Saturday, November 21, 2020

Cui Bono?

      It's Latin, but it's also horse-sense: if someone urges a course of action and you suspect their motive, ask yourself, "What's in it for them?" -- And don't stop at the surface; keep digging.

      It's a useful tool, especially when looking at rules or edicts that seem arbitrary.  "Lasers In Use.  Eye Protection Required" is pretty self-explanatory.*  You benefit from it, having been given fair warning of the hazard and how to mitigate it.  But so does whoever owns the lasers, by not getting sued into poverty by injured people they failed to warn.

      We're into a big increase in COVID-19 infections, with a corresponding increase in hospitalizations and deaths; while survivability is up, it's still not great.† States and cities are starting to tighten restrictions, some with fines for failure to wear masks, some with limitations on occupancy for public businesses, some with closure of non-essential business and "stay-home" orders.‡  And this occasions no little resentment -- c'mon, nobody likes this; I'd swap your eyeteeth for a couple hours browsing in a decent bookstore, just about now -- and some wild speculation.

      It's that speculation that concerns me.  When case rates or postivity rates rise** and state or city governments ramp up restrictions in an effort to reduce transmission of the virus, plenty of people will claim an ulterior motive.  If pressed, they tend to say it's a "power grab," and bring up the very real harm done to small and independent businesses.

     Power to do what, exactly, and what do they get out of it?  Mayors and Governors aren't notably stupid, and business groups are very active at lobbying.  Your Mayor's probably got a favorite barbecue joint, too, and a bar he or she likes.  They eat pretty much the same food you do, from the same sources, and if things start to fall apart, they might not get as hungry as you do, or as quickly, but they won't be eating high off the hog.  If they break the economy, they go down with it.  A falling tide lowers all boats -- and tends to sink political ambitions with it.  Just ask Herbert Hoover and a whole slew of Republicans during the Great Depression.

     It's fun to mutter darkly about "tyrants," but what we've really got are befuddled schmucks-in-office, doing their best to keep their jobs afloat by striving to keep the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic from boiling completely over.  If they could come up with any way to limit the spread other than mask requirements and crowd-size limits, they'd be on it like a duck on a June bug, and spend the next month bragging about to the press.

     It's a real pandemic.  It's got a high death toll.  We still don't have any better control measures than they did for the 1917 - 20 influenza pandemic, but they work much better than doing nothing.  Vaccines are six to eight months away, and we can either mask up and get through that time or be dragged through it, kicking and screaming.  
* Especially the alternative form, "Do Not Look Into Laser Beam With Remaining Eye."
† I keep encountering people touting a "99% survival rate" as if that was a wonderfully good statistic.  Look, if commercial air travel had a 99% survival rate, they'd have one death for every three flights.  (39 passengers on the average flight these days.)  What fool would board a plane with odds like that?  When broadcasting first got IT people, they'd boast of their 99% uptime...until we pointed out that if 99% uptime was all we could achieve in Engineering, we'd be out of a job: that's more than three and a half days off the air every year. 
‡ None of which actually require citizens to stay home!  If you need to get groceries or the like, you are free to do so; if you'd like to walk the dog, go for a drive or even visit a public park, that's okay, even in the states with the strictest rules.  What you can't do is go stand cheek-by-jowl with strangers, especially indoors.  Yes, the public baths are right out at present and your gym may be closed for the duration.
** At this writing, Indianapolis/Marion County has a positivity rate of 13.5% and it is trending upwards.


rickn8or said...

|I'd swap your eyeteeth for a couple hours browsing..."

Love the most careful phrasing of that and fully appreciate the sentiment.

Matt said...

I can still go to Half Price, but the selection is down as the stock turnover is lower.

What I don't get is the equation of mask wearing and civil liberties. There's enough places you don't have to wear one; don't go there. Have food or Target or books delivered after buying online, and you can be by yourself much of the time and not have to wear the dreaded masks.

I don't like them much either, but I don't see it as that big a sacrifice. YMMV, apparently.

Roberta X said...

Matt, I don't mind wearing a mask; what I mind are the anti-makers who sidle up close and breathe heavily to make a point. I mind the children of uncertain habits and hygiene, sneezing on books and strangers.

Until this thing is under control, the only in-person shopping I will do is shopping for fresh food, and that no more than I have to. Too many people think they don't have to take precautions to not spread infection.