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Proving Ian Fillmore Prescient

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:


Protesting Drs. Marty Makary’s and H. Cody Meissner’s case against the masking of children, Drs. Jonathan Popler, Satyanarayan Hegde, et al., fail to put the risk posed by Covid to children into perspective (Letters, August 21). The authors say – and we needn’t doubt – that masking “has been shown to reduce transmission [and that] the student population isn’t currently eligible for vaccination.”

But reduce transmission by how much and to what effect? This the authors do not say – a curious omission for authors who praise cost-benefit analysis. Nor do the authors say what obviously ought to be said: Covid poses virtually no health risk to children. Therefore, children’s ineligibility for vaccination against Covid is as irrelevant as is their ineligibility for treatment for Alzheimer’s.

Washington University economist Ian Fillmore recently expressed his worry that even the smallest potential benefit of masking, regardless of cost, will be regarded as sufficient to justify masking. Drs. Popler’s, Hegde’s, et al.’s, letter proves that Prof. Fillmore is right to worry about what he calls “the tyranny of tiny risks.”

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