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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 405 of the 2016 second edition of Thomas Sowell’s splendid volume Wealth, Poverty and Politics:

Something similar sometimes happened in medieval Europe, when epidemics struck. When the rate of infection and death was noticeably lower among Jews than among Gentiles, demagogues were able to convince some people that Jews must somehow be behind the epidemic and were sparing themselves. Where enough people believed this story, it could lead to mass violence against Jews. What no one knew at the time was that unseen microorganisms were the cause of these epidemics. Because Jewish religious practices required them to pray before every meal and, since they could not go before God with dirty hands, they also had to wash their hands before every meal. Neither Jews nor Gentiles knew about germs at this point but their cultural differences had serious consequences in their susceptibility to communicable diseases.

These were neither the first nor the last times when statistical disparities led people to conclusions about villainy being the cause. False assumptions as to causation are more than intellectual errors, and their consequences go far beyond economic losses.

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