Predictions that COVID-19 will destroy America!

Summary: Now the doomsters emerge from the baseboards, predicting that COVID-19 will destroy America. Let’s see why they are wrong and (more importantly) how to ensure that they will be wrong in the future.

“Bad nations are destroyed by crisis. Good nations survive them. Great nations are improved by them.”
— Paraphrase of an aphorism attributed to Andy Grove, the great CEO who built Intel into a giant.

Prepare - Adapt - Survive
By Matt Katzenberger at Flicker.

We are now in the phase of a crisis when people boldly and confidently predict that it will collapse the nation, or even civilization. These people see our society as a house of cards, fragile and easily destroyed. It is an important perspective for several reasons.

First, these people assume that everybody else just isn’t as smart as they are. Especially those running our major institutions. Although these people seldom have specialist knowledge about the crisis (such as epidemiology in our current crisis), they believe that they know better than the experts (or the mainstream experts, as these people often treat fringe experts as true gurus). And they regard the inevitable mistakes (mistakes are always made in crises) as signs of incompetence (with their hindsight, the correct decisions were obvious).

These people are usually wrong because others are competent and preparations work. Business leaders take steps to manage their companies. Now that means encouraging first-class hygiene and sending sick people home. Governments are making plans for bad scenarios, and phasing in measures to make those less likely (e.g., stopping public events, closing schools). Medical facilities are screening for COVID-19 and preparing for a possible flood of cases. These are all tied and proven methods, despite amateur experts declaring that they are futile or impossible.

These people are usually wrong because few societies are like a house of cards. They have depths of resilience invisible to the casual viewer but emerging under pressure. This includes learning from past events. Such as 9/11, which produced a revolution in America’s “first responders.” They are now better equipped, better trained – and have better protocols, coordination, and communication systems.

A deeper level

But there is a deeper insight to be gained from these people. They go berserk at each new crisis, treating each as something extraordinary (i.e., like invaders from Mars). But epidemics, extreme weather, economic depressions, and natural disasters are life. They occur throughout history as they will in the future. A prudent society prepares for them to the extent feasible. The infrastructure of New York City should withstand the impact of a mild hurricane; Miami should withstand the impact of a severe one. People in the southwestern US should be ready for mega-droughts and mega-floods (e.g., an ARkStorm). Every household, community, and business should be ready to withstand recessions and epidemics. Governments should be ready for pandemics and depressions (i.e., events beyond the ability of the private sector to withstand).

There is another and more important level of preparedness: we need to be strong in several dimensions. We need to have competent leaders and be willing to follow them (rugged individualism without social cohesion is the fast track to disaster). We need the mental strength to avoid panic and face the possibility of hard times. We need to encourage each other to be strong and discourage panic. No national wealth and power can offset spiritual weakness.

This is just life. Societies that cannot manage this will die, eventually. That’s Disney’s Great Circle of Life in action, or the rough justice of nature’s god.

The big key insight

“Only the paranoid survive.”
— Attributed to Andy Grove.

Preparing to withstand extreme events is the lowest level of performance that allows long-term survival. A great nation prepares to avoid extreme events. That means building a resilient society.  (Here is an example from NYC how not to do it: how Con-Ed boosted profits by underfunding vital infrastructure and supplies, much as PG&E did in California).

This is clearly seen in America’s response to the Great Depression. A regulatory system was created to prevent another financial collapse turning a recession into a depression. It limited banks’ profits, and so was eroded away during the 1970s – 1990s. The 2008 collapse was the inevitable response, with another depression avoided only by massive spending and guarantees by the Federal government. Since profits rule in our grifter economy, afterwards little was done to rebuild that regulatory apparatus. So we remain vulnerable to another collapse.

We are vulnerable to so many threats. We could go broke massively preparing for all of them. Perfect safety only comes after death. But we can prepare rationally by assessing our vulnerabilities and prudently spending to defend ourselves. Instead, we hysterically overprepare against the threats with the best publicity (i.e., whose solution most benefits powerful elites) – and ignore the rest. We can do better. See the next section for recommendations.

For More Information

Ideas! For some shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon. Also, see a powerful and disturbing story about “The Birth of a Holy War.

See my posts about the COVID-19 epidemic.

Too learn more about this, see the website of the Society for Decision Making Under Deep Uncertainty (DMDU). It is “a multi-disciplinary association of professionals working to improve processes, methods, and tools for decision making under deep uncertainty, facilitate their use in practice, and foster effective and responsible decision making in our rapidly changing world.”

Eminent climate scientist Judith Curry has written several useful posts about risks and uncertainty, such as these…

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information see The keys to understanding climate change. Also see posts about shockwavesabout doomsters, and especially these …

  1. Preparing for the future: should we be precautionary or proactionary?
  2. Collapsitarians and their doomster porn.
  3. Nassim Nicholas Taleb looks at the risks threatening humanity.
  4. Requiem for fear. Let’s learn from failed predictions to have confidence in ourselves & our future.
  5. Threats come & go, leaving us in perpetual fear & forgetful of the past.
  6. Dreams of apocalypses show the brotherhood of America’s Left & Right.
  7. The unseen largest threats to America. Let’s prepare.
  8. We face so many threats. Let’s respond rationally!

A new books about the many threats

Understanding the threats is the first step to defending against them. Although his perspective is different than mine (as are his predictions), Kunstler provides an antidotte to our greatest foe: complacency – reminding us that disaster is always at the door.

Living in the Long Emergency:
Global Crisis, the Failure of the Futurists,
and the Early Adapters Who Are Showing Us the Way Forward

By James Howard Kunster (2020). See his Wikipedia entry.

Living in the Long Emergency: Global Crisis, the Failure of the Futurists, and the Early Adapters Who Are Showing Us the Way Forward
Available at Amazon.

In his 2005 book, The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century, James Howard Kunstler described the global predicaments that would pitch the USA into political and economic turmoil in the 21st century – the end of affordable oil, climate irregularities, and flagging economic growth, to name a few. Now, he returns with a book that takes an up-close-and-personal approach to how real people are living now – surviving The Long Emergency as it happens.

Through his popular blog, Clusterf**ck Nation, Kunstler has had the opportunity to connect with people from across the country. They’ve shared their stories with him – sometimes over years of correspondence – and in Living in the Long Emergency, he shares them with us, offering an eye-opening and unprecedented look at what’s really going on “out there” in the US – and beyond.

Coming from all walks of life, the individuals you’ll meet in these pages have one thing in common: their stories acutely illustrate the changing realities real people are facing – and coping with – every day. In profiles of their fascinating lives, Kunstler paints vivid, human portraits that offer a “slice of life” from people whose struggles and triumphs all too often go ignored.

With personal accounts from a Vermont baker, homesteaders, a building contractor in the Baltimore ghetto, a white nationalist, and many more, Living in the Long Emergency is a unique and timely exploration of how the lives of everyday Americans are being transformed, for better and for worse, and what these stories tell us both about the future and about human perseverance.

33 thoughts on “Predictions that COVID-19 will destroy America!”

  1. I guess every nation gets seriously tested once in a while, and the tests help us increase our resilience. The COVID-19 epidemic is serious but could be worse, and a lot can be learned from it. In my country, just preparing for the epidemic helped identify and (in some cases) solve several problems in our healthcare system which in some cases had been going on for years: slow and bureaucratic processes to buy pharmaceutics, errors in the national strategic reserve, disrepair of the reserve wards in military hospitals, legal loopholes on medical quarantine laws… This without counting with the raised awareness of how an epidemic works, what we’ll learn from China and especially Italy (being culturally closer to us), and eventually what we’ll learn from ourselves if we cannot contain the virus (so far, so good!). As a Dutch doctor said, COVID-19 is also an excellent test run for a really serious pandemic.

    1. JP,

      Nicely said! I agree on all points.

      Perhaps the most enlightening result will come from comparisons of national responses. Looking for lessons learned from the varied paths taken will profit those nations wise enough to do so.

    2. scipioafricanus114

      “As a Dutch doctor said, COVID-19 is also an excellent test run for a really serious pandemic”

      Exactly this. Almost a perfect shakedown run.

      The analogy I like to use is that the scope of knowledge in virology is similar to the understanding of geography in the ancient world. You could have an entire people, with their own language and hundreds of thousands of fighting men, that you didn’t even know existed, suddenly appear on your borders with no warning and start kicking the crap out of you.

      There are no doubt some really, really nasty things percolating around in animal reservoirs, things that make SARS-CoV-2 look like child’s play.

  2. Good article, Larry. I just finished reading Jim Collins’ book “Great By Choice,” which has a lot more information about how truly great corporate leaders steered their companies through turbulence to achieve more than success and Andy Grove is mentioned frequently.

    I also thought a lot about how I could respond to the current “Long Emergency” (like the phrase) when reading that book. The three main areas of focus are:

    a) Productive Paranoia (as opposed to what you’ve commented on above)
    b) Empirical Creativity (don’t just react, experiment and find out what works and what doesn’t to solve a problem)
    c) Disciplined Execution (a weak point of the current ClownWorld environment and a strength of Intel to this day)

  3. I would also add what Nikki Haley did. When South Carolina experienced flooding and dams broke, she brought all the heads together in front of the TV cameras and tell what their agencies were going to do. She then made sure they met and resolved inter-agency issues, and kept their promises. There were telephone numbers that the public could call that were staffed to send unmet problems to governor Haley. She made the heads regularly appear on camera and update. The people responded; and the improvements weren’t just from government. Our business did a risk assessment and made improvements. When it was over, some regulatory inspectors came by to see what we had done in order to give others an idea of what could be done. It became SOP whenever flooding was predicted for our area. Not just our work, but the regulatory agencies inspecting, calling, and sharing ideas.

  4. scipioafricanus114

    It often seems like the human psyche operates like a bistable switch, with settings of “nothing to worry about brah!” and “we’re all gonna die!” I would hope for a more nuanced understanding of risk and probability to emerge in the general population but I might as well wish for a pony while I’m at it.

    So not only do you get an overshoot, but, the real problem with things like COVID-19 is that they’re exponential processes and so require speed. By the time a preponderance of evidence has accumulated so that John Q. Public and the politicians make the transition, it’s too late. Feedback lag is a bitch. It’s a bit like military strategy, where commanders have to process highly-unreliable information and then act rapidly and decisively in the face of uncertainty. Dally too long waiting for confirmation and the attack fails . . . Not an easy skill to teach, which is why the Prussians spent so much effort on inculcating it. Also kind of like surfing: you have to project where the wave will be and what it will look like 10 seconds in the future and then determine the exact moment to start paddling with maximum effort.

    I’m still somewhat hopeful that the U.S. authorities will do the right thing, but at this stage it looks like it’s gonna be a close call. What’s that apocryphal (but wonderful) Churchill quote: “You can count on the Americans to always do the right thing — after they have tried everything else”?

    But if governments choose not to lead, the duty falls on us, the people, to come together (not literally!) and do what needs to be done. The governments can follow. What we need more than anything is get people out of their defeatist mentality and realize that, yes, this is going to be difficult but we can win this thing, or at least go down fighting, but time is of the absolute essence. Angela Merkel has thrown in the towel, but she’s about the opposite of anybody’s idea of an inspirational leader and Germany hates itself anyway.

    America is different, or was. To quote another leader from a much more challenging crisis:

    “Americans love to fight. All real Americans love the sting and clash of battle. When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, the big-league ball players and the toughest boxers. Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. That’s why Americans have never lost and will never lose a war. The very thought of losing is hateful to Americans. Battle is the most significant competition in which a man can indulge. It brings out all that is best and it removes all that is base.”

    Let’s win! Let’s kick this virus’s sorry encapsulated ass all the way back to the bat cave in Wuhan!


      1. nyolci,

        “The US is a hotbed now.”

        You are grossly misinformed. See yesterday’s WHO Situation Report.

        Italy has 10,149 cases and 60 million people, with 977 new cases yesterday.

        France has 1,774 cases, with 372 new cases – with 67 million people.

        Spain has 1,639 cases, with 615 new cases – with 47 million people.

        Germany has 1,296 cases, with 157 new cases – with 83 million people.

        Switzerland has 491 cases, Holland has 392, Britain with 373 – and many more afflicted nations in its population of 265 million people.

        Outside of Europe, S. Korea has 7,775 cases in a population of 51 million (but is getting it under control). And Iran has 842 cases, 881 new ones, in its population of 81 million.

        Compare with America – which has 696 cases, 294 new ones – with a population of 327 million people.

      2. @NYOLCI,

        The U.S. is not a hotbed, not even close. Not even with the 1,832 cases that are reported now according to

        That, and now the U.S. is taking the steps to distance for most major events, and at the State level … like in WA State … schools are closing and minor events are being cancelled.

        Also, keep in mind that 22 of 31 deaths (and ~ 100 or more cases) in WA State came from ONE nursing home that rehabilitates older folks with underlying conditions. Those have been contained.

        By the way, the 1,832 cases works out to 5.5 cases per 1 million population in the U.S.

        Italy, Iran, and Spain are the “hot bed” right at the moment, with 90 – 250 cases per 1 million population.

      3. nyolci,

        “Banning visitors from the US to Europe would certainly help. The US is a hotbed now.”

        One day after your comment, the Director-General of WHO said:

        “Europe has now become the epicenter of the pandemic, with more reported cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China. More cases are now being reported {there} every day than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic.”

        He made no mention of the US being a “hotspot.” He made no mention of the US at all. After all, we have fewer reported cases than Italy, France, Spain, or Germany individually – with a larger population than them combined.

    1. Isaac,

      “Does the Europe travel ban help any?”

      Although no epidemiologist, I agree with Trump’s action. The epidemic is quickly spreading across Europe. These kinds of quarantines are the core defense anyone has.

      “People are loading their minds over it.”

      That says a lot about America. People would whine if Trump did nothing. People whine when he takes bold action. We’re like babies crying. We want mommy to make the problem go away right now. But that’s not always possible.

      1. “You are grossly misinformed.”

        You are grossly delusional besides being misinformed. There’s unchecked community transmission in the state of Washington already. The ghost is out of the bottle now. Wuhan was shut down two days after they detected that many cases as there are in Washington, and Wuhan is much more populous. Compounding this with the well known bad situation of the poor, the clownish politicians, and an extremely stupid and short sighted ruling class, the perfect storm is given for the US.

        By the way, the WHO declared global pandemic just late yesterday. After all, there MAY be a few reasons to be concerned.

        FYI, an extremely good article. Sobering reading.

      2. nyolci,

        I suggest that you take a deep breath and look at the numbers I posted and see which is in worse shape – the US or Europe. Or if the US is a “hotspot” warranting a cordon sanitaire (limiting travel from it to Europe).

        “There’s unchecked community transmission in the state of Washington already.”

        You said the “The US is a hotbed now.” That’s false. Yes, Washington State is a hotspot. They are different things.

        “After all, there MAY be a few reasons to be concerned”

        I’ve been running posts repeating WHO’s warnings – much stronger than “be concerned” – since Jan 25. I’m glad that you’ve caught up.

        “FYI, an extremely good article. Sobering reading.”

        I see you prefer to read amateurs instead of the reports from CDC and WHO (like those that I’ve been posting) – which have proven to be so accurate. While sad, such an affliction is probably not treatable.

      3. Larry: ” see you prefer to read amateurs instead of the reports from CDC and WHO (like those that I’ve been posting) – which have proven to be so accurate.”

        Agree with you on most points but the US government has been unable to provide timely numbers of cases and deaths (at least when compared with US state reports, which show that over 1000 people have been infected) to WHO.

        There are also reports from within the administration about turf wars causing these delays and Trump/Pence not being interested in settling them. Not a good trend if it continues. This theme also supports your previous articles about this being a test of the US government and the US electorate in November.

      4. Pluto,

        “Agree with you on most points but the US government has been unable to provide timely numbers of cases and deaths (at least when compared with US state reports, which show that over 1000 people have been infected) to WHO”

        Time will tell if that is correct. Almost always these claims that the government’s numbers are wrong prove to be false. But “almost always” is not “always.”

        Remember the screams and mockery that greeted WHO’s statement in early February that China was getting their epidemic under control? See it in the comments here. People confidently and boldly declaring China’s claims to be false, based on bogus numbers. These people sounded as if they had just talked with God.

        More broadly, however, the US government has badly bungled the epidemic – as I wrote here, and will be the subject of my next post. As you said, more mildly than I would state it, “not a good trend if it continues.” Of course, we’re not alone. The governments of western europe have bungled it as badly or worse.

        This is inexcusable. The West not only had two months to prepare, they had the example of China and other east Asian nations to follow.

      5. Why can’t I reply to a “Reply”?

        “I suggest that you take a deep breath and look at the numbers”
        Yep, I know, and I’m sure you’ve noticed I didn’t claim Europe was in a great shape. But this is not a dick contest. The problem is that the US is much more delusional about this epidemic (including downright denial by politicians), relevant institutions have ridiculous problems (like no testing kits), furthermore, there are literally tens of millions of people outside the heath care system (Consider: is there free testing, free hospitalization? Are undocumented immigrants admitted to the system without harassment?). So an explosive outbreak is very likely.

        “Yes, Washington State is a hotspot.”
        Hotspot? Is “hotspot” a thing between a “cluster” and “community transmission”? As far as I know it’s not. The Chinese would close down the State of Washington now if it was in China. The US won’t do that in a week or more. Besides, the situation in California is very “hotspotish”.

        “I’ve been running posts repeating WHO’s warnings – much stronger than “be concerned” – since Jan 25. I’m glad that you’ve caught up.”
        Why don’t you think I have been following WHO and relevant institutions? Could you please avoid BS?

        “I see you prefer to read amateurs instead of the reports from CDC and WHO”
        Again, you are kindly referred to the remark above.

        And one last thought. The WHO is evidently concerned and “panicking” (please note the quotation marks). There MAY be a reason for panicking.

      6. Nyolci,

        Every time I correct your statements, you switch the subject. This gets tiring very fast, and I don’t have time for it. So one last try.

        “The problem is that the US is much more delusional about this epidemic”

        Yes. I stated that two days ago in this post. My next post (I don’t have time for it this morning) will discuss this in more detail. Although I believe “incompetent” is a more accurate description.

        “a thing between a “cluster” and “community transmission”?”

        Those are two distinct concepts, so there is nothing “between” them. A cluster is a geographic distribution of cases, a quantity in an area. Community transmission refers to a mode of transmission, with no geographic scale.

        “Why don’t you think I have been following WHO and relevant institutions”

        Because your statements are consistently inaccurate. As said above, in the two examples below, and in my previous replies to you.

        “The WHO is evidently concerned and “panicking” ”

        No, WHO’s leaders are not panicking. As you would know if you were reading my excerpts – and even more so if you were reading the WHO briefings.

        “There MAY be a reason for panicking.”

        Total nonsense. Panicking makes the situation worse. As WHO’s leaders have explained repeatedly and at great length.

      7. Nyolci,

        “Why can’t I reply to a “Reply”?”

        Sure you can. But the “reply” button is at the top of the thread. Don’t know why. It’s one of the many mysteries of WordPress.

      8. Larry, one good news from Europe is that the first quarantined villages of Italy (cordoned off about a week ago) report a strong decrease in new cases. So, quarantines apparently work very fast once implemented, even when they’re not as strict as in Wuhan.

      9. Forgot to add a link (in Italian):

        Notice some extra good news, which also have come out from other places in Italy: people rediscovering a community spirit they thought was lost. Such as the wave of young people volunteering to shop for the elderly in their buildings.

  5. I will not believe anything about Clovid-19 until I hear the real facts from Greta Thurnberg, Joe Biden, Oprah, Michelle, Barbara Streisand, Chelsea Handler, John Legend, AOC and Maxine Waters.

    So the virologists, medical experts and scientists advising President Trump can go pound sand! Obviously, Trump is over his head.


    1. Yahtahei,

      I’ll be writing about this tonight, but we two levels of failure in the US.

      First, the relevant Federal agencies – CDC, HHS, and FDA. They’ve screwed up big.

      Second, Trump and co have ignored WHOs advice to mobilize and focus the national response. It’s not just a matter of letting the experts run

      Pretty sad and might have horrific consequences.

      1. Ron,

        Just good sense. Since the government is MIA, people are reacting on their own.

        Also, companies are all reacting. Urging hand washing, canceling traveling, sending sick people home, better cleaning of facilities.

        As I said in my first post about the epidemic – epidemics and depressions are both natural events. They happen – sometimes together – and we must be resilient enough to withstand them.

  6. Been herring comparisons with 09 virus handleing and 20 virus handleing. How do they stack up compared to each other?

  7. “First, these people assume that everybody else just isn’t as smart as they are. Especially those running our major institutions. Although these people seldom have specialist knowledge about the crisis (such as epidemiology in our current crisis), they believe that they know better than the experts ”

    You’re describing the president.

    Do you still think the USA isn’t a hotbed?

    1. Erick,

      “Do you still think the USA isn’t a hotbed?”

      First, that quote has nothing whatsoever to do with the US becoming a “hotspot.”

      Second, the US was not a hotbed on March 12, when NYOCI (perhaps you, sockpuppeting) first bizarrely made that unfounded claim.

      Third, WHO says that the current center of the pandemic is Europe.

      Fourth, the US might become a hotbed. We don’t know, due to the lack of testing to determine the extent of the epidemic. Hospital admissions – a reliable indicator – show that the infection is as yet in its early stages. When ICUs are overwhelmed, as in some regions of Italy, then the epidemic has reached an advanced stage. Much depends on the effectiveness of the social distancing now taking place.

      Extreme measures have been taken in the US to limit the spread of the epidemic. They will have a large effect. Much depends on the current extent of the infection, which we don’t know.

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