The Atlas Society Asks Johan Anderberg

April 14, 2022 00:59:58
The Atlas Society Asks Johan Anderberg
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The Atlas Society Asks Johan Anderberg
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Listen to the 99th episode of The Atlas Society Asks where our CEO Jennifer Grossman and journalist Johan Anderberg discuss his upcoming book "The Herd" and how Sweden has ultimately fared against COVID-19 in comparison to the rest of the world.

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:00 Hello everyone. And welcome to the 99th episode of the Atlas society asks. My name is Jennifer Anju, Grossman, you and my friends know me as JAG. I am the CEO of the Atlas society, where the leading nonprofit organization, introducing your young people to the ideas of I Rand in fun, creative ways like innovated videos and graphic novels. Today, we are joined by Johan Underberg. Um, before I even get to introduce him, I wanted to remind all of you. This is a wonderful opportunity to ask him questions. So whether you are joining us on zoom or on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, use the comment section and type in your question. We'll get to as many of them as we can. So Johan Underberg is a Swedish journalist and a writer who has contributed to a number of Swedish publications and international media outlets, uh, including the wall street journal. He recently published a book called the herd, how Sweden shows its own path through the worst pandemic. In 100 years, it narrates the improbable story of a small nation that took a startlingly different approach to fighting the pandemic. First, the government issued no restrictions, then it declined to order the wearing of masks. Um, and while the rest of the world looked on with, uh, ultimately in incre condemnation, admiration, and even envy, Sweden stood alone. Johan welcome again. Thank you for joining us. Speaker 1 00:01:51 Thanks for having me. Speaker 0 00:01:54 Uh, and now I want to mention to folks that this book has been published in Sweden. Uh, it is not, um, published in its hard copy form in the United States. Um, but the Kindle version is available. So, um, I urge you all to, uh, to check it out. Um, and, uh, I know there are a few advanced copies floating around. I, uh, got to see Jay aria that we again, and he was saying that he and Martin Kro were sharing their, their bootleg copy and, um, highly recommend it as well. So we're gonna put the link to the book, uh, in all of the chat. So first, however though, I'd love to just start with a little bit about you. Uh, this is your, your first book, if I'm, if I'm not mistaken. Uh, so where did you grow up? Um, how did you get into journalism and what led you to want to write this book? Speaker 1 00:02:55 Sure. Um, I'm originally from the south part of, uh, the one that's really close to demark. So, um, and then, but I'm been living in stock for about 20 years, um, where I started my career as a journalist as well. I think I'm, uh, well, well, and then I've been working for a couple of, uh, Swedish and international magazines. Um, I've been at the magazine called focus for 10 years, which is kind of a magazine in the same mold of, um, time magazine or Newsweek. I, I don't know if those, if Newsweek exists anymore in the us, but <laugh>, Speaker 0 00:03:32 There are rumors <laugh>. Yeah. Speaker 1 00:03:35 But, um, so, um, I think it was two years ago now that I started writing this book about the pandemic, which was basically like my publisher and I, we decided that this was kind of the story of the, of our lifetime for Sweden that, um, I, I don't think actually I know that Sweden has never been the international spotlight as much as during the last two years. Um, when the Swedish foreign department made the study, it showed that, uh, the number of articles was like a hundred times more than it normally was about Sweden. So it was kinda interesting to see how, uh, the rest of the world looked on, uh, while we conducted what the rest of the world saw us, this experiment. Speaker 0 00:04:32 Uh, okay, well, um, so the Swedish strategy has been dubbed the, the Swedish experiment by both detractors and champions, um, and it defied the lockdowns and the mandates deployed, uh, in most other countries in the world. So, uh, what were the chief features of it that differentiated Sweden's approach from, um, from other countries and, and what made Sweden choose such a different path? Speaker 1 00:05:03 I think the key features were that there were very few loss, um, in that the pandemic strategy was based on, it was all based, pretty much everything was based on recommendations, um, information to citizens. Um, but also, um, a lack of, uh, restrictions, uh, like for instance, with face masks, I I've only used a face mask in Sweden, maybe two or three times in total. Um, maybe for a total of like 20 minutes and my kids have never, ever worn face masks. They have never missed a day in school. And I think the biggest reason for Sweden taking this, uh, path was that they it's, they, they had no, um, evidence that lockdowns would work, that there was no data suggesting that such an approach would be beneficial to, um, extending the, um, the spread of the disease. And they also, they were also pretty sure that it would be extremely harmful to public health. Speaker 0 00:06:18 Um, how many children do you have by the way? Speaker 1 00:06:22 Two, uh, six and 12 soon. Speaker 0 00:06:25 Okay. Uh, and, you know, since this, this, uh, received a lot of criticism, uh, early on was Sweden pressured, um, from, let's say the world health organiz or neighboring countries to kind of tow the line on lockdowns and mandates. Speaker 1 00:06:46 I think they were pressured, uh, but they, um, it was more like they were noted, uh, by, uh, other public health professionals in other countries who were queer them. And it's kinda funny. I, I try to describe this in, in my book that it's such a small world, this, um, epidemiological elite in Europe and also in the us, like everyone knows each other. And I think everyone was kind of surprised that, uh, like in this, uh, little circle that, uh, so many countries lockdown and mm-hmm <affirmative>, but what was interesting was that, especially in the neighboring countries, uh, the Scandinavian public health professionals at first didn't want to lockdown, but then they defended the lockdowns quite ly, even though they had been quite against at first. So there was kind of a herd mentality forming, I think at least that's where I can, uh, get from like reading all these emails between the different public health professionals. Speaker 0 00:07:55 Well, uh, tell us a little bit about the title of the book. When you talk about the, the heard mentality I had been, um, thinking of, of the title in a different light that, you know, uh, Sweden was going to protect the vulnerable, but, uh, try to get more quickly to the path where it became, um, endemic and, and less people would be affected. So how did you choose that title? Speaker 1 00:08:24 Well, I, I think it, it's basically just because of the, um, the double, the double meaning is kinda intentional, cuz as you say, um, the, the herd in one way, it speaks to, uh, the herd immunity approach that Sweden chose and then kind of <laugh> deny that they chose because it became so politically incorrect to talk about her, her immunity for maybe 18 months. Now it's kind of back in VO, I'd say mm-hmm Speaker 0 00:08:55 <affirmative> and, Speaker 1 00:08:57 And the, the other part of, uh, the title, uh, speaks to, uh, the herd mentality that the rest of the world, um, suffered on her, I think, but, uh, it's kinda interesting with a herd immunity approach cause Denmark who, who kind of locking down and were kind of using face masks, but not nearly as much as rest of Europe, they just got tired of it, uh, this winter. And then they started talking about, uh, herd immunity, but then they coined the new word called population immunity, just, uh, Speaker 0 00:09:34 Just to be a little bit different, right. <laugh> Speaker 1 00:09:36 Yeah. It's like basically the same thing, but then they, uh, uh, like everyone is Sweden. I was like, what, what are you doing? Why aren't like, all, all in national media coming to Denmark saying you are like conducting a terrible experiment. Speaker 0 00:09:55 Um, so they got <affirmative>. Yeah, well, so I, I'm gonna get a little bit later to the, to the results, but I, I am curious about, uh, Sweden and its neighbors because, uh, you know, many predicted that the Swedish approach would lead to disaster. That didn't happen. Sweden, uh, is amongst six European countries with excess mortality, less than a hundred per a hundred thousand. Um, the other countries, several of the other countries sharing that, uh, ranking are, um, Denmark, Finland, nor Norway, and then Ireland and Switzerland. So how similar, or how different were the strategies, uh, pursued by other Scandinavian countries and were the results kind of roughly the same or is there anything about how the results differ that, um, that can kind of, uh, give us some retrospective judgment about, uh, the wisdom of their differing approaches? Speaker 1 00:11:01 Well, Denmark, uh, and Norway, Finland, they, they like, they, they did, uh, closer schools for a while, but I believe all those countries were earlier in opening them up again. Uh, so in one way they were like more open than most of Europe as well, but compared to Sweden, it was, uh, like it was quite a big difference. Uh, and I, I don't know how, how familiar you are with like the Sweden, like the scan, the national characters, but it was very surprising for everyone in scan Navy, cuz normally Denmark is seen as the liberal country where there are very few laws and people are free to do pretty much what they want. And when, when my book was reviewed in a dangerous newspaper, there was a, a top comment that said, it's, it's such a shame for us. The, the SWES for ones turned out to be more chilled out than we were cause in, in Denmark, Swedes are called, uh, Germans dressed up as beings, but we are like very, <laugh> very controlled and uh, careful people like everyone wears bike helmet, even though you're, there's no law for it. And no one in demark used bike helmet, Speaker 0 00:12:21 Uhhuh. Interesting. So the, so, but at the end of the day, you know, it sounds like there was some difference, uh, that they, uh, lockdown and even though they opened up relatively, um, earlier than other European countries, but in terms of the, the health outcomes that they were more or less the same. Speaker 1 00:12:47 Yeah. And, uh, when it comes to deaths, uh, through COVID, I mean it, those numbers are hard to, to figure out, but in general, uh, Iceland has the lowest number and Norway has twice as many dead per capita. And Denmark has twice as many dead per capita as, uh, Norway has. And Sweden has twice as many as, uh, Denmark has. So, so there's like E even though all scan countries have very few deaths that there's a big difference between them, but it's also a little bit strange to dissect this, uh, this much cuz when, when the, when deaths are this low, you have to think about all the other problems in sight and should be really and measure Denmark in Norway against a child like that when there are so few deaths. Anyway, that, I mean, I don't think, um, I think there were probably a number of diseases in at least in Norway and Denmark that, that produced more deaths during those years. So, um, it's kinda interesting how all the media was so interested in just one deceased for two years. Speaker 0 00:14:02 Yeah. Um, well do you, do you get in, in your book, do you get into a bit more about some of the other adverse health, uh, consequences and how Sweden fared by taking this lighter touch? Speaker 1 00:14:18 Yeah. Um, for instance, when you, you ask, uh, young people how they look at their future, uh, Sweden has pretty much the same result like this year from last year and the year before that. Whereas, uh, young people's optimism has dropped by a lot in most European countries. <affirmative> and I, I notice also that, uh, reports are coming out from the us about, uh, teen health and how, how young people are feeling in general. So I, I did get some of that in the book. There was one study in, uh, in Denmark that followed, uh, pu will in one class and they, uh, gained, uh, around 12 pounds on average during one year, um, while, uh, their school heavy closed for like, or something about, Speaker 0 00:15:13 Um, well, I wanna also encourage those who are joining us, whether you're joining us on social media or on zoom. Um, please ask your questions about Sweden. Uh, we're focusing on the Swedish experiment and Johan's book the herd, but, uh, there's Sweden is in the news in other ways, uh, recently. So, um, so we'll, we'll take your questions. He may or may not answer them. Um, another question that I have was about the man who pioneered, uh, the Swedish approach or at least in, in part. And that is, I hope I won't botch his name a now. Speaker 1 00:15:54 Oh, perfect. Speaker 0 00:15:55 <laugh> so he's become a bit of a, a celebrity with, I understand some SWS, uh, going as far as to get tattoos of his likeness. So, uh, how much access did you have to him? Um, how accessible was he and to what extent did his strategy, uh, reflect either, you know, the consensus that you were talking about earlier in Swedish public health circles? Or was it just this man with an independent vision going along Speaker 1 00:16:28 There were actually, I'd say two men who, uh, were important here. It was and teel and then it's, it was his, uh, mentor John GE. Yeah. And they, they have been working together for 20 or 30 years and John GE even calls and teel his son reciprocate by calling GE his dad, but they, they every day, uh, even before the pandemic and then when the pandemic hit, uh, te brought GE back to the public health authority. Uh, so their view on this and GE is one of the like alpha males of European epidemiology he's written like was textbooks and everything. And together they managed to, uh, to withstand all the pressure, I think, cuz in a sense the Swedish strategy wasn't that controversial. It only became controversial after the rest of the world started locking down. So I guess a lot of bureaucrats would've just, uh, uh, you know, to keep their job would've done. Like everyone, everyone else, like it it's easier to be wrong without everyone else mm-hmm <affirmative> but they, um, they are some really, they, they are two really interesting characters. Um, teel has this very, like he's very knucklehead and GE has this like aristocratic vibe. His dad was like one of the most famous, uh, Swee politicians. Uh, uh, and he, uh, he comes from this like, uh, family of power. So he, um, he felt it was almost as he had lived his entire life for this moment, I think. Speaker 0 00:18:23 All right. Well, um, I have more questions for you, but uh, I wanna get our audience involved here. So, uh, let's see. Um, Carolyn Breen on Facebook asks, what role did vaccines play in Sweden? Speaker 1 00:18:43 Um, I guess, um, the vaccine uptake is a little bit higher than the, than average in Europe. Um, there was a big debate about, um, vaccine passports, uh, the public health Speaker 1 00:19:03 Against that, but then they were forced by the government to, um, uh, to put them in place. Uh, but they, they, they only last for like five or six weeks I think. And they didn't really make a difference either, but, um, I was actually quite critical of and wrote, uh, as much in a couple of newspapers and, um, I think it was that, that was kind of a sad moment in <laugh> during the, during the pandemic Sweden. I mean, you only had to use to get into concerts, uh, over like if there were like a hun over a hundred people there. And so I, I never even used mine, but uh, I think it was still, uh, a break with Swedish tradition and with democratic traditions. Well, Speaker 0 00:19:54 Okay. Um, Scott shift asks, did the experience of being pressured, um, from being the only country who defied lockdowns, uh, did it change Sweden's view of the potential hazards of globalization? So that's a question or just maybe more specifically, you know, whenever you go through an experience like this and, uh, you, you withstand pressure. I think it can just change your perspective. Um, on a lot of things Speaker 1 00:20:30 That, uh, in Sweden, when it came to like the view of the outside world was that we, we stopped trusting, uh, established foreign media the way we trusted them before. Cuz there were so many reports from like the guardian, the New York times that were like that had so many factual errors that, uh, I think was kind of, um, incredible to, to read. And I really urge people to find it. I think you can, if you just Google Google, it you'll find it. Cuz there, there was one report in the new times that, uh, that was found to have, I think, 15 or fashion errors about Sweden and, and easy ones as well that like any high school student in Sweden knows about how the Swedish political system works. Speaker 0 00:21:22 Fascinating. Uh, well, and then what about the Swedish press I'm mean, you know, here in the United States, uh, during 2020, the media was just, um, mercilessly criticizing everything that uh, president Trump did. And then of course, you know, maybe the, the state that's been one of the more open ones here in the United States is Florida. And uh, you know, they just talked about DeSantis, death cult. So, uh, it was pretty adversarial here at home to anyone, to any politicians that, um, pursued a more open path or a more kind of a measured trade off, uh, cognizant path. Uh, how, how did the Swedish press as a member of the press yourself, how did they react? Speaker 1 00:22:18 It was a pretty good debate for the first couple of months where we we're like, yeah, weighing pros and cons and it was pretty harsh debate mm-hmm <affirmative> uh, but that was kinda an understandable cause. Um, a lot of things were at stake and at this time people thought that, uh, many more sweets would, would die from the virus eventually that they were reports from universities saying that a hundred thousand people would, would die in Sweden in just a couple of months time. And the actual result ended up being 6,000. Uh, but no one could know that at the time. So I totally understand why people were scared and mm-hmm <affirmative>, uh, wanted changes. And so, so, so there was a good debate for a couple months, but then slowly, uh, the switch press, uh, became more pro lockdown mm-hmm <affirmative> and um, during the press conferences, uh, politicians and public health authority, uh, personnel were always asked why more wasn't being done. Speaker 1 00:23:22 Um, so on. And I think a lot of, uh, the foreign criticisms or trickled in cuz Swedish media executives are kind of a part of, uh, you know, like an, uh, international intellectual community where they, you know, they, they read the New York times online. I mean, I do too still the wealth channel, but uh, I mean, cuz uh, you have to read those newspapers to get, get a sense of what's going on in the world. And um, so, um, but, but I've been more cognizant of, uh, I guess, uh, the underlying assumptions in the reporting <affirmative> mm-hmm <affirmative> two years ago. Speaker 0 00:24:08 All right. Uh, from Instagram iron T asks, has the economic damage of lockdowns in other countries affected things in Sweden? Yeah, definitely. You know, supply chains and all these. Speaker 1 00:24:26 Yeah. Sweden is an extremely export driven economy. Like almost all our GDP comes from exporting stuff like from Spotify to Volvo and all that. So, uh, we were kind of, uh, damaged as well here in Sweden, but consumer spending held up and the service sector was, uh, um, was not as badly hit as, as uh, the export the industry. So, um, it, it could have been much worse. Um, I'm actually like skiing now and like, um, on the Norwegian side of the mountains, everything was close. So all these like small towns were like really depending like resource, uh, they, they actually have their like best year ever. <laugh> Speaker 0 00:25:14 Mm-hmm <affirmative> because other people were coming to Sweden. Speaker 1 00:25:17 What, what, Speaker 0 00:25:19 Because other people from other Scandinavian countries were coming to Sweden to ski or to vacation. Speaker 1 00:25:25 Yeah. And that was like the, like the ridiculous thing that there were so many Europeans coming to Sweden to, to party and to, uh, so, uh, and even the Norwegians came up. So it, it didn't make any sense at all with these, uh, lockdowns over there. Yeah. Speaker 0 00:25:43 Well, we had a similar phenomenon here in the United States, um, that people from New York and New Jersey, two states that had some of the, um, the harshest lockdowns and the worst incidentally health outcomes, they were constantly going to Florida. They were criticizing Florida, killing everybody in Florida. And the first thing they would do is they would go to, uh, to so, uh, that maybe, uh, answers one of the other questions that I have here, um, from Facebook echo, wind is asking, were the borders closed? So how did Sweden handle international trade and tourism? Speaker 1 00:26:27 Yeah. Borders were closed, um, here and there, like all the time, it's like impossible to keep track on. Speaker 0 00:26:32 Oh, you, you don't have open borders. <laugh> <laugh> Really Speaker 1 00:26:39 Well there, there, there was a time when, uh, when we had, uh, between eight and nine and I think two years ago. Um, but, um, yeah, but the sad thing was, uh, borders in scan have been open for, for so long, but that has also, uh, uh, stopped it. We stopped a little bit with a migration, uh, crisis in 2015, but, uh, that has been a big problem, especially in the south Sweden, but, um, yeah. What was questioning again about, uh, borders? Speaker 0 00:27:17 Yeah. Whether the borders were like, you know, a lot of countries United States, we, you know, uh, said that we're not gonna accept flights from these countries. And, um, you know, other other countries just said, uh, they really kind of closed themselves off from, from the world, um, like Australia. So, uh, you know, lot of things were going on as normal in Sweden, the schools were not interrupted. You know, the restaurants, um, events were not interrupted, uh, you know, religious, um, organizations and, and, uh, commemorations weren't interrupted. But, uh, did you also continue the pre pandemic kind of, uh, border and travel policies or were there restrictions on travel and borders? Speaker 1 00:28:16 There were no restrictions, uh, within, um, within Sweden, there was only like a recommendation to not, uh, mm-hmm Speaker 0 00:28:24 <affirmative> right. Speaker 1 00:28:25 More than two hours by car. Um, and, uh, so the there's actually Ari a part of the constitution that says it's forbidden to restrict movement within the country. Uh, so I think that helped a lot. Uh, and also Sweden was pretty, um, pretty late in, uh, closing borders. Uh, I think they closed towards Denmark for a while, but I think that was just out of political spite to just show now you got it virus. Um, you close it for us, so now we're gonna retaliate, uh, I don't know. It, it was just a very strange, uh, Speaker 0 00:29:09 Um, so I rather from, uh, some of your writings that this approach to the coronavirus pandemic, uh, was different than previous Swedish, uh, public health approaches to, to other crises. So was this a question of the pendulum swinging, you know, how, how did Sweden's approach to, uh, to the coronavirus differ from its previous approach to other public health crises? Speaker 1 00:29:41 Yeah, it's kinda interesting cuz like, uh, historically Sweden has had a very tough stance on epidemics, um, dynamics and that Speaker 0 00:29:52 German stressed up as Swedens. Speaker 1 00:29:54 Yeah, exactly. <laugh> but I think it really peaked in the eighties and I know the story us is that, uh, government acted too soon, uh, when it came to aids, but here in Sweden, the, the history is like the complete opposite. But the gen the general view is that, uh, authorities did way too much and put people, uh, put infected people in prisons and like special prison and stuff. And, but I think the reason that could go on was that, um, the people who were affected by aids were mostly immigrants coming from Africa and, uh, homosexual men that no one liked back then. So there was like never any public pressure to, to end the regime, but, but towards it's it's been seen in, in a very bad light. So some historians like, especially wine historian that's it's next to me at <laugh> at my office. Speaker 1 00:30:53 Uh, he has exterior that, so that the pendulums one, um, but I think the main reason for Sweden of taking this path is that it was the scientifically sensitive, uh, the, the, it was the scientific route and the people at the helm were strong enough to uphold it. That's like the main, um, main explanation I think. And there's also one other interesting little quirk in the Swedish constitution that says that all Swedish authorities are independent of the government. Uh, and so it's almost like, uh, an American court that can't be swayed by a politician. So some foreigners think this is, uh, really strange. Like if you're the minister of head that's, uh, head the head of the police, you still can't tell the police what to prioritize. You have to like write special paper every year. And it has to go through like this process. So that also made the authorities less susceptible to political pressure and it also made, made it easier for the politicians to say, you could say, oh, it's, it's not our table. We it's their choice. Speaker 0 00:32:15 Okay. So it gave them a little bit of, uh, cover or wiggle room. Yeah. To say that we have, uh, kind of a decentralized approach and, and people are, we're making record recommendations, but people are doing what's best for their locality. Speaker 1 00:32:30 Yeah. And, uh, and also the Swedish government office is really, really tiny compared to other countries. Mm-hmm, <affirmative> all the expertise is, is, uh, delegated to the authorities and, uh, to, so there's like no one with, with a scientific degree in the government agency that can, uh, second guess, uh, the experts, uh, all the different authorities. Speaker 0 00:32:59 All right. Um, so you wrote an article recently in unheard, uh, which we're going to put into the chat boxes, um, called Sweden's inconvenient COVID victory. In what ways have the results of the sweet leader strategy proved inconvenient for those who were once its biggest critics? Speaker 1 00:33:30 Well, I'm, I'm a big fan of Carl Popp, uh, the scientific, the theorist, uh, and he has this idea of like you have, if you want, if a theory is scientific, it has to be able to be falsified. And, uh, if you, if you made, if you had the assumption that Sweden conducted a dangerous experiment, then you'd wanna know the results. Um, so, uh, I think it's strange that all these American and British, uh, and German, uh, magazines and newspapers wrote all these articles and never came back to see how it actually ended. Cause a thing that the SWS and especially John GE, when he was like touring all the media, a thing he said was that let's come back in a year or in two time and you'll see that eventually, uh, deaths, uh, all around the world will be pretty much the same. He didn't have, like, he didn't get that complete. Right. He actually Sweden, uh, ended up, uh, lower than he had thought. So I, I think it's a bit dishonest actually for, uh, for, uh, international, some international media applications to be so outspoken about something and then not, uh, go back, not follow Speaker 0 00:34:59 Follow up. Right. I'm sure they would've followed up if, uh, if their, their criticism, um, had been born out, but perhaps it's inconvenient because, um, to acknowledge what happened, uh, is to acknowledge that they were wrong in, um, saying that this was going to be a, a disaster. And, um, so nobody likes to admit that they were wrong, uh, particularly not the experts and, and the media, uh, all right. Some more questions from our audience. Um, James, the on Instagram is asking about the population density in Sweden. Uh, did that help to reduce the spread? Speaker 1 00:35:49 Mm. I mean, if you compare it to, to England, uh, I think it did cause, um, it's pretty obvious that really dense areas, happy to it harder than mm-hmm <affirmative> uh, than, um, yeah, the opposite mm-hmm <affirmative> Sweden is actually quite densely populated where people live, like Stockholm is a very dense city as it's Scotland. Broga it's Malmo. So Sweden is kinda like, uh, Canada, like it's a very big country, but people are like travelers Speaker 0 00:36:21 In the cities. Mm-hmm Speaker 1 00:36:22 <affirmative> yeah. Speaker 0 00:36:25 All right. Ian Brooks on Facebook asks, what are your thoughts on the COVID camps that Australia built? Speaker 1 00:36:34 I mean, it just shows how, how bad it can get when you on something and you can't like back out from it. Um, I, I think, I think, or I hope this will go down history as, as, as a really weird thing that, that, that democracy did, because I mean, we've seen this kind of, uh, behavior from, uh, dictatorships for, uh, centuries, but what is really striking about this is like Australia is real democracy and still it happened there. So I think that, um, that has made me quite, uh, concerned actually Speaker 0 00:37:16 Mm-hmm <affirmative>, mm-hmm <affirmative> well, um, maybe it's two or way to tell, but what do you think the, the lessons learned will be, uh, do you, do you think that people will say, well, gosh, no. Um, we want to reduce excess mortality from COVID and you know, or from the next pandemic and for, from, from other, uh, adverse health impacts, uh, we know that, um, uh, isolating people, locking them down. Uh, we know that destroying jobs, destroying an economy that, that those also have have bad impacts. And do you think people will be more likely to think twice? Do you think that people will say either that they never wanna admit that they made mistakes or that they enjoy having, um, so much power to, to, to tell the population what to do? Speaker 1 00:38:17 I think there will be a reckoning eventually, and I think it will happen when one of the major American or British, uh, media outlets or journalists decide to really go through it. Um, and you, you can just see the impact that there's this, um, journalist on in the New York times, uh, Dave Leonhardt that had been, uh, a bit more nuanced, uh, in covering the, the pandemic. And it has such had such a great, um, impact already, I think. And I mean, O once the Michael Lewis or the, well, like someone like that really writes this story in the us, um, you know, pretty much the way I did in Sweden then it's, uh, then I think, uh, people would change, change their minds, cause all these, uh, people who were pro lockdown, I think, think they are kind of few, like most people were just like going along and didn't think too much about it. I think, um, if, if you haven't been on the record, it's easier to change your mind. I think Speaker 0 00:39:26 Mm-hmm, <affirmative>, mm-hmm <affirmative> um, now, you know, there were mistakes I'm sure in Sweden, um, and the, uh, the approach was not without its, uh, reversal. So maybe tell us a little bit about what, what happened and what, uh, looking back if, if te now or, um, his, his mentor were to look back and say, you know, these are the things we got, right. Were there, were there things that they got wrong? Speaker 1 00:40:02 Yeah, definitely. Uh, the one thing that did get wrong, uh, was, uh, their was early on when they trusted the Chinese data, Speaker 0 00:40:13 Uh, interesting Speaker 1 00:40:14 For, for way too long, but, but someone told me like someone who came to one of my book readings, uh, told me that maybe that was, uh, fortuitous, cuz since they trusted Chinese data and thought that the virus wasn't gonna come to Sweden for so long, it ended up coming to Sweden. And if, if, if Sweden I had like an Australian or maybe Norwegian situation with like no virus at all, maybe they would've been more tempted to lockdown, but, but now they're like, ah, it's already here. Let's uh, let's just Larry rip mm-hmm so, so maybe good thing actually. And another thing they got wrong was they, uh, thought the vaccine would take four to six years. Uh, and I believe it took like eight or nine months Speaker 0 00:41:06 Mm-hmm <affirmative>, Speaker 1 00:41:07 But that, that was such an amazing scientific breakthrough. But, but, um, but, but that also factored into their calculations, I think cuz uh, lockdowns for four years, it's even more inconceivable than lockdowns for half a year. So maybe that was also lucky that they thought the vaccine would take them. Speaker 0 00:41:26 Yeah. That they, they kind of miscalculated on that because people say, oh, well, two years of, you know, making toddlers wear masks and uh, you know, harming our businesses. We can live with that. But uh, if you think it's longer, you have to say, you know, no, we're going to have to figure out another strategy from the get go. Yeah. Speaker 1 00:41:50 Well wasn't it just two weeks. It was supposed to be <laugh> Speaker 0 00:41:56 Two weeks, uh, and two years and a month later here we are. Um, okay. Let's see. Uh, Woody Cohen coaching on Twitter is asking, um, is, is there a particular group or groups that really were the most specifically responsible for the devastations of the lockdowns? So, you know, was it the media that was scaring people and then people were pressuring governments for these, you know, restrictions. Was it public health authorities that were kind of beguiled by a, a new untried, um, strategy of, of zero COVID? So, um, you know, who, who were the ones that were really most responsible? Speaker 1 00:42:55 I mean, I, I, I kinda were wanna say, um, Imperial college and other public health, like who, who, uh, have this like flawed science guy in them, but I, I think it's, uh, it has to be the media. Cause if you, as a journalist, you encounter people all the time who, who want, who want to do this and that. Cause they are like so focused on their area of expertise. They, they wanna have like, um, a certain kind of, um, they, they wanna force, uh, kids to wear all kinds of protections and cuz they, they wrote their PhD thesis on this kind of injury among kids. And, and as a journalist you have to take a step back and like do the cost benefit analysis and you have to see what, what other things could this lead to mm-hmm <affirmative> uh, there are so many people who wanna write loss for everything to, um, like for instance, uh, every time I'm out talking about this, there's always some, someone who says are against the seatbelts as well, like net, uh, or seatbelt loss. But, but then I always ask him like, why do you use a seatbelt? Is it because it's a law? Or do you think it's a good thing to wear that Speaker 1 00:44:19 As well? I mean, I wear a seatbelt because I think the police is gonna find me a hundred bucks Speaker 0 00:44:26 Mm-hmm <affirmative> right. Well, so that also raises the, the question of, uh, masks. So there were no mask mandates, but people weren't wearing the masks and you weren't masking your kids and you've, you know, worn masks for all of, you know, 20 or 40 minutes over the past two years. So, uh, again, was it, um, you just, you looked at the data and you weren't buying it or, or, uh, were the public health authorities saying wear masks, don't wear masks. Were you, were you deciding also maybe they work, but um, you know, my child is two years old and I'm um, at very low risk or did you get it early on? Did you get natural immunity? Speaker 1 00:45:20 Uh, I, I don't know if I've had it actually cuz uh, I I've only taken the test, uh, once <laugh> mm-hmm <affirmative> when I went to ice with my daughter. Uh, so I've been, I've been here a couple times. Maybe it was COVID uh, I don't know, but with masks I think, I, I think it could help if you really know how to use it. Uh, but when you think of how many people that have gotten COVID around the world or it does it just, uh, it could probably prolong, uh, the time before you get it, but even it's pretty fair to say that you are gonna get it eventually. So, um, when you weigh that against, uh, the massive inconvenience, it is, especially for kids to wear a mask. I, I think it doesn't make sense at all. Speaker 0 00:46:17 Mm-hmm <affirmative> Speaker 1 00:46:18 And, and that was what data said. Also like if you read these emails between switch scientists and some foreign, it's pretty obvious that they think it was bullshit. So, uh, but, but then they recommended in some ways for two hours a day in Sweden anyway, and no, I'm more them anyway. Um, it's, it's always been very, very rare to see people with masks as Sweden Speaker 0 00:46:44 And it looks like it. I mean, how, you know, in the United States there it's very politically divided and, and polarized and the pandemic and then the responses to the, a pandemic kind of fell into that political mix. Um, is there that same level of heated, uh, political divide in Sweden and, um, did, did the pandemic and the, um, responses or lack of responses in Sweden's case, did that play into it? Speaker 1 00:47:21 Um, it was kinda interesting. We happen to have like a social democratic, I guess if it had been a right in government, um, Speaker 0 00:47:34 Interesting. Mm-hmm Speaker 1 00:47:35 <affirmative> the left would've been more critical and they would've had like the case of saying like you sacrifice, uh, people's lives for the economy, but now, now government. So the first thing that, uh, the liberal party, like the, the moderates that's like the center, right party, the first thing they wanted to do, they, they wrote, they wrote an office saying that Sweden should have an exit plan <laugh> that was like two weeks in. So, um, they had a difficult time backtracking from that and they had the like bouts of, uh, like the nationalist party had like a couple of weeks where they thought they were gonna be able to, uh, uh, to get some traction. And, but it never really became a political debate. Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, Speaker 0 00:48:27 Interesting. But, but you're saying that if, if, and the other party had been in power that you think that it would've gone differe differently, possibly. Speaker 1 00:48:36 Yeah, I think so. Cause then, uh, Speaker 0 00:48:39 Probably would've been the same response, right. I mean, who knows whatt now and what hi, their politics are, you know? Speaker 1 00:48:47 Yeah. Yeah. Funny thing is though I think one is really left wing and run is really bit right wing, but that's just like my guess. So I thought <laugh> maybe I shouldn't have said that, but, uh, but, uh, the only thing that became a politic issue was, uh, the testing cuz uh, the public health authority thought testing was kind of useless. Um, but then, uh, uh, there was like some political pressure to do it. So, um, but they never really got into tests and it is kinda useless to test people like that if you had decided to let it rip anyway. So, um, I never really, it never really fit into the strategy, so it was no one, they didn't really care about it. And to, I think all this testing in the us and the rest of the world has probably been pretty meaningless as well. Speaker 0 00:49:43 So, uh, just picking up on something you said just then, so critics would've said that, uh, well Sweden has decided to let it R and uh, you know, with like the great Barington declaration, they would say, no, we're not, you know, promote promoting letting it rip we're promoting focus protection. But I mean, in reality, is that what Sweden did, did they take special cases to say, you know, um, let's prioritize vaccines for the elderly and, uh, the elderly should not go out and should wear masks all the time. Uh, or did they just say, you know, let it rip. Speaker 1 00:50:27 I, I think, uh, this take now and the others have been a little bit dishonest when it comes to, uh, like what the actual strategy was. Mm-hmm <affirmative> I, I think, uh, it's pretty fair to say, uh, that they kind of let it rip, they, they have this plan to protect the elderly, but that is kind impossible to do and right. But they did give the vaccine to the elderly first, first and yeah. And, and that worked pretty well, I think, but, um, the Swedish nursing home nursing homes have been a disaster for, for a long time as, probably in a lot countries, unfortunately. Speaker 0 00:51:04 Yeah. Well, they certainly were in the, in, uh, um, New York and New Jersey, uh, because the governors in those states made the decision that they would house overflow COVID patients of all ages in nursing homes and that, you know, essentially wiped out. Speaker 1 00:51:24 Yeah. That doesn't sound very thought through. Speaker 0 00:51:26 Yeah. No. Um, so I have to ask you though, uh, you know, is there something about the, we we've talked a little bit about the political context, we've talked about sort of, you know, possible pendulum swing, we've talked about the public health leadership <affirmative> um, is there something special about the Swedish culture or the Swedish character? I mean, you know, if, if, if they are, as the Danes call them the, uh, Germans dressed up as Swedes, what, what is there, is it, is there something that helped them to kind of be more measured or more moderate and resist the kind of panic and hysteria that, uh, gripped and still still grips other countries? Speaker 1 00:52:19 I think, um, at least this is what the latest, uh, historic, uh, historian researchers are, are saying BA Sweden is that there's this, um, really strong individualist streak in Sweden. And that is something that foreigners don't always pick up. Uh, like, cause people think we, we elect these like social Democrats all the time, but to most sweets, uh, social Democrats are, they, they guarantee, uh, some freedoms, we value a lot. And, and if you compare to the us in, in the us, um, I guess the smallest political entities, the family, whereas here is the individual. So that's why free tuition is such an important thing to, for Swedish Liberty. Cause we are the free that we don't even want to be dependent on our families. That that's how wish, uh, Liberty. Um, I, I think there's, uh, uh, a lot to that. And also Swedish, uh, the Swedish society is like way, way more liberalized than the people think almost all markets are totally free market. And, uh, it's, uh, I know some people have, have, have read, uh, written about this in national review of and so on, but, uh, I think, uh, people, people still think it's like a small version of France, whereas it's, it's more like, like an American state in some sense. Speaker 0 00:53:57 Yeah, well, uh, previous guest, but I've had on this show, um, Johan Norberg, he had a documentary of Sweden lessons for America and he showed that Americans don't, uh, really know much about Sweden and that, um, uh, Sweden is, is, is really not socialist. It's far more capitalistic. And, um, it shouldn't be used as an example of sort of, uh, the public means of production, um, that it, it certainly has aspects of, uh, generous welfare state, but, um, uh, it's, it's interesting. So, um, we're just about running out of time. Uh, couple of last questions. What is te now's current status? Um, there were reports that he resigned as, uh, Sweden's chief epidemiologist to take a role at the world health organization. Is that the case? And if so, what does it represent? Speaker 1 00:55:00 Yeah, that was the news coming out, but I, I don't know lately it's, uh, maybe he's not going to the w H O after all. So I I'm, I don't know at all what happened there, but, um, when it comes to the w H O my understanding is that it's kind of like the UN, but, uh, <laugh>, it's not always, I mean, you shouldn't, uh, you shouldn't read too much into that. It's like a lot of political, uh, maneuvering and stuff like that. So it's kinda like being on the human rights council and, Speaker 0 00:55:37 Uh, well, I, I hope that, you know, it would be a case that he would influence the world of health organization and not that the world health organization would coopt him and, you know, not let something like this independent, um, Speaker 1 00:55:54 Yeah, it's actually what Speaker 0 00:55:56 Happened. Speaker 1 00:55:57 Uh, I came across some interesting, uh, emails, uh, like with cause cause GE was part of the w H O uh, group that handled this pandemic. And, uh, he, he, uh, he wrote like some emails, this tweets, uh, gossiping about, uh, what the w H O really thought and how it was all politics. And it was kind of, so I, I always laugh a little bit when I hear, like, people re referencing the w H OS this, uh, Oracle, when, you know, it's just like, you know, like fee for IOC or any kind of international organization that has like a million different, um, uh, skiers, you know, Speaker 0 00:56:37 Bureaucrats. Yeah. Um, okay. Well, I suppose, um, a little bit relieved to hear that that they're, uh, you know, not terribly competent enough to be enacting some of these, um, schemes. So you, you wrote the book published it, uh, I mean, so SI how much time has passed since it was published in Sweden? <affirmative>, Speaker 1 00:57:04 Uh, a little less than a year. Speaker 0 00:57:06 Okay. So is there anything that happened in that, you know, almost year since the book, uh, was published, that you would've liked to have been included? Um, and is there another book on the subject in, in your horizon? Uh, Speaker 1 00:57:26 I, I think it, I, it covers pretty much everything cuz um, when I published it, everyone in Sweden who wanted to, I got the vaccine and uh, as Sweden has like ended the pandemic quite a long time ago. Like no one in Sweden has talked about it for ages, it feels like, wow, There was this Corona commission, uh, coming out. Um, it felt like no one cared about it at all. It was a bad time before, cause it happened while Russia made a Ukraine, but mm-hmm <affirmative>, it was kinda interesting to see how people had, uh, moved on. Speaker 0 00:58:05 Interesting. Well speaking, moving on what is gonna be next for you? Speaker 1 00:58:13 Uh, well I'm kinda thinking of a new book that, that, um, uh, maybe I shouldn't tell you about, but it has to do with like, uh, the complexity that, that, how people underestimate the complexities of society and how, how it's easy to, to think of, uh, simple and fast solutions to, uh, to, to societal problems. So it's kind of in the vein of this since so many people have appreciated, like the, the tone in this book, it feels like there's, uh, a case for, for, uh, for, uh, trusting people. Um, um, not, uh, like a, a new way to write something. Anti authoritarian, I think. Speaker 0 00:59:03 All right. Well, we will be watching, uh, you are on Twitter at, uh, yo and, and Burke. So we'll follow you there any place else that we should be following or signing up for in terms of, um, keeping track of you in your next book. Speaker 1 00:59:21 And I think Twitter is the only I try to stay out of Instagram. Speaker 0 00:59:24 <laugh> okay. All right. Well, wonderful. It is, uh, midnight there. Um, so thank you again very much for staying up to speak with us. Uh, thank you for writing this book for having it translate into English and, uh, a big thank you from the United States and the rest of us to Sweden for, for being brave and measured and, uh, independent and showing, uh, showing us another, another path. Speaker 1 00:59:57 Thanks for having me.

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