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One of this country's (and the world's) highest ranked economists, Prof. John Gibson at the University of Waikato, has slammed the "enormous influence of celebrity academics" commenting on the virus outbreak who "typically are not doing what I call the traditional approach to science, which is to submit ideas to the scrutiny of peers". A video of him speaking below is worth watching. He is not much featured in our mainstream media.

His peer-reviewed published articles argue that the costs of our particularly stringent lockdown policies will, over time, amount to being around 12 times higher than their benefits. In terms of life expectancy, Gibson estimates that the (indirect) cost of our stringent lockdowns will end up reducing it by one year as, for example, lower incomes lead to less funding for our health system. Whereas the (direct) benefit of such lockdowns, in terms of there being less deaths right now, amount to extending life expectancy by just 26 days, on average.

Seems to me that Prof. John Gibson's work is greatly at odds with Prof. Michael Baker who works at the University of Otago's Department of Public Health, who has written how some folks hold a "belief that this [elimination policy] might sacrifice the economy", whereas actually "the opposite is true".

I just can't figure why such an influential economist has barely featured in the media, compared to certain other types of "experts" who appear on practically a daily basis. Could it be that John Gibson doesn't fit "the narrative"? Or maybe he doesn't want to be a celebrity?


The news headlines are dominated by the seemingly "impossible" problem of how to let Aucklanders go on their summer holidays, without spreading the virus throughout the country. The government, courtesy of COVID Minister, Chris (aka"Chippy") Hipkins, has suggested another Soviet-style "rationing" scheme, along MIQ lines, whereby folks would have to book, that was so absurd even the Deputy PM immediately distanced himself from it. The idea was touted as a way to avoid horrendous traffic queues with police checkpoints overwhelmed by zillions of cars.

The essence of the problem is that someone who has the virus could infect someone else, often referred to as a "negative externality" in economics. So how can one solve it? Here's a possible way. To let the summer holidays happen safely, one has to price the externality, much as many governments price another externality, namely congestion in cities, using "congestion charges". These are an example of what economists call a Pigouvian Tax.

It could work like this: Aucklanders already pay a toll online to use the Warkworth tunnel - so in the present case they could simply upload similar information before travelling, namely their car registration, and in addition, proofs of vaccination of car occupants. The system would be enforced by setting up Warkworth-tunnel style cameras on the limited number of roads out of Auckland. Those "cameras capture an image of the vehicle’s registration plate number ... The system automatically checks to see if your vehicle is linked to an account".

Anyone trying to cheat, thereby exposing others to the negative externality (i.e., the virus) would be subject to charges, which are up to the government to determine. A strong police presence on roads out of Auckland would do random checks, making sure car occupants matched uploaded details. Such schemes always lead to cheating, but police checks & penalties could make it risky.

This "solution" would make traffic queues no different from other summer holidays. There would be freedom of travel and no rationing. Only penalties imposed on those intent on exposing others to harm by possibly infecting them with the virus. Which is what any free market economist would argue there should be. Have I missed something?




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Robert MacCulloch