Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell was mentioned in yesterday’s post. Today, I thought to direct you to his website. He is a national treasure.

Don’t miss the ‘favorite quotations’ page. Five examples:

Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm– but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.
—T. S. ELiot

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
—C. S. Lewis

There are many who find a good alibi far more attractive than an achievement. For an achievement does not settle anything permanently. We still have to prove our worth anew each day: we have to prove that we are as good today as we were yesterday. But when we have a valid alibi for not achieving anything we are fixed, so to speak, for life.
—Eric Hoffer

Nowhere at present is there such a measureless loathing of their country by educated people as in America.
—Eric Hoffer (that was 1971, and look where we are now)

Publicly inconsolable about the fact that racism continues, these activists seem privately terrified that it has abated.
—Dinesh D’Souza

Here are some quotes from Sowell himself. One example:
“Some of the biggest cases of mistaken identity are among intellectuals who have trouble remembering that they are not God.
― Thomas Sowell

Liberal

The ruination of the word in the U.S. arguably started around 1913 with a President openly hostile to a Constitutional Republic. A dedicated racist who RE-segregated the Federal civil service, and an oligarch who bypassed the Bill of Rights with the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918; Woodrow Wilson.

His ideas picked up steam in 1932. That’s when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was nudging the Enlightenment political definition of Liberal, “a belief in individual liberty,” toward a phrase made popular by another collectivist snollygoster: “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”

FDR admired the man who uttered it: “‘I don’t mind telling you in confidence,’ FDR remarked to a White House correspondent, ‘that I am keeping in fairly close touch with that admirable Italian gentleman’
Henry Wallace, New Frontiers, p. 31.

That admirable gentleman was Benito Mussolini, and it’s no wonder FDR was interested. Benito put the principles of the New Deal more plainly than FDR dared:

“The … State lays claim to rule in the economic field no less than in others; it makes its action felt throughout the length and breadth of the country by means of its corporate, social, and educational institutions, and all the political, economic, and spiritual forces of the nation, organised in their respective associations, circulate within the State.”
-Benito Mussolini, 1935, The Doctrine of Fascism, Firenze: Vallecchi Editore. p 41.

The corporate State considers that private enterprise in the sphere of production is the most effective and useful instrument in the interest of the nation. In view of the fact that private organisation of production is a function of national concern, the organiser of the enterprise is responsible to the State for the direction given to production.

State intervention in economic production arises only when private initiative is lacking or insufficient, or when the political interests of the State are involved. This intervention may take the form of control, assistance or direct management.
-Benito Mussolini, 1935, Fascism: Doctrine and Institutions, Rome: ‘Ardita’ Publishers pp. 135-136

Do you detect any similar policy tendencies in current American Maim Scream Media™ headlines, or in Biden executive orders?

Il Duce’s characterizations are authoritative. So, China, among many others, is clearly a fascist state. It may not surprise you that Mussolini was a socialist before he took up the fascist cause, and you may be forgiven if you wonder whether fascism was just a way to avoid the word “nationalization.”

By the time FDR took office there were many Americans who had good things to say about Benito Mussolini’s fascism. Here’s a link to the Leftist WaPo, a site your Progressive frenemies cannot easily dismiss. It manages to bash Trump, always a Progressive treat, and lists many prominent American Mussolini enthusiasts. The author manages to get through the whole thing while never mentioning FDR, and includes this hilarity:

Mussolini’s powerful handlers tapped into widespread misgivings about the domestic cost of Wilson-style democracy and growing anxieties about gender equality by pitching Mussolini as a strong male leader with a nationalistic brand of effective governance.

‘Handlers’? Ha. You want handlers? Look up Edith Wilson in the context of Woodrow’s stroke, and think about Jill Biden. The 25th Amendment had to wait until 1967 to be added to the Constitution, and until 2020 to be part of Democrat election strategy.

‘Wilson-style democracy’? Wilson was an oligarchist.

‘Misgivings’? Ha, ha. While our Democrats were making Henry Wallace FDR’s Veep?

Implied misogyny’? Ha, ha, ha. The Italians were worried their leader didn’t respect women, while FDR was … well, not worried about it:

“Franklin deserved a good time,” Alice Longworth, a confidante of FDR, once said. “He was married to Eleanor.”

‘Gender equality’? A construct beyond the imagination of Italians or Americans of the time. In 1932 “gender” was rightly regarded as a feature of some Romance languages, not a social justice crusade necessitating a redefinition of “sex.”

The Great Depression helped FDR get away with the New Deal, and when WWII came along to actually end the Depression (FDR had prolonged it), it only reinforced FDR’s power to shift the country to acceptance of the “dollar a year man” authoritarian bureaucracy. It’s not so cheap anymore.

We still see this autocratic urge expressed through redefinition today. The word “science” used to mean “falsifiable,” for example. Now it means whatever the consensus of government dependent boffins come up with. From “climate change” to lockdowns and mask mandates. From denials of biological sex to outcome equality. For example:
Translating Social Justice Newspeak – Law & Liberty
Liberals Redefine Words

Worth reading, but both neglect some important redefinitions. “Democracy,” for example.

I don’t know when that started, but the false premise is that the United States is a Democracy rather than a Constitutional Republic (Thanks, Woodrow.). Now Democracy “belongs” to Democrats, and you aren’t part of that if you object to voting without regard to legality, dislike open borders, believe sex is binary, think the Second Amendment applies to individuals, or get grumpy when someone calls you a murderer for not wearing 2 masks. Here’s a 4 minute video worth watching for how the Democrats view “Our” Democracy.
WSJ Opinion: The Progressive Push to Redefine ‘Our Democracy’

Another important word that’s been redefined is “Capitalism.” It’s depressing how many people describe China’s economic system as capitalist. If you look at Mussolini’s definitions, China is fascist. In America, it’s fashionable for Progressives to blame “free market failures” for botched government interventions. American corporatism pays homage to the blustering Italian, and is familial with the Chinese Communists.

What words mean matters. Those who make the changing of meaning their tactic for gaining political advantage are characters in 1984.

Remember the power flow?

It’s downstream from Washington.

Yesterday, I wrote of Texas power woes:

Central planners knew reserve dispatchable (on demand) electricity provision was a weakness for renewables’ case, even as renewables raise the importance of dispatchable power. If planners wanted more renewable energy they had to raise electricity prices to fund building the standby generators and securing the fuel supplies they might not use, or take bigger risks across the board.

Wind and solar were not to be dinged for the increased costs they impose on the grid to ensure reliable generating capacity during extreme weather events. Mustn’t have anyone question whether windmills or solar panels are doing the job you hired them for if you still have to have natural gas plants idling in case of bad weather.

Unsuprisingly, wind proponents would prefer the raise rates solution, now that they can act like they’re not responsible for the lobbying that contributed to it. The WSJ notes: “The wind lobby says Texas should have required thermal (nuclear, gas, coal) plants to be weatherized to withstand single-digit temperatures.

I wouldn’t have phrased it as if the costs might be borne by the conventional power companies. Consumers would pay. And I wouldn’t have accepted the wind lobby’s implication that the thermal power companies were the culprits, since the wind lobby persuaded the regulators to avoid price increases attributable to wind power in favor of higher risk. How do you think the new power transmission lines for windmills and solar are paid for? See also.

When wind lobbyists ask politicians to “require our competition to” it’s just another sign Texas is not a free market in electricity.

Then there are Federal regs.

In this case it seems as if they were used to give Texas a little slap. On Feb 12th, Texas Governor Greg Abbott asked the President to declare a major disaster for Texas’ 254 counties. The President approved it for 77 counties. Grants are now available for temporary housing, home repairs, and low-cost loans for most Texans. That means large population centers like Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin…

You can supply your own theory about why rural Texans are considered to have been less damaged.

By Feb 14th ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) was urging everyone to minimize electricity consumption, and had asked the Department of Energy for permission to exceed Federal restrictions (running fossil fuel plants at only about 60% capacity). The DoE approved this request with the proviso, first suggested by ERCOT, that the power would be sold at no less than $1,500 per megawatt hour, compared to $18.20 per megawatt hour in February 2020.

Note: the $1,500 figure, contrary to some reports, was SUGGESTED BY ERCOT. This doesn’t change anything regarding regulatory conditions, it simply means ERCOT knew what they had to do to get approval. DoE may not have initiated the price floor, but they still imposed it.

The letter later referred to this pricing as “a separate mechanism to help ensure this capacity is deployed only when absolutely necessary.”

Webber, the professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said that cost was a “minimum price” that would ensure plants permitted to bypass environmental restrictions were not given an unfair advantage.

“Emissions controls cost money,” he said. “It would be unfair to let some power plants turn off their emissions controls, which lowers their operational costs, and then to use that lower cost to underbid other generators who responsibly left their controls in place.”

Ted Kury, director of energy studies for the Public Utility Research Center at the University of Florida, said “when wholesale prices get high, the market operator is actually hoping that this sends a signal to folks to stop using electricity.” That works for, say, large companies — but it often ends up being punitive for residential customers.

Yes, prices are signals, but I think in this case Texans had already got the conserve power message. Soon enough they couldn’t buy it at any price. No “unfair advantage” there. And we can’t think of any way to have tiered pricing without sophisticated computer systems. And we don’t have that. Right?

Still, we must be absolutely sure that hoarders, wreckers, exploiters, and saboteurs – like some Aluminum smelter somewhere in Texas – didn’t use any of that power. They might have achieved 2 or 3 days production at the same electricity cost they’d have a week later. They might have forced their employees to drive to work under disaster conditions, and then made them sign NDAs to prevent anyone from ever finding out what evil businessmen do when old people are freezing to death. Or, some Bitcoin miner might have done the same thing, because they are really evil and they’d have comparatively few employees. Yeah, THOSE guys could get away with it.

Well, at least until the digital meter monitor reported their electricity usage.

California Screamin’

Extract or Die

Makers being blamed for political failure. The creation of wealth equated with exploitation. Ayn Rand wrote a book or two about it.

Now California is contemplating taxing residents who move away. That’s a prelude to capital controls. Human capital. Like North Korea – you can never leave.

Statism always goes this way. It’s been untenable since the Berlin Wall fell to pretend the consequences are unintended. Which is why the Marxists switched from class politics to identity politics.

Federalism lets states conduct this sort of experiment. Unfortunately, Federalism has morphed into bailing these nincompoops out. And SloJoe, ably assisted by HeelsUp, is just the pair to do it.

And NY and IL.

Ardnassac

This is a book recommendation. Sadly, it’s out of print, and I can find none in any of the used book sites I have used. The good news is it’s cheap on Kindle.

I found out about it here if you want a short opinion second to the one that follows.

I can’t believe I’d never heard of the book, either.

The flying car topic of the title is used to weave a sort of ‘back to the future’ look at at technology, American ingenuity/entrepreneurialism, and government regulation. There is a strong science fiction presence used to ask “Why did, or did not, the predictions of 1930-1960 SF come to pass?” It’s a good summary of my contention that much of that literature should have been required reading.

Appearances, among many others, by H. G. Wells, Issac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke.

The brilliant Dr. Richard Feynman also takes a bow in a discussion of Heinlein’s novellas Waldo and Magic Inc..

I cut my teeth on SF with Tom Swift, and my strong technological optimism arguably started with that series. (I wonder if there is anything comparable now for 10 year olds?)

The author, J Storrs Hall, is a techno-optimist, too, and he suggests that after the 1960’s America became a much less “can do” polity than we had any reason to expect. We went from the Wright brothers to 747s in 50 years, from Goddard (1926) to the moon in 43. Now we’re mired in CAFE standards and cronyism.

Hall does spend a fair bit of time discussing the history of ‘flying cars’ and that alone is fascinating. There’s much more. He also makes very intriguing points about nanotech, nuclear power, AI, cybernetics, economics, city planning, and other topics.

One major consideration is envirostatism (my term), where he contends that the GREEN point isn’t CO2, pollution, or any of the other excuses offered. It is essentially anti-human nihilism.

For example,

“Green ideas have become inextricably intertwined with a perfectly reasonable desire to live in a clean, healthy environment and enjoy the natural world. The difference is of course that in the latter case, the human enjoying the natural world is a good thing, but to the fundamentalist Green he and all his works are a bad thing.”

Lest you think this is hyperbole, he supplies some words from the mouths of the horses-asses:

The prospect of cheap fusion energy is the worst thing that could happen to the planet.
-Jeremy Rifkin

Giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.
-Paul Ehrlich

It would be little short of disastrous for us for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy because of what we would do with it.
-Amory Lovins

The title of this piece is Cassandra backwards. I closely paraphrase J Storrs Hall,

“There seems to be a bizarre reverse-Cassandra effect operating in the universe: whereas the mythical Cassandra spoke the awful truth and was not believed, these days “experts” speak awful falsehoods, and they are believed. Repeatedly being wrong actually seems to be an advantage, conferring some sort of puzzling magic glow upon the speaker.”

We hear California wildfires are caused by global warming climate change, when it’s actually envirostatist mismanagement, and the conscious intent to build windmills rather than maintain power lines. The California satraps agree with Rifkin, Ehrlich, and Lovins. In order to cripple the supply of energy, what have their like told us that wasn’t true?

California wildfires are caused by climate change. Gavin Newsom – yesterday
Four billion people will die between 1980 and 1989 from climate change. Paul Ehrlich – 1970
The polar ice cap will disappear by 2014. Al Gore – 2007
The planet will warm by 3 full degrees (0.1, actually). James Hansen – 1988
We will see the ‘end of snow.’ Untrue, no matter how many times it’s been predicted. various – 2000, 2015, 2017, 2020
Air pollution will reduce the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half. – Various – 1970

Amusingly, we also didn’t see an ice age by the year 2000. Kenneth Watt – 1970

Meanwhile, we see the very people who want zero CO2 emissions steadfastly oppose nuclear energy. Which is zero emission, safe, and causes immensely less environmental damage than windmills or solar panels. They are not protecting the environment, they are attacking the very idea of human well-being. This antipathy is in the spirit of Rifkin, Ehrlich, and Lovins. It is about authoritarian power in the way Critical Theorists describe it: There are no objective truths. Human history and culture are merely examples of a struggle in relative political power dynamics.

They don’t mean power as in horsepower, they mean justifying the political power of Antifa and BLM riots.

And don’t get me started on Critical Theorists’ “science” on “individuals with a cervix,” or what 2+2 equals.

Anyway. I recommend the book.

Victor Davis Hanson

Brilliant. A must watch.

Victor Davis Hanson: COVID-19 and the Lessons of History | Hoover Virtual Policy Briefing

50 minutes. I watched at 1.5x. Speech is understandable, but is out of sync with video.

Hanson’s recounting of his family experience, through many deadly diseases, in a house they’ve owned for 145 years, is awesome.

His forbears had no expectations that government could solve every problem. When that changed, we started loosing America.

“[T]hey [Government during the Spanish flu, for example] didn’t have confidence that they were all knowing… they were much more humble about their own data and the ramifications.”

Compare and contrast with Gretchen Esther Whitmer.

Then read the quotes from Alexis de Tocqueville and Ayn Rand at the end of this post.

On masks

Updated for clarity, typos – some links added. 11:10 April 5th.

My opinion on this question has undergone a 160 degree shift in the last month. Not a full 180, because I did think wearing a mask would help in preventing community transmission and would remind the wearer not to touch their face. Still, I accepted the ‘idea from authority’ that face coverings, even N95 masks, would not offer much protection to the general public against the CCP virus. Those authorities, I’ve concluded, can’t distinguish absence of evidence from evidence of absence.

I’ve been working on this for several days while also tending to time critical spring gardening tasks. It’s still timely, even as the CDC has finally seen fit to slightly modify their advice on the wearing of masks as protection from the CCP virus.

I think they did not go far enough.

First, here’s the advice we’ve been given until yesterday:

CDC

CDC does not recommend that people who are well [is asymptomatic ‘well’?] wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. You should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it. A facemask should be used by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms [The asymptomatic are not, of course.]. This is to protect others from the risk of getting infected. The use of facemasks also is crucial for health workers and other people who are taking care of someone infected with COVID-19 in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).

FDA

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend that the general public wear N95 respirators [No. CDC said “facemasks.” As to N95s? The FDA is blocking their importation.] to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including coronavirus (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed [Yes. Including everybody wearing a mask.] to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions, such as hand washing, to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases.

For the general American public, there is no added health benefit to wear a respiratory protective device (such as an N95 respirator), and the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low.

Low? That’s why I can’t leave my house without a damn good reason? The FDA is as slow to update their website as they are on everything else.

New CDC:

In light of new [?] data about how COVID-19 spreads, along with evidence of widespread COVID-19 illness [“evidence of?” Yeah, I guess there’s some evidence.] in communities across the country, CDC recommends that people wear a cloth face covering to cover their nose and mouth in the community setting. This is to protect people around you if you are infected but do not have symptoms [Aha! They do know you may be asymptomatically infectious.].

It’s actually more than just protecting others, and face coverings should have been a general recommendation much earlier. Even a tiny percent success rate in preventing community transmission has non-trivial benefits.

Second, there is substantial evidence that using even less than perfect nose/mouth covering reduces potential virus ‘load.*’ The CDC is still not admitting this. If they had, it might encourage “hot spots” of infection to consider making wearing masks in public mandatory. (Laredo, Texas has done so.)

The biggest barrier to mask wearing may well be psychological – and the CDC reinforced Americans’ perception that only people with symptoms wear them. People who are considered incompetent to fit and wear an N95 mask are the same people expected to diagnose CCP virus symptoms – when many will be asymptomatic.

I get protecting the N95 supply for health care workers. I don’t get minimizing the protective value of even a scarf in order to do so.

It’s Time to Face Facts, America: Masks Work

That whole article is recommended, but I want to emphasize part of it as point 4, below. I’ve heard it said that even N95 masks aren’t that good against the CCP virus because the virus particle size is far below 0.3 microns. Four things about that,

    1) They’re the best, affordable protection we have, or we wouldn’t be trying to preserve the supply for health care workers.

    2) The virus is unlikely to be floating around as naked particles, it will be in a larger droplet. Even a scarf or bandana can help. Though see the Israeli Ministry of Health advice, linked below.

    3) There has always been general agreement that masks cut down on infecting others; important because of some evidence that many** of those who contract the CCP virus are asymptomatic, yet still infectious. That means the amount of virus they might expel would not have to be reduced as much – by any sort of mask – to be protective for the wearer. Dose matters.

    Reducing the virus load is protective.

    4) In any case, N95s do filter particles smaller than .3 microns:

    N95s are so-named because they filter out 95 percent of particles with a diameter of 0.3 microns, which are the most difficult particles to trap. Think of the filter in a mask not as a sieve but as a thicket—a dense tangle of minuscule filaments. To make it through, particles must flow seamlessly with air currents, weaving around every obstruction. Large particles are too heavy to pivot quickly, so they crash. Extremely tiny particles are buffeted by individual air molecules, bouncing about like pinballs and colliding with filaments. Particles 0.3 microns wide are just the right size to ride a stream of air through a filter’s fibrous maze, but it is still possible to thwart them with enough twists and turns.

    Because N95s block the vast majority of particles that try to pass through them, they are formidable barriers against microbes. For context, the bacterium that causes anthrax is 0.8 microns wide and 1.4 microns long, whereas influenza viruses and coronaviruses are usually between 0.08 and 0.12 microns. But microbes expelled from someone’s respiratory tract are rarely naked: the droplets they travel in range in size from 0.6 to more than 1,000 microns.

It is not unreasonable to suspect that a mandatory mask policy would have cut down transmission at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and the subways and Lunar New Year Parade in New York City. CDC knew this even as Bill de Blasio was encouraging people to assemble in parks via subway, and Nancy Pelosi was inviting people to the Lunar New Year parade in NYC.

Could it be as effective to mandate mask wearing in New York City, or Detroit, as it is to lock people in their houses – given high levels of non-compliance? It is easier to enforce than guessing whether some citizen is on their way to an essential job.

Because the general public is untrained in N95 mask fitting and use, they won’t get the same benefit a diligent health care worker does. Does that mean any mask is a waste of time? If it does flatten the curve, even if not as much as the lockdowns. If it does improve compliance. If it’s easier to enforce. If it got a few more back to work. Then, no, it’s not a waste of time. But everybody has to do it.

If we’re willing to put 10 million out of work, shouldn’t we have tried mandated masks? To the obvious objection, I’ll let Arnold Kling respond. Here:

[UPDATE: You want to object, “We can’t experiment with people’s lives in a crisis!” My response is that we are doing exactly that. We are experimenting with various lockdown policies, but not in a way that allows us to learn from the results.]

and here,

I do not like the way that the experts are dealing with this crisis. I am at the point where I don’t care about being charitable toward them. Nassim Taleb, who is never charitable to those who disagree with him, has a shorthand that I will modify for this purpose. Expert Yet Idiot, or EYI. [ASK is Kling’s askblog]

What should we rely on to make decisions?
ASK: rigorous studies and experiments
EYI: noisy data and models
What should we use to reduce the spread rate of the virus?
ASK: masks and scarves
EYI: lockdowns
What should government do to relieve individuals and small businesses?
ASK: provide backing for credit lines from banks
EYI: Massive intervention by the Fed and deficit spending

Other resources on the topic:

Slate Star Codex
Face Masks: Much More Than You Wanted To Know
Good overview. It’s comprehensive enough to justify the title. It does examine the question dispassionately, citing studies positive and negative.

New York Post
Experts say face masks can help slow COVID-19, despite previous claims

Washington Post
Face mask shortage prompts CDC to loosen coronavirus guidance
This pretty much confirms surgical masks (which are not N95) provide some protection against the CCP virus. But, the public still shouldn’t be buying them, because health care workers should get them first, and there’s a shortage.

Lancet
Rational use of face masks in the COVID-19 pandemic

New York Times
More Americans Should Probably Wear Masks for Protection

Reuters
Masks do reduce spread of flu and some coronaviruses, study finds

Israeli Ministry of Health
Wearing a mask that covers your mouth and nose in public in order to minimize the chance of infection
Mask protocols ad including instructions on fabricating homemade masks.

Meanwhile the FDA and CDC are getting in the way,
Marginal Revolution
Barriers to masks
FDA Prevents Import of Masks

Reason
Health Care Workers Need Masks (and the Rest of Us Need Them, Too)

As are some hospitals,
New York Times
Frightened Doctors Face Off With Hospitals Over Rules on Protective Gear

* Virus load is simply the quantity of viral particles. Exposure to fewer particles may still cause infection, but eventual symptoms seem to be proportional to the number of particles.

Science
Quantifying SARS-CoV-2 transmission suggests epidemic control with digital contact tracing page 2

Mild cases have been found to have viral loads 60-fold less than severe cases (19) and it is likely that the viral loads of asymptomatic individuals are lower still, with possible implications for infectiousness and diagnosis.

New York Times
These Coronavirus Exposures Might Be the Most Dangerous

Both small and large amounts of virus can replicate within our cells and cause severe disease in vulnerable individuals such as the immunocompromised. In healthy people, however, immune systems respond as soon as they sense a virus growing inside. Recovery depends on which wins the race: viral spread or immune activation.

Virus experts know that viral dose affects illness severity. In the lab, mice receiving a low dose of virus clear it and recover, while the same virus at a higher dose kills them. Dose sensitivity has been observed for every common acute viral infection that has been studied in lab animals, including coronaviruses.

** Percent of asymptomatic people in 2 cases. Iceland’s testing has been rigorous. The Diamond Princess can be considered a petri dish test where humans were the agar.

50% were asymptomatic in Iceland. Note: this is an antigen test which reveals the presence of the virus. From the evidence that 50% of people who had an active case were asymptomatic we can infer there are people who have fully recovered who did not even know they were infected, and no longer host the virus. To identify them, a different test (for SARS-COV2 antibodies) is needed. If we knew who those recovered people are they could go back to work.

On the Diamond Princess cruise ship, “slightly less than half the passengers (48.6% ± 2.0%) who got the disease showed NO symptoms.”

CDC says it might be 25%:
As many as 1 in 4 people with coronavirus may not show symptoms, the CDC director warns