Bad Economies

The economic slowdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has been enormously troublesome, but it is worth noting that it also has some good aspects. For instance, it has significantly reduced pollution, thereby improving quality of life and saving lives. François Gemenne has provided an analysis concluding that in China pandemic pollution reduction saved twenty times as many lives as were lost to it.

COVID-19 is a massive global economic and health challenge, having caused >3500 global deaths as of this writing (Mar 8) and untold economic and social disruption. This disruption is only likely to increase in coming days in regions where the epidemic is just beginning. Strangely, this disruption could also have unexpected health benefits — and these benefits could be quite large in certain parts of the world. Below I calculate that the reductions in air pollution in China caused by this economic disruption likely saved twenty times more lives in China than have currently been lost directly due to infection with the virus in that country.
- Marshall Burke, COVID-19 reduces economic activity, which reduces pollution, which saves lives., Sunday, March 8, 2020

See also:

- Jeff McMahon, Coronavirus Lockdown May Save More Lives By Preventing Pollution Than By Preventing Infection, Forbes, Mar 11, 2020
- Jeff McMahon, Study: Coronavirus Lockdown Likely Saved 77,000 Lives In China Just By Reducing Pollution, Forbes, Mar 16, 2020
- Jeff McMahon, Covid-19 Lockdowns Trigger Record Cuts To Worldwide Carbon Emissions, But At What Cost?, Forbes, May 10, 2020
- The epidemic provides a chance to do good by the climate, Economist, Mar 26th 2020 edition

This suggests an important point: Diminishment of some parts of the economy can in some ways be good. And of course conversely, some economic growth can be bad. Moreover, the goodness of shrinking some part of the economy could outweigh the pain involved. This is too easily overlooked in human eagerness for economic growth and dismay at economic contraction. The pain is immediate, the benefit more distant and unclear.

The closure of the tribal casinos, which have emerged as one of the largest new sources of employment of any economic sector in the United States in recent decades, is eviscerating the revenues many tribal nations use to provide basic services. In one of the most important shifts toward increasing self-determination since the start of the century, more than 40 percent of the 574 federally recognized tribes in the United States now operate casinos.

Now these operations are hemorrhaging jobs. After the entire industry shut down in the early days of social-distancing measures, more than 700,000 people were left out of work, according to Meister Economic Consulting, which specializes in the tribal gaming industry.
- Simon Romero and Jack Healy, Tribal Nations Face Most Severe Crisis in Decades as the Coronavirus Closes Casinos, NYT, Published May 11, 2020, Updated May 12, 2020

Charles Trentelman
Ogden, Utah | May 11
Face it. A HUGE amount of the national economy was consuming junk we didn't need. We've spent two months not buying any of that stuff and we're doing just fine.
- Charles Trentelman, Comment on Paul Krugman, How to Create a Pandemic Depression, NYT, May 11, 2020

Mazatlan May 21
What percentage of our jobs are nothing but fluff, fancy prom dresses, designer cups of coffee, eye-catching fingernails and tattoos, the list goes on and on.
- Comment on Patricia Cohen, Many Jobs May Vanish Forever as Layoffs Mount, NYT, May 21, 2020

Show php error messages