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Using Sweden as a baseline for rationality

by Bruce O’Hara

April 27, 2023

Three years into the pandemic, I figure it’s time to calculate the cost of panic.

The world has been living with disease pandemics for millennia. The norm in such situations was to quarantine the sick. To throw entire societies into quarantine was unprecedented in human history.

Though they’ve never admitted it to the rest of us, I’m sure the Chinese Government knew COVID had escaped from a Chinese lab. After that kind of cosmic booboo, a certain level of blind, unreasoning panic on China’s part was understandable.

Why the West chose to copy that craziness is less comprehensible.

There are plenty of examples of countries that did not succumb to panic. Africa was too poor to shut down, and too poor to buy vaccines, yet the evidence suggests Africa’s COVID death rates were a fraction of ours. It is only the arrogance of the West that prevents us from seeing that.

In the West, only Sweden resisted the siren call to panic. For the first year of the pandemic, Sweden largely followed their preexisting pandemic preparedness plan. Schools were shut down only briefly. Masks weren’t pushed. Restaurants were never closed. The society-wide lock-downs that happened in every other Western country did not happen in Sweden.

Where the rest of the West relied on edicts and coercion, Sweden relied on recommendations, and focused on providing its citizenry with information on how to minimize their personal risks. Sweden called it a ‘light touch’ to pandemic management.

The rest of the West was horrified by Sweden’s approach, and demonized it. Sweden eventually acceded to parts of our craziness – restricting travel, restricting large gatherings, and going to remote learning for high schools and colleges for a time.

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