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Paul Romer on the Pandemic

Paul Romer, Nobel Laureate, discusses the coronavirus pandemic with host Russ Roberts. He argues that the status quo of shutdown and fear of infection is unsustainable. Returning to normal requires an inexpensive, quick, and relatively painless test. The challenge is in relaxing certain regulations and then creating a supply chain of production and availability. Romer then explains how such a test could ease a return to something like normalcy for many sectors of the economy. The conversation concludes with a discussion of the dynamics of the labor market in the current situation.

Updated on May 28

Key Smash Notes In This Episode


Instead of measuring Covid-related deaths as a proportion of the infected population, we are measuring it as an average percentage of people who got diagnosed, the demographic that is skewed towards much older age.

The death rate for folks under 40 is incredibly small, vs. those over 70 where the rate is high.

If we want to get over this pandemic, it would be ideal if we could figure out how to let the population in danger to remain isolated, while everyone could go on with life as usual.


Due to regulations and approvals, we are in a short supply of conventional tests. Meanwhile, new kind of tests are not being approved, or if approved, then severely restricted in how they are being used.


We have to face the fact that viruses will spread faster than ever before. People want to move around, and it would be un-American to constrain our freedoms.

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