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Ep. 230 Bob Murphy vs. Dave Smith on the Johns Hopkins Lockdown Study

Bob explains the friendly exchange he had with Dave Smith regarding the new Johns Hopkins study that concluded lockdowns did little to reduce mortality. Smith had tweeted that in a sane world, all those favoring lockdowns would be publicly disgraced, while Bob argues that these studies are so open-ended that people on both sides can reasonably ignore those that disagree with their preferred conclusions.

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The audio production for this episode was provided by Podsworth Media.

About the author, Robert

Christian and economist, Chief Economist at infineo, and Senior Fellow with the Mises Institute.


  1. Harry Painter on 02/18/2022 at 11:36 PM

    The difference between causality of minimum wage lowering employment and covid lockdowns reducing covid is that minimum wage causing unemployment is logically deducible from a basic principle, ie raising price lowers demand.

    There’s nothing like that with lockdowns, because we’re all just guessing about how the virus works, and because lockdowns are more complicated than raising a price. You could try arguing “the basic principle is that forcing people to stay home and close their businesses reduces gatherings and therefore covid deaths,” but there are assumptions baked into that that are by no means clear.

    Yet the axiom about the relationship between higher prices and lower demand is as clear as any simple math problem and disputed by no one. Even those who argue that minimum wage laws are beneficial don’t dispute that most basic point. They have to accept it while arguing that secondary effects make the juice worth the squeeze.

    • Robert Murphy on 02/19/2022 at 2:41 AM

      Harry Painter wrote: “You could try arguing “the basic principle is that forcing people to stay home and close their businesses reduces gatherings and therefore covid deaths,” but there are assumptions baked into that that are by no means clear.”

      It’s by no means clear how the transmission of a respiratory virus would be reduced if everybody stayed home?

      • Not Bob on 02/22/2022 at 5:04 AM

        If everybody was locked into a vacuum-sealed room with zero contact, maybe. But of course that’s not the case.

        There’s kind of no “true lockdown” in which zero transmission happens. We’re merely shifting the clustering. People who used to congregate at workplaces and school and what have you instead congregate differently now, spending the 8h clustered at home instead of at work or school.

        So it’s actually conceivable, and I seem to recall some studies (though I don’t recall where, sadly) that “staying home” actually leads to worse outcomes in terms of transmission simply because we’ve re-ordered society into a worse “social network” than before. E.g. schools seem to be safe havens, because kids basically don’t infect other kids. But now they’re infecting their live-at-home grandma and their parents for 8h more per day.

        Seeing how many workplaces are much better set up for ventilation than many homes, especially homes that were never planned to house a whole family 24/7 it isn’t very surprising that in some cases, the “lockdown” actually increased the spread.

      • Will on 03/05/2022 at 5:05 AM

        It isn’t only not clear, it is clear that it doesn’t reduce transmission. Two main reasons: First, lockdowns force people to be in close contact with potentially sick people who then infect them. Secondly, the argument only focuses on the short term. Even if you do see reduced numbers immediately the number of infections pick right back up as soon as the lockdowns lift. The same amount of people are still infected as of there had been no lockdowns.

  2. Alex K on 02/19/2022 at 7:00 AM

    While there are indeed a lot of factors that can skew the results in any lockdown (or mask / vaccine mandate) study, we also have a plethora of Covid data from various places in the world that are virtually identical and can be used as a real-life substitute for a time machine.

    North Dakota and South Dakota are so similar in every possible way, they might as well be one place called “Dakota.”

    When you have North Dakota going psycho with their lockdowns and mandates, and South Dakota doing absolutely nothing (not locking down or imposing any business restrictions even for a day), and when the charts of the two states look 100% identical, it’s as close to a definitive proof that none of it makes any difference as you can get.

  3. Marko on 02/19/2022 at 11:55 AM


    Dave is, as he calls himself, ”the most consistent mother fucker”. You are a very high level intellectual. You two have two completelly different audiences. He is in the rhetorics world, and you are in the dialectics world. The enemy is manipulating weakminded into compliance. Dave is making some of them come back. Even if you are fully correct, you two are leading different kinds of troops. I am sure Dave was not manipulating anyone, but even when he makes some honest mistake, he is useful with his audience. I would have written to Dave privatly to correct him. Truth yes, but also tactics is important.

    • Tel on 03/01/2022 at 10:53 AM

      I agree with Dave that for people who believe in freedom 100%, the individual rights are sacrosanct and no justification is ever sufficient. However, there are not many such people.

      For more pragmatic people who generally support freedom, there are perhaps exceptional situations where individual rights might by bypassed, but the bar must be set high to justify such things and most importantly there must be CONSEQUENCES for any leaders who do violate rights and turn out to be wrong afterwards. Thus, if the case for lockdowns is even borderline arguable this way or that way, then lockdowns have failed. A few percent gain is not by a long shot an excuse for taking away:
      * The right of movement, even within one’s own country.
      * The right of informed consent to medical procedures and personal bodily integrity.
      * Freedom of association to see friends and family.
      * The right to work, engage in commerce and run a business.

      All of these were taken away, with the justification “Hey it will save lives … don’t be a granny killer.”

      Well, putting to one side the number of grannies killed by Governor Cuomo, and also putting to another side all the many hypocritical “rules for thee but not for me” situations … those guys better be able to put forward really good evidence of the people saved by their policies … using “guess so” ain’t even close to good enough. As far as I’m concerned, anyone willing to sacrifice my freedom and property “for the greater good” has automatically volunteered to put his or her own freedom and property up as collateral, in case they screw up. There needs to be some kind of symmetry in this. We cannot have leaders who get away with simply shrugging and saying, “That didn’t quite work out” and then wandering away with the loot.

  4. Tel on 03/05/2022 at 1:43 AM

    On the issue of credentials, and who is allowed to talk about certain topics … I notice that the same people who claim economists are not doctors and therefore must keep quiet on any medical matter, also will ignore Dr Rand Paul on the topic of whether stretch-knit cloth masks (full of huge holes you can see daylight through with the naked eye) will block aerosol particles. But … but … but … Rand Paul is a doctor so he’s allowed to speak, right? Oh I see … Rand Paul is not exactly the right kind of doctor … special rules apply there.

    But wait, the same people ignoring Dr Rand Paul, also come up with all sorts of reasons to ignore Dr Robert Malone who not only is fully medically trained, but also has real world research experience in the field of vaccines, and happens to be familiar with exactly the specific type of controversial mRNA vaccine that has been recently pushed on the world … holding several patents in this technology. The best they can do with Dr Robert Malone is tell lies about him, making out that he claimed to be the one and the only inventor of mRNA vaccines (he never made any such claim).

    In Romania there’s this guy Gigi Becali, who is a businessman, and a politician … he owns and runs the soccer team Steaua Bucharest (FCSB) and he has observed that the players who get the mRNA shots “lose their strength” in his words. The Romanian government gave an official statement that this was untrue, but how many soccer clubs do they own? The rule has been established here … only people who own and manage a soccer club are entitled to speak out on the topic of whether players are at full strength. Merely some under 15’s school club won’t be sufficient, you must have exactly the right kind of soccer club, and show when your club was victorious against FCSB. My point is that Gigi Becali has decades of experience, his club wins a lot, and he has put heaps of his own money on the line, therefore he has skin in the game. The people who criticize him have none of that.

    When Dr Peter McCullough talks about how nMRA jabs can damage your heart muscle, I take him seriously … it is exactly his area of expertise and there’s probably only a handful of people in the world who know vaguely as much about that particular topic … why don’t those people who love credentials take McCullough seriously?

    Now here’s a thought: is a non-credentialed generalist (such as myself) allowed to think about the connection here, between what Dr McCullough says about damage to the heart muscle, and what Gigi Becali says about soccer players … errr … losing heart? Because if such a connection did exist then the world would make a bit more sense to me. Where can I be awarded a certificate for stating the bleeding obvious? A doctorate of duh!

    Here’s another economist … speaking on medical matters. Take note this was in May 2020 when Dr Fauci was still telling people, don’t bother wearing a mask at all, and all you need to do is wash your hands. At the time they were closing beaches, without any medical justification whatsoever … but it showed they were “doing something” and if you argued it was a stupid idea, you got hounded as a granny killer.

    Everything that Dr Daniil Gorbatenko said about aerosol transmission and Vitamin D turned out to be completely correct, and most of it has already been admitted by the CDC now a long time later. Turns out that walking on the beach on a sunny day is about the best thing you can to do protect against COVID: the sea breeze rapidly disperses the aerosol, being out in the open makes it impossible for the virus to accumulate, and you get plenty of Vitamin D. In addition, regular exercise is good for the immune system and you avoid the problem of putting on weight because you are locked in your house. It also lifts the spirits and avoids mental problems such as depression.

    Those government officials who closed beaches GOT IT WRONG … there was not a single aspect of beach closures that was useful, and a whole lot was outright harmful. Do we hear them apologizing?

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