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Commercial Surrogacy and Socialism from Below

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 23/08/2020 - 5:59am in

Sara Lee continues a debate with Alexandra Holmstrom-Smith on commercial surrogacy started in our Summer 2020 issue, sparked by Holmstrom-Smith's review of Sophie Lewis' recent book Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family (Verso, 2019).

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The post Commercial Surrogacy and Socialism from Below appeared first on New Politics.

Professor Foster’s cost-benefit analysis for the Victorian parliament.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 20/08/2020 - 9:15pm in

[below the exact text (with different font/highlight) as Gigi Foster’s submission to the Victorian parliamentary library in mid-August here. To see her health-related notes, including on topics like non-linearities and Sweden, see here, and to see all documents of that inquiry, see here. I helped write some of this and largely agree. So this is the place you can raise objections and suggest additions.]

Cost-Benefit Analysis Executive Summary.

NOTE: The analysis presented here is based on only a partial accounting of the costs of lockdowns. A comprehensive cost-benefit analysis should factor in many additional costs, as detailed below (see “Other costs not tabulated explicitly here, but that should count in the government’s calculus”).

For all of Australia, the minimum cost of a month’s worth of wholesale lockdown is estimated at 110,495 QALYs. This includes:

83,333 QALYs lost due to reduced wellbeing in the immediate term [2 million QALYs lost per year divided by 12 (to recover QALYs lost per month) divided by 2 (to attribute only half of this reduction to lockdowns per se)]

25,812 QALYs lost due to reductions in economic activity directly attributable to government restrictions

600 QALYs lost due to increased suicides during lockdowns

750 QALYs lost in the form of foregone wages of children suffering disrupted schooling during lockdowns.

For all of Australia, the estimated benefit of locking down “ad infinitum” (not only per month) is 50,000 QALYs.

Hence the minimum cost *per six weeks* of wholesale lockdown is at least three times greater than the benefit in terms of Covid-related welfare that could potentially be saved *in total* by wholesale lockdown. For Victoria alone, simply multiply both costs and benefits by the fraction of the Australian population resident in Victoria.


Mental stress. Mental stress associated with being locked away from the broader social sphere captures one dimension of the impact of increased domestic violence risk, anxiety about the future, loss of contact with friends and family, concerns about financial and health security, increased unemployment, loneliness and so on that are either caused directly by or further fuelled by wholesale lockdowns.

Assume that life satisfaction of Australians is 0.5 points (on the typical 0-to-10-point scale) lower than usual on average during wholesale lockdown (sources: Clark et al 2018, UK Office of National Statistics).

0.5 multiplied by the Australian population (25 million) = 12,500,000 WELLBYs sacrificed per year of lockdown.

One year of average healthy life in Australia equates to approximately 6 WELLBYs (6 WELLBYs equals one QALY), so the human cost of this increased mental stress is equivalent to the sacrifice of 12,500,000/6 = slightly over 2 million average healthy life-years (QALYs) sacrificed per year of lockdown.

How many full lives is this worth? A full life is assumed to be 80 years of average healthy life, hence 2,000,000/80 = 26,000 full lives lost per year of lockdown.

This translates to 26,000/12 = 2,170 full lives lost in each month of wholesale lockdown due to declines in wellbeing. Recognising that an average Covid death represents a sacrifice of 5 remaining healthy life-years (QALYs) (equivalent to 30 WELLBYs), 173,000 healthy life years represents the equivalent of approximately 34,600 Covid deaths sacrificed in each month of wholesale lockdown due to declines in wellbeing.

If we assume conservatively that only half of this figure is attributable to the lockdowns per se, then each month of wholesale lockdown causes the destruction of 17,300 lives of the type typically lostdue to Covid.

Reductions in GDP. Falls in GDP mean falls in both public and private spending that would have translated into more human welfare this year, and continued lagging of GDP in future years, until we catch up to where we would have been in the absence of Covid.

Assume that half the projected loss to Australian GDP is due to the lockdowns per se (see Appendix for full argument). Present projections of GDP falls, coupled with a conservative assumption that only government expenditure, not private expenditure, buys welfare, the minimum projected loss per month of lockdowns is estimated at 25,812 QALYs, or 5,162 lives of the type typically lost due to Covid.

Violence. When mental stress becomes extreme, suicides and domestic violence can be the result.

Lifeline ( reports that there are 8 suicides per day on average in normal times. Professor Ian Hickie, co-director of the Brain and Mind Centre at the University of Sydney, says suicides are expected to rise 25% over the next five years (

Assuming that the increase in suicides due to wholesale lockdowns per se is only 10% from the baseline level of 8 per day, this translates to an additional 24 suicides per month directly attributable to lockdown. Suicide typically claims people far younger (average age 44) than those claimed by Covid-19. Assuming that the average person lost to suicide has 25 healthy life years remaining (as compared to 5 healthy life years for an average person lost to Covid), each month of wholesale lockdown is estimated to produce (24 x 25)/5 =)120 lives lost of the type typically lost to Covid, from suicide. This equates to 120x 5 = 600 QALYs lost per month.

Further studies about the link between the Covid crisis and suicide are available here:

Losses due to schooling disruptions. When children stay home from school, their learning suffers and their parents’ productivity suffers.

Looking only at the cost of children’s online rather than face-to-face learning in terms of foregone wages, I have estimated a conservative future cost of $75 million in a peer-reviewed paper recently accepted to the Australian Journal of Labour Economics. Assuming a high willingness-to-pay of $100,000 per QALY, this cost represents the cost of saving 750 QALYs, or (recalling that a Covid death on average represents a sacrifice of 5 QALYs) 150 lives lost of the type typically lost to Covid, in the form of foregone wages of children who have suffered disrupted schooling during lockdowns.

Other costs not tabulated explicitly here, but that should count in the government’s calculus

Increased non-lethal self-harm during lockdowns

Increased (lethal and non-lethal) domestic violence during lockdowns

Reduced worker productivity during lockdowns

Crowded-out healthcare during lockdowns (missed cancer screenings, stroke treatments, surgeries, etc) resulting in more deaths and suffering of non-Covid causes

IVF babies not born due to the inability to attend fertility treatments during lockdown, and age-based expiration of fertility opportunities during the wait

The negative effects now and in future years of bad habits inculcated during lockdowns in both children (less play, less outside time, less sociability, less health, more fear) and workers (less productivity, less health,and less motivation)

Increased mental stress, self-harm, and violence in future months when people face higher unemployment created by the lockdowns (, Clark et al 2018), including the decade-long “scarring effect” of entering a job market in the midst of a recession

Benefits (again using conservative assumptions, biased in favour of lockdowns):

An average “Covid death” (given people who die of Covidare on average older and with co-morbidities) represents a loss of five QALYs. Assume that the equivalent of 10,000 Covid deaths in Australia –0.04% of the country’s entire population –were avoided directly by wholesale lockdowns per se. This assumes that the vast majority of the difference between our recorded per-capita deaths to date and those recorded in Sweden –deaths which totalled .056% of their population –would occur in the absence of wholesale lockdowns, which is an assumption extremely biased in favour of wholesale lockdowns saving lives on net relative to the alternative of targeted protection of the vulnerable, in spite of the lack of solid evidence for this assumption.

This assumption of 10,000 deaths can alternatively be thought of as an aggregate figure that includes not only actual deaths, but also the “death equivalent” of aggregated lower quality of life in the short run for those who become symptomatic but do not die, and for those suffering longer-run damage from the virus.

This translates to a maximum of 50,000 QALYs saved in total by wholesale lockdowns.

Given that one QALY equates to about 6 WELLBYs in Australia, this translates to an estimate of 300,000 WELLBYs saved directly by wholesale lockdowns.

What would society usually be willing to pay to save 50,000 QALYs? At a very high rate of $100,000 per QALY, saving this amount of human welfare would be worth paying $5 billion –equivalent to 0.34% of GDP.


What fraction of the current and future economic contraction is directly attributable to lockdowns per se?

The Imperial College study of Miles et al (2020) into the costs and benefits of lockdowns in the UK finds the direct effect of lockdowns on economic activity to be direct and large:

Deb et al (2020) found that lockdowns reduced economic activity in the UK by 15% in the 30 days after they were adopted. They find that stay-at-home requirements and workplace closures are the costliest in economic terms. Preliminary estimates from the UK Office for National Statistics showed a slightly more than 20% fall in GDP in April 2020, the first full month after the lockdown. Tracking the immediate effects of policies (and not the external environment) across countries, Bonadio et al (2020) put the impact on output and incomes (i.e. GDP) of policies to counter the spread of the infection on GDP averaged across 64 countries even higher, at around 30%.

Aum et al (2020) estimate that around one-half of all job losses in the UK and US can be attributed to lockdowns. Coibion et al (2020a) estimate that there were 20 million lost jobs in the US by April 8th triggered overwhelmingly by government restrictions. In a follow-up paper the same authors undertake surveys of behaviour and economic outcomes across US regions with different degrees of restrictions. They conclude:

“We observe a dramatic decline in employment and consumer spending as well as a bleak outlook for the next few years. Our estimates suggest that this economic catastrophe can be largely accounted by lockdowns.”

This is now also the consensus in the economic forecasting literature. Economic pain like unemployment and GDP contraction remain while restrictive policies remain, with strong recovery only coming after that, and stalling if restrictions are reimposed. The main Bank of England scenarios, for example, depict economic recovery as being dependent on the lifting of restrictions (Table 1A, Bank of England May Monetary Policy Report).

In Australia too, the consensus is that restrictions and economic decline are causally linked. The Reserve Bank of Australia says in its projections that “The initial phase of the recovery is likely to be primarily driven by the easing in restrictions, which will lead to an improvement in employment outcomes as businesses re-open, as well as a pick-up in household spending.”

The RBA’s most recent forecasts indicate that the Australian economy is losing 6% GDP on an annualised basis in the months of lockdowns. Taking the very conservative view that further lockdowns do not mean the eventual recovery will take any longer, we can then attribute a 6/12% GDP loss to an additional month of lockdown. That 0.5% of GDP is just over $7 billion, implying$2.5 billion in reduced future government spending using the rule of thumb that government expenditure equates to 36% of GDP.

Ignoring all welfare lost due to reduced private expenditure, and using the conservative estimate of $100,000 as the value for a statistical life year, the reductions in future government services alone will imply a loss of approximately 25,812 QALYs per month of lockdowns.


Clark, A. E., Flèche, S., Layard, R., Powdthavee, N., & Ward, G. (2018). The Origins of Happiness: The Science of Well-Being Over the Life Course, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Pragyan Deb, Davide Furceri, Jonathan D. Ostry and Nour Tawk (2020), “The economic effects of Covid-19 containment measures”. COVID Economics, CEPR, vol 24. May 2020.

Barthélémy Bonadio, Zhen Huo, Andrei A. Levchenko, Nitya Pandalai-Nayar(2020), “Global Supply Chains in the Pandemic”, NBER Working Paper 27224, May 2020.

Sangmin Aum, Sang Yoon (Tim) Lee, Yongseok Shin (2020), “Doesn’t Need Lockdowns to Destroy Jobs: The Effect of Local Outbreaks in Korea”, CEPR Discussion Paper 14822.

Olivier Coibion, Yuriy Gorodnichenko and Michael Weber (2020a), “Labor markets during the Covid-19 crisis: A preliminary view”, COVID Economics, vol 21,May 2020.

Olivier Coibion, Yuriy Gorodnichenko and Michael Weber (2020b), “The cost of the COVID-19 crisis: Lockdowns, macroeconomic expectations, and consumer spending”, COVID Economics, vol 20, May 2020.

Miles et al (2020):

UK wellbeing reports:

Fiscal Austerity and the Rise of the Nazis

Local economic data and election results in Weimar Germany shows that more acute austerity led to more Nazi support.

Grim Future of Cities: State’s Growing Budget Hole Threatens New York City Jobs, Services

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 18/08/2020 - 7:54pm in

The New York City budget hole is getting bigger. How much of a harbinger is this for other US cities?

Could lock-downs lead to a baby boom in several Western countries? If so, why?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 18/08/2020 - 12:38am in

For months now, demographers and other social scientists have been predicting a covid baby bust because marriages were postponed, pubs were closed, anxiety levels were up, measured fertility intentions were down, sexual activity went down (in some reports), and economic uncertainty was up.  The dominant story of lock downs and babies so far has been (also for Australia) that the genders cant find each other, can’t close the deal, and think its a bad idea to have children in these circumstances anyway. Historically also, recessions are bad for babies.

And yet, whilst cycling through the Netherlands during the family holidays, I was struck by a story in a regional newspaper that said the local mid-wives expected a baby boom. The article said they had many more inquiries and bookings. There is a similar (but somewhat inconclusive) report from New Zealand that the mid-wives are overbooked for some of the coming period.

Mid-wives are only part of the pregnancy story though and the reports for individual mid-wives prove very little. How about hospitals? Well, some hospitals in Switserland are also reporting an increase and, like in Australia, more pregnancy tests sold in shops. There was another such recent report from the National maternity ward in Ireland. So we have indicative reports from four countries of a possible baby boom, plus national data from at least two countries on strong increases in pregnancy tests. Not conclusive, but still. What could be going on and how would it affect the tally of the pros and cons of lock downs and social distancing?

It is early days, as one might say, and it might be true that there is a left-field explanation for the hospital and midwifery reports on an impending baby boom. Maybe we’re not hearing from the under-booked hospitals. Maybe pregnant women are now more anxious and have more time to book their hospitals and mid-wives in advance. Maybe newspapers are just keen on “good news in times of lock down” stories. Maybe many midwives are unusually busy with other things, like helping out lone mothers or with looking after their own children, leaving hospitals and particular midwives to be overbooked. All four reasons are eminently possible, though they seem a little far-fetched to me, particularly given how the boom stories coincide with the pregnancy test increases (up 30% in Australia), which is data that is representative of whole countries.

We’ll know with more certainty soon, but it does now seem possible that a baby boom might actually be underway in lock down land. That could, if it truly materialises, be very important for an assessment of the long-run consequences of lock downs.

I doubt the reason for more babies is that people have had more sex, basically because it doesn’t take much sex to have babies and if people don’t want to have babies, they will find ways not to have them even if they do have more sex. I also don’t buy the argument that hordes of pregnant women wanting an abortion are too afraid to go to clinics and hospitals and so reluctantly choose to have babies anyway: I just can’t see that being true for the Dutch and the Swiss who are quite comfortable with the idea of abortion pills and where the vast majority of kids are planned. Besides, lock downs were relatively short periods in those countries. If there is a boom, it would have to be because many couples have decided they actually want more children.

The best reason I can think of for a possible boom is that the lock downs and social distancing might have made people more family oriented. If one is forbidden from closely interacting with those outside the home, make some more inside the home!

A similar potential explanation is that the covid period has made careers seem much less important than they were before. Filling one’s life with kids makes more sense if the alternatives are less admired.

Neither reason would have held in previous recessions so are not invalidated by the historical record. Both these potential explanations are specifically due to lock downs and social distancing.

If a covid baby boom happens in particular Western countries, I would certainly count it as an important silver lining of lock downs and social distancing, particularly if the boom happens because careers and getting rich have reduced in importance. We will find out soon!

Why We Campaign to ‘Save the Middle Class’ and Shouldn’t

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 17/08/2020 - 4:35pm in

The centering of “saving the middle class” in presidential politics not only left open the possibility of direction of anger and misunderstanding towards the racialized poor, but encouraged it.

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The post Why We Campaign to ‘Save the Middle Class’ and Shouldn’t appeared first on New Politics.

The A Levels Results Crisis and the Covid Education Train Wreck

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 14/08/2020 - 11:55pm in

Covid-19 is increasing inequality in educational outcomes, and that problem isn't going away any time soon.

Summer Rerun: Journey Into a Libertarian Future: Part I –The Vision

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 14/08/2020 - 8:06pm in

An examination of libertarian thinking, based on the work of one of its strong-form proponents, Hans-Hermann Hoppe.

‘Morality Pills’ May Be the US’s Best Shot at Ending the Coronavirus Pandemic, According to One Ethicist

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 14/08/2020 - 6:41pm in

An ethicist seriously suggests forced medication to increase cooperation with pandemic mask-wearing.