Covid-19: The day after

Edgardo Zablotsky

Ph.D. in Economics at the University of Chicago. Rector of the University of CEMA. Member of the National Academy of Education. Academic Counselor for Libertad y Progreso.

The extreme authoritarianism followed by our government does not appear to have been more successful against the scourge than societies that have respected freedom, quite the contrary.

PERFIL – In August 2020, when the restrictions imposed by our government to face Covid-19 had become part of our daily lives, I wrote a column for Profile entitled “Coronavirus and Leviathan”, in which I warned how our country acquired, day by day, day, characteristics of a modern kingdom of Leviathan, in which, under the pretext of protecting us from a tremendous health emergency, our freedoms were subjugated.

Today, as we are gradually returning to normality, it is time to evaluate what happened. Not with a desire to criticize but to learn from our mistakes so as not to repeat them again. To this end, let us use the experiences of Sweden and Uruguay, two societies that faced the pandemic with a different strategy than our own.

Let us remember some facts. Let us return to the beginning of May 2020 when President Alberto Fernández used Sweden as a counterexample of what should be done: “When they tell me to follow the example of Sweden, the truth is that what I see is that Sweden , with 10 million inhabitants, had 3,175 deaths from the virus. This is less than a quarter of what Argentina has. In other words, what they are proposing when they say we should follow the example of Sweden is that we should have 13,000 deaths.”

Two years later the evidence shows another reality. According to Worldometers (4/17/2022), the number of deaths in our country amounts to 128,344 and in Sweden to 18,572. If we normalize it by the number of inhabitants, in Argentina the total number of deaths per million inhabitants is 2,794 and in Sweden it is 1,819.

Sweden is a society that privileges freedom with responsibility. As the Swedish Institute, an official agency of its government, pointed out: “The country’s response to COVID is based in part on voluntary action. For example, instead of enforcing a national lockdown, the authorities give recommendations: stay home if you have symptoms, keep your distance from others, avoid public transport if possible, etc. Public and private agents in general tend to follow the advice of the responsible bodies”.

Let us now look at the case of Uruguay. In July 2020, President Luis Lacalle Pou stated that: “The Uruguayan has a genetic vocation towards freedom. We were obviously inspired by that: I was not willing to force Uruguayans to confine themselves, to go towards a police state“. He added that “You cannot put someone in prison for trying to make a living. Are we not capable in Uruguay of appealing to personal, individual and collective care?” The result, the number of deaths as of 4/17/2022 amounts to 7,193; that is, 2,058 deaths per million inhabitants, clearly also below the figure registered in our country.

Every example is just an illustration, but the extreme authoritarianism followed by our country does not seem to have been more successful against the scourge than societies that have respected freedom, quite the contrary.

An interesting study by the Institute of Applied Economics of the Johns Hopkins University, which carries out a detailed analysis of the literature generated to face the pandemic, supports this hypothesis. It concludes that lockdowns have had little or no effect on public health, and have imposed enormous economic and social costs where they have been adopted.”

What can we learn from what happened? Any restriction on freedom results in costs that go far beyond economics. Let’s think about Sweden, where children and young people under 16 did not miss school days and compare this with our reality. The costs of the modern kingdom of Leviathan our country has become are still to come and are even worse than the 128,344 deaths recorded by the statistics.

Human being was born to live in freedom, let’s learn from our mistakes and try to start respecting it.