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Autocracy 1, Democracy 0

Autocracy is characteristically good at avoiding truth for short terms, until one day the accumulated and aggregated great truth arrives to lead to its demise. 

But democracy highly depends on people’s ability to understand the truth at any given time.

Since this pandemic, the Americans by and large have not demonstrated such ability. But China as a country did demonstrate its ability to control.

Hence the scoreboard: Autocracy 1, Democracy 0.

I do not believe the numbers from China, as they have simply chose not only to control the spread of the virus but also control the information. But I’m more worried about people’s perception of the numbers in the US. 

Here’s a recent report three illustrate:

Antibody screening finds COVID-19 nearly 7 times more prevalent in O.C. than thought

The numbers reported prove a point I have been long making: the infection rate of this virus is far worse than it appears, but the mortality rate is far lower than it has been made to appear.  

The antibody test result shows that Orange County infection rate is about 15% of the population. Given the population of 3.2 million, it means that about 450,000 people have been infected, only that most of them did not show clear symptoms and never got tested. 

Now consider this number: 1475, is the reported deaths in Orange County as of today (October 30, 2020). 

Let’s assume that there is no inflation in this number (a highly questionable assumption, because doctors are inclined to classify deaths as virus-caused as long as there is plausible nexus, often with goodwill toward the patient and family). 

So the result translates to 1475/450,000 = 0.33% mortality, at most.  

What does this mean?

Let us put this into some context. 

First, a regular flu season’s mortality is about 0.1%, lower than the 0.33% of the coronavirus, but on the same order of magnitude. 

Second, every year 17 million people die from infectious diseases worldwide. Most of these infectious diseases have a mortality rate much higher than 0.33%. Tuberculosis, for example, has a mortality rate between 7% and 35% depending on the regions. 

Third, every year about 1% of population die anyway even without a pandemic, regardless where you are. (People tend to find that number incredible, and terrifying if true. Yes it is true. After all, on average people have only 80 years to live.)

At this point, the coronavirus death numbers are no longer that of some disease suddenly killing people in a short period of time. The data is cumulative over nine months. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths over close to a year is about 0.045% of the population in the area, even if you assume coincidence and correlation equal to causation.

So this virus is worse than flu, but is not anything like what has been injected (no, infected) into people’s mind.

If you ask a regular person, a typical feeling is that a person who gets the virus has a scarily high possibility to die. 

It is this type of unscientific fear that has crippled the US, not only the economy, but the democracy itself.

How is this related to the democracy? Well, because democracy highly depends on people’s ability to understand the truth, and the coronavirus is like a touchstone that has shown a general lack of such ability. Bombarded by and flooded with over-information, people tend to be carried away, and few are interested in finding truth.

What is infecting people’s mind is an information virus that is a much more dangerous pandemic.

One proof: many an educated person used the above quoted report to argue that the failure of the US is that it has not done enough lockdown.

People think this way are essentially wishing they lived in an authoritarian society like China. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but one must clearly understand what he wishes for actually entails. You cannot simply want the benefit of something without paying the inherently associated price. 

Perhaps more lockdowns are coming soon indeed.

At the same time, I’m expecting to see data eventually come out to prove that the lockdown has caused far more loss of life than the virus did.