Tyler Cowen Is Wrong About Great Barrington Declaration on Lockdown Policies

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Benjamin Powell – November 12, 2020

George Mason University economist Tyler Cowen is attacking the Great Barrington Declaration again today [Nov. 11] on Marginal Revolution. He writes:

If you are still pondering the Great Barrington Declaration and related matters, let us try a simple empirical test about predictions.

He then links to an article quoting incorrect predictions made by Sunetra Gupta, a professor of theoretical epidemiology at Oxford University, who was one of the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration. The predictions were made back in May, a fact that Tyler notes in passing but seems to miss the significance of. The Declaration was signed on October 4th. The incorrectness of the May predictions was already obvious by October, and there is no reason to believe that those particular predictions played any role in the signing of the declaration or the policy advice it offers. Yet Tyler declares “Come on people, you were wrong,” as if this somehow discredits the advice given in the Great Barrington Declaration.

Does Tyler believe that anyone making incorrect predictions last spring lacks credibility to give advice today? Would he apply that standard to all the lockdown advocates that used the sensational overestimated death tolls of the Imperial College London model to justify their favored policies?

There is one person who, unfortunately, was clearly wrong more recently. In his October 15th Bloomberg column attacking the Great Barrington Declaration Tyler wrote,

Whatever you think of the stricter policies of last spring, they are now behind us, and the emphasis on ‘lockdowns’ is not helpful.

He later continued, “the critics who emphasize lockdowns are setting up a straw man.”

Unfortunately, Tyler, you were wrong. Lockdowns are being re-imposed across Europe, and we’re in increasing danger of seeing them re-imposed in parts of the United States. Ironically, if policy makers heed the advice in the Great Barrington Declaration, which Tyler disagrees with, then the lockdowns would be behind us. That’s something I’d like to see Tyler be right about.

Originally published at the Independent Institute.  

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