’We have met the enemy and they is us’
Herald Staff Writer
Macro-economic models have a built-in and well-known flaw. In order for the math to function, they make assumptions about human behavior. They assume that in a set of circumstances, humans will behave rationally and in their own best interests.
Individual humans can and often do behave rationally. However, they frequently do not and that propensity to irrationality extends outward to dealing with the bloc of humanity as a whole. This wrecks the models.
And this goes beyond economics and plays directly into the crisis currently afflicting us.
Ohio is undergoing a massive surge in COVID-19 infections. As I write this, the three highest single-day increases for the state since the pandemic began were three consecutive days last week. Summit County itself went back into the red.
The Herald, of course, posted the county health department’s advisory on this on its Facebook page. It rapidly got more than 200 comments.
Virtually all of them were vitriolic screeds accusing us of being complicit in a massive scam.
Somehow, they miss that the sheer volume of people who believe this are exactly why our numbers are spiking. There’s a certain convenience store I like because it’s close. I’m going to stop going. My last stop, I was one of four customers and was the only one in a mask, despite the signs saying otherwise. There were two clerks. One had no mask at all, the other had hers under her chin.
Rather than look to the patterns of behavior of themselves and their fellow citizens, people prefer to believe that 215 countries are altering the cause of death of 1.1 million people in order to influence the American election. They prefer to believe that the county health department is throwing out lies in order to get Donald Trump out of office, because apparently that’s what county health departments do.
And there’s really nothing new here. In the 1340s, wandering tinkers (often bringing the disease with them) whispered yarns of Jews or witches conspiring with devils to bring the Black Death on communities. Predictably, this led to thousands of innocent people being horribly killed.
Superstition has always gone hand-in-hand with plague and all our “enlightened,” technologically advanced society has meant is that we don’t need wandering tinkers to spread it; it comes in our “news feed.” Instead of witches anointing the unsuspecting with toad poison, Bill Gates is preparing to microchip us all in a vaccine.
One commenter on the Herald’s repost of Summit County Public Health’s announcement asserted that this is just what life is now. Sadly, he is right. And superstition is the reason.