Tuesday 9 June 2020

Viruses & Imperialism

The coronavirus pandemic highlights many features of imperialism today. But people often misunderstand what is happening and can easily end up giving a reactionary response.[1] For example, if modern capitalist production methods, especially in agriculture with factory farming, are seen by some to have caused or at least exacerbated this pandemic, how is it that viral outbreaks most commonly start in less developed capitalist countries? Or if, as some ecologists suppose, the pandemic is a sign of ‘nature’ responding to human intrusion, what are we to think of programmes to eliminate mosquito-borne malaria? This article begins with relevant facts about viruses, and then looks at developments in China, the US and the UK.
Appendices to the article discuss the ‘R’ reproduction number for a virus and the report on potential virus deaths that influenced UK government policy. Technical details and sources are given in footnotes.


Contrasting with the global mayhem it has caused, a virus can be seen as just a submicroscopic infectious particle. It can replicate itself only within a host cell – of a plant, an animal or a human being, and it can sometimes transfer from one type of host to another. It may cause serious disease and death, or be relatively harmless. How problematic it might become depends upon the social and economic context.
Scientists estimate that about three-quarters of new human diseases originate from existing viruses in animals:
“Animals that harbour and can transmit a particular virus but are generally unaffected by it are said to act as a natural reservoir for that virus. For example, the H1N1 virus that caused the 2009 flu pandemic[2] … was likely passed to humans from pigs; for this reason, it was originally called ‘swine flu’.”[3]
There are around 150 animal viruses that affect humans, and there are possibly half a million more that could potentially do so.
The virus causing Covid-19 disease is thought to have come from a bat, which then passed on the virus to another animal and then it was passed onto humans. Along the way, this virus, like others, can mutate as it gets reproduced in the host’s cells, which can make it more, or perhaps less lethal to humans. The first outbreak of the disease was in Wuhan, capital city of Hubei province in China, and the most widely suspected original location was a ‘wet market’ in Wuhan that was selling freshly killed animals for meat.
Despite conspiracy theories, there is no evidence whatsoever that the virus was manufactured in or escaped from a laboratory, in China or anywhere else. Such accusations ignore how easy viral transmission can be when other factors come into play.
What made the new virus, SARS-Cov-2,[4] frightening was that it was roughly 10 times more deadly than the regular seasonal flu virus and that it could be transmitted more readily, since many who were infected and who could pass it on had no symptoms themselves. Even those who ended up having severe, life-threatening symptoms would usually only develop these after more than a week or so, giving the virus plenty of time to spread to family, friends and accidental contacts.
But the real issue for zoonotic viruses – the ones infecting humans that come from animals – is the animal-human connection.[5] The cells in all animals, including humans, are more similar than one might think. While many animal viruses have not been known to infect humans, there are still plenty that might. If a virus particle exists in a cow, a pig, a chicken, a bat or wherever, then there is also a chance that it can attach itself to particular cells in the human body. The more that animals and humans interact, the greater the chance. Equally, some viruses infecting humans can be passed on to animals.

Nature & society

In economically developed countries, most animals are kept away from people – apart from household pets that have not been found to be a threat to health. The risks of infection in livestock farming, etc, are also generally known and are kept under control with hygiene measures and vaccinations, although there have still been outbreaks. Some people may not like the capitalistic, large-scale farming of animals, but in this respect they tend to work well.
The risks of zoonotic viral epidemics have been far greater in the poorer countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. In these countries, markets are more common where live animals – not only ‘exotic’ animals, but also ducks and chickens – are slaughtered and sold for meat. These can raise the risk of human infection from viruses, including providing a forum for originating new viruses, especially if the trading is not strictly regulated and the markets are not kept sufficiently clean.
So, while the virus particles provide the potential for viral epidemics, that potential is only realised in particular social-economic contexts. An important context was brought out by a 2017 study of emerging infectious diseases globally. It argued that such diseases, and almost all recent pandemics ‘originate in animals, mostly wildlife, and their emergence often involves dynamic interactions among populations of wildlife, livestock & people within rapidly changing environments’.[6] Among the factors involved were large land-use change programs such as logging and mining concessions, dam building, and road development.
The risk of new infectious diseases emerging is clearly a global problem. As the chart taken from the 2017 study brings out, the risk spans every continent, although to different degrees in each country.

Estimated risk of emerging infectious diseases by location

Source: https://nature.com/articles/s41467-017-00923-8.pdf. Note that the projection used in the map diminishes the area of countries closer to the equator and increases that of regions nearer the poles.

These development-driven environmental changes have been going on for centuries, also pre-dating modern capitalism. What makes them more problematic now is the greater integration of the world economy, with more opportunities for travel, the expansion of urban areas and the shift of populations from the countryside to towns, especially if some former peasants wish to continue their previous ways.
But this does not imply that economic development should stop, or that travel and global integration are bad things that should be reversed. We do not need to adopt The League of Gentlemen’s ‘local shops for local people’ approach. Development gives evident benefits for humanity, not just in economic terms, but also by improving social connections, knowledge of the world, science and health. To take just one example of public health achievements: average life expectancy was less than 50 years before 1900, even in the richer countries; today it is more than 60 years even in the poorest and up to 80 years in the richest. Unless you believe in an afterlife and would be pleased to meet your maker at the earliest opportunity, that has to be a good thing.
Humanity has made progress by understanding, modifying and channelling nature to meet human needs. One should not think that the reckless way capitalism treats the environment is something that is inherent in all possible forms of economic system. The latter view would call a halt to development, despite 10% of the world still being in extreme poverty, and it would support the reactionary idea that ‘nature’ is a barrier that should be left alone. Viruses and other diseases have been dealt with in the past, and can be dealt with again. But, as the following sections will show, imperialism today creates many barriers to achieving this.

Capitalism & disease inequality

Capitalism will not readily minimise the risk of diseases emerging, since it costs money to do so. But an epidemic is still bad for business, and might also affect the ruling groups. So governments in rich countries will usually impose some health measures, promote widespread vaccinations and find other ways to stop or limit the spread of disease. Such measures mean, for example, that smallpox, measles, polio, malaria and cholera have been almost eliminated.[7] These things also apply to capitalist agriculture and animal farming, where big efforts are made to keep animals free from disease. If infected meat got into consumer products, food production companies would see their business collapse. Witness what happened to the demand for British beef after the outbreak of BSE, or ‘mad cow disease’, in the late 1980s!
By contrast, poorer countries have fewer sources of funds to deal with disease, and less scope for doing this when capitalist exploitation is less restricted. Dominated by the rich powers and their companies, they can do little to thwart the capitalist objective to screw out as much profit as possible. Poor countries are also more burdened with dangerous levels of pollution – often based on their dealings with the rich – and many of their population groups do not even have easy access to clean drinking water. The social and environmental changes brought about by the ruthless, capitalist one-sided development of poorer countries have destructive consequences, but that is an argument to stop this destruction, not to stop development itself.

China & the latest virus

Substantial evidence links the emergence of Covid-19 to a ‘wet market’ in Wuhan that sold fresh meat, fish and other perishable goods. Animals were also slaughtered for meat on customer demand. These types of market are common in many developing countries, particularly in Asia and Africa, but they are not unknown in richer countries, for example fish markets selling live fish, crabs, lobsters, etc. The earlier comments made about the possible transmission of disease clearly imply that such markets should at least be tightly regulated. But China’s authorities have been concerned that closing the markets would encourage these practices to continue outside of a formal market setting, which could make things worse.
In many respects, the problem comes down to consumers not being happy that the meat is fresh, unless they see the animal killed. That in turn reflects a worry both about the quality of shop-bought meat and a desire to do things the old, trusted way as in traditional livestock farming and in more rural communities. These traditional ways will not easily disappear until safer, new methods gain acceptance, but it is very likely that China’s government will take stronger measures against wet markets in future.
The Chinese authorities had been slow to act on the outbreak in late 2019, and censored the initial warnings from medical personnel. However, they then acted quickly and decisively, including locking down Wuhan and other cities in the Hubei region on 23 January, thus affecting over 50 million people (other regions came shortly after). Detailed information on the new virus was given to scientists internationally by early January 2020. An English language article was also published on 24 January in the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, warning about the risk of human-human infection.
China’s state is authoritarian and can sometimes seem to act in a paranoid manner. However, this country has a history of being dominated by major powers in Europe, by Japan and also by the US. That history, added to the more recent hostility of the US, gives plenty of material to support such a political response: they really are out to get me! Note that the US has military bases around China – including in South Korea and in Okinawa Island, Japan – and it is the major supplier of weapons to Taiwan, an island province that China rightfully claims.[8] China has no military bases around the US.

One Flu Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

US President Trump has used the latest virus pandemic to increase hostility to China, attacking the World Health Organization for being too ‘China-centric’ and stepping up the pressure on US allies to impose economic sanctions on the country’s major companies. This anti-China stance is a common theme in all US political thinking, worried as it is about the rise of China as a rival power.
Trump blames China for ‘covering up’ the virus in its early stages, thus setting the stage for a pandemic. There may be some validity to that view, but even if so, there are no grounds on which to criticise China’s subsequent actions. The allegation of a cover up does not excuse the delayed reaction of the US authorities when the virus was widely known about. It also has to answer reports on US mainstream media that the US intelligence agencies (the CIA) knew of a viral outbreak in China in November 2019. Of course, the CIA’s main concern was that it might affect US forces in Asia![9]
POTUS#45 has distinguished himself in this pandemic, easily exceeding any stupidity measure of which his critics might have thought him capable. From comparing the virus to a normal, regular flu epidemic, to promoting a drug, hydroxychloroquine, used for other conditions that was untested and possibly dangerous for Covid-19, to even suggesting that somehow injecting or ingesting household bleach might be a way of fending off the virus, his statements have stunned most observers, including the administration’s medical advisers.
Still, an egomaniac might easily become distracted by the fear that economic damage from the Covid-19 crisis, and now the protests against racist violence by the US police, could undermine his hopes for re-election as president in November. Who could expect any coherent strategy for dealing with the virus?
I will not deal with those economic outcomes of collapsed output and employment, which are easily found in daily news reports. But it is worth noting that in recent years severe cutbacks in funding to federal and state agencies responsible for dealing with such crises will have hindered an effective anti-virus policy in the US. For example, in 2018 the Trump administration ‘streamlined’, as the euphemism goes, the Global Health Security and Biodefense team, and put it into a more general directorate combining arms control and non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and global health and biodefence. At the same time, maintenance contracts on stockpiled ventilators lapsed and there was an insufficient stockpile of medical equipment. All this added to the confusion caused by the president’s own absurd statements.
To crown all these achievements, on 29 May President Trump terminated the US relationship with the World Health Organization, following up his previous decision to suspend US funding for it. His rationale was the previously alleged Chinese culpability and, for good measure, adding to his anti-China policies, he has also announced that in future Hong Kong would no longer have special trade and investment relationships with the US.

The English Patient

The US tops the world in the number of Covid-19 cases and in the number of fatalities from it, the latter passing the 100,000 mark just after US Memorial Day. But at least the US has a population of 328 million; the UK with its 67 million has no such size excuse for having the second highest number of virus deaths on the planet.
There are many parallels between the UK and the US handling of the virus impact. For example: the lack of specialist medical and personal protective equipment that would, in former times, have been seen as a necessary stockpile for emergencies; a too long delayed, confused and halting ‘strategy’ by the government to deal with the crisis, and a political leadership that tried to bluff its way through a pandemic and push back any criticism with an escalating series of half-truths and outright lies. One could also cite the narcissism of both Trump and UK Prime Minister Johnson as the reason they always have something else on their minds than dealing with the pandemic.
Johnson claims to be following the recommendations of his scientific advisers. This gives him cover for any decision his government makes that goes wrong. More than that, the scientists concerned have basically colluded with the government. Here is the editor of The Lancet, Richard Horton, recently criticising the somewhat less than independent role of many UK scientists:
“Every day a cast of experts – led by the chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, and the chief medical officer, Chris Whitty – lends credibility to this government by annealing their reputations with those of ministers. …
“The failures within the scientific and medical establishment do not end with government experts. The UK is fortunate to have an array of scientific and medical institutions that promote and protect the quality of science and medicine in this country – royal colleges, the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Royal Society. Their presidents have been elected to defend and advance the reputation of medicine and medical science. And yet they have failed to criticise government policy. Why? Surely their silence amounts to complicity.
“ … When advisers are asked questions, they speak with one voice in support of government policy. They never deviate from the political scripts.”[10]
In the UK, available resources for managing the pandemic were focused on the National Health Service, to the detriment of care homes. The sharply rising death toll in UK care homes was ignored for weeks until accumulating news media reports forced a modest change in government policy. It would clearly have been straying too far into the political arena for the main medical advisers to point out this problem in public.
Probably the most egregious policy error of the UK government was to have ignored for several weeks what was going on in Italy. That country’s health system was quickly in a state of collapse as infections and the death toll from Covid-19 soared. At least Italy had some excuse of being surprised at how quickly the virus could spread; the UK did not.
The first, outrageous policy response from the government was to go for ‘herd immunity’. The rationale was this: no vaccine was available for the new disease, it looked like the death rate among those infected was ‘only’ around 1%, so letting a large number of people get it and then recover would provide a buffer of immune people in the population – assuming, of course, that one could not get infected again later.
How disastrous this policy could turn out to be should have been obvious from the start. A rate of 1% for deaths might sound low, but not when the herd was judged to include 50-80% of the UK population! It would have implied anything from 300,000 to 550,000 deaths in total. Yet it took another two weeks or so for the implications to sink in. The bias of policy finally changed the week after a report from Imperial College, published on 16 March, spelled out to the government the potential scale of deaths under different scenarios, from no measures taken to a complete lockdown and suppression of the virus.[11]

Government policies

Lockdown policies in many economies to contain the new virus led to a slump in economic activity, output, employment and incomes. To some extent, richer countries were able to offset the disaster caused for people’s livelihoods by offering subsidies for wages, increasing grants and cheap loans to companies and reducing the cost of borrowing. The scale of the extra spending and liabilities taken on has been truly colossal.[12] Poorer countries were, as usual, in a much worse position, with their populations facing penury or facing risks of being infected with the virus if they continued working.
The global spread of the virus has nevertheless been very uneven. Some countries have so far been relatively lucky to escape from a big impact, whatever may have been the response of their governments. Others have had experience with previous epidemics and were well prepared to deal with this one. However, countries with right-wing, populist leaders – notably the US, UK and Brazil – have tended to be much worse at implementing an effective anti-virus policy.
The advantages enjoyed by richer countries in their virus-crisis spending plans are brought out by the very low, even negative yields they pay on government debt issues. But it is naïve in the extreme to assume that such high borrowing will have no cost. Interest rate costs on the debt may be minimal, but the extra debt itself has to be paid back and will be an economic burden – via taxation or spending cuts – in future years. That debt is added to already high levels compared to GDP. Among other reports about this issue on this blog, see here.
Some debts owed by companies, eg short-term low interest loans, might be paid back fairly quickly if the collapse of business activity stops and is partially reversed in the next six months. Yet that still leaves them with a net loss of revenue and far worse prospects than they had assumed before the crisis. In the UK’s case, the Bank of England has forecast 2020 GDP at minus 14% in 2020. While it projected a hard-to-believe bounce back of 15% in 2021, even that would still leave 2021’s GDP lower than in 2019.[13] Similar down/up hopes and guesses will apply to all countries in the rest of 2020 and in 2021. The Bank was also optimistic because private banks now have much better capital ratios than in 2007-08, so they are better able to bear losses from loans not repaid. But that is not saying much compared to that disastrous episode.

Viruses & Moribund Capitalism

From the point of view of ruling elites, viruses along with many other diseases are usually seen as being a little too indiscriminate. They can infect or kill anyone, rich or poor, so it makes sense to have public health systems in place to deal with them or to limit their damage, both to the national population and in economic terms. This particular virus has, however, been far more global, far more quickly and with a far greater impact than any other in recent memory.
The big, rich countries were well aware of the risk of pandemics, often had specialist teams of scientists to study and monitor them, and also supported international health institutions. This should make shocking the British and US delays and incompetence in dealing with the latest virus. But it is not much of a surprise when you examine the political leaderships in each country. And if you ask how did such people ever get into positions of responsibility, that question is answered by the fact that very large numbers of people voted for them. It is not in the nature of these ugly beasts to be prepared for a public health crisis, especially when there are other political objectives in mind, whether that is a Brexit fantasy or re-election.

The imperial grinding machine: what goes in, what comes out

In previous articles I have covered many aspects of imperialism, looking at how the major countries have exploited the world and wreaked havoc. One image I have used is of the imperial grinding machine, where the resources of the world available to meet humanity’s needs end up in crises, poverty, racism, war and oppression. The latest virus episode throws a different light on these topics, one that shows how they are not even good at protecting the more vulnerable in their own populations. While the major powers can handle the economic costs, or postpone the economic impact, this contrasts with many other countries where local populations are faced with the choice of losing their livelihoods or risking death.
Health risks and viruses are clearly global issues, but these cannot be dealt with effectively in the imperialist world economy. Even the international bodies set up to manage health are poorly funded and cannot work well to contain disease. Trump cutting funds to the World Health Organization is bad enough, but there have also been moves from the US to prevent future vaccines and medicines for Covid-19 from being ‘public goods’ available to all countries and not bound by patent rights. The UK also backs the US approach.[14] Both the US and UK governments are providing huge sums to their own pharmaceutical companies, and want them to benefit from any vaccine or treatment breakthrough by the patent protection of such ‘intellectual property’. In March, Trump even attempted to get exclusive rights to a potential vaccine from a German pharmaceutical company![15]
Every day the capitalist economy answers the question of what life is worth by asking back: how much can you pay? The world’s resources are monopolised by the major countries, but they still screw it up. Unable to run the economy without threats, violence and terror, we now see clearly that they cannot even save their own citizens’ lives.

Tony Norfield, 9 June 2020


a) Talking out of their Rs?

It is difficult to estimate how many people have been infected with a virus when there are few tests carried out, as is still the case in most countries. Full population tests may not be necessary for an accurate view of infections, since representative samples, as in opinion polls, might be sufficient. But with regular opinion polls, for voting preference, etc, there is usually already a good population-based estimate of voters, by age, gender, social circumstances, previous voting choice, likelihood to vote, and so on. This helps a pollster build a representative sample to reflect the population; the larger the sample, the more accurate it is. With this new virus, however, it is not possible to get many of the same kind of key, relevant data items, and without large scale testing, judgements on the course of the infection will be far less reliable than most opinion polls. In the absence of data, models for predicting the virus make many assumptions based on little evidence.
Early in the outbreak, recorded hospital deaths indicated that older people were more vulnerable to Covid-19, especially those who also had other diseases that led to difficulties breathing. It also seemed that younger people, especially children, were far more likely to develop only mild, or even no symptoms, even if they had been infected. But each of these assumptions is being at least partially revised as more evidence accumulates. One other unexplained feature of the virus is that the non-white section of the population seems to be more vulnerable to developing bad symptoms and dying. This seems to be the case even when factors such as socio-economic status and occupation are taken into account. All this makes estimates of the potential impact of the virus very uncertain.
Yet one virus parameter commonly promoted is its ‘basic reproduction rate’ R0 (or R in the usual discourse, and in what follows). This parameter reflects the degree to which one infected person will infect someone else, and is critical for the future path of the virus in a population.[16] If the R number is two and that person goes on to infect another two people, and they each do the same, and so on, then there is a doubling of the numbers in each round of infection, which may be every couple of days. This leads to an exponentially rising number of infections.[17]
An R number remaining less than 1.0 means the virus will diminish and eventually die out; the lower the number, the more quickly. A number that stays above 1.0 means that infections could grow until more or less everyone is impacted, and grow more quickly, the bigger the R. So, governments would like to promote any reports of R < 1.0 from scientists in order to get out of the lockdown that is damaging economies.
But the reports of various R numbers in the media, no matter which scientists they are from, need to be read with caution. To put this in a fuller perspective, it is worth reading a critical article on such calculations from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, published in January 2019. Its main point is that ‘many of the parameters included in the models used to estimate R are merely educated guesses; the true values are often unknown or difficult or impossible to measure directly’.[18]
Without mass testing, it will be difficult to get a good estimate of the virus reproduction rate, let alone the percentage of the population that has been infected. Of course, if the number of new cases diagnosed in tests trends lower, then one can argue that the R number has dropped, but all that is really being said is that the number of new cases is lower!

b) The Imperial College virus model

The media reports of Imperial’s projected UK deaths from the virus – from around 250,000 to 500,000 – had the salutary effect of making the UK government wake up. Three months on, those numbers seem crazily pessimistic, even though the reality of around 50,000 at present is no cause for celebration and the impact of the virus is far from over. Yet the report made a very well argued case in favour of suppressing the virus, to prevent both an extremely high death toll and the collapse of the health system.[19] A closer look at the report also qualifies the headline numbers.
One of Imperial’s scenarios did project 510,000 deaths, but that was if the R number for the virus were 2.4, and it was in ‘the (unlikely) absence of any control measures or spontaneous changes in individual behaviour’.[20] Mitigation, with some measures, was projected to result in 250,000 deaths, even assuming all patients could be treated in hospital (which was not very likely). So their recommendation was that much firmer measures would be needed to suppress the virus. In the most extreme range of measures they considered, schools and colleges being closed, social distancing, household quarantine and home isolation of cases, then, on various scenarios about the R value, total deaths from the virus could probably be reduced to less than 50,000. Interestingly, they did not consider any economic lockdown scenario in the 16 March report, but they noted that the effects on the economy would be profound.
I think the only criticism that can be made of the Imperial report – apart from my scepticism about being able to calculate R numbers with any precision – is that its extreme scenarios for deaths were pretty unlikely to come about. The ‘spontaneous changes’ in behaviour it noted were possible would have been inevitable if people began to see a high number of fatalities from the virus. Even with the low death toll in the UK in the early stages, people were ahead of the government in curbing their activity well before the government’s lockdown measures on 23 March. Some usually busy shopping streets, for example, were already becoming deserted by early March.

[1] Critics of capitalism can be reactionary too, as Marx and Engels explained in the Communist Manifesto, especially Part III. See here.
[2] First recorded in Mexico and the US. Regarding the H1N1 virus name, the H and the N refer to two proteins on the surface of the virus particle, hemagglutinin and neuraminidase, which help the virus attach to a target cell. The numbers refer to the form of those particular proteins, so you can also get H5N1, H9N2, etc, for different viruses.
[3] Campbell Biology, Pearson, 2018, p428.
[4] This name when expanded means Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus number 2, after the first viral outbreak of this type seen in 2002-04. That episode had a death rate of close to 10%, but less than 10,000 cases in total. The term ‘coronavirus’ describes the crown-like shape of the glycoprotein spike on the surface of this type of viral particle that enables it to attach to certain receptors in the host cell. Covid-19 means the Coronavirus disease of 2019, with the relevant symptoms, and the first cases have been traced back to November-December 2019.
[5] Examples of other animal origin viruses of recent years that have been passed on, helped by the proximity of humans to the animals concerned, including eating them, are: Avian flu 1997-, 2007-, 2013- (chickens, ducks, geese), Nipah virus 1998- (bats, pigs), SARS 2002-04 (bats), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome 2012- (camels), Ebola 2013-20 (bats, monkeys), Zika 2007- (mosquitoes). Bats and poultry have been such a common channel for human viruses that it is surprising that horror films about zombies and devastating viruses fail to mention them. Note that viruses are far from being the only problem; bacterial infections can also be widespread and deadly.
[6] See Allen et al, ‘Global hotspots and correlates of emerging zoonotic diseases’, Nature Communications, 24 October 2017, here.
[7] Viruses cause smallpox, measles and polio, malaria is caused by a mosquito-borne parasite and cholera is caused by a bacterium, usually through poor sanitation. Smallpox, a dreadful disease with a 30% death rate, killed up to 300 million people in the 20th century, but has been eliminated worldwide since 1980 due to a global effort.
[8] China’s Communist Party is not known for its openness to criticism, but its paranoia index will also have been dialled up by protests in Hong Kong. Joshua Wong, one of the leading activists, has had discussions with US Senator Marco Rubio, known for his reactionary and interventionist policies; some have also called for US economic sanctions to be imposed on Hong Kong - which Trump has now done - and carried US flags on demonstrations.
[9] ABC news report of 9 April 2020.
[10] Richard Horton, ‘How can any scientists stand by this government now?’, The Guardian, 27 May 2020.
[11] A very good report on the timeline of UK government measures and the rationale behind them, including the medical advice given, is The Guardian, ‘The inside story of the UK’s Covid-19 crisis’, 29 April 2020. The Imperial College report is reviewed in the Appendix.
[12] US federal government measures, including spending, grants and guarantees, amount to some $3 trillion, in addition to vast new loans and securities purchases from the Federal Reserve. The EU is also planning a €750bn fund, in addition to individual country measures. The UK government will likely borrow more than £300bn, with up to some £80bn going on various income subsidies. I will not detail all these spending plans, but those interested could consult the European think tank Bruegel’s report covering 10 EU countries plus the UK and US here.
[13] Note that starting from 100 for GDP, minus 14% gives 86. Adding 15% to that only gives 98.9, lower than at the start.
[14] See the interesting report from Asia Times, ‘US declares a vaccine war on the world’, 28 May 2020.
[15] An article on the attempted deal in March is here.
[16] If the R value is high, it does not matter so much for public health if the spreading of the virus in a population gets stopped at an early stage by appropriate measures.
[17] I will not deal with the mathematics here, but note that media reports usually only focus on the total of new infections, on the 5th round, for example, not the total of all infections, including past ones, that is much higher, of course. In the case of R = 2, new infections are 32 by the 5th round, but all infections by then amount to 63.
[18] See Paul Delamater, ‘Complexity of the Basic Reproduction Number (R0)’, EID Journal, January 2019, here.
[19] Imperial College Covid-19 Response Team, Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID-19 mortality and healthcare demand, 16 March 2020.
[20] A similar projection for the US had a total of 2.2 million deaths.


William Bowles said...

10 times more lethal than 'normal' flu? Where did you get this number from? This is simply not true!

Why are you contributing the scare tactics being used to justify the corporate state's crackdown on our liberties?

Tony Norfield said...

The relative mortality is based on the available scientific evidence. Flu mortality is around 0.05%-0.15% of those infected. Data for recent US flu seasons estimates deaths/illnesses, a version of the infection fatality ratio, at 0.09-0.14%. A Wikipedia article notes a less than 0.1% fatality rate for influenza.

US CDC review of flu is here: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/2018-2019.html

Covid-19 mortality rates are difficult to estimate, given it is a new virus and there is limited testing, but basically everyone agrees it is much higher than the 0.1% type of rate for flu (for which there are vaccines, by the way!). It could be around around 0.5-1.0%, but estimates are wide and is also dependent on age & other health problems (closer to zero in younger people, more like 5% or higher for the more vulnerable old and sick).

See here for a range of estimates, including both implausible low ones and probably too high ones: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2239497-why-we-still-dont-know-what-the-death-rate-is-for-covid-19/

One academic article estimated China 's fatality rate at 0.66% on early data; the Imperial College paper cited adjusted this for a different age structure in GB & US to come up with 0.9%. The US and UK have a bigger % of over 65s. My own calculation came up with 1.2%, given the 2018 UK age breakdown. That is where the 1% fatality rate for Covid-19 I use in the article comes from.

All this means that (a) Covid-19 death rates are obviously much higher than for flu; (b)you can argue whether it is a bit less or more than 10x the flu rate, but even if it were 'only' 3 or 4 times that is a lot of dead people.

The corporate state has long been cracking down on liberties and uses any excuse to introduce new measures. But that is no excuse for you to ignore the potential death toll from this virus!

Boffy said...

"What made the new virus, SARS-Cov-2,[4] frightening was that it was roughly 10 times more deadly than the regular seasonal flu virus and that it could be transmitted more readily, since many who were infected and who could pass it on had no symptoms themselves."

There is absolutely no scientific evidence to justify the claim that COVID19 is ten times more deadly than seasonal flu. That figure was extrapolated from "known cases" of COVID19, which by their nature amounted to only those that had been tested for it, and those tested for it were, initially, only those who had become ill enough to seek hospital treatment. The figure originally came from the Imperial study into what happened in Wuhan, but in Wuhan, the Chinese authorities in measuring infection, not only are took the actual cases of people tested, but also discounted all those who had already had the virus, and had recovered from it!

If we take the early testing in Britain, of those tested, only around 10% were found to have COVID19, meaning that the other 90% admitted to hospital with "flu-like symptoms" were actually suffering from some other viral infection. But, the number of people tested in Britain is incredibly low, as it is in most other countries including the US, compared to the total population. According to the UK Chief Scientific Officer, Sir Patrick Vallance, the actual number of infections, was probably 1,000 times greater than the number of confirmed cases, and so he concluded that the actual mortality rate was around 0.1%, or about the same as for seasonal flu.

And, a look at the actual number of deaths seems to confirm that. In 2018, there were 17,000 deaths from flu in Britain. We currently have 40,000 deaths from COVID19, or about twice the number, certainly not ten times, 5 times, or even 4 or four times! Moreover, we have vaccines for flu, which are given to those most at risk from it each year, so that we might expect that absent those vaccines the actual number of flu deaths each year, and certainly in a bad year would exceed the number of deaths currently from COVID19.

Furthermore, COVID19 is a coronavirus, the same virus that causes the common cold, and indeed the symptoms of COVID19 are very similar to those of the common cold. That is, for the vast majority of the population it has virtually no or only mild symptoms, but for a small section of the population, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems it can pose a serious threat. But, precisely because COVID19 is such a coronavirus it is really only a serious threat to this small minority, i.e. those over 60, and particularly over 80 (53% of deaths are those over 80 with another 39% being those over 60) or else who have compromised immune systems (of the remaining 8% of deaths after the above 92% have been accounted for 7% are of people under 60 with some underlying illness) it does not pose the same kind of general threat as the flu. For example, flu can affect children badly, but COVID19 does not affect children. According to ONS there have been just 5 deaths in the UK from COVID19 of children up to age 15.

Flue affects pretty much everyone it infects badly, whereas 80% of people experience either no or only mild cold like symptoms from COVID19

Boffy said...

"The corporate state has long been cracking down on liberties and uses any excuse to introduce new measures. But that is no excuse for you to ignore the potential death toll from this virus!"

So, then no similar panic and lockdown in 2018, when flu deaths were 17,000? Why no such action given that each and every year there are 80,000 people who die in Britain from smoking related illnesses, and a further 320,000 a year contract serious illnesses related to smoking?

steveh said...

There is solid scientific evidence to suggest Covid 19 is more than 10 times deadlier than seasonal flu. If you count the death rate for Covid the same as they do for normal flu then the rate is higher than 10. With flu, like covid they only measure based on actual data, so for flu they do not know how many are asymptomatic, just like with covid. So on a like for like basis cobid is much deadlier and moreover we have yet to see how covid will play out over the coming years. There is every chance this could get a lot worse before it gets better.

When a new disease is reported almost the entire body of sceintfic opinion is to be very very careful and assume the worst. Almost the entire body of scientific opinion is that a lockdown was necessary and that the UK locked down too late. Even the UK governments own scientists say this.

Those that compare this to seasonal flu are utter idiots and know nothing of science.

Shock Horror, the government put the ‘economy’ before health. Which means loads of non essential activity is put before essential needs. The failings of the capitalist market are really exposed in a pandemic like this.

A history of combating diseases would have been pertinent here, which is a history of ‘society’ reigning in the capitalist market. The World Health Organisation is a good example of this.

The drugs manufacturers were out of control and promoting their pills for all sorts of remedies and really dangerous drugs were sold over the counter.

It is only by combating capitalism that drug development really matured and systems were put in place to properly deal with disease. Accepted that this was all achieved within a bourgeois system.

And also accepted that the collusion between UK science and the government shows that under capitalism science is never that independent, and maybe was always thus.

The other point to note is that there are 2 sides to a virus, the virus and the host. What the virus may do is one thing, how the host reacts to the virus during a second wave of this is another unknown. I was reading a professor from the Pasteur institute who said they don’t yet know if you are better to have had this virus severely and cheated death rather than being asymptomatic. They don’t know if second time round those who were asymptomatic will react very differently and maybe get it much worse.

The Spanish flu was like this. At the moment all bets are off.

But the governments and people act like the whole thing is over. Dangerous times.

steveh said...

See here for how Covid compares with Flu and the importance of flue being a old virus and covid being a new one (which seems lost on the crazy conspiracy theorists like Bowles and Boffy:


Bowles and Boffy would have us believe this is one giant government conspiracy and they could have treated covid like a seasonal flu outbreak. Seriously is there anything more utterly brain-dead than this? I mean seriously, the whole scientific establishment are just overreacting and throwing a hissy fit and internet keyboard warriors like Boffy know better? talk about the backward sections!

Tony Norfield said...

Reply to Boffy: I have replied already to some of your points in responding to the previous comment of William Bowles. Agreed that we do not know the real mortality rate for Covid-19 for all those with Covid-19 infections, and there are not enough tests to properly pin this down. My use of the 1% number is based on the information I cited.

No idea where you got your claim about Vallance saying Covid-19 probably has a 0.1% death rate, the same as for seasonal flu.

It is absurd to compare the symptoms of Covid-19 with the common cold just because it is a type of coronavirus. Its name is SARS-Cov-2 for a reason. While many people, especially the younger, may only get very mild symptoms of Covid-19, others can end up on ventilators. The death rate rises a lot for the over 50s, and that is over one-third of the UK population! Yes, children are far less likely to get bad symptoms from Covid-19, but they can still pass on the virus to friends and family.

On your points about “no similar panic and lockdown in 2018” and the large number of smoking-related deaths:
a) The Covid-19 mortality is in addition to the regular flu season deaths, as made clear from the weekly data on deaths, comparing 2020 with previous years.
b) You can choose whether to smoke or not, you can’t easily choose not to get Covid-19. Besides which there are warning signs on tobacco products and bans on smoking in many places like in bars and restaurants. Yes, more measures could be taken against smoking, but it brings in too much tax revenue.

Boffy said...


The tone and nature of SteveH's comments tell me he is a troll. I have never suggested any conspiracy. In fact, I have argued against any such conspiracy theory/ I will not respond to trolls.

I will respond, however, respond to your reasoned argument.

I accept that you based your !% figure on the sources you have cited. The trouble is those sources have been fairly comprehensively discredited. The Imperial Study was flawed for the reasons already stated in terms of the way it used the data from Wuhan, it was not peer reviewed, and was based on the same flawed methodology that led them to claim previously that there would be 45 million deaths from Swine Flu, just as they also predicted large numbers of deaths from Bird Flu. They predicted a 0.9% mortality rate for Swine Flu that turned out to be a mortality rate of 0.03%! Why anyone listens to Ferguson is beyond me.

You ask where the 0.1% mortality rate figure cited by Sir Patrick Vallance comes from. I have cited it several times previously in blog posts. It was reported in The Independent on 17th March. In the Commons Health and Social Care Committee, Jeremy Hunt said to Vallance that

"he understood that around 1,000 people might be infected for every recorded death, and that this might mean that “there are potentially now about 55,000 cases”.

He asked Vallance if this sounded correct, to which Vallance responded,

“We’ve tried to get a handle on that in Sage [the scientific advisory group for emergencies]. If you put all the modelling information together, that’s a reasonable ballpark way of looking at it. It’s not more accurate than that.”

Boffy said...


Its not absurd to compare Covid19 to the Common Cold, because both are caused by human coronaviruses. Look at the details for the Common Cold on Wikipedia for the same groups who are affected by COVID19, and you will find the same potential problems of the elderly and those with compromised immjne systems who can also end up contracting pneumonia, and other illnesses that kill them. I know, because as an asthmatic, when I was 13 I caught a Winter Cold that did indeed lead to me contracting pneumonia, at a time when today's modern drugs are not available, and from which I almost died. Wiki states,

"The common cold is generally mild and self-limiting with most symptoms generally improving in a week. In children, half of cases go away in 10 days and 90% in 15 days. Severe complications, if they occur, are usually in the very old, the very young, or those who are immunosuppressed."

In other words, other than for the fact that COVID19 does not affect he young, the same typology.

Boffy said...


On the lockdown. Actually, we don't know how many deaths in previous years put down as flu deaths were actually coronavirus deaths, because, although the Glasgow study showed that between 8-14% of "flu-like" infections each year are due to coronavirus, no one has ever tested those that died to see how many actually had coronavirus rather than flu. But, the point is that those flu deaths occur each year, at an average rate of around 8,000, despite having vaccines. Whether the COVID deaths are in addition to flu deaths or not the fact remains that in absolute terms the number of deaths is small. So small that it is impossible to justify closing down the economy on the basis of it, especially when its clear that such a shutdown has been neither necessary nor effective.

The concentration of those that have died is amongst the over 80's, and amongst them even the over 85's, many of whom were also suffering other conditions. In terms of excess deaths its unlikely that at the end of the year there will be much difference, because many of those who died would have died anyway from these other conditions and old age. Indeed, the data now seems to be showing an increase in excess deaths not due to COVID but to other causes, and that is likely to be due to the fact that people have been avoiding hospitals, operations and treatments for other conditions including cancer have been cancelled and so on.

In an average year, 500,000 people die in Britain, but in recent years the number has been as high as 623,000, meaning 123,000 additional deaths. So, even if we take your argument that the 40,000 COVID deaths are additional deaths, it is minor compared to the normal variation of excess deaths compared to the average. It is certainly not sufficient to justify closing down the economy causing the worst economic slowdown in 300 years, and all of he death and destruction of livelihoods that goes with that for years to come.

That is particularly the case given that the lockdown itself was a farce, and around 70% of labour continued anyway, with people being at work, and on public transport going to and from work! And it was ineffective, because it was not these people going to work that were the ones dying from the virus, but all of those old people already locked down in care homes and hospitals! It was unnecessary, because, as Sweden has shown it had no lockdown, and yet its per capita mortality rate from COVID is about half that in Britain, and the gap is widening because Sweden, having probably achieved herd immunity in Stockholm as a result of not imposing a lockdown, long ago flattened its curve of new infections, and its number of new deaths. It is now down to new deaths in more or less single figures per day, whereas Britain with its lockdown is sill getting more than 200 new deaths per day.

The smoking argument is irrelevant. If the argument for the lockdown is to stop people dying because of the scale of the deaths posing an existential threat to society it does not matter whether the illness is self-inflicted or not. You could argue that you have a choice about whether to make yourself susceptible to catching COVID19 or not, in the same way as avoiding smoke or nuts. I did precisely that because of being in the at risk 20%. had I and my family been in the 80% I would have had no fear of continuing about my business as usual, and in helping to develop herd immunity would have felt proud to be doing so. But, as part of the 20% I have chosen to self isolate so as not to risk being infected. The point is that a rational government, certainly a socialist government would have facilitated all those in that category to have done so.

Tony Norfield said...

In response to Boffy, I would add that:
a) The comments by Vallance were made in mid-March, when there was very little UK information available and the first deaths had only just been recorded. I have seen nothing anywhere before or since to suggest that the death rate (deaths/infections) for Covid-19 is as low as 1 in a thousand.
b) Remember this was a time when Vallance and friends were going for 'herd immunity', even if a needed 50% infections out of 67m people gives 33.5 million cases - they suggested 50-80% was required. That gives 33.5k deaths if the death rate is 0.1%, but was OK in their eyes.
c) Most of the claims that there is nothing special about deaths this year use cumulative numbers for a whole year, so the lines on a chart look similar, given the scale. Or they count a whole year, as you have done. If you look more carefully at weekly UK data for the period from early 2020 to the present, there is very evidently a big excess of deaths compared to any of the previous few years. This excess rises sharply from late March, giving a cumulative total of 50,000 UK (England & Wales) deaths to just 22 May! The first deaths due to Covid-19 were registered in early March, and this excess roughly coincides with the registered Covid-19 deaths.
d) I did a chart of this on Twitter, dated 26 May, here: https://twitter.com/StubbornFacts/status/1265263264503603202?cxt=HHwWhIC1wYiPj48jAAAA

This will probably be my last comment on this, since I have a feeling it could go on forever and there are other things to do.

Boffy said...


One final point on the mortality rate. I am sure you might come back and point out that the 40,000 deaths so far, would mean that 40 million people would have to have been infected on that basis. In fact, we don't know how many people have been infected, and Oxford a couple of months ago calculated that perhaps 50% of the population had, in fact, been infected. We will not know until we get reliable antibody tests.

But, the argument would be false in any case for the simple reason that all the scientists agree that there is no single mortality rate, a point you have also accepted in your post. In other words, the mortality rate for the over 80's is about double that for the over 60's, whilst the mortality rate for the over 60's is many, many times higher than for the under 60's, and the mortality rate for the under 20's is effectively zero. As a rough estimate, even using the Imperial data, the mortality rate for the over 80's is about 1000 times greater than that of the under 20's, about 500 times greater than for the under 40's, and about 90 times greater than for the under 60's.

So, given that the concentration of deaths and serious illness is amongst the over 60's, and particularly over 80's, it can be seen why whether or not a large number of infections have or have not in fact occurred, the actual number of deaths would not be expected to rise proportionally, if infections increased amongst this wider population.

The 40,000 deaths does not at all require that 40 million have been infected, therefore, because, if the mortality rate for the over 80's is the 1% you cite, whereas for the over 60's its say 0.5%, say an average of 0.8%, it only requires 5 million people in that cohort to have been infected to produce the figures we see. That 5 million is only about a third of the total number comprising the at risk 20%, and given that these populations are themselves already locked up in care homes, and in hospitals, or are receiving care in the home from care and health workers who are themselves overworked, and not provided with appropriate PPE and isolation protocols, its no wonder that we see that it is amongst these groups that actual deaths have been overwhelmingly concentrated. That was also true in Italy, which is a lesson that should have been learned elsewhere, but wasn't.

Boffy said...


I have already posted a response to your first point prior to seeing it, as I thought that might be your argument.

The herd immunity strategy, i.e. development of natural vaccination was the rational response. It is what happens each year with the annual common cold pandemic. The usual feeling is that about 60% infection is required. It does not at all mean accepting 33k thousand deaths for the reasons I have set out elsewhere, including in my other reply to you. The mortality rate for those below 60 is much lower than the overall mortality rate, and for those under 40 and then under 20 much lower still. For this 80% of the population, the number of fatalities would have been very small indeed, if the members of that cohort with underlying conditions were also isolated from the potential for infection.

But, that is the other point. The vast majority (92%) of those who have died or become seriously ill are those aged over 60. Add in those with underlying conditions and you get to 99%. If that 20% of the population over 60, or with underlying medical conditions had been isolated from the potential for infection with the appropriate level of state support there would have been no reason for any of them to have died from he infection. So, herd immunity could have been obtained for the large majority of the population, who are at no risk from it, as appears to have happened in Sweden, whilst those actually at risk could have been saved from it rather than dying in care homes and hospitals. Having achieved herd immunity the virus would have quickly died out, and so the self isolation of the 20% could have been quickly lifted, whereas now, we have to wait until such time as a vaccine is produced if ever, and in the hope that next year it is not made useless by COVID20!

steveh said...

A troll! What cheek, especially given the utter pile of nonsense Boffy has spewed out in the comments above, nonsense to such a degree it almost takes my breath away!

Boffy claimed that there is absolutely no scientific evidence to justify the claim that COVID19 is ten times more deadly than seasonal flu. Well I provided a link which shows there absolutely is evidence of this.

And this guy calls me the Troll! Seriously!

Of course Boffy is claiming there is a conspiracy. If he is not a conspiracy theorist then he must believe he knows something the entire scientific establishment don't! Either way it is a very disturbed state of mind in my opinion.

He said, contrary to all reputable science, that there is no real difference between seasonal flu and Covid and yet most governments, advised by the entire scientific establishment, are acting like there is all the difference in the world between flu and covid.

So how does Boffy account for this difference in how governments and science have responded to Covid and how they respond to flu, if not by some grand conspiracy theory?

Boffy must think science has some ulterior motive to act in this way? Or he thinks science is wrong and he is somehow correct.

So why does Boffy think science would pretend this isn’t just like seasonal flu?

Why do we not lock down for seasonal flu but have locked down for this if there is no conspiracy theory?

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it is probably a duck and Boffy talks like a conspiracy theorist.

He also talks like someone who knows next to nothing about the subject he is pretending to be an expert in.

He is also making up his own facts.

"Having achieved herd immunity the virus would have quickly died out"

Seriously is this guy for real, the lack of self awareness is astonishing, you actually think that is the case and moreover you actually think you know that.

Wow, what a loon.

Unknown said...

Thanks Tony,

But why is it so Anglo centric.
Where are the comments from the successful health and scientific experts from countries such as Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam etc .
Who have done a much better job than the UK experts

Is this academic imperialism !!!

Stuart Fancy

David Mowat said...

This is most interesting Tony. Thank you.

Antonio said...

His blog seems great to me and this is a great article about the Covid-19. But I'm going to ask you an off-topic question taking advantage of the fact that in the blog articles you seem to be a great expert in theory and evidence of private monopolies. Private monopolies, that is, large multinationals, with great power and market share in their economic sector, such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Morgan Bank, Toyota, etc., and Marx's Law of Decreasing Profit Rate are an object of my brief study in recent times. In my opinion, this Law of Decreasing Profit applies to the majority of large non-monopolistic companies and to small and medium-sized companies, and it is possible that it is true for the entire group of companies, but it DOES NOT APPLY to monopolistic companies. , that I mentioned before. This opinion goes against the thesis of some excellent current Marxist authors, but I think that opinion lacks empirical evidence. In short, I would appreciate your opinion on this. If you have already published any articles on this topic, please let me know.

Tony Norfield said...

Reply to Antonio:
1. Marx’s law applies to capitalism as a whole, not necessarily to all companies at all times. But this does not mean that big multinationals are outside the law.
2. In order to address this question, you need to analyse different companies, sectors of the economy, etc. It cannot be resolved properly just by using the concepts from Marx. Instead one has to develop other concepts as needed and, in general, do what I would call studying the ‘evolution of the law of value’.
3. Unfortunately this is done very badly by most people. Mainly because they have little understanding of imperialism today!
4. I would not spend much time on the ‘falling rate of profit’ analysis. This ends up being an endless task of trying to find data to back up a presumption, rather than what it should be, which is an analysis of how the economy actually works. Your time would be better spent making sure you can understand company accounts and the problems with economic statistics.
5. Note that a number of people who claim to be able to ‘prove’ the falling rate of profit still manage to be the most ridiculous reformists, calling for nationalising banks, etc. This is a million miles away (even more kilometres!) from revolutionary Marxist theory, and it reflects an unfortunately common illusion in the capitalist state as a neutral machine.
6. On monopolistic companies: (a) these may not last as monopolies, and a high profitability will eventually attract competitors, even if it takes a long time; (b) monopolists also face problems of profitability as their composition of capital rises; (c) it is a theoretical mistake to see monopolists as a completely separate, closed off sphere of the global economy, and it leads to bad politics; (d) in particular, note that many monopolistic methods are based upon state power, as in laws on patents, intellectual property rights, etc, and this directly brings in the question of imperialism.
For an example of monopolies and profit, see my article on Google & Amazon’s declining profit/fixed capital, on 21 November 2018: https://economicsofimperialism.blogspot.com/2018/11/amazon-google-big-techs-productivity.html
7. My view of the falling rate of profit and problems with trying to measure it is set out in my book, The City, especially Chapter 6 ‘Profit and finance’.
8. My view of Marx’s value theory: 1 March 2017 ‘What is Marx’s value theory worth?’
9. Note that you can search for issues I may have covered in my blog, using the app on the top side of the main page.

Antonio said...

I thank you for your answer, which seems valuable, complete and of a high level, without a doubt. I will answer you the weekend that is when I was able to dedicate myself to these questions. I hope it can give you some idea for your study. Any ideas in general about socialism and imperialism and any ideas in particular about that article of yours about private monopolists Google and Amazon. They are not the only monopolists present in Capitalism since effectively and as you expose in your blog, the State is a real monopoly, operative and with imperialist aspects. A greeting,

Antonio said...

7. My view of the falling rate of profit and the problems in trying to measure it is set forth in my book, The City, especially in Chapter 6 'Earnings and Finance'.(I have a different point of view from the usual one on the cause of the fall of the TG. I do not consider that the cause is the Organic Composition of Capital (which rises) but the action of the competition. It will not now make any long analysis And I will only tell you that the COC thesis is wrong in saying that the capitalist loses operating surplus and profit by substituting labor for machinery. Why does he not lose surplus value? Because all machinery, technology and fixed assets (all objects in general) HAS LABOR INCLUDED. Therefore, when a capitalist buys machinery, he begins to appropriate and benefit from the surplus of labor exploitation included "within" the price of the machine. That is all. It is very evident.
8. My opinion on Mari's theory of value: March 1, 2017 'What is the value of Marx's theory of value?' Yes, I agree with that Theory of Value. Any economist as rigorous (and not blinded by personal wishes for liberal / capitalist 'greatness') must be.)
9. Please note that you can search for issues that I may have covered on my blog, using the application at the top of the main page.(I will follow your blog for sure and I repeat my thanks for your response. Your thesis of the State as the main and non-neutral economic agent is very important, it coincides a lot with my opinion and study of the State, and I understand that socialist studies must have it very much more in account that it has been done until now. One possible reason that because the State is somewhat forgotten in socialism is that Marx, and other socialist authors of the XIX century knew a State that almost did not reach 10% of the annual GDP and yet, today the State produces approximately 50% of annual production. And its fixed assets in infrastructure, etc. are dominant. It is, I repeat, the great forgotten monopolist.)

Antonio said...

This is the 1st part of my comment, part that I should not have uploaded correctly to the blog previously.
I will reply to you in your own comment to follow your separate ideas. My answers are in parentheses I will do it in three comments and reducing your text because the 4,096 character limit prevents doing it in a single comment. If the text is excessive I apologize.
1. ‘’Marx's law........ ‘’(Ok. This is a strong confirmation for me of a fact that I have observed in some very competent and well-known Marxist author and who usually always calculates a joint rate for all the companies in a country / countries. That is, as far as I know , the authors that are dedicated to the Rate of Profit do not usually give data ONLY the monopolistic companies in their sector such as Amazon, Google, Banking, etc.)
3. ‘’Unfortunately, most people do this very poorly.....’’(Ok.I have not studied imperialism, but I do know something about the economy (something I must know) and by reading some texts on your blog, I understand that imperialism is very, very associated with the State. And the State is the great monopoly The state (all the more than 200 current states) acting as companies that are, and acting as monopolists, have tended and will tend to the growth of their power, that is, they tend and will tend to imperialism That tendency to imperialism (which is a tendency towards inequality between countries) has a solution, a solution that has already been applied countless, recurrent and systematic times throughout history. That solution is called revolution, and I will not comment on it here more. It is possible, as you say , that some Marxist authors have forgotten something in their studies about the presence and effects of the State in today's economy. And therefore, they forget something or a lot about imperialism).
4. ‘’It would not take long for the 'decreasing rate of profit' analysis…...... ‘’(Right, you're right. I had already decided that the question of the Rate of Profit does not alter anything my position in favor of socialism. In avor of democratic socialism, with a common and cooperative ownership of the means of production by from the workers.).

Antonio said...

5.’’Keep in …… the capitalist state as a neutral machine’’. (OK. This is very important also in my opinion. The State is not neutral at all. Quite the contrary. It is the "first company", the one that has gone the furthest in its domain and command, and its weight current in the economy is huge. Some data as an example of its size are that in Spain, the State has a scale (order of magnitude) that MULTIPLY BY 10 that of any other company in the country. Both in turnover (GDP), employment, fixed assets and even in antiquity. I will tell you something shocking, but true and that completely defines what the state is: any other company (today capitalists and before feudalists) would reach almost exactly the same situation of power as that of the entities today called States. They would reach a similar situation in economic, political, social structure, etc. Abruptly said: the States of today are the Amazon (and Google, etc.) of the Middle Ages. And if today Amazon and any other multinational grow indefinitely and privately (don't They will do so for various reasons. Among these reasons, the following socialist revolution), the final entity resulting from that growth would become a new State.)
6. ‘’In monopolistic companies: ..(c) it is a theoretical error .........(True, some good Marxist authors have this error and should correct it to improve their socialism. The State is a 1st company, the company that has advanced all others and has been doing it for centuries.)
For an example of monopolies and profits, see my article on Google / Amazon profit / fixed capital decline on November 21, 2018: (Your analyzes of the Investment Returns (benefits / investment fixed assets) of Amazon, Google, etc. are very accurate, necessary and even entertaining. I will make you a suggestion for improvement of this analysis. You should include the calculations of Financial Profitability (profits / own equity (capital, reserves, etc.). Why should you do it? Because it may be happening that despite the Profitability Investment is declining in these companies, as you calculate, it may turn out that their Financial Profitability does not decrease at all and, conversely, has increased.This will be the case if Amazón, etc. has been paying their new fixed assets not with own capital and if it has been done with third-party financing (loans) .That is my suggestion, to calculate Financial Profitability, which, as you know even better myself, is the most decisive profitability indicator and decisive.)