Is it Safe? — Summary

Risk is in the eye of the beholder and that’s a big problem

Fans of true horror will know the cryptic line from the 1976 movie Marathon Man: Is it safe?

Hoffman’s character Babe can make no sense of the question at all, even with the extreme prompt of an anesthesia-free dental exam. He does understand immediately, however, that he is not safe in any way and that his very life is at risk.

The current social panic, triggered by a pathogen that we can neither taste nor see, and carried by virtually anyone, friend or foe, is reminiscent of this movie.

This is the social downside of this health emergency: how we perceive risk in the world and how we then treat others in light of that perception.

Here in Vancouver, where I live, we are urged by the public health authorities to “be kind”. That is great advice in even normal times, but sadly seems to be ignored by many in today’s environment.

Rather, there is a deep seated desire to insult, shame and condemn others, to force them to comport with the other person’s self-defined mode of acceptable behavior.

These social hall monitors are not wrong in thinking that there is risk out there. Their mistake is rather in thinking that it is dangerous everywhere.

In actual fact, on a day to day basis, we cope with risk in the world by being wary and by judging it according to circumstances. Risk assessment is a spectrum of possibilities, not an on-off button labelled safe or deadly.

This article takes that sensible approach to risk assessment — targeted, measured, and matched against reality — and rates how governments have done during this crisis.

It also offers a way out of this mess, which is completely a function of our state of mind:

We simply have to accept the risk of the pandemic, in the same way that we accept other public health risks (like illness, suicides, and car accidents).

In answer to the question: Is it safe?

No, it is never safe … but we go on with our lives anyway.

The full article is found here.



I am the CEO at Veras Inc and an expert in global markets, economics, and public policy

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Mark Mullins

I am the CEO at Veras Inc and an expert in global markets, economics, and public policy