More and more news outlets are looking admiringly upon the Swedish government’s “experiment” of refusing to instate any lockdowns or other restrictions to stem the spread of Covid. In recent days, various commentators have described it as “the right approach“, a bold “gamble“, a case of “listening to science not fear“, an approach that is already “paying off” while “keeping cases low“.
There is just one problem with all these celebratory accounts: curiously, not a single one of them mentions any actual numbers from Sweden.
Happily, all the most relevant numbers are easily found at Wikipedia—and so, assuming one is versed in the mysterious arts of division and multiplication, it is not too hard to get an idea for oneself just how “successful” the Swedish approach has been thus far.
The upshot from these numbers, as of this writing, is simple to state: Sweden has not only far more Covid cases and deaths in total, but also vastly more cases and deaths per capita, than any of its Scandinavian neighbors (Denmark, Norway, and Finland) which have done lockdowns.
More precisely, in terms of total deaths from Covid, Sweden has more than five times those of Denmark, nearly eleven times those of Norway, and over twelve times those of Finland. Per capita, this translates to a death rate 3 times higher than Denmark, 5.7 times higher than Norway, and 6.6 times higher than Finland.
It might be prudent, therefore, for certain pundits to hold their applause for the Swedish approach… that is, unless their goal is actually elimination of population.
In all fairness, one can perhaps see how many Swedes, having already become accustomed to a culture of pervasive Doublethink—and in particular, politically-correct censoring of official data—might have convinced themselves that a policy that results in a vastly higher death rate really is a “success”.
But how did they seemingly convince so many outside of Sweden as well? Indeed, these glowing counterfactual celebrations of the Swedish approach are coming mostly from what is generally called ‘the right’—that is, from conservative and business-friendly publications.
Alas, this is but another example of how, when the issue at hand involves keeping greed-as-usual running and currencies flowing no matter the cost, our ‘rightists’ prove no less eager to warp, censor and ignore fundamental realities than their leftist counterparts. “Political correctness” finds its partner-in-crime in what we might call “Economic correctness”.
(No wonder the economy on the eve of the pandemic was even more wildly fragile, hyper-leveraged, indebted, unprofitable, and in a word, illusory than it was in 2008: firstly, because during nearly all of those intervening twelve years, it was “economically incorrect” to say anything but “the economy is fundamentally strong“; secondly, because most ‘rightists’ apparently do not trouble themselves with basic division and multiplication any more.)
Another possible source of the strange admiration for Sweden’s mounting Covidian fiasco has to do with the same knee-jerk sense of ‘contrarianism’ as was evident in, for example, many experts’ recent insistence that face masks actually increase the risk of catching coronavirus. Now, instead of going mask-less, the contrarians propose “herd immunity”, Swedish-style, as an alternative to social distancing, business closures, or lockdowns.
On this view, we should not simply try to avoid catching Covid in the first place, for this is but lowly common sense and must, ipso facto, be misguided; instead, the truly daring, nay superior intellect must agree that we should not only catch the virus, but should try to have everybody catch it as soon as possible!
This is in fact the germ (so to speak) of the “herd immunity” proposal, which quite recklessly (desperately?) gambles entire national populations on two increasingly dubious assumptions: a) that persons who have had Covid have truly eliminated the virus, and b) that such persons will be lastingly immune.
Such willful sloppiness of thought has, under the name “contrarianism”, been strangely confused with “expertise”, and thereby also with superior status. (This last promise—status—is no doubt why such idio-contrarianism is profoundly attractive to many.)
Yet whether the Swedish Covid Experiment and the blind praises sung of it derive ultimately from Marxist zealotry, market fundamentalism, or mindless contrarianism, the historical parallel that jumps to mind more than all others is one from Stalinist times. For given the very special combination of soaring catastrophe and equally soaring triumphalism that we now see, who can doubt that Swedish epidemiologists and their various enablers have become quite… dizzy with success?