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Robin Givhan Should Read Ronald Coase

Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:


Robin Givhan too quickly describes airline passengers’ joyous reaction to the news of no longer having to wear masks as “childish and selfish” (“Whoops of selfish delight,” April 20).

Why is it childish to enjoy the liberty to assess and choose risks individually rather than be compelled to abide by one-size-fits-all diktats of politically motivated bureaucrats? Why is it selfish to celebrate the freedom to travel and interact with others normally, without breathing obstructed, eyeglasses befogged, voices muffled, and facial expressions shrouded?

It won’t do – as Givhan inevitably does – to insist that your mask-wearing is a benefit to fellow passengers. Contrary to popular belief, evidence of the effectiveness of masks at preventing covid’s spread is, at best, ambiguous. More significantly, since Monday’s ruling it appears that most passengers prefer to travel unmasked – which explains why major airlines, who have strong incentives to correctly gauge their customers’ preferences, immediately announced that they’d no longer require mask-wearing.

Because of natural immunity, vaccination, or simply not being elderly or severely ill, most people are now at very little risk of suffering from covid. It’s neither childish nor selfish for the majority of passengers to welcome the return to normality, while leaving to the relatively small number of people still at risk from covid – or whose fear of this disease remains irrationally intense – the individual responsibility for choosing whether or not to fly and, if so, whether or not to wear masks.

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