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Opinion | Weighing the public health and economic effects of covid lockdowns

This book on men has a vital message and a model to follow,” Mitch Daniels’s Jan. 4 op-ed on the recent reissuance of the book, “Men Without Work: America’s Invisible Crisis,” was thoughtful. But he violated his own message of considering various perspectives without declaring certainty in his main example regarding the Great Barrington Declaration signers. His conclusion that “the condemnation they incurred was profoundly anti-intellectual and anti-scientific” was defensible, but his declaration that pandemic lockdown policies were unequivocally a “net negative” was not, as it was implicitly predicated on how objectives are weighted.

Public health officials focused on two main objectives: minimizing deaths and hospitalizations, and minimizing the disease’s spread. The lockdowns reduced deaths and slowed the spread of the coronavirus, at least in the short run, allowing treatments and vaccines to be developed. Thus, from their perspective, the pandemic lockdown policies were a clear positive in achieving public health goals. Other public officials consider numerous objectives, most notably those related to economics and education, so the “net negative” only holds if these other objectives are given comparable weight to the health objectives.

Thus, in the spirit of the piece’s theme of reexamining an original position, I offer the following alternative wording: “The Great Barrington Declaration signers raised some valid points not considered by public health officials but very relevant to the policy decision discussion, so rather than being subject to attacks, it would have been more fruitful to have open public discourse debating the trade-offs being made with economic and other objectives.”

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