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Out of Our Minds Is Caused by Out of Context

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(Don Boudreaux)


Here’s a letter to a Café Hayek commenter:


Commenting on this blog post, you write:

Deaths aren’t the only outcome that could merit a cost-benefit analysis. The popular media treats so-called long-haul effects of Covid as reality. I can’t find hard data, but Nature at least has [an] individual report that 10% (of positive test results, or symptomatic cases, maybe) will suffer beyond the typical viral infection period. That seems significant enough for me to alter my own behavior, despite my lack of concern about death as a middle ager.

The question is “Compared to what?” The media and many politicians write and speak of Covid-19 as if it’s the only illness or ailment that has long-term consequences for those whom it doesn’t kill.

Consider that seasonal flu – which, remember, is more lethal to children than is Covid – has potential long-term consequences. According to WebMD, “[t]he flu can worsen long-term medical conditions, like congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.” In 2017 Nature reported that “Patients who survive influenza A (H7N9) virus infection are at risk of physical and psychological complications of lung injury and multi-organ dysfunction.” Yet no one proposes to disrupt society with tyrannical restrictions – such as those imposed yesterday in my home state of Virginia – simply because many survivors of the flu suffer lasting ill-consequences.

Automobile accidents in the U.S. annually claim the lives of around 35,000 persons. Yet the number of persons who each year suffer permanent injuries in such accidents is about two million. Does anyone propose that this unfortunate reality justifies the lowering of speed limits to 10 MPH?

Many workplace injuries have lasting ill-consequences. The National Safety Council found that “An additional 33,000,000 [work] days were lost in 2018 due to permanently disabling injuries that occurred in prior years.” Does anyone propose that this unfortunate reality justifies locking down workplaces, or requiring that all workers be clad in fireproof bubble-wrap and remain at least six-feet apart from each other?

The hysteria over Covid is largely the result of a disgraceful failure by the media and our dictators (a.k.a. “leaders”) to put this disease’s risks in context.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030


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