Potemkin Planet: Summary

A fake front will not protect us from imaginary fears

Exaggerated fears of coronavirus are based on a perception, but not the reality, of risk.

Our social response is saturated with these fears and is out of step with today’s situation.

We need to remove restrictions on personal contact in proportion to the real risk.

Here in Vancouver, Canada, where I live, we are fully engaged (as are many others on this planet) in the newest innovation in human social behavior: the Reverse Potemkin.

The original Potemkin village dates from Czarist times, when the Russian Empress toured Crimea and was greeted with spanking clean dwellings and robust inhabitants at every stop, none of which or whom were authentic.

This deception was used by local Governor Grigory Potemkin to cover up the potential damage from knowledge of the much less attractive on-the-ground situation.

Whether myth or fact, everything was dressed up for success, the locals were in on the gag, and the only fool was Catherine the Great.

Today, with the Reverse Potemkin, everyone is dressed for distress, it’s not a laughing matter, and we are unwittingly fooling only ourselves.

All of us are standing six feet apart, changing our behaviors, deforming our institutions, and staring crossly at each other from behind unnecessary masks, in places where there is probably no coronavirus to be spread.

That is especially true here in British Columbia, where with less than a dozen new cases each day in a province of over 5 million people, the only virus is in the lungs of a few unfortunates. The rest of the terrain is bone dry.

In other words, the pandemic in this province right now is absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, it could be described as an extremely low risk situation, almost worth ignoring.

We would know this is also true for vast expanses of the US, Europe, and many Asian countries (but not as yet in other places like Russia, Brazil, and the Indian subcontinent), if only we could see the virus with our own eyes.

Alas, we cannot, but that does not stop us from very clearly visualizing the threat in our mind’s eye.

And that is the essential social problem of our time: exaggerated fears based on a perception, but not the reality, of risk.

So, what should be done?

The answer is not complicated, but it is controversial and probably unpopular.

Given the negligible risk, orders of magnitudes below other lethal threats in BC, we should remove all public health orders to social interaction and resume our normal lives.

We have had months now to educate ourselves about the virus and only the citizenry at large can determine the extent to which we resume normality.

Remove the prohibitions and let the market work.

Who knows, maybe if a few brave souls come together and do not fall into contagion, we can all muster the courage to demand safety, convenience, practical measures, and common sense, all at the same time, Potemkin be damned.

The full article can be found here.

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