Thoughts on economics and liberty

Category: Current Affairs

My email to a person still panicking from the pandemic


Herd immunity is a theoretical construct. In practice herd immunity varies with viral load and a number of characteristics. There is no unique “number” for herd immunity. Also various definitions in the literature about what it means. The one I use is when the reproduction rate drops below 1 and the virus spread starts dropping off in a particular place. That’s the point I see as “herd immunity”. Herd immunity will be different in New York and in a remote rural setting.

My conclusion is that the pandemic is largely over in Sweden (has been over since mid-April) and any residual risk is comparable with that of common cold. Also USA is close to that stage – in a couple of weeks max.

It is true that if the Swedes (or Americans) who have not yet been infected rub shoulders in close proximity or talk loudly/ sing at each other for 1 hour, they will still get infected, but that’s not what most people do. Most of us remain at a good distance to each other and don’t loudly sing in each other’s face.

Except in prisons, choirs, meatworks and other high intensity environments, there is no evidence of this virus infecting more than 20% of the population simply because the viral load is insufficient or there is some innate/adaptive immunity – which is consistent with all previous pandemics. In none except Spanish flu actually infected more than 30% (which was around 35%). There are very few high intensity situations in real life.

After 8 months (this virus began in October 2019), all the necessary data are in. And all parts of the jigsaw puzzle fit. It is a very complex puzzle, though, and requires intensive study and an open mind – and a lot of questions. I studied a lot of advanced textbooks and published peer reviewed literature to form my view.  Btw, Sunetra Gupta is no trivial scientist – being the Prof of theoretical epidemiology at Oxford – and she’s fully aboard this view (in fact she was one of the first to outline this view) – and I’m leaving out the super-brilliant Anders Tegnell here.

Basically, this is a far less dangerous virus than Asian flu, and has passed in many parts of the world. Its average death rate will end at around 500-600 per million across the world – which is peanuts in the big scheme of things. It will rank at the 5th or 6th position in the past century, starting with Spanish flu at the top. Never before did we lockdown, even during the Spanish flu.

This has been one of the most bizarre incidents in human history and a very bad portent for what governments will do when they get scared (irrationally) of “climate change”. The communists are in charge. Liberty and human dignity/choice is the last thing in their mind.

For detailed explanation of reasons see: and particularly my 30 May article:


The single best diagram on this bizarre situation is this (from Lockdown sceptics, with my annotation)

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Next TOI blog post and comments: Why less than 25% of the world’s population is likely to get Covid-19

This is the post. And this is an email I sent out a moment ago to a number of people.


Dear all

Things went pear shaped for all previous analyses and “models” when Stockholm’s data showed that it had crossed the herd immunity threshold in mid-April but serological studies showed far less than 20% people had antibodies at that stage. Everything had to fit this. So I became open to alternative explanations. I found some good leads in the work of Nicholas Lewis and Anne Marie Knott – despite potential questions about each approach.

I looked at the R0 concept closely and found it to be shockingly shoddy – with almost no possibility of getting a real handle on the actual number, which means herd immunity numbers floating around were simply speculative. Martin Kulldorff confirmed that: “No respectable epidemiologist would claim a certain percentage as needed for COVID-19 herd immunity. At this stage of the pandemic, we simply do not know what the number is”. I also studied some of epidemiological literature which is quite dismissive of the practical utility of this concept. I have come to the view that 90 per cent of epidemiologists in the public domain spout pure garbage – just like 90 per cent of economists and climate scientists. (Anders Tegnell and Johan Giesecke are among the few exceptions).

I then started looking into the actual spread of previous pandemics (flu) and found that most did not spread beyond 25%. Knowing fully well that this virus is a coronavirus, not flu, I still think these facts now all add up and suggest that this virus faces natural resistance. Immunological science explains why that might be so (innate immunity, cross-immunity etc.) – Btw, in this regard I’d like to share a recent study that SS Chakrabarti et. al of the Institute of Medical Sciences, Banaras Hindu University has sent to me (attached).

In addition, I’ve reviewed worldometers for deaths – with San Marino showing clearly that its pandemic is over. That seems to be the upper limit of fatalities for this virus. The lethality of virus seems to be comparable ed with the Asian flu – around 20 times less than that of Spanish flu. I have summarised these findings in this TOI blog post:

Good news: Sweden is now reopening high schools, colleges and universities for summer classes and the fall semester. Sweden has recognised that its pandemic is nearly over and life should be able to return to full normalcy within weeks.

And for India: Johan Giesecke was interviewed by Rahul Gandhi, a political leader from the ultra-corrupt Congress party. Leaving aside the question why Johan chose to speak with this super-corrupt man, his points are pretty much the same as our party has been advocating for three months: end India’s lockdown and focus on the elderly. I’ve extracted two minutes from the interview. (Johan, please do visit India but NOT on Rahul’s invitation. The man and his family have absolutely ruined India! –  I’m fighting him and other corrupt socialist parties of India – politically – for the last 25 years. I’d be happy to connect you to really decent and respectable people from India).




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COVID-19 will almost certainly never infect more than 25% of the world’s population

Email that I’ve sent out to a few people:
This chart below is the final nail on the covid panic (and yet, this is a serious disease – I don’t mean to downplay its seriousness – see my text below).

This chart was created by someone who used Neil Ferguson’s model, applied it to Sweden, and then plotted actual deaths (see tweet).

And btw, my research (a couple of hours of googling) confirms that for the world as a whole, there’s been virtually no virus that has ever infected more than 25% per cent of the population. Spanish flu infected only 25% or so (see my tweet thread) – that that was without any vaccination; H1N1 (2009) infected 24%, As a general rule, pandemic influenzas only infect a quarter of the people (see New York government’s website).

This confirms the validity of Anne Marie Knott’s analysis. Not more than 20-30% persons in the average country are likely to get this coronavirus, no matter how hard they try. This proportion is also called the attack rate by some epidemiologsts (e.g. Encyclopedia Britannica), but other epidemiologists use a different meaning for attack rate (the number of persons one infected person can infect), so let’s just call this the infection rate.

What explains this huge gap – why don’t the other 70-80% of the people get infected? The innate immunity issue is very significant here (and it varies for each virus), and the viral load factor. Viral loads are low in most adult interactions and probably highest in pre-school centres, but children seem to have innate immunity for this virus (something for future researchers to explain). In elders innate immunity decays rapidly – therefore two-thirds of Kirkland Life Care Center nursing home’s residents caught the infection. The 25% infection rate is only an average.

Now coming to Sunetra Gupta’s analysis that there will be no second wave in some places.

From the Spanish flu example (for which there was no vaccine), we see that herd immunity for such viruses is generally around 25%. The estimate of 60% bandied about by “experts” is absurd, to say the least. For COVID, HI levels should be in the same range, i.e. 20-30%.

Antibody figures in parts of UK and Sweden are close to 20% (or slightly more). And we know that the actual extent is likely to be higher since not everyone produces measurable antibodies. This confirms that the further spread of this virus in these countries is going to be extremely slow – close to non-existent. Therefore Sunetra Gupta is correct

The basic point is that the initial modelling was absolutely off the charts. Neil Ferguson (copied into this email) might wish to publish a public statement withdrawing his extreme estimates.

I’ll do so some further work and write about it in next TOI blog post over the next few days. Happy to have any thoughts/ inputs to this analysis, so that I don’t make fundamental mistakes!


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URGENT: Herd immunity for COVID-19 could be as low as 15%


After reviewing comments here, I’ve tentatively concluded:

There are two reasons to explain the resistance: (a) social distancing leading to low viral load, so the virus doesn’t reach transmissible levels, and (b) innate immunity.

The key point, as Vernon Smith has pointed out, is that “the claim is that the 80% “resistance” accounts for discrepancies across different data“.

I read two other examples cited above in the comments which suggest that innate immunity is unlikely to be much greater than the 10-15% I had earlier estimated.

But even if innate immunity (and cross-reactivity) is in that range, it can have a dramatic impact. Stockholm’s case suggests it is already reaching herd immunity.
And if one adds the natural distancing that is part of life in many rural communities (with reduced viral loads in human interactions), it would drop further – which is probably why Sweden’s rural areas have also seen a rapid drop-off in cases.

The cases which oppose the studies that Knott has cited are:

At least 44 of 70 UT-Austin students who chartered a plane to Mexico for spring break tested positive (they flew back separately), as did 52 of 61 who attended a choir practice in Washington. [a comment in the FB post linked above]

This strongly suggests that viral load is a key variable. However, it also suggests that in communities where people don’t get cooped up together, the virus will never spread to the same extent. I’m assuming something on the lines of an inverse square relationship to distance applies: i.e. viral load is proportional to (1/distance^2).

Therefore there are two main sub-groups of the resistant population:

a) those who are innately immune (around 10-15% perhaps),

b) those who rarely, if ever, come into close proximity with others for an extended duration of time. Depending on the nation, the community, and occupation, this could be anywhere from 10-25% of the people. E.g. farmers and tradies are unlikely to come into close contact with virtually anyone outside their own household for an extended duration.

I want to note that Knott’s flu analysis is flawed. At least I couldn’t confirm it from here or here.

I’ve also studied this chart by Michael Levitt (which was linked by Knott here):

While virus transmission for an individual is random, it is a constant for society, a sum of constants for each segment (occupational, rural/urban, cultural).

The sum of this constant + innate immunity will inform herd immunity.

This virus likely won’t infect 60-65% of the world’s population because of insufficient viral load. Another 10-15% will beat it off with their innate immunity.

Only 20-30% will likely get the disease, of which only a very few will die.

This also means that in cities and countries that have seen significant deaths, the pandemic has effectively passed (some precautions can still help).

In other places, people can revert to normal with a few extra extra precautions.


This is the most pathbreaking piece of research I’ve come across so far on COVID-19, by Anne Marie Knott – Washington University’s Olin’s Robert and Barbara Frick Professor of Business.

This research was shared by the best (in my view) economist alive today – Vernon Smith (Nobelist, of course) on his FB page. He doesn’t share such stuff mindlessly.

This research suggests 80% innate immunity. If so, the IFR might well be high but the total effect is rather low. Herd immunity could be as low as 15%.

This analysis is very persuasive and we need to take it very seriously. This is very strongly supportive of Sunetra Gupta’s claims. I wish she had provided me with serious data and evidence – since the whole world needs evidence and logic – not just claims.

I’m going to share this widely – so everyone with some capacity can analyse this to identify any loopholes/ gaps. I will write about this on my TOI blog after I’ve had a chance to think about it, and read any critiques.


I have been exploring innate immunity recently and believe it is an area with a huge gap in our understanding:

Just earlier today I had raised my estimates from 10-15% to much higher (

To me this analysis by Knott is perhaps the most persuasive so far.


Anne Marie Knott, innate immunity, herd immunity


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