The Aftermath Economy

We will forever believe that locking down the economy for COVID-19 was a massive mistake. There is virtually no evidence that death rates were lowered by government mandates and lockdowns.

Business activity in certain sectors would surely have slowed as individuals protected themselves from COVID: think hotels, cruises, restaurants & bars, amongst other services. But the government didn’t have to aggravate the problem by applying a version of medical central planning. Doctors, epidemiologists, and scientists can be very good at coming up with treatments, cures, and vaccines, but they’re not equipped to weigh trade-offs that involve costs outside the medical arena, like loss of income or basic freedoms.

There is clear evidence that closing schools caused a harmful loss of learning, which could affect the incomes of future workers for decades, while paying people not to work has warped the labor force.

Economically, the United States ran up about $5 trillion in additional debt and boosted the M2 measure of the money supply by more than 40% during the pandemic, which caused a 40-year high in inflation. In turn, this inflation led politicians to release hundreds of millions of barrels of oil from the strategic petroleum reserve in an attempt to temporarily reduce energy prices.

In other words, the US enters the decades ahead with more debt, less spending power, an undereducated population, and less petroleum put aside for national defense. The US has made the future riskier.

At the same time, no one can know exactly what the near-term future looks like. Right now, the conventional wisdom is that the US faces a recession. Normally, we would disagree with the conventional wisdom, but this time we agree. Unwinding COVID policies will be painful.