Everywhere in Western civilisation, there is a God-shaped hole. But in search of explanations to the Covid Policy, I also found a man-shaped hole: lack of courage.
The purpose of this article is not to show what Covid policy would follow from reason and evidence. The article is based on the presupposition (discussed elsewhere, see note below) that the policy pursued by Western authorities is the „inverse“ of what would follow from the evidence. My purpose is to look for explanations to how this could happen. A concrete example can elucidate the point: Based on reason and evidence, Ivermectin is a drug effective in the treatment of Covid. It is also cheap. The Covid policy has, however, actively prevented this drug from being used. Why?
The forthcoming conclusion of the article I think is clear enough, but the argument from the question posed to the conclusion drawn does not follow one single route. Rather, I accumulate arguments like water in a swamp, and then, all of a sudden, I carve one unexpected ditch out.
In the article, you will see references to podcast series, in particular to Darkhorse, run by the two evolutionary biologists Brett Weinstein and Heather Hayling in the United States. Darkhorse has been much concerned with the “Covid experience” – that is with the pandemic itself and the public response to it.
Darkhorse considers the public measures, in particular the vaccine policy, to be a failure. A failure in what way exactly? – by this question, you quickly enter a landscape with many further questions. This article was prompted by views I heard expressed by the Darkhorse podcast, and I agree with their view on the pandemic itself. I also agree with much of their thinking on the Covid experience in general, including the “inverse” policy. I owe much to Darkhorse, and throughout this article, you will find several references to them. My aim is, however, to bring the discussion into new waters.
So far, among the explanations offered, I have found the Dutch psychologist Mattias Desmet’s thoughts on loneliness and mass formation most convincing. Briefly paraphrased, he thinks proliferating loneliness leads people to seek „company“ by joining a common movement, in this case, the „Corona alarm movement“ (my expression). He compares this movement to communism/Stalinism in USSR and Nazi Germany and refers to Hannah Arendt. He points to the difference between a „classical dictatorship” and a dictatorship based on mass formation: A classical dictator eases oppression when opposition ceases, whereas mass formation is never satisfied. Rather, mass formation turns more predatory (my expression) if there is no longer opposition.
But why do so many people join in mass formation? Desmet suggests that only 20-30 percent are dedicated followers, whereas as much as 60-70 percent go along by convenience (actually, in the Cummins interview, see below, he suggests they lack courage). By simple mathematics, you are left with about 10 percent who remain thinking autonomously, whatsoever.
THE “INVERSE” COVID POLICY
But then there is the “inverse” covid policy. The term “inverse” I have from Darkhorse, and it means a policy that is not only mistaken but the opposite of what you would expect based on evidence. I guess the theory of mass formation, if accurate, would be sufficient to explain a “random” covid policy – a policy that is seemingly disconnected from competence and evidence. But for an inverse policy, this theory seems insufficient.
However, it is relatively easy to point to financial motives. Some agents in the game, notably big pharma, are financially better off with a policy that promotes inefficient, but expensive vaccines, rather than a cheap, effective drug. What remains open, though, is why public authorities and policy-makers seem to follow (a primitive aspect of) big pharma rather than making an independent policy pursuing the common good. After all, it is not new that there is some tension between private profit and the common good. The politicians are used to that and I think the general public (voters) even more so. Within the latter, there may be different degrees of suspicion against private profit and different degrees of confidence in the public authorities. But an outright inverse health policy begs further explanation.
One such explanation, however, would be that we have been too naïve. The integrity of public and scientific institutions may have decayed over time, and at the same time, instead of developing some kind of collective maturity, we have become more naïve. Having been too naïve is forgivable and easy to correct if done quickly. But what if we have been too naïve for decades? I shall come back to this at the end of the article.
LOSS OF COURAGE
When Alexander Solzhenitsyn gave his famous speech at Harvard in 1978, he “generously” criticised The West. His number one criticism was loss of courage. He said:
“A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party, and, of course, in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course, there are many courageous individuals, but they have no determining influence on public life.”
We can relate Solzhenitsyn’s criticism to a much earlier one, and in this case about the United States. I am thinking of Alexis de Tocqueville and his book “Democracy in America” published in 1835. I quote: “Before he [an author] published his opinions, he imagined that he held them in common with many others; but no sooner has he declared them openly than he is loudly censured by his overbearing opponents, whilst those who think without having the courage to speak, like him, abandon him in silence.”
De Tocqueville described in detail what Solzhenitsyn stated generally. As we know, Solzhenitsyn was expelled from the Soviet Union after many years of GULAG imprisonment. We must take his criticism as benevolent.
That was 1978. Since then, we have had Reagan, the end of The Cold War, and the end of the Soviet Union. But has the situation in the West regarding courage improved?
The Darkhorse podcast in October this year interviewed military personnel who had refused to take vaccines against Covid and had been side-lined for it (14.10.2022 and 19.10.2022). They demonstrated that there are still “many courageous individuals”, as Solzhenitsyn put it. The description they give of the institution they work for, however, suggests that the Russian author was right also in his criticism of society.
But what do you do when you must choose between seemingly trustworthy, but side-lined, individuals and a well-renowned public institution like the US military? I suggest you ask some questions yourself. Whether you are in a public institution or in a private business, whether you ask at work or among friends, surely there is no spot on the planet which has not been touched by the pandemic & response. Try to ask a couple of investigative questions and see what you find out.
LET’S NOT GO FROM ONE MISGUIDED ALARM TO ANOTHER
My immediate reaction after seeing the two Darkhorse podcasts on the military, however, was a different one. The interviewer (conversation partner) pointed to the loss of US defence capability caused by the vaccine policy. He said, that we may have to look for some kind of malevolent intention/agent behind this. However, I think Darkhorse tends to overestimate the practical/economic losses caused by the public measures accompanying the Corona alarm (lockdowns, school closures, and personnel/work restrictions). Even if ill-founded in real health concerns, and even if detrimental to the lives of many individuals, part of the problem is that as a society, we can afford those practical/economic losses.
I shall come back to that in a moment, but let me first remind you that the medical impact of the Covid virus itself was moderate, regarding death, illness, and the direct practical/economic consequences of those. According to Darkhorse, Covid-related deaths officially now count some 6 million. Some suggest a higher number, I have heard up to 20 million. During the same time, however, the total number of deaths on the planet counts some 300-400 million. Perhaps the most important difference, medically speaking, between the Covid pandemic on the one hand, and the 1919-21 flu, the 1957 flu, and the 1968 flu, on the other hand, is the increased number of very old people (beyond 80) in the population. The uncertainty of 6 or 20 million deaths – and the uncertainty of death from Covid or death with Covid – should not prevent us from seeing that the Covid virus itself represented no greater medical threat to humanity than flu pandemics of the past. In this sense the Covid virus is normal.
I hope you are willing to accept the above argumentation as legitimate. Would you also accept that I speak about “slightly earlier death” as a qualification of death? If you do, it will be possible for me to say that by the Corona alarm, the slightly earlier death of a limited number of people of quite high age, became a concern for society as if they were everybody’s grandparents and as if those “grandparents” would want to live slightly longer at the cost of their descendants, including restricting the education of the young.
Whether you agree or not – did you find the latest paragraph acceptable as part of a public debate? This is the second time I ask a question of this kind. Above I also asked if 6-20 million deaths (under given circumstances) can be described as normal. I ask because unless asked, you might find this type of calculation improper (regardless of conclusion drawn).
By those concerns, however, I believe we are touching on the “mystery” of why our societies have gone half crazy. How to navigate between legitimate policy trade-offs on the one hand and matters of life and death on the other? The latter is of a more sacred nature, isn’t it? The problem may be about politics and religion. Since we no longer have a common religion, former divisions of authority between political and religious institutions may no longer work. A new landscape lies before us.
I shall say no more about this contended “mystery” aspect of the Corona experience now, and I return to the “material” consequences of the pandemic itself and the consequences of the public response. In my opinion, the direct, and strictly medical, consequences of the pandemic itself do not justify a “death and doom” mood on the societal level. But how harmful are the side-effects of the public measures?
I think we should first recognise that – like the number of deaths caused by covid is relatively small – so are the deaths and other negative side effects of the measures on the societal level not bigger than what we as a society can afford – economically and demographically speaking. People do not see their friends and family die around them. They do not see children depressed or falling into illiteracy. I think this is important because people should remain trusting their own eyes. We, the critics, should not, like the Corona alarm, contribute to reduced confidence in common sense. We should not suggest exaggerations that are contrary to what people see. If uncertain, trust your own eyes, not TV!
Still, some important moral questions about consequences remain. 6-20 million people suffering a by and large natural death from/with a virus is different from, say any non-minimal number of people having their lives shortened from the side effects of a vaccine – if that should happen. Even if death and serious damage to health caused by side effects should turn out to be rare, the moral question remains. Not only must the tolerance to damage caused by a vaccine be kept low, much lower than to a slightly earlier natural death, such damage to one (age) group should also be kept out of trade-offs with other groups.
The only circumstance that could justify a broader trade-off between vaccine death and virus death would be an artificial virus that had (accidentally) spread in the population. Well, isn’t that exactly what happened? If so, that would be the argument we never heard.
I shall deal with that in the next section, but let me first mention yet another moral concern that should be taken into account. As pointed out by Darkhorse, there is a difference between “safe” and “lucky”. Even in the case of ending up relatively well, having taken a large-scale risk can leave you morally culpable.
Concluding this section, I think there is reason to distinguish between moral concerns related to the policy on the one hand and practical-economic losses on the other. Even if the latter should turn out to be moderate, and not bigger than society can afford, the moral culpability related to a failed policy can be high. (We, the critics, “need not” exaggerate the practical-economic losses.)
A CLOSER LOOK AT “WE DID NOT KNOW”
“Not knowing” may be quite different states depending on what you do know. The lab leak theory is well known as a possibility, and may have important consequences for the question investigated here, if confirmed and recognized by public authorities, and the theory being known, but uncleared, may also have important consequences for how the policy can be explained.
Depending on what you know, you may fear or not fear something that you do not know. What did Anthony Fauci (the leader of the most important health authority in the US by the beginning of the pandemic) know that I, a lay person, and others did not know in March 2020? We all heard that Corona perhaps came from a lab, but Fauci & Co probably knew more than others about what was in the lab. Perhaps he knew that there were, or at least could be, much more dangerous “animals” in it than the actual Covid 19. For him not knowing exactly what “animal” might have escaped, may have opened up quite a different scenario than for many others. Fauci & Co may thus have had rational (and not malevolent) reason to strike an alarm. If so, his moral failure in the first time of the pandemic would be lack of transparency, not ungrounded/fake fear.
For everyone else, for society in general, and for politicians in particular, the suggestions about a possible lab leak meant uncertainty of a tricky kind. The possibility of a lab leak at the outset widens the “window of options”, including increased danger, compared to nature itself. But how do you deal with that?
For one thing, having confidence in “science” becomes ambiguous. Trust in science means in this context trust in certain institutions which are doing scientific research or doing other work based on science. Then, if you have trust, you can either believe that a really dangerous virus could not escape from a scientific lab, in which case your trust would make you calm down a bit – or you can believe that an alarm struck by scientifically based health authorities must be right. This ambiguity regarding trust in science leads to uncertainty politically – and for both left and right political leanings.
Whether you are conservatively leaning, and prefer to wait and see, or you are progressively leaning, and want to take action/responsibility now, in both cases the lab leak theory is tricky. I guess both leanings trust science at the outset. But the progressives perhaps most. For them the ambiguity related to the lab leak theory is outright painful. Should you take action to check the lab-leak hypothesis now or should you postpone that as a secondary issue for now? – and act according to worst-case prevention strategy? The progressives seem to have landed on the latter. However, the reason to trust/distrust science remains uncleared. The result may have been that they “trust” even more zealously. Those with a conservative leaning, on the other hand, would be more concerned keeping order generally, including keeping up state authority. They may naturally fear drastic measures, but even more the risk of a complete breakdown of state authority. On their part, the result seems to be no policy at all.
Thus, the immense tension between progressives at double speed and passive, but frustrated, conservatives. The lab-leak theory, or rather the lab leak possibility, splits. It splits each political camp internally and at the same time leave the two camps more at a distance than ever. The political system faces a problem it cannot face.
NO LESS THAN DEMOCRACY
I have argued above that our economy does not need to be saved, but something else might be in danger. Darkhorse has often talked about corruption – corrupt persons and corrupt institutions. But perhaps the problem is not a matter of corruption – perhaps it is about „maturing“. I quickly add that I now stretch the concept of “maturing” a bit. I allow maturing to lead to something bad, it must not by (my) definition lead to something good.
My candidate for “maturing” would be no less than democracy. If something can “mature” into something bad, it means that decay was part of “something” already from the beginning and bound to emerge, or at least there was a risk of it. In democracy, “power to everybody”, like any other possession of power, contains a risk of abuse. But it takes some time before those in power discover that they now actually are in power.
Abuse of power can be understood in various ways. But let me suggest one definition: abuse of power is failing to take corresponding responsibility. Perhaps most people have a limited capacity for responsibility. But if so, don’t they elect politicians who take responsibility? Or do less than honest politicians do just as well? – politicians who only pretend to take responsibility? Politicians who follow people and then people follow the politicians? If so, democracy fails to take responsibility for what it does.
According to the historian Charles Murray, the founders of the American Constitution did not rely on structural factors alone when they advocated democracy. A set of well-designed political institutions was crucial, but not enough. As a precondition for a viable democracy, they also pointed to cultural factors.
You may be surprised to hear, that cultural factors, or values, were once seen as a precondition for democracy. You will be even more surprised to hear which values the founders had in mind. According to Murrey, honesty was one. There may be a connection between honesty and courage, and I will come back to that. In addition to honesty, the founders identified industriousness, religiousness, and “integrity of marriage” as preconditions for a functioning democracy.
Let me jump to the Eastern part of Europe for a moment, and look at Ukraine. In the war against Russia, you can say the Ukrainians are fighting for western values. But are they fighting for honesty, industriousness, religiousness, and integrity of marriage? Hardly, and I will contend that we in the West have forgotten our values except one, which is not on Murray’s list: liberalism (in the original sense). However, liberalism is not even a value; rather it is a meta-value. But isn’t Western values about human rights? Yes, but those legal-type human rights mostly ensure that nobody infringes upon your freedom. They “bestow” liberalism on the individual. What is missing, is what we can call positive values.
I invite you to accept without evidence that as much as three of the four values listed above, save industriousness, are now in danger. I will claim that we are now half empty, or emptier, regarding positive values in the West.
A HUGE HUMAN EVENT
This article is based on the controversial presupposition that the covid policy is the “inverse” of what you would expect from evidence and reason. After starting on this disputed ground, I have proceeded to perhaps unexpected corners of societal life. I shall continue in the same fashion, but let me first sum up what we have so far:
- I have referred to Desmet, who claims that the Corona public response (alarm) was driven by mass formation.
- I have pointed to the tension between private profit and the common good, and how this trivial problem may change to non-trivial by magnitude.
- I have suggested that the Corona experience is a “mystery” which may be due to the absence of a common religion and ensuing problems regarding authority.
- I have suggested that democracy fails to take responsibility for what it does. The problem can have something to do with honesty.
- I have suggested that the political system has great difficulty addressing the lab leak theory. (No wonder it remains uncleared.)
- I have referred to Solzhenitsyn who almost half a century ago claimed that the West had lost courage, and to de Tocqueville, who reported a lack of it in 1835.
- I have referred to certain positive western values including honesty, and I have suggested they are in decline.
The above 7 points do not exactly look like a coherent theory. But how much coherence would you expect? This is about a huge human event, caused by humans.
That being said, I will claim that at least there is no inconsistency in the above points, and some coherence. Courage and honesty connect, I will say. Courage includes the courage to see life as it is, and thus to be honest, first to yourself, then to others. Moreover, authority and responsibility also resonate well with courage and honesty.
COURAGE FOR ALL?
Honesty relates to yet another concept: honour. Is honour a masculine value? How about the complete cluster comprising honesty, courage, responsibility, authority, and honour? In that order, would it be a good programme for bringing up a child? To which sex would those values be most important?
The above suggested cluster is different from, say, softness, kindness, empathy, adaptability, and appreciation. I am no expert on womanhood, but doesn’t this cluster point in that direction?
I will claim that at least courage is a masculine feature. I hold detachment and separation to be masculine – the opposite of immediacy and intimacy. Courage implies containment, and thereby a sort of detachment, say from reacting immediately out of fear. Courage is also about containing anger.
Masculinity, however, does not correspond one-to-one to MEN. Courage, specifically, is neither automatically held by men, nor does the masculine character of this non-physical feature exclude women from having it.
If courage is lost as a male feature in the West, we shall in any case have to develop it anew. It might then be a cross-sexual project. Further development of this idea would depend, however, on women being interested.
Lack of religion – and/or lack of courageous men and women – those are my explanations why we had the inverse Covid policy.
WHAT TO DO
Like religion, courage has become a “private” matter, almost a matter of taste. In the name of freedom, liberalism leaves everything to the individual and nothing in society (except the state, the stock exchange and the exchange of everything). Over time this “privatization” has consequences. Like for any other once esteemed value, if disregarded by society, you should not be surprised to see a decline. After some decades, or perhaps we have disregarded this virtue even longer, you may see serious consequences.
Engaging with the traditional values of the sexes is a good way of coming closer to who you are as a man or woman, I will suggest, and it is also a good way of growing into a full adult. If you are over 40, you must have observed how our culture increasingly has blurred the distinction between adulthood and adolescence. If you are under 40, you may have fallen victim to the blurring and don’t even know about anything else. I suggest you first check the values of your own sex, then consider those of the other. If you try to embody the values, you will see that it is not easy to work on both sets at the same time.
On a societal level, you can contribute to replacing collective naivety with collective maturity. Let us take a closer look at the public agencies who are in charge of the common good. What follows now is partly what you learned already at high school level, but my reasoning needs those step‑stones to reach the finish line.
In one direction public agencies are related to the state. A medical agency will be related to the ministry of health, and beyond the ministry, there is the government and then the electorate and/or the parliament, depending on the constitution. In another direction, a specifically medical agency relates to the pharma industry. The agency is there to exercise control over the industry, notable by approving/disapproving drugs and other means for medical treatment done in hospitals, by physicians and so on.
Regardless of constitution, in any democratic society there is also a public square. Here the ministers and the government in general answer for their policy, including the health policy implemented through one or more public health agencies. In addition to that, most agencies will relate directly to the public, notably through media. You can say the media largely constitute the public square. If we have been too naïve for some time, this is where the naivety will materialize. Journalists will not ask the right, critical questions. The readers, listeners, and viewers of media will not be critical enough, and let the media get away with sloppy journalism. In a democratic society we are all responsible for the level of naivety.
Turning to the individual level, the leader of any agency is, of course, basically responsible for everything the agency does. But he/she also relies on the integrity of the employees. We do not expect everything to be perfect, but there will be such a thing as level of integrity in an institution, and perhaps in society. What the level is at any given time, will be an important, and basically empirical question.
Moreover, I will suggest that integrity and courage interrelate. In what way? I will suggest in the following way: As long as things run normally, there is not much need for courage. The private companies do not even try to challenge the integrity of a public agency. But – it is also normal that integrity can come under pressure. The crucial moment arises when agency employee X sees employee Y being sloppy. Mr. or Ms. X. can then choose to react or not to react. If not reacting, X may feel free to be sloppy one day himself/herself. This is how corruption “starts”. It does not start by a number of persons meeting and agreeing to be corrupt. To react takes some courage on the part of X, because it is never pleasant to interfere with someone close to you for moral and/or legal grounds. Y may have been sloppy for various reasons – planning to apply for a job in the industry, for instance, or just laziness.
Of course, the person X or the person Y may, and may not, be the head of the institution. Corruption can start from the top, or from any other level.
Even when not starting from the top, the position of the head of the institution (as you would expect) stands out as particularly important. Sooner or later information, signs, or even “smell” of corruption must reach his/her office. Then the head of the institution face the same choice as any other employee in the position of X (but without the risk of formal sanctions from within). If he/she joins, then from now on the institution is corrupt.
If an institution turns corrupt, the question of whistle-blowing emerges for intact (non-corrupt) individuals. In a setting of religiousness, this question would be a matter of loyalty. Provided your religion requires honesty – are you loyal to the public institution or to the church/deity? In a non-religious setting the question can be seen as matter of consciousness – or an existential choice – who will you be?
If an institution turns corrupt, similar questions arises on higher levels. There will be a higher agency, which could be a ministry or the government. Like the head of an institution, the higher agency will also get information, see signs, or “smell” corruption, and come in the position of X.
Of course, also the highest level of authority in a society can turn corrupt. Then the whole society can be seen as corrupt, or some kind of “captivity” exists – those in power hold the lager part of the population “captive”. And what would be the highest authority? If we leave out the case of “captivity” and look at societies with a democratic tradition, the highest authority might be the government or the parliament. Or perhaps the voter? I cannot see why the electorate should be immune to corruption or otherwise exempted. But of course, the idea of a whole society turning corrupt presume there is some standard – for absence of corruption, or honesty – by which you can deem any actual state, regardless of populous following. To exempt the broader population of responsibility is to see it as infallible, which it is not, or, I would say, paternalistic.
The above description of how corruption develops, may look a bit “mechanical”. In real life I presume corruption can spread in a variety of ways, including more diffuse ways. (Are the horoes of the time courageous and real – or are they smilingly tolerant to everything? Are the headlines of the media about real events and sincere – or entertaining and moralistic?) There will be small steps and bigger steps. Corruption can spread downwards, upwards, and horizontally. There can be faults of a formal character, like patterns of funding incentivizing corruption. There can be informal faults like an ill-judged recruitment policy or the wrong kind of generosity. The relevance of courage (and indeed other aspects of masculinity) remains. Whether corruption flows predominantly from above, or in the opposite direction, in both cases, is there any other road to improvement than courageous individuals and groups fighting against it?
TOO LATE TO BE CONSERVATIVE
Before we finish, there is yet another question to address. Regarding masculinity, it may be too late to be conservative (if that would be your preference). There is so little of it around, that it may be necessary to reinvent, rather than conserve.
You can then work on this contradiction between progress and conservatism – or/and, if you are man, you can jump to masculinity. If you are a woman, you can also join, or you can join indirectly by encouraging masculinity in men. Men tend to develop what women call for.
If you go along with this, you will discover that it is difficult to be a man or a woman – to be an adult – in a culture where the distinction between adolescence and adulthood is blurred, or where adolescence even dominates. You will face external difficulties as well as feeling insecure. You will not necessarily be confirmed when you are on the right track. You will probably have doubt because you will sometimes, or often, be alone. You may find it necessary to make odd compromises to survive socially.
But whatever it takes, becoming a proper human being is the only thing worth trying. I believe we urgently need change. At the same time, we suffer from a desperate lack of something we had before.
A NOTE ON THE PRESUPPOSED “INVERSE” COVID POLICY
1. How dangerous is the virus itself?
Very informative I have found the contributions of Michael Levitt – a Nobel Prize laureate and expert on computer modelling in a medical context. He has been interviewed by the podcaster and former Australian vice-premier John Anderson (and others).
I also addressed this question myself in an article in May 2020 (in German). The article has references to official statistics and to scientists like Knut Witkowski, John Ioannidis, and Jay Bhattacharya. But unfortunately, some contributions have later been censored (private censorship, and are no longer available.
2. How effective are the public measures to contain the virus, and to what extent do they have negative side effects?
This is partly a medical question, and partly a practical and economical one. The question can be divided into a series of more specified questions, each covering one, or a group of, measures.
Answers to those questions you could use to make trade-offs between purely medical concerns (death and illness) and other human concerns. But it is difficult to find clear answers based on scientific research. I know of one study of masks, though, made in April 2020 in Denmark. The study showed that masks have no significant effect. Also, in an interview the leader of the public health agency in Sweden explains why this country has remained normal in this respect.
3. To what degree are the various vaccines and medicines effective? -and to what degree do they have negative side effects?
The UK medical doctor John Campbell has an interesting take on this. He has published many podcasts, and I would say increasingly critical ones.
In one of them, Campbell talks about Ivermectin, a drug held by several critics of mainstream policy to be useful in treating Covid. You will see that Campbell, also an expert on classic English understatement, knows how to get his message through despite (private) censorship. In another podcast, he criticises BBC for discrediting the same drug without proper evidence. He refers to a meta-study based on about one hundred studies.
Public medical agencies make recommendations as well as dissuasions. However, when I searched the website of the German health authority, Robert Koch Institut (29.11.2022), for Ivermectin, despite 11 hits I found nothing which seemed related to Covid.
As we know, vaccines have been particularly controversial. Critics point to the novel, and some would say the experimental, character of the vaccines. Even if the vaccines should turn out to be harmless, the question would remain, if you knew (or could know) that beforehand.There is a difference between safe on the one hand and harmless on the other.
An important indicator in this context is “excess death”. There are now about 40 % excess deaths for people of working age in the UK and USA. In this age group, the cause is not likely to be Covid. The cause may be, and it may not be the vaccines. The media outlet Unherd has interviewed an insurance mathematician on the matter. The podcast Peak Prosperity has looked at the increased risk of heart disease.
In the thicket of public policy indirect answers to all questions you can ask about public policy and their effects are embedded. But in open debate, they have in my opinion rather been evaded. The blurring of the difference between dying FROM and dying WITH Covid is the perhaps most incomprehensible example.