Lots of truth in JP’s sardonic wit.
As represented by our cinema and other media, Western society expects too much of masks. In the public’s mind, the still-legitimate use of masks for source control has gone off-label; masks are thought to prevent infection. From here, another problem arises: because surgical masks are thought to protect against infection in the community setting, people wearing masks for legitimate purposes (those who have a cough in a hospital, say) form part of the larger misperception and act to reinforce it. Even this proper use of surgical masks is incorporated into a larger improper use in the era of pandemic fear, especially in Asia, where such fear is high.1 The widespread misconception about the use of surgical masks — that wearing a mask protects against the transmission of virus — is a problem of the kind theorized by German sociologist Ulrich Beck.
The surgical mask communicates risk. For most, risk is perceived as the potential loss of something of value, but there is another side to risk, memorably formulated by Beck in his Risk Society.2 Beck states that risk society is “a systematic way of dealing with hazards and insecurities induced and introduced by modernisation itself.”2 For Beck, risk occurs not only in the form of threat and possible loss, but also in society’s organized management and response to these risks, which create a forwarding of present risk into the future. Furthermore, Beck writes of the “symptoms and symbols of risks” that combine in populations to create a “cosmetics of risk.” He suggests that people living in the present moment conceive of risk in terms of the physical tools used to mitigate risk while still “maintaining the source of the filth.”
Three months ago, Dr. John Ioannidis of Stanford University predicted dire social consequences if states enforced social distancing measures to curb a virus scientists didn’t yet understand.
“I feel extremely sad that my predictions were verified,” Ioannidis said in a recent interview with Greek media.
“There are already more than 50 studies that have presented results on how many people in different countries and locations have developed antibodies to the virus,” Ioannidis, a Greek-American physician, told Greek Reporter. “Of course none of these studies are perfect, but cumulatively they provide useful composite evidence. A very crude estimate might suggest that about 150-300 million or more people have already been infected around the world, far more than the 10 million documented cases.”
Ioannidis said medical data suggest the fatality risk is far lower than earlier estimates had led policymakers to believe and “is almost 0%” for individuals under 45 years old. The median fatality rate is roughly 0.25 percent, however, because the risk “escalates substantially” for individuals over 85 and can be as high as 25 percent for debilitated people in nursing homes.
“The death rate in a given country depends a lot on the age-structure, who are the people infected, and how they are managed,” Ioannidis said. “For people younger than 45, the infection fatality rate is almost 0%. For 45 to 70, it is probably about 0.05-0.3%. For those above 70, it escalates substantially…”
“Major consequences on the economy, society and mental health” have already occurred. I hope they are reversible, and this depends to a large extent on whether we can avoid prolonging the draconian lockdowns and manage to deal with COVID-19 in a smart, precision-risk targeted approach, rather than blindly shutting down everything…”
There’s little question that the lock-downs have caused widespread economic, social, and emotional carnage. Evidence that US states that locked down fared better than states that did not is hard to find.
Though not yet certain, the COVID-19 pandemic may well turn out to be another example of central planning gone wrong.
As I previously noted, it’s a sad irony that many of the greatest disasters in modern history—from Stalin’s “kolkhoz” collective farming system to Mao’s Great Leap Forward and beyond—are the result of central planners trying to improve the lot of humanity through coercive action.
“This is not a dispute about whether planning is to be done or not,” Hayek wrote in The Use of Knowledge in Society. “It is a dispute as to whether planning is to be done centrally, by one authority for the whole economic system, or is to be divided among many individuals.”
Another instant classic! JP nails it again. Watch and share before our overseers remove the video (for our own good).