… is from page 143 of the 2009 Revised Edition of Thomas Sowell’s Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One :
Our natural inclination may be to want to make every place as safe as possible but, in reality, no one does that when they must pay the costs themselves. We are willing to pay for brakes on our cars, but having a second set of brakes in case the first set fails would make us feel safer still, and a third set would result in even more reduction of risk, although probably not by a substantial amount. However, faced with rising costs and declining reductions of risk as more backup brake are added to automobiles, most people will at some point refuse to pay any more for additional but insignificant reductions in risk. However, if someone else is paying for reduction in risk, the point at which risk reduction stops may be very different.
DBx: Although Sowell penned these words long before Covid-19, the lesson is general. It applies today. His wise words remind us that reductions in risk are costly, and that at some point additional reductions in risk – while real, and perhaps worthwhile if less costly – are not worthwhile given the cost of achieving these reductions.
Sowell’s words remind us also that risk reduction, as with any other good or service, will be pursued in greater quantities the lower is the cost of that pursuit to the person with the authority to decide how much such pursuit to undertake. And if the person with this decision-making authority is not the same as the person who will pay for the additional risk reduction, then chances are high that too much risk reduction will be pursued.
Who paid a disproportionately high share of the cost of reducing Covid risks through lockdowns? Answer: Mostly people who are not members of the Zoomgeoise. Politicians ordered businesses and schools closed, and people to remain at home. Many in the Zoomgeoise cheered self-righteously about the great merit of the resulting reduction in Covid risks. (Forget here that other risks were largely ignored.) Able to work from home and have restaurant meals and groceries delivered (or packaged for “socially distanced” pick-up), the Zoomgeoise offloaded most of the cost of lockdowns mostly on working-class people.
“We are avoiding externalities!” shouted smug Zoomgeoise intellectuals – unaware of, or indifferent to, the costs that they and the tyrants whose authoritarian actions they cheered on were unleashing far greater external costs on millions of innocent people.
The Covid lockdowns were, and are, an unforgivable crime against humanity.