Steve Sailer: How Many Quality-Adjusted Life Years Is Coronavirus Costing Us?

Comments at Steve Sailer:

* If age is a relevant factor in the valuation (and surely it is) then that opens the door to a host of other factors that we’re not allowed to mention.

The upshot and the implication is that some lives actually do matter more than others. Vastly more, in fact, and this offends our sense of equity.

Already in calculations such as those attending compensation for death in plane accidents, potential future earnings are considered.

Maybe some people’s lives are worth 10 or 20 million. But some are approximately nil and some appear to be negative.

* From a strictly economic point of view, the death of 70-90 year olds does not come at a great cost. Definitely not $10 million. These are people long past their earning years and who cost the system a huge amount of money. In fact, think the optimal course of action from an economic point of view would be to pull a Cuomo nationwide and plant COVID-19 patients in every nursing home in the USA, while the rest of us live our lives as normal. Of course, that is ridiculous, but if we really want to discuss whether the “cure is worse than the disease”, we must be honest about what is happening.

* Are Covid-19 death numbers inflated? It’s said that if you have the virus and get hit by a car, you are counted as a coronavirus victim.

And there is apparently a financial incentive for hospitals to do so – they get additional Covid-19 aid money.

Since so many of the deaths are of very old people with underlying health problems, this could be quite an overstatement.

* The vast majority of the people dying are a net drain on the economy. Very old and unhealthy people don’t contribute.

* In the first-cut cost-benefit analysis, the “lost life” for all 330 million Americans during the lockdown should be included.

Of course, then there’s the added costs from the destruction of our economic and social fabric of job losses, bankruptcies, substance-abuse, suicides, ballooning debt, etc.

* YEARS OF POTENTIAL LIFE LOST … the ultimate metric in rational coronavirus analysis

As Winston Churchill allegedly quipped: Keep experts on tap, not on top. The Wall Street Journal runs commentary (5/14, behind WSJ paywall) on how the good Dr. Fauci’s expertise is narrow, and that he’s unequipped to consider societal costs outside his disease-control focus, and freely admits that.

From the very start of this madness, the metric years of potential life lost (PYLL) should have been the critical consideration, but unfortunately wasn’t. Has Dr Fauci or his colleagues at the CDC or WHO even uttered these words in public?

The JUST FACTS website of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) features articles judiciously using the YPLL metric to evaluate the wisdom of the COVID-19 shutdown:
Comparing the PYLLs of a projected Coronavirus death toll in the United States of 240,000 with other ‘everyday tragedies’, such as the flu, accidents and suicides (4/8, comparison chart below), and
On the casualties from the drastic government-mandated shutdown, FEE projects that the anxiety from reactions to COVID-19 will destroy at least seven times more years of life than can be saved by lockdowns (5/4).
Meanwhile, ABC News recently ran a story citing that the people with coronavirus are dying an average of 10+ years earlier than they would have naturally (5/10), based on a study by the University of Glasgow (lots of detailed data presented). As the median age of COVID-19 deaths is near 80, the average PYLLs are inflated by inclusion of deaths of people much younger, and this surely is impacted somewhat by the accounting of dying with, rather than dying from, COVID-19.

Although our personal lockdowns may have some charms, it could be suggested that every American has ‘life lost’ in this ongoing collective adventure … let’s put the average PYLL number at a conservative 0.3 years. With about 331 million Americans, that equates to about 100 million PYLL. Taking FEE’s wildly inflated US death toll of 240K from COVID-19 with an average PYLL of 10 years, that equates to only 2.4 million PYLL.

Therefore, with the lockdown, the overall years of potential life lost of the general American population is almost 42X more than the most grievous COVID-19 impact case … and this is BEFORE the fallout casualties that FEE highlights.

* It seems to me that the most obvious way for a government to calculate the value of a social policy is pretty simple: tax revenue versus tax expenditures. Closing off sources of tax revenue and delaying tax collection while shelling out trillions in stimulus and prolonging social security payments and increasing Medicare payments is incredibly bad for the government’s bottom line.

* – Not accounting for time lost by the healthy. Incredibly obvious con, but it doesn’t support their predetermined pro-lockdown viewpoint so they arrogantly ignore it.

– They need to subtract lives that would have been lost without the lockdown from lives that were actually lost, not just take the total (eg 120,000 – 100,000 = 20,000). This is unknown.

– Different people value things differently. There is no one formula because these things are unquantifiable and not interchangeable. They pretend to be experts on something they completely made up that is not independently verifiable. Yeah anyone could do that, just need to give them the power and the salary first. And you don’t get that position without supporting the conclusions that the elites want you to reach.

* Considering that the average age of covid related deaths in in the 70’s, and that a significant number of people in their 70’s and older are retired, there is little economic loss because retired people mostly consume resources, they don’t produce them.

In purely analytical terms, the more retired people that expire would appear to be an economic value in itself because resources and productivity are no longer required by them.

* According to analysis by a Nobel prize laureate in chemistry, Covid19 has not caused any excess loss of life in Europe when viewed over a three year average. While surprising, the European all-cause mortality data supports his conclusion. Death is statistically variable. For instance, the flu season 2018-2019 was mild and fewer people died than was projected from the long-term average. The 2019-2020 flu season has been mild too. Then Covid19 came along and killed people who on average should have died over the previous 18 months. He estimates that Covid19 will increase this year’s death toll by the equivalent of 3 weeks normal mortality.

* No matter how you slice and dice the data, CV is a fatal disease primarily (not solely, but primarily) among the elderly. For those who are not elderly, victims usually have some co-morbidity (diabetes, obesity, etc.) For a healthy white person under 60 to die of Covid is extremely rare. It happens now and then, but rarely (i.e. less than 1% of deaths would be among that group).

Everything in America is politicized today so even a public health crisis is seen thru a political filter. If you are confused about the demographics of the victims it is because the media has been doing all that it can to obfuscate the identity of the victims. They did this with AIDs also.

* The VSL is pegged at 10 mil no matter if the death is a healthy 16 year old killed by a drunk driver or a 102 year old cancer patient accidentally killed by a negligent nurse. Why? Federal bureaucrats wanted to adjust the VSL based on age and other factors, but when word leaked out a political firestorm broke out and the ‘crats backed off and just left it at the same cost for everyone. (Episode 991: Lives Vs. The Economy)

* When you add it all up, the lockdown probably isn’t going to have been worth it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was the wrong decision at the time, with the information available (and not available) at that time.

* As bad as the current pandemic is, I think we should look at it as a dry run. It’s a Richter scale 7 and we need to get prepared for the Big One. Looking forward we need to run all kinds of analyses like these and vary the viral assumptions: different fatality rates, different effects on different demographics, different organ systems affected, etc. How would we respond to the next Chinese virus that kills not the old but the young? Or that has a small pox level of fatality? How would we respond to a virus that, like polio, causes muscle paralysis? Or one that causes renal failure so we run out of dialysis machines rather than ventilators? This is why it is so important as Steve has said to keep speech free and to allow unfettered debate and analysis.

* US traffic deaths average roughly 37,000 per year. However, if the age of the average traffic victim is close to the age of the average American, than their life expectancy would be at least 3x to 4x that of the average coronavirus victim. Ergo, our average traffic deaths are equivalent to at least 110,000 to 150,000 coronavirus deaths on the low end. If you factor in quality of life I couldn’t imagine it being any less than 200,000 coronavirus deaths.

* For the AVERAGE 80 year old (who is the average person dying of COVID) life expectancy is around 8 years so you could say that each COVID death costs 8 years of life on average (even saying this is better than assuming that Covid is mostly killing people in the prime of life which is the impression that the media gives). BUT, in fact the 80 year olds who are dying of COVID are not AVERAGE 80 year olds, they are concentrated among the sicker 80 year olds so the average # of years lost is less than 8. How much less I don’t know but I’m pretty sure it’s significantly less than 8. For a significant # of the dead, they were going to die either of their terminal disease or of seasonal flu within a few weeks or months anyway, or if not this winter then next winter.

* Most nursing home residents don’t last 2 years before they pass away. Half the Wahu Flu fatalities were among elderly in assistant living facilities. One thing few have talked about, is that most of them have do not resuscitate orders.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
This entry was posted in Corona Virus. Bookmark the permalink.