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There's also an elementary misunderstanding of the basic maths. The figures quoted are not in dispute - there is general agreement that the virus causes mild to non existent symptoms in a lot of people, symptoms characteristic of a severe flu in another part and very severe symptoms requiring hospitalisation in about 5% of all cases, with a fatality rate among all cases of between 0.4% and 1.6% in all cases (the increasing evidence is that it's a bout 0.8%). What simply does not follow from that is that there's nothing to worry about. The big problem is the rapidity of spread, which mens that with those figures you very quickly get to a situation where the health services collapse. There is a reasonable argument about how best to prevent that and there's strong arguments against both of the two strategies (mild social distancing and herd immunity as in Sweden, the Netherlands and Japan, and tight lockdown). What the policy responses actually show for me is the risk aversion of both publics and governments once the scale of the problem became clear.

David Watkins

Third, Agamben may well be right that the pandemic will be the "pretext" to pass a lot of legislation. But rather than being evidence of political dishonestly or a "growing tendency to rely on the state of exception" this is actually evidence of quite ordinary politics. Parliamentary politics is the art of what it is possible; and when people are afraid or attentive -- both the natural response to a pandemic -- a willingness to compromise and get things done is likely. A crisis creates openings to shift coalitions and lines of alignment.

This is exactly right, but it also helps pinpoint what's most frustrating about Agamben's piece, which is not its wrongness but its utter banality. I'm not convinced "bare life" and "states of exception" are entirely useless conceptual construct for thinking about politics, but if I'd only read this essay, I might be.

John Quiggin

The follow-up piece should have started with something along the lines of "The scientific advice on which I relied in February has sadly proved to be wrong, and the measures I criticised then have turned out to be inadequate first steps.Here's how this changes my analysis". The fact that it doesn't (unless I've missed something) is pretty damning

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.


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