Did the ACT Chief Minister just say we’d be stuck for years?

There’s a lot in Andrew Barr’s comments that should scare the bejeesus out of anyone paying attention:

Chief Minister Andrew Barr says lockdown measures will not be eased despite the increasingly optimistic outlook because of the cyclical nature that pandemics take, comparing the crisis to the Spanish Flu.

Ummmm … What’s that? Wanna explain that?

“While it is possible for an island nation to pursue an elimination path, it is a short-term elimination path because this virus will continue to circulate around the world for many years – any early move out of restrictions runs the risk of a second or third wave.”

University economists don’t mind how long we’re in lockdown

More than 200 economists have signed an open letter urging the Prime Minister to stay strong and keep us locked down:

Dear Prime Minister and Members of the National Cabinet:

The undersigned economists have witnessed and participated in the public debate about when to relax social-distancing measures in Australia. Some commentators have expressed the view that there is a trade-off between the public health and economic aspects of the crisis. We, as economists, believe this is a false distinction.

We cannot have a functioning economy unless we first comprehensively address the public health crisis. The measures put in place in Australia, at the border and within the states and territories, have reduced the number of new infections. This has put Australia in an enviable position compared to other countries, and we must not squander that success.

We recognise that the measures taken to date have come at a cost to economic activity and jobs, but believe these are far outweighed by the lives saved and the avoided economic damage due to an unmitigated contagion. We believe that strong fiscal measures are a much better way to offset these economic costs than prematurely loosening restrictions.

As has been foreshadowed in your public remarks, our borders will need to remain under tight control for an extended period. It is vital to keep social-distancing measures in place until the number of infections is very low, our testing capacity is expanded well beyond its already comparatively high level, and widespread contact tracing is available.

A second-wave outbreak would be extremely damaging to the economy, in addition to involving tragic and unnecessary loss of life.


Maybe they want the shutdown to continue because they aren’t bearing the cost of the shutdown personally.

Maybe if their businesses had suffered they would be less sanguine about destroying businesses, but you see of the 220 or so signatories, only five or so are not employed at universities. The rest are on the public teat.

Maybe they could teach the government about the fallacy of sunk costs.

The fallacy of sunk costs

The sunk cost fallacy is a fascinating intersection of economics and psychology:

In economics and business decision-making, a sunk cost (also known as retrospective cost) is a cost that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered. Sunk costs are contrasted with prospective costs, which are future costs that may be avoided if action is taken. In other words, a sunk cost is a sum paid in the past that is no longer relevant to decisions about the future. Even though economists argue that sunk costs are no longer relevant to future rational decision-making, in everyday life, people often take previous expenditures in situations such as repairing a car or house into their future decisions regarding those properties.

It’s worth learning more about it – it’s the reason governments often stick to bad policy. That and pride.

Always blame the Orange man

Because the Orange man is bad. Get a load of this from The Guardian:

For more than five years, wildlife conservationists in the US have been clamoring for the government to provide Endangered Species Act protections to pangolins, a group of imperiled ant-eating mammals that are widely, and often illicitly, trafficked for their scales and meat. The Trump administration, however, has refused to act and that refusal has suddenly taken on grave new implications.

In other words, if Trump had banned the trade in pangolins, it might all have been avoided.


Though no pangolins live in the US, an endangered species designation could make additional funding available to preserve the species, bolster efforts to crack down on illegal trade and send a powerful signal to the international community that the animals ought to be protected.

Yes, we have no pangolins. But it’s still the Orange Man’s fault.