Richard Epstein’s epidemiological goal posts:
If I’m correct in what I said, the dominant model has about a one percent chance of being true, and my model, forget about the differences, is essentially you’re talking about normal flu season, 30,000 to 50,000 deaths, is 99 percent true. Has anybody decided to shut down the economy for six months every year for flu season?
Richard Epstein’s predictions for total U.S. deaths from COVID-19:
March 16th: 500
March 23rd: 2,000-2,500
March 24th in updated version of March 16th piece: 5,000.
ETA: It’s important not to lose sight of the fact that Epstein’s predictions were taken very seriously by the White House, and seem to have influenced administration policy regarding the pandemic. So LGM’s posts on this subject are the opposite of nutpicking some guy on a blog somewhere, despite the fact that Epstein is in fact a nut on a blog somewhere.
BTW Epstein has never explained the nature of the “mistake” he now says he made in his March 16th piece. His March 23rd piece adjusted the projected US death total upward because his new prediction more or less matched the relationship between the US population and total world population — and he continued to insist in all these pieces that the final world death total from COVID-19 would be around 50,000 or less. (It now appears this total will probably be exceeded at some point in the distant future, i.e., the day after tomorrow). In any event the update the next day gives no explanation at all for doubling the estimate he made the day before.
Now it turns out that the day after that he told Vox’s Jane Coaston (she interviewed him March 25th — does it ever occur to him that he’s not legally obligated to talk to journalists, or, as he would say, journalists?) that the US death total was very likely to be no more than (“99% true”) a modest 30,000 to 50,000, an estimate which, while admittedly representing a 5,900% to 9,900% increase over the confident prediction he made all of nine days earlier, is apparently close enough for University of Chicago work, even though the higher bound of that estimate equaled the prediction he was still making the day before regarding the likely final COVID-19 death toll across the entire world.
Quick math quiz: if one person predicts that 500 people in a country are going to die from a disease, and another predicts 200,000 are going to die, and 50,000 end up dying, which prediction was more accurate?
The interview also includes a bunch of other golden nuggets, such as:
If it turns out that these curves are working the way that I’m doing, you are wildly over investing in the lockdown side. You tell this to these standard docs, they don’t even know what it’s about. I teach medical people all the time and they are trained for diagnosis and they make their money in procedures.
What Epstein makes his money in remains technically illegal in almost all US jurisdictions outside the libertarian paradise of Nevada.
The interview does include one true statement:
I’m not a lawyer, I’m a law professor.
Lawyers generally have slightly more of a sense of when to, in the classic terminology of the common law, STFU already.
. . . OK one more:
Then, the evolution that’s going to take place by way of counter strategies is going to take place more quickly. It will be more severe, but the severity will be mitigated, so if the virus is eight times as serious as the standard one, by the time we get done with these things, it’s going to react as three or four or two times what it is because of the adaptive responses to the evolutionary changes.
Ice cream Mandrake. Children’s ice cream.
. . . as several commenters have pointed out, Epstein doesn’t even acknowledge that his most recent estimate that COVID-19 will be around 100 times more deadly in the US than his original estimate nine days earlier said it would be (stay tuned for tomorrow’s update!) incorporates implicitly the suppression strategies that he’s been arguing all along are unnecessary. (Another prediction: Because Epstein never explains what he means by the “dominant model,” he’ll end up cherry-picking the highest mortality estimate made by any study, which in turn will have been based on the assumption that no public health measures of any kind would have been taken. Then he’ll argue that his last estimate, whenever he makes it, was more accurate than that. “Therefore” he was right all along.)
I noted a couple of days ago that if the death total in the US is anything short of apocalyptic, the very people who argued against aggressive measures will claim those measures were unnecessary, because the death total was only X times more than an ordinary flu season. (See the opinion of C.J. John Roberts in Shelby County v. Holder, pointing out that the Voting Rights Act was no longer necessary because the voter suppression it was designed to ameliorate was being ameliorated.).