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comment by mk
mk  ·  8 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: What Young, Healthy People Have to Fear From COVID-19

I don't understand Caplan's thinking. If his behavior was generalized, even to healthy low-risk people, it would result in a significantly higher risk for him and vulnerable people. It's like the matter of voting. Your one vote is arguably not worth the effort, yet if everyone decides that, it has great consequence. Doing something for the public good often looks irrational on an individual basis.

It's that type of approach that led us to this situation where it is widespread in our country, but not in others that acted differently.

It seems common sense to me that you don't allow a virus to spread by reacting swiftly and uniformly, then deal with pockets. That would be a good quantitative risk driven approach.

    What might Socrates say, if Socrates were an economics professor?

Contrarianism is at most, half of dialectic thinking. :)





wasoxygen  ·  8 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    Your one vote is arguably not worth the effort, yet if everyone decides that, it has great consequence.

If everyone decides to do what, to specifically refrain from voting, or to do a sober cost-benefit analysis of voting?

If people voted rationally, they would put far more value on participating in a civic rite and feeling like their voice is heard, and very little value on the prospect of changing election outcomes. Perhaps many people already think this way, explaining why about half of eligible voters don't bother.

If no one cared about rites and signaling, far fewer people would vote, and at some point an individual vote would have enough potential power to make it worthwhile to do the research and make the effort to vote, so the system would not collapse.

    Doing something for the public good often looks irrational on an individual basis.

Can you give an example of this outside of voting?

mk  ·  8 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    Can you give an example of this outside of voting?

Wearing a mask in low-risk environment in a pandemic.

wasoxygen  ·  8 days ago  ·  link  ·  

If wearing the mask reduces risk of disease spread (such as at the grocery store) it does not look irrational.

If wearing the mask does not reduce the risk of disease spread (such as in your bedroom), it does not benefit the public good.

mk  ·  8 days ago  ·  link  ·  

How about in your house with a friend visiting?

wasoxygen  ·  8 days ago  ·  link  ·  

The same if conditions apply; the specific answer depends on circumstances. Is your friend elderly? Do they socialize a lot? Do you embrace, or maintain distance? Do you spend a lot of time close together talking? In the kitchen or on a breezy porch?

It is rational to do things that benefit the public good (at reasonable cost). How could this not be the case, if someone is not a predator or parasite? We are the public, we benefit from a healthy public.

mk  ·  8 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I agree. I was making the point that Caplan's behavior was rational for his personal health, but if generalized, not for public health.

wasoxygen  ·  8 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Caplan is 49 years old and in apparent good health. There is little risk* that COVID-19 will affect his personal health, whatever his behavior. *EDIT: little risk, relative to other risks that he already accepts, such as driving a car or drinking sugary soda.

How is it rational for him to buy and use gloves for grocery shopping, if not to reduce the risk of spreading disease to others?

I'm not sure I understand what you mean by generalizing. His behavior is to become informed about the risks and make carefully calculated, emotionally neutral decisions that balance the positive and negative consequences of his choices. I would like to see that pattern generalized. His specific choices (on restaurants, or gloves) are tailored to his individual situation and preferences, and should not be generalized.

Note that Caplan does not pretend to have all the answers. Admitting to confusion, he points out the value in relaxing behavior and restrictions to measure the risk that comes with a more open posture. A more effective and ethical approach might be paid voluntary human experimentation to improve our understanding of the risks.

wasoxygen  ·  8 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    If his behavior was generalized, even to healthy low-risk people, it would result in a significantly higher risk for him and vulnerable people.

Which behavior, the decisions he makes based on his individual situation, or his behavior of reacting to risk quantitatively rather than qualitatively, approaching the uncertainty analytically rather than emotionally?

His specific behavior, based on his individual circumstances, is to wear a mask and gloves when he goes to a grocery store, which is more precaution than most stores require.

He has postponed a social event in his home that draws scores of people, suggesting that he would discourage events like the Sturgis rally.

He is pleased to accommodate nervous friends by socializing outdoors and otherwise putting them at ease.

He has Socrates say that a traveler should take different precautions from someone who stays at home, to avoid being a conduit of disease.

It seems unfortunate to me that doing a sober cost-benefit analysis incorporating the best available evidence about risk, and being prepared to update conclusions as the evidence changes, is seen as contrarian (though I agree, it is highly atypical).

Isn't it more important that the response be "effective" rather than "swift and uniform"? Swift and uniform adherence to bad practices won't help.

mk  ·  8 days ago  ·  link  ·  

    Above all, I am now happy to socialize in-person with friends. I am happy to let my children play with other kids. I am also willing to not only eat take-out food, but dine in restaurants.

That is his behavior, that if generalized, would have the effect of increasing risk for all.

    Isn't it more important that the response be "effective" rather than "swift and uniform"? Swift and uniform adherence to bad practices won't help.

In the case of a pandemic, the effective response is a a swift and uniform one.

wasoxygen  ·  8 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Fair, given the alternatives of isolating kids at home and letting them socialize, the latter plausibly has the consequence of increasing risk of spreading disease. Isolating kids at home for months has negative consequences as well.

Socializing has always entailed the risk of spreading disease, and we had to find a balance. The risk has graver consequences this year, so we should make adjustments.

There are different ways of letting kids socialize. You can take them to an amusement park and let them run around with strangers, or you can try podding, allowing your kids to play with kids from selected families you trust. Cost-benefit analysis is a way to decide which of these alternatives is the best balance.

Dining in a restaurant might increase risk of spreading disease more than getting take out, at the cost of less enjoyment of life and less employment for restaurant staff. In my few recent experiences, the extraordinary precautions taken in restaurants make me doubt the risk is very high: disposable utensils, seating spread out, all staff wearing masks and maintaining distance, surfaces sanitized between seatings rather than the usual wipedown with a germ rag.

Plenty of restaurant workers are out of a job now. That's a definite risk to their life quality and health. Perhaps the best solution is a stimulus check. That entails a non-zero risk of hastening an economic meltdown caused by unsustainable debt.

These trade-offs are all around, and we have to find balances.

    In the case of a pandemic, the effective response is a a swift an uniform one.

Swift and uniform sounds great if you are doing the right thing. How do you figure that out, if not by carefully weighing the evidence and considering all the pros and cons? Telling everyone to leave the masks to the professionals was a bad call, no matter how swiftly and uniformly the advice was followed.

If there is a shortage of PPE, we should prioritize protecting elderly people. That's not a uniform response, it's tailored to the risk. Cost-effectiveness should be the standard (where costs are not financial, but overall benefit and harm).