Thoughts on economics and liberty

Something else is not right about the OxCGRT database – things don’t add up

I’ve discussed the database flaws here. But here’s a highly suspicious thing. News reports on the OxCGRT database trends were already out on 26 March 2020 (e.g. https://techcrunch.com/2020/03/25/oxford-uni-academics-launch-a-tracker-for-covid-19-policy-interventions/). They published a full-fledged working paper on 30 March 2020: https://en.unesco.org/inclusivepolicylab/sites/default/files/learning/document/2020/4/BSG-WP-2020-031-v3.0.pdf – any such paper takes at least a week to prepare.

The OxCGRT database is heavily biased in favour of lockdowns. It is also an extremely complicated exercise to deliver. Its (a) concept design would have taken time, then (b) getting the funds, then (c) the detailed design of the coding system and manual, then (d) the programming of the system for people to enter data from anywhere in the world, and then (e) training people and getting them to start start data entry (I have trained to do data entry: it is a non-trivial exercise even to enter data). Then the analysis, then the charts and reports.

I would be interested in seeing the original project funding documents for this project. If it was visualised well before 20 March 2020 (before most of the world started thinking about lockdowns) we should ask how it happened – e.g. about the people involved, the funders, the programmers, etc. Did they have any advance plans in early 2020 or even earlier for such a thing? It seems impossible, at first glance, that such a database was not just conceptualised and funded but fully implemented (and producing reports/ graphs) by 26 March 2020, when most Western nations had barely begun to lock down.

I might be wrong, and there might be miraculously efficient people in Oxford University, but worth exploring this angle further, as well. Those who are aware of how the academic funding process works might be able to advise on the feasibility of such a mammoth project being conceptualised, rolled out and producing reports within 10 days of the first lockdowns in the West.

The creator of the database is Thomas Hale

Dr Thomas Hale’s research explores how we can manage transnational problems effectively and fairly. He seeks to explain how political institutions evolve – or not – to face the challenges raised by globalisation and interdependence, with a particular emphasis on environmental, economic and health issues. He holds a PhD in Politics from Princeton University, a master’s degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics, and an AB in public policy from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School. A US national, Dr Hale has studied and worked in Argentina, China and Europe. His books include Beyond Gridlock (Polity 2017), Between Interests and Law: The Politics of Transnational Commercial Disputes (Cambridge 2015), Transnational Climate Change Governance (Cambridge 2014), and Gridlock: Why Global Cooperation Is Failing when We Need It Most (Polity 2013).

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He has ZERO training in biology, virology, immunology, public health, etc.

His views on the Belt and Road initiative: https://www.ft.com/content/d076f548-805b-11e8-af48-190d103e32a4

He has not just worked but has specialised in China, e.g. an articlde “Domestic politics and Chinese participation in transnational climate governance” in a 2018 book: https://www.routledge.com/Global-Governance-and-China-The-Dragons-Learning-Curve/Kennedy/p/book/9780415810173

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Sanjeev Sabhlok

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