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Bonus Quotation of the Day…

Summary:
… is from page 5 of Cass Sunstein’s superb 2005 book, Laws of Fear: Human beings, cultures, nations often single out one or a few social risks as “salient,” and ignore the others. DBx: Yes. What Sunstein here describes is called by behavioral economists the “availability heuristic.” It is defined by Wikipedia as “a mental shortcut that relies on immediate examples that come to a given person’s mind when evaluating a specific topic, concept, method or decision.” With the media, 24/7, bombarding people’s eyes and ears with reports of rising Covid-19 case counts and (“with-“)Covid fatality rates, and with photos of Covid patients in hospitals, it’s difficult for people to think of much else – including the unreported fatalities, health problems, and misery caused by the lockdowns.

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… is from page 5 of Cass Sunstein’s superb 2005 book, Laws of Fear:

Bonus Quotation of the Day…Human beings, cultures, nations often single out one or a few social risks as “salient,” and ignore the others.

DBx: Yes. What Sunstein here describes is called by behavioral economists the “availability heuristic.” It is defined by Wikipedia as “a mental shortcut that relies on immediate examples that come to a given person’s mind when evaluating a specific topic, concept, method or decision.”

With the media, 24/7, bombarding people’s eyes and ears with reports of rising Covid-19 case counts and (“with-“)Covid fatality rates, and with photos of Covid patients in hospitals, it’s difficult for people to think of much else – including the unreported fatalities, health problems, and misery caused by the lockdowns.

Writing the above prompts me to wonder where are the behavioral economists these days. Surely there’s much to research, and much on which to opine, regarding the reporting on Covid and on the lockdowns, as well as on the public’s reactions to these events. I’d welcome some input here from behavioral economists. Surely there’s a plausible case to be made that the public’s reaction to Covid is excessive, and that this excess is driven by the same psychological quirks that behavioral economists are quick to point to when criticizing free markets.

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Don Boudreaux
He is a professor of economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Previously, he was president of the Foundation for Economic Education.

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