When it comes to figuring out a solution to the global pandemic that is COVID-19, our experts would be well served to listen to the wisdom of crowds. That’s especially true if the experts were privy to your pandemic solutions, with “your” being the nearly 300 respondents to last week’s survey on how best to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
Recall that in last week’s issue of The Deep Woods, I asked for your opinion on this issue, and you did not disappoint. The response was overwhelming and far more than I had anticipated. So before we dig into the detailed results, I want to thank those who took the time to complete the survey.
I am both honored and profoundly humbled that you would spend time interacting with me here. The way I see it, a person’s time is the most precious of all commodities. That means your choice to spend time engaging with me and your fellow readers also is precious to me, and I will always hold that choice as a sacred bond to be respected and honored.
Now, here’s a recap of the questions I asked in the survey:
Which of the following statements best describes your view of how best to deal with the coronavirus pandemic:
1) Hard Quarantine. This pandemic is serious enough to justify the government imposing an economic lockdown, closing schools, restaurants, gyms, concerts, conventions, travel, and non-essential businesses.
2) The Middle Ground. This pandemic is serious, justifying the wearing of masks, social distancing, limitations on large gatherings, but without closing businesses, schools, restaurants and travel.
3) Laissez-Faire Position. This pandemic is not that serious, and should have been handled by individuals, institutions and businesses deciding for themselves how to respond without government mandates.
4) None of the above reflects my views.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of respondents chose option “2) The Middle Ground.” I say not surprisingly, because based on the best scientific consensus information we have, this middle ground position does seem to be an eminently rational choice. Option 2 was chosen by 65% of respondents.
Of course, for free thinkers and those with a more libertarian orientation (like myself) Option “3) Laissez-Faire Position” also has a lot of appeal. That response captured 25% of those who took the survey, and it was here where I found some very interesting comments sent in by readers.
Only 5% of respondents were in favor of option “1) Hard Quarantine.” The remaining 5% of respondents chose option “4) None of the above,” but many of those respondents wrote in to say they either favored a hybrid position between option 1 and 2, or as one reader put it, “My view is 1.5.”
My own response is also reflective of the majority of opinions here, and it is a combination of options 2 and 3.
Here is my own response to the survey, the one that I sent to Dr. Mark Skousen when he originally sent me the survey questions:
“I would say somewhere between 2 and 3. 2 In the sense that I think it is serious, especially for vulnerable individuals. I have no issues with the social distancing and large gatherings limits. However, I am more in the 3 camp in that I think people, not government, should be deciding for themselves how to rationally respond to a medical situation.”
My thoughts on this matter were very similar to a number of respondents. For example, one reader wrote the following:
“The prescriptions in the Middle Ground should be guidelines, not mandates. We need to restrict the power of the state to declare emergencies and usurp powers. Any such declaration should be very temporary and require legislative approval to extend.”
I concur with this assessment, as did many other respondents. Some took that view a step further and were much more libertarian:
“This is less serious than the annual flu and the results are less than deaths due to legal prescriptions. The restrictions imposed are preparing us to be controlled.”
One reader who favored the Hard Quarantine used this valid point to support their selection:
“We have tried the Middle Ground and Laissez-Faire and we still have cases and deaths increasing.”
While cases and deaths continue to rise in some areas of the country, I think a hard quarantine at this point would do more damage to the economy than Americans could handle. As one reader put it:
“I think it’s nearly criminal the damage that has been done to the economy. Having said that, I can see the benefit in following some logical guidelines.”
I agree with that assessment as well, although I am sympathetic to the notion that a true hard quarantine at the beginning of the pandemic would have reduced the number of cases substantially, and that would have likely put us in a better position to deal with the virus now. Of course, we can never know that for certain.
Here’s yet another very good reader comment that I received on the issue of businesses and government shutdowns:
“I think businesses should be smart enough to figure out what they need to do to safely service their customers, particularly restaurants. The government has no right to shut down restaurants.”
The reason why I like this response is because it reflects my views that businesses, and individuals, are smart enough to figure out solutions to this, and just about any other, problem we face.
Indeed, figuring out solutions to problems is what human beings do best. That is, in fact, the one thing we do better than any other species — and that is why we are the dominant species on Earth.
It is my opinion that our ability to come up with creative solutions to problems, even problems as gigantic as a global pandemic, is what makes our species so beautiful, and so successful.
It is this creativity that is going to get us through this pandemic, and back to the upward slope of progress that Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker calls the “Enlightenment Now” era.
Finally, once again, a huge thank you to those who participated in the survey and who have helped me gain a deeper sense of enlightenment on this crucial issue of our time. It’s proof positive that there is indeed a “wisdom of crowds,” provided that the “crowds” are as smart as The Deep Woods readers.
The True Measure of Wisdom
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
Okay, I have a joke for you. It’s one that I call the “Buddhist hot dog vendor.”
Man: “Can I get two hot dogs with mustard?”
Buddhist Vendor: “Sure, that will be $16.”
The man hands the Buddhist vendor a $20 bill, and the Buddhist Vendor puts the money in his pocket, and then just stands there quietly. After about a minute of uncomfortable and silent inaction, the Man asks the Buddhist Vendor: “Can I please have my change?”
The Buddhist Vendor pauses for a moment, then replies: “My son, change only comes from within.”
Ok, once you’ve stopped laughing, you can start to see the actual lesson in this joke. That lesson is that “change” in the personal sense can only occur inside an individual. And as the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi writes, undertaking the project of changing from within is the true measure of wisdom.
Wisdom about money, investing and life can be found anywhere. If you have a good quote that you’d like me to share with your fellow readers, send it to me, along with any comments, questions and suggestions you have about my newsletters, seminars or anything else. Click here to ask Jim.
In the name of the best within us,