Ross Douthat published a couple of speculative columns on Covid Counterfactuals. As someone who loves alternate history as a genre and also took a whole very serious philosophy class about the importance of counterfactual analysis for thinking about history, I like this type of column.
But Douthat left on the table my two favorite counterfactuals, both of which hinge on places where I think close-run decisions plausibly made big differences in the outcomes.
So here they are:
What if Donald Trump hadn’t abandoned his own task force recommendations on reopening?
What if Pfizer announced its efficacy results before Election Day and narrowly pushed Trump over the top?
In both cases, I don’t think we’d necessarily see huge changes to public health outcomes, because I think the evidence shows that Covid has been pretty responsive to changes in human behavior, but not that responsive to changes in policy. But I do think we would have seen significant changes in our politics and discourse.