Both of whom were in fact invoked in the original formulation of classical copyright, in the form of Queen Anne's Statutes. In the end Copyright stems from the idea that "Your thoughts and opinions are MY property". Censorship ability moved from government to private entity.

              "The arguments that support rights to ordinary property don't apply - at all - to IP, because if I copy your idea or pattern of bits, you still have it. "

              Which, along with the immaterial nature of the intended "property" is why I usually insist "Intellectual" property is the start of the fraud scheme, and most often refer to it as "Imaginary" property.

              Any rational legislation intended to benefit actual creators should have been in the form of a strictly commercial-only regulation to begin with, and an anti-fraud law preserving creative work paternity.

              "He went on to say (this was 1988) that, however, he couldn't imagine anyone bothering to write an encyclopedia if not for copyright. :-) :-)"

              Perhapsd ironically, encyclopedias couldn't exist without heavily exploiting the fact that other people had already produced the information to be tallied and catalogued. Most encyclopedias thus couldn't exist if it wasn't for fair use exceptions, making the argument one of encyclopedias being impossible under strictly observed copyright. ;-)

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                OldMugwump (profile), 24 Apr 2020 @ 10:26am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Terrible shame

                Copyright actually worked quite well, with minimal side effects, before copying became cheap and easy.

                That started with photography, then photocopiers, now computers.

                Before all that, you needed either a scribe (expensive!) or a printing press (expensive!) to make copies. The cost of reproduction was a significant fraction of the value of the book - there were relatively few publishers, so copyright was easy (or at least possible) to police.

                Circumstances changed. Copyright was a good idea in it's day. That day is past.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  PaulT (profile), 24 Apr 2020 @ 11:33am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Terrible shame

                  Yes, this is what I generally say. For all the panic over home taping, VHS piracy and so on, since copyright was mainly levied again commercial piracy it tended to function fine (although there were still problems). Once it became easy to infringe on it without a profit motive, the whole thing started to fall apart.You can't stop people from sharing online the same way they used to share mixtapes or record from the radio without attacking your own customers.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 27 Apr 2020 @ 12:46am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Terrible shame

                  "Copyright actually worked quite well, with minimal side effects, before copying became cheap and easy."

                  The same way air traffic regulations work well if you haven't yet invented airplanes?

                  Also, it's NOT exactly accurate to say that copyright "worked" unless you also specify for whom. Queen Anne's statutes screwed british publishing in an era where it was already known that in france and germany, periods of no or unenforced copyright formed the very basis for the explosive creation of literature and culture.

                  "Copyright was a good idea in it's day."

                  Even in it's day copyright wasn't a good idea. Plenty has ben written about copyright as a concept but the best summary I've found is still this seven-part blog series starting here;

                  https://falkvinge.net/2011/02/01/history-of-copyright-part-1-black-death/

                  Copyright is pure, unadulterated protectionism - a red flag act intended to preserve a middleman industry feeling the pressure of no longer being relevant.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                OldMugwump (profile), 24 Apr 2020 @ 10:31am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Terrible shame

                ...or, as I wrote 9 years ago:

                http://mugwumpery.com/?p=239

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      steve, 22 Apr 2020 @ 11:27am

      Re: Terrible shame

      That's horse shit.

      If you constrain your thinking to idealized microeconomics, Epstein can tell just-so stories in that framework that seem compelling.

      Want an example: his work on crime, incentives and punishment. The parts that are falsifiable, have been, leaving only econ-101 stories and barely disguised moralizing.

      He's a pop-academic for Galt worshippers, and appears to have hired Mary Rosh as an assistant.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        OldMugwump (profile), 22 Apr 2020 @ 12:20pm

        Re: Re: Terrible shame

        A "brilliant legal scholar" is one who makes arguments that are compelling and logical, to other legal scholars.

        That doesn't mean that you, or I, or those other legal scholars agree with those arguments. It just means the guy makes good, self-consistent, arguments.

        And Epstein did. If you think he's wrong, that makes him dangerous, but it doesn't make him not a brilliant legal scholar.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          steve, 22 Apr 2020 @ 1:24pm

          Re: Re: Re: Terrible shame

          He created convenient, half-baked arguments that empirically failed as soon as they could be tested.

          The test of a legal argument - persuasiveness - does no better. He didn't persuade anyone of note that I've heard from, he crafted political weapons for his fellow travelers.

          If you were lauding him as an operative or a propagandist, I'd be with you. As-is, his legacy will, instead of being about his Towering Intellectual Achievements in the Economic Analysis of Law, be "wasn't he that 'winger everyone laughed at after he got caught - twice - lying about his wrong-when-published nonsense about COVID?"

          He's a pathetic fraud. Pure and simple.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 23 Apr 2020 @ 2:23am

          Re: Re: Re: Terrible shame

          "And Epstein did. If you think he's wrong, that makes him dangerous, but it doesn't make him not a brilliant legal scholar."

          More than a bit like Thomas de Aquinas and other brilliant medieval minds whose clarity and consistency of argument as well as impeccable logic still stands as examples of brilliance.

          Only one thing which tarnishes that image - that their arguments rely on completely faith-based assumptions unbacked by empirical observation.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Rocky, 23 Apr 2020 @ 8:18am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Terrible shame

            Syllogisms ftw!

            One cat has one more tail than no cat.
            But no cat has ninety-nine tails.
            Therefore one cat has a hundred tails.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 24 Apr 2020 @ 5:27am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Terrible shame

              Exactly like that.

              It does take a great mind to come up with an argument like Zeno's paradoxes and similar exploitations relying on 100% logic with but one initial, fatally flawed assumption which turns the flawless argument into a purely theoretical construct unrooted in physical reality.

              Sometimes such constructs are necessary in theoretical science - like the use of imaginary numbers (square root of -1, for instance) for advanced math - But you are in a great deal of trouble trying to use those imaginary constructs for real-world purposes.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 25 Jun 2020 @ 1:18pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Terrible shame

                I agree with your broader point, but imaginary numbers are a very bad example - they're used extensively in physics and computer science.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2020 @ 11:39am

      Re: Terrible shame

      > For years, I've followed him being just ridiculously wrong when it comes to internet law...

      He's 77 now, so may well have "lost it"

      I would sympathize: he's 77, so maybe he just doesn't 'get' the internet.

      ... except for the example of Masako Wakamiya, who at 82 is an app developer.

      Age is limiting mostly because one lets it be. (Certain physical limitations may apply.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        OldMugwump (profile), 22 Apr 2020 @ 12:29pm

        Re: Age is limiting mostly because one lets it be.

        I wish that were true.

        I'm guessing from your attitude about that that you're either (a) not old, (b) in exceptionally good health, or (c) deluded about your own mental capacities.

        (c) seems to be pretty common in older people. In fact, as they get older not only does their mental ability decline, but often so does the ability to notice it.

        As I mentioned, my father noticeably and obviously declined starting from his late 70s (he's now 90 and still going). But HE hasn't noticed any difference at all - only the people around him notice it.

        I've witnessed the same thing in many brilliant and famous intellectuals - not only do they often suffer from the "Nobel effect" (thinking that because they know a lot about one thing, they therefore have something useful or insightful to say about other things), but as they age, they gradually become idiots and pale shadows of what they once were - but they don't notice it.

        I'm 20 years younger than Epstein and in good health, but I can tell that my own mental abilities are not what they were when I was 30.

        I think it's a normal and inevitable effect of age. I'm just able to tell because I'm doing much the same work I was at 30 and can compare the quality of what I do now, to what I did then (I'm still OK, but not as good as I was).

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2020 @ 10:45am

    "which he views as identical to tangible property."

    Strange how the story changes when it comes to property tax.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2020 @ 10:50am

    "Lots of people who know him insist he's a brilliant legal mind... For years, I've followed him being just ridiculously wrong when it comes to internet law"

    If he gets the law wrong, it means he's not a brilliant legal mind, and anyone who says otherwise is wrong.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Koby (profile), 22 Apr 2020 @ 11:25am

    How Did That Commercial Go?

    I'm not a doctor, but i DID stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Apr 2020 @ 11:51am

    But any possible error rate in this revised projection should be kept in perspective

    Error rate? As in, "I am running tests and analyzing statistics?" That's a pretty bold use of terms right there. "Let me frame this with terms of art that make me sound like I know anything about that on which i am pontificating."

    (Hint: An error rate is not in the statistical analysis (or making-shit-up, as in this case), it's in the data-gathering. So i guess people dying is an error rate for this fuckwit.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 22 Apr 2020 @ 3:13pm

    Strike two.

    Not just misses he out on the ability to adequately estimate his scientific proficiency, it also seems like he misses the integrity necessary for doing journalism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    anunymus cuward, 22 Apr 2020 @ 11:08pm

    Let me guess

    The "correction" was made by Winston Smith ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 23 Apr 2020 @ 2:06am

    The current U.S. death toll stands at 592 as of noon on March 24, 2020, out of about 47,000 cases.

    As I write this, the current US death count is just over 47,000 out of 850,000 cases. Current trends are that there's around 30,000 new cases and 2,500 new deaths per day.

    https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/

    I wonder if he's going to issue any more corrections to explain this? Meh, who am I kidding, this kind of fraudster will just pretend that the original estimates of what would happen if nothing we done means that they were lies when the actual figures after this is all over are lower. It will be like arguing with the idiots who think that the Y2K bug wasn't real because the media-exaggerated armageddon didn't happen (due to people working their asses off for a couple of years to stop it).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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