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The costs of what we have done are enormous and will show up most obviously over the next few months in the body counts sacrificed to causes other than COVID-19.
The future will now be worse because the flawed pandemic health projections didn't correctly calculate their effects on economic welfare.

Australia's economic policies in response to the coronavirus threat have been driven in the main by projections of death and infection rates, produced by epidemiological modelling, that since have been proven to be orders of magnitude above what any country anywhere in the world, regardless of policy, has experienced.

Meanwhile, the welfare costs of our economic policy responses have been either overlooked entirely, gestured towards vaguely but not actually calculated, or calculated in ways strikingly out of alignment with international best practice when estimating the welfare costs of different policy alternatives - eg, using full value-of-a-statistical-life (VSL) numbers, rather than age-adjusted VSL or quality-adjusted life years, when valuing lives lost to COVID-19 (which are predominantly the lives of older people with a few years, not an entire life, left to live).

A leading reason for points 1 and 2 is that it's a lot less work to count bodies and point to scary body-count projections than to think hard about the many and various costs - many invisible and requiring a reasonable counterfactual that is, again, mentally taxing to create; many manifesting only over time - that arise when we take the drastic economic policy actions we have taken.

The costs of what we have done are enormous. These costs will show up most obviously over the next few months in the body counts sacrificed to causes other than COVID-19 - like from famine, preventable diseases and violence in lower income countries; and deaths from despair, isolation, and non-COVID-19 health problems that have lost resourcing in better-off countries such as Australia - but will also stem from sources that don't have actual deaths of presently living people attached to them.

Lower GDP now and going forward means lower levels of government services on education, healthcare, research and development, infrastructure, social services, and myriad other things that keep us happier, healthier and living longer.

Kids whose education has been disrupted due to our mandates that schools and universities move activities online, and young people who have lost their jobs or are entering the job market during the recession we have created, will carry the impact of these disruptions for years.

Discoveries of cures for diseases other than COVID-19 will be delayed; IVF babies won't be born; our progress on lifting up the tens of thousands of Australian children who live in poverty will be set back.

The future we'll now have is worse than the future we could have had without the policy responses we have seen.

That comparison of what-we-will-have to what-we-could-have-had can be expressed in terms of quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) and wellbeing-adjusted life years (WELLBYs), and compared directly to estimates of the QALY and WELLBY costs of the COVID-19 deaths and suffering that our policies have averted.

When you make this comparison, correctly, the evidence is clear that Australia's lockdown has been a mistake.

In hindsight, instead of reacting out of fear, our government could have understood its primary role early on to contain and reduce the population's fear; it could have set proportionate and targeted policy, not blanket policy (eg, extreme lockdowns were not what drove the decline from peak infections in Australia: when many of the harshest measures were set, infections were already on the decline); and it could have been perennially mindful of the massive economic and hence human welfare costs implicit in any decision to stop trade, pull children out of school, or lock people away from their friends and family.

In normal times, we jump up and down and fill national airwaves about changes in GDP or unemployment rates that are an order of magnitude less than what we are seeing now. In normal times we don't track single-digit daily death rates from any cause as a leading indicator of whether it's safe to venture outside, knowing that hundreds of people in Australia die each day from myriad causes. In normal times we talk about striving for health not through sitting at home and avoiding other people, but by building our strength and supporting our immune systems. People today have lost their perspective on what is normal.

As the costs of our decisions become more and more apparent, with time, our fear will stop controlling our minds. I hope the perspective of the public and policy-makers returns quickly, so we have a chance of handling things better if the next wave of the virus attacks again what is now one of the most immunologically unprepared high-income countries in the world: Australia.