Thanks DJ for a very well-reasoned and thoughtful article. I suspect, however, that you’re implicitly granting a larger role to reason than is warranted. The underlying assumption in your article seems to be that people will need to consider salient factors throughout the c-19 panic in order to arrive at sensible decision-making. But history, and today’s much-hyped hysteria, shows clearly that we human lack entirely the ability to perform such mental exercises. We are hardwired by evolution to be herd animals, unthinkingly conforming to whatever happen to be the group’s norms du jour. The reason so many nations are now practicing “social distancing” (which is really “regard everyone else as an existential threat” which is absurd and dangerous) is because the mass media is bombarding people with scare stories. When we see one country succumbing to panic and hear endless repetitions of “flatten the curve” we panic and demand our own authorities do the same thing. Those authorities then react, because no politician can afford to appear as if they are not “doing something” to protect us. And then, because we’ve just done something, the media reports breathlessly on the fact and increases the fear and panic. It’s a self-reinforcing cycle.

The way the c-19 lockdown will end is therefore not going to be predicated on data, reason, or a balanced assessment of risk-versus-benefit. It’s going to happen when a sufficient number of people get cabin fever. At that point, popular sentiment will change. The mass media will see the opportunity for refreshing what will have by then become a stale story. Now we’ll see endless coverage of suicides because of confinement, starvation because of confinement, and various voices raised to say that lockdown is causing more harm than good. A significant percentage of people will respond to this new group norm (as promulgated by the mass media and social media) and governments will react accordingly.

That’s how lockdown will end: not because of careful and rational calculation but because of groupthink. Which is how we arrived at the current hysteria-driven situation in the first place.

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