Friday, March 13, 2020

Michael Jordan and The Economics of the Coronavirus

By Robert Wenzel

The airwaves and the internet are filled with warnings about the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19). There is more panic in the air than virus itself. The panic is a non-stop viral news dump.

But lost in the hysteria concerning the virus is the fundamental fact that humans rank choices every day, all the time.

Government edicts to deal with the virus are simply various methods to trample over human individual choices. This is economics 101.

Consider, it seems pretty clear that if someone under the age of 65 contracts COVID-19, it generally means a week or so of illness and that's it. Full recovery.

In some circumstances, perhaps many, young and middle-age individuals may want to risk the possibility of getting infected as opposed to missing some important (or unimportant) event. It is about rankings and value scales.

A government quarantine and the banning of large crowd events is simply the government posing as being useful when they are just taking options away from people.

It may be the case that people over 65, especially if they have serious chronic health conditions, should take extra precautions against exposure, but the elderly can do this on their own without government measures.

I can remember when not that long ago, Michael Jordan was hailed for playing an NBA Finals basketball game with flu-like symptoms.

From the start of the broadcast with Ahmad Rashad reporting:
At 3:30 this morning, Michael Jordan woke up with flu like symptoms. He had a stomach ache and a headache, and he couldn’t go back to sleep. He threw up all night and as reported earlier he missed shoot around, but he was in bed all day and continued to throw up. As a matter of fact he got in here early. When I went to talk to him back in the back room, he was in a dark room trying to get some rest, but still throwing up. And Marv, I talked to him, I said ‘How do you feel?’ and he said ‘I really feel horrible.’ It is history in games where he’s either been hurt or sick, it’s been bad news for the opponent. records it as "Top NBA Finals moments: Jordan's flu game in 1997 Finals":
So sick and suffering from flu-like symptoms that at times he staggered, a dehydrated and exhausted Michael Jordan wills himself to 38 points against the Utah Jazz in a pivotal Game 5, adding to the Bulls star's legend as a clutch performer and relentless competitor...
 His 3-pointer in the final half minute gave Chicago a lead it did not lose, setting up the famous video clip of teammate Scottie Pippen helping his rag-doll pal off the floor. "Probably the most difficult thing I've ever done," Jordan said afterward. "I almost played myself into passing out just to win a basketball game." Not just any game, though -- a Finals game. Said Bulls coach Phil Jackson: "This was a heroic effort, one to add to the collection of efforts that make up his legend."
Michael Jordan helped off the court by Scottie Pippen at the end of Michael Jordan's "Flu Game."

 This is what The New York Times reported in December of that flu season (my bold):
Cases of the flu have increased rapidly in the last few weeks, dominated by a dangerous strain that hits hardest at the elderly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today...
From the Center for Disease Control, for that flu season (my bold):
The proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza (P&I) reported by 122 U.S. cities exceeded the epidemic threshold  for 10 consecutive weeks from December 8, 1996, through February 15, 1997, before returning to baseline.
In other words in a flu season where tens of thousands, mostly elderly, died, it was business as usual without government quarantines, flu-related edicts, etc.

It is not much different today in the case of COVID-19 except that government officials and the media are hyping the virus hysteria to unprecedented proportions.

The government is for the most part composed of power freaks who believe they should overrule individual choices, and other government officials are posing so that they can stay in power.

And don't get me started about the so-called necessity to fight the possibility of anyone getting the virus so that the elderly are protected.

What is really going on is that the mad dogs of coercion have been let out with the notion that the goal should be the complete halting to many activities to fight the virus as if this is the only goal all people should have as priority number one. Even though it would likely not be priority number one for many who are willing to take the risk of possibly becoming infected and feeling ill for a week.

As for the elderly, they can take any precautions they choose, government doesn't need to tell them to be cautious if that is what they want to be.

Yes, there was a time when Michael Jordan roamed basketball courts and the idea that life had to be dramatically disrupted because of a virus, that was not a serious threat to most, did not exist. It was a time when the ill fought through the illness with, sometimes, thousands in the stands cheering.

Now, the nanny state wants to stop this, to remove individual choices and heroic efforts, and replace them with demands and orders.

This is not freedom of choice. It is the opposite of free choice. It is taking choices and options away from individuals and businesses. It is the economics of authoritarianism.

Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher of EconomicPolicyJournal.comand Target Liberty. He also writes EPJ Daily Alert and is author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bankand most recently Foundations of Private Property Society Theory: Anarchism for the Civilized Person Follow him on twitter:@wenzeleconomics and on LinkedIn. His youtube series is here: Robert Wenzel Talks Economics. More about Wenzel here.


  1. Excellent example to bring up Michael Jordan's illness to illustrate this point. I wouldn't have thought of that.

    It felt really strange buying more groceries than usual after work because of all this. The reason? Not the prospect of being sick, but rather what the power freaks will keep us from doing next and how people react.

    I generally keep about two weeks worth of nonperishables on hand in case of something like an extended power outage, and then donate to a food shelf when expiration dates are coming due. But stocking up even more this time around because of unpredictable politicians was irritating.

    And yes, all the toilet paper shelves were empty - not that I needed any - which was something to behold. Don't people realize that simply taking a shower after going can also get the job done if supplies are low, and probably would be even more hygienic?

    1. Or as Paul Hogan (Crocodile Dundee) used to say for the French Tourist Bureau: "Come and say BIDET!"

  2. You seem to be battling a straw man -- the stated reason for these extreme measures are to slow the spread of the virus which is necessary because medical providers would otherwise be overloaded and people will die as a result of not being able to get care. Some of your arguments seem reasonable but since you don't demonstrate understanding this fundamental point it's not a very convincing article.

    1. Why is there going to be an overload at hospitals, if the young don't need hospital care and the elderly isolate themselves? Do you have any idea how to model? Are you one of those who modeled ebola would kill a million?

      Modelling is not static but static modelling appears to be fun for fearmongers.

  3. Great article. Went to the CDC to see what data they had on that year - (table 2)

    1996-1997 estimated # of deaths: 33,000+.
    Deaths by age group

    <19: 134
    20 - 64: 2771
    > 65: 30,000+

    These ratios seem to be consistent for 30 years (1977 - 2007)

    2000-2001, 2003-2004, 2004-2005 all had 44,000+ governmet forced shutdowns that I can recall.

    Also, this report from the CDC provides report on the 1994-54, 1995-96, 1996-97 flu seasons. Do a search for Wuhan and you will find reference to a flu originating from Wuhan China that was active in those years. This isn't the first time we have seen a Wuhan flu.

    1. This is all well and good until after the fact when it becomes apparent with the TB trojan added to this pandemic process.

      Im just waiting for the ravaging of the obese in 'Muurica. The idiocracy is very alive as well

  4. Excellent piece.
    People, on their own, without government instruction, are already altering their behavior and practices, to reduce the risk of getting the virus, and reducing the risk of spreading it to their elderly or susceptible loved ones. Thus, there's already a market response to this. People are demonstrating that they don't need the government to first tell them to take precautionary measures. If proper information is given, people will take action to ensure their own health and well being.