Mises Wire

The Case for Disbanding Public Health Agencies

During March of 2020, Sweden’s state epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, showed us how public health can be managed ethically by refusing to lockdown Sweden’s residents. The rest of the public health discipline, however, entered the territory in which we now place the universally castigated discipline of eugenics. Eugenics breaches ethics and causes enormous harm to the fabric of mankind. Likewise, lockdowns breach ethics and have terrorized or killed millions of people worldwide.

I recently assisted Professor Gigi Foster in preparing a cost-benefit analysis of Australia’s response to covid-19. This analysis, published as a book, shows that the harm caused by lockdowns in Australia exceeds any benefits by at least sixty-eight times. Magnifying these to the rest of the world, I estimate that between three to ten million people have been killed, trillions of dollars have been destroyed, and billions of people have been harmed worldwide by lockdowns; a “gift” that will keep on giving well into the future.

Lockdowns did not only increase noncovid related deaths. A study I carried out jointly with Jason Gavrilis in mid-2022, published by the India Policy Institute, shows that lockdowns also increased covid-19 deaths. Countries which implemented lockdowns and related measures have experienced, on average, more covid-19 deaths than Sweden. If the findings of this study are validated by other researchers, then the sheer evil of these lockdowns and associated policies will baffle future generations.

In this article, I show that the public health response to covid-19 is not the exception but the rule. The evil policies of public health are the inevitable outcomes of the intrinsic information failures and incentives deeply embedded within its structure.

A Pattern of Depredations

What happened in 2020 is typical of public health. As Luc Bonneux and Wim Van Damme explained in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2011 bulletin, a “culture of fear” and “worst-case thinking” were the hallmarks of public health during the avian and swine flu of the early 2000s: “The pandemic policy was never informed by evidence, but by fear of worst-case scenarios.” Sweden’s ethical covid-19 response must not mislead us into thinking that public health can somehow be reformed. Tegnell is not representative of public health.

As a remedy, Bonneux and Van Damme asked that public health be “accountable for reasonableness in a process of openness, transparency and dialogue with all the stakeholders, and particularly the public.” But true to its character, public health did none of this during covid-19 and instead imposed extreme censorship across the world.

Exaggerations and Breach of Pandemic Plans

The pre-2020 public health literature was explicit that policies involving lockdowns must never be pursued since their harms vastly exceed their benefits. The WHO pandemic guidelines of 2019 insisted on proportionate measures, had an extensive discussion of the ethics of each measure, and ruled out reckless measures like lockdowns and border closures. I summarized this literature in The Great Hysteria and The Broken State and in a complaint to the International Criminal Court.

But what happened during the swine flu was multiplied a thousandfold with covid-19. Fixated on the worst-case scenario once again (recall the Neil Ferguson model), public health stoked what I call the Great Hysteria.

It has been evident since around April 2020 that covid-19 is not particularly lethal. Professor John Ioannidis of Stanford University wrote to me on April 9, 2022, that covid-19 is 50–500 times less lethal than the Spanish flu. Covid-19 is essentially as lethal as the seasonal flu. Sweden’s official mortality statistics, which adjust the death rate for population size, show no evidence of excess mortality in Sweden in 2020 once we control for the dry tinder effect of 2019 (The mild flu season of 2019 meant that many more of the elderly were vulnerable to respiratory disease in 2020.). We have a so-called pandemic with a lethality similar to the seasonal flu; therefore, covid-19 caused virtually no excess deaths in Sweden during 2020.

Nonetheless, practitioners of public health, except in Sweden, drummed up hysteria by grossly exaggerating covid-19 (calling it a once-in-a-century pandemic) to support the adoption of Chinese Communist Party inspired lockdowns in breach of long-standing, well-established public health findings.

Power without Accountability

Public health practitioners claim that they require the power to destroy property rights and curtail freedom of movement to achieve their goals. In the chapter, “Pubic Health Law,” from Public Health & Preventive Medicine, Edward Richards and Katherine Rathbun explicitly claim that without coercion modern society itself cannot exist: “Public health depends on the power of the state. Public health authorities must seize property, close businesses, destroy animals, or involuntarily treat, or even lock away, individuals. Without the coercive power of the state, public health and modern society would be impossible.” Note carefully their use of the word “impossible.” They claim that, without sacrificing control over our freedom and property, we cannot be saved. But public health also insists that its power (over our freedom and property) must never be subjected to a cost-benefit analysis, thus, precluding itself of any accountability.

The Impossibility of Public Health

The logic of public health and economic collectivism closely overlap; so do their limitations. Both are hindered by a lack of market feedback and insufficient information.

Ludwig von Mises wrote about the impossibility of socialist calculation. Hayek argued that there is a knowledge problem that afflicts central planners. A bureaucrat in a socialist system does not have the capacity to collate and comprehend even a microscopic proportion of the information embedded in the price system. Consequently, decisions in socialist countries are always flawed and inevitably cause great harm.

Similarly, while health is necessarily an individual matter, public health has no capacity to make precise recommendations for each individual. Inevitably, speculative mathematical models underpin public health. These models, like socialist input-output models, are never based on real information so they always end up harming society.

By real information, I mean detailed information about each individual virus particle, the immunity levels, mental health status, and economic circumstances of each individual within a jurisdiction. Yet, without considering the etiology and progression of a disease in the context of such detailed individual information, there is no possibility of a scientifically valid recommendation for individuals. One example of the delusion of public health is contact tracing. Advocates believe they can track every case of respiratory disease using QR codes. Public health is based on the same fiction which sustains socialism and communism. A pretense of knowledge is public health’s fatal conceit. Its “experts” boldly offer solutions to a problem which they can never precisely understand.


Public health cannot be trusted. Its practitioners have shown us repeatedly that they will never choose less restrictive policy options, undertake cost-benefit analyses of their actions, or accept accountability for the massacres and harms they cause. Our only option is to excise this cancerous discipline. Disarming public health is the next major frontier in the advancement of human liberty. If we fail to disband it, the biomedical state that is now in control of the world will devour all of our remaining freedoms.

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