Great read. The major issue with trying to manage an infectious disease crisis with a neoliberal approach is that markets do not do well with collective problems. Anytime one person's actions impact other people, markets get the answer wrong. I compare it to pollution. If we let firms do whatever they want, we'd still be living in the filth of a Dicken's novel set in 19th century London. An infectious disease crisis fits this mold. A "you do you" attitude just pollutes the world with disease. And then we have to try to clean it up.

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Using one’s judgment and assessing risk only works when you are given all of the information that is relevant to the decision at hand. (And that you have the literacy with science, medicine, or other disciplines to properly understand and analyze the data, or access to experts who are accurately interpreting it for you, but that’s a whole separate issue.)

The problem is that we are no longer given any data, and in many cases it’s because it isn’t even being collected anymore. Most people do not know that we are currently in the second biggest Covid surge since omicron, and the ones who do are inferring that largely indirectly from wastewater data rather than case counts. My state health department is still sending updates with variant sequence analysis, but often they are sample sizes of single digits. Sometimes even n = 1. Which you wouldn’t know unless you dig into the fine print. It’s public health theater at this point.

So, in the absence of any useful information, people are just making calls based on...as the kids say, vibes. Gut hunches, what the rest of the group are doing, what *feels* best. And most human beings are really bad at assessing risk, as we are often cognitively biased in favor of “it won’t happen to me”. Unless you’re highly anxious, you probably have a mental self defense mechanism that allows you to feel safe going about your daily life without worrying about all the random stuff you can’t control happening to you. Therefore, we are likely to minimize risk and act accordingly.

So here we are. I guess the world has officially given up on addressing this issue anymore. I suppose we should be thankful that they are at least telling us the truth about no longer being willing to support any counter responses to Covid. We know where we stand now.

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Agree. But, in addition, it's even worse than an information problem. Even if we had the best information there will be some people who will take more risks than others. These people then share that risk with everyone they come in contact with. And those people share that risk with others. As I wrote recently, (https://troytassier.substack.com/p/two-forms-of-epidemic-risk) this risk propagates outward like ripples from a pebble tossed in a pond. So, even with the best information, we all still must deal with the risks created by the decisions of others. And, it is frequently those with the least that pay the most in terms of bad health outcomes as we saw with Covid-19.

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Jan 18Liked by Nate Bear

well ffs Nate you did it again. And so succintly. Ugh neoliberalism, ugh. Fairy tales of "economics", shrouded in scientific language but so far removed from science it's hilarious. or it would be, if, you know, it didnt have such um world destroying effects.

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You talk about the “big lie” of neoliberalism. An excellent book that came out last year on the subject is The Big Myth: How American Business Taught Us to Loathe Government and Love the Free Market by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway.

The WHO’s June 2022 position paper on polio vaccines unequivocally supports childhood vaccination against this once terrible epidemic disease. I have to give them credit for still maintaining this bold stance. I vividly recall receiving the oral Sabin vaccine in my elementary school gym in 1961 when I was eleven years old. That was exactly the midpoint of Milton Friedman‘s stint at the University of Chicago and one decade after the publication of his article, “Neo-Liberalism and its Prospects.”

Even at that age I knew vaccination was a common sense health measure as well as a civic duty. It was indeed a different age, with a different mentality. Few people at the time recognized neoliberalism as a virulent disease. It’s a shame that there was no vaccination then for what would soon become a worldwide scourge. It’s too late now. There’s probably nothing to do but complicity wait until it kills its host. Herd genocide.

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What became of the concept of caution?

Studies abound with a multitude of bad outcomes from a COVID infection. These studies do not generate revenue for a COVID cure, there are none to be found. They do seem to indicate that any mitigation in severity or avoidance of an infection is paramount.

So in spite of these strong signals for action, the market response is chasing easy profits from war.

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Jan 18·edited Jan 18Liked by Nate Bear

Yep, you nailed it. I was watching the committee hearing this morning on Long Covid with the senators in the US, they weren’t even hearing what these women were saying. It was almost comical, but it wasn’t. This one lady was talking about how expensive getting treatment is, how difficult it is to drive hours to see a doctor, how when you get to the doctor they still don’t know what to do for you, basically all these women were calling for more funding for treatments and fewer insurance denials. These men were all “So what you’re saying is there needs to be more competition!” (Free market capitalist garbage basically.) Maggie Hassan was the only one to actually hear that expanding telemedicine and PAYING providers properly for their service will help people who don’t have access to long Covid clinics at least be seen there.

But I had to turn it off because it really did seem like they were just trying to figure out how best to help corporations profit off the situation, not how best to help patients.


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This is the North American solution to problems with a negative collective outcome - profit now, worry about pollution tomorrow. Only when tomorrow comes, there's no funding, & who wants to clean up this mess that could have been prevented by some basic regulation at the start?

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This fall I got the latest Covid booster, flu shot and RSV vaccine. I have managed to avoid Covid, but met a fair number of belligerent anti-maskers working in a liquor store during the lockdown. People are correct to be suspicious of pharmaceutical companies in terms of ripping us off financially and driving healthcare costs up, and of course we have neoliberal healthcare. However, they seem to have forgotten the refrigerator trucks in NYC, or that lovelies like tuberculosis and polio were eradicated by vaccines. I just read that only 17% of Americans got the latest booster.

This situation has many causes, poor education, and gross wealth disparity, and predators like Rupert Murdock and Alex Jones. Heinous Republican "leadership" in the house promotes the MAGA agenda, and it appears 30% of the country is armed to the teeth. Little wonder. Even if they are picking the wrong enemies, they know the system is broken and destroying them. A system that allows for the mentally unhinged and ignorant to ascend to high office is evidence enough. One that allows the worst of the lot to openly encourage insurrection on national television and still be in running for the presidency is grotesque beyond belief. The neoliberal corporations are still backing the orange clown as well.

All this as climate change destroys a viable planet, which will further unrest and a slide into authoritarianism. Even if Trump gets locked up. The problem will not be gone. It's all quite horrifying.

The truth is, no one is working on a real solution. The move to renewables is far from enough, we need a complete societal makeover that distributes wealth equitably. Even if we achieve net-zero in the developed world, if poor countries aren't allowed the wealth to achieve the same, the Earth will exceed tipping points. And keep an eye on H5N1. It's jumping species left and right.

Degrowth boiled down to an article, not that it will ever happen. https://geoffreydeihl.substack.com/p/degrowth-the-vision-we-must-demand

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California has reduced its recommended period of covid isolation to one day if symptoms are mild and there is no fever.


Still trying to wrap my brain around this. I just got covid for the first time Jan. 8. Fever only lasted through the tenth, my symptoms were slightly worse than a garden variety head cold but not as bad as the flu. I’ve been working from home without any difficulties. Finally tested negative yesterday.

But you better believe I was infectious even when I no longer had a fever. Still getting nice solid red positive test lines up until this past Sunday. At that point the line began to lighten, guessing as my viral load decreased.

Had I been required to go into the office I would’ve given this to who knows how many people.

Now that California has done this, watch how quickly other states will adopt the same recommendation. How long before the CDC follows suit?


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It was interesting how even some people who claimed to be progressives have joined the right wing mob to burn public health officials at the stake. You are right to point out the misdeeds of big pharma as the devastation of the OxyContin crisis shows. But despite that, the data is there, COVID vaccines and mandates saved lives. While some have seen these as infringements on individual freedom, an alternative would be to view them as civil society working together to lessen the effects of a deadly pandemic. My blood pressure goes up when I hear politicians like Rand Paul saying Dr. Fauci should be in prison, when it was Paul and his fellow Republicans who hampered sensible public health measures to stop the spread of COVID and which may have caused unnecessary death and suffering.

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