What I fail to understand is what in the world leads you to believe that people routinely make wise decisions using facts and intelligence.

Behavioral economics. The studies on this are extensive and won Thaler a Nobel Prize.

I’ll sum up Thaler’s work. Traditional econ assumes that people make rational, fact based decisions if given access to unbiased data. Thaler’s work added a lot of “asterisks” to this simple posit but did not refute the basic premise. Put another way, people make rational economic decisions, but there are a lot of peripheral issues that cloud that process and make purely rational decisions difficult. For example, the entire purpose of “marketing” and “advertising” is to induce people to make decisions on an irrational basis rather than rational ones.

You can read through the article if you like. However, I think what is more germane to this discussion is the fact that the term “stupid” has been watered down over the last few decades to mean “I disagree with you.” We sling the word around without meaning.

It’s in every way irrational and yet tens of millions of Americans choose to do this their whole lives.

Hmmmm…….isn’t the problem laziness and personal pleasure, as opposed to stupidity?

And most people simply don’t have the learning to understand statistical reasoning at all — which is completely essential to make an educated choice about epidemiology. As a sometime educator in mathematics myself, I believe that America has let their schoolchildren down by leaving most of them innumerate and even hostile to numbers.

I completely agree with that. Thaler mentions that as one of the difficulties in making fact-based decisions. We just don’t think statistically.

Heck, 40% of Americans believe that God created the Earth within the last ten thousand years. These aren’t people who value critical thinking or rationality — why would someone who believed such madness have the skills for good decision-making?

Although I acknowledge this point, I would have to mention that people tend to compartmentalize their religious thoughts from the rest of their life. I don’t hold to any creationist concepts myself, since Islam does not require that sort of literalistic belief in the Torah, but as a theist, it wouldn’t take long for us to find something I believe in religiously that has no rational basis. This has not caused me any issues in my career or extrareligious personal life. That said, it doesn’t disturb me that a lot of people are creationists.

However, we’re getting a little far afield from the situation at hand, which is the pandemic. In this case, there is fact-based, rational data which can support BOTH the “shut in” and the “measured re-opening” positions. The two “sides” in this debate have of course become politicized to some extent (not good) but that doesn’t negate the fact that both positions can defend themselves with data.


Free markets, free minds. Question all narratives. If you think one political party is right and the other party is evil, the problem with our politics is you.