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Richard Epstein Can’t Stop Being Wrong About the Coronavirus

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21.04.2020

Richard Epstein is back. The esteemed Hoover Institution scholar and libertarian theorist, a law professor by training, projected the coronavirus would only kill 500 Americans, an analysis that gained wide traction in conservative circles, including the Trump administration. A week later, Epstein conceded that he had committed a math error, and the real number would be 5,000 deaths, though “it, too, could prove somewhat optimistic.” (The current confirmed death toll exceeds 40,000.) Then Epstein gave a horrifying interview to Isaac Chotiner, laced with embarrassing errors including admitting he assumed the virus would weaken for absolutely no scientific reason, boasting erroneously that public-health eminence Bill Gates shared his skepticism that the coronavirus was a serious threat, which is a bit like saying you’re pretty sure Bernie Sanders is on board with your plan to eliminate the minimum wage, and many others.

Somehow this experience has not shaken Epstein’s confidence in his own ability to outthink the entire field of epidemiology. Epstein has written another essay, making no reference to his previous errors, arguing that “the response of the state governors to the coronavirus outbreak has become far more dangerous than the disease itself.”

I am neither an epidemiologist nor an expert in public health, and therefore I have no qualifications to second-guess the leading minds in either field. But I am qualified to second-guess the second-guessing of those experts by Richard Epstein, because his arguments........

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