Information and Ambiguity

Anyone who is absolutely sure of what all the effects of different policies will be probably hasn’t looked at the facts.

I am starting this blog as a place where I can put my thoughts on the current pandemic and the people making policy during the pandemic. I love numbers and statistics, and except for the death toll, they aren’t that easy to find in most TV news stories or even in newspapers. When you do find a lot of statistics, they have already been curated in such a way that they further the author’s agenda and they always leave me wanting to know more. Most of my statistical sources are out of datasets from the Office of National Statistics and I will give the sources so that it’s easier for you to make up your own mind.

I, like everyone else, am susceptible to scary stories. I have a sort of cognitive dissonance, in that I can read the facts and tell myself that it’s extraordinarily unlikely that my 26-year-old son is going to die from COVID-19, but my Irish superstition stops me from suggesting that he resume his Lyft job for fear that I might be wrong. I’ve spent a good deal of my life understanding that the odds of something bad happening are extremely low but being sure that it will happen. But that’s not how policy should be being made. The BBC, where I get most of my television news, is heavy on anecdote and light on serious scientific and statistical information. For every 2 minutes that are spent on a study in Bonn, Germany that finally gets at the true underlying rate of death of the virus, something rather important, there are 15 minutes of interviews with grieving people who are, of course, sad that their loved ones have died. Or scared people who don’t want to go back to work. Or happy people cheering the latest 101-year-old who made it out of hospital after contracting the virus.

This blog will be an attempt to present facts and discuss possible solutions to what now seem like intractable problems. Since we learn something new every day, I’ll attempt to write about some of the newsworthy bits of information that are buried under all the propaganda. It will not be an attack on Donald Trump or Boris Johnson, but I will discuss things that are happening in both countries.

I had thought about doing this before the pandemic hit, because I wanted to respond to an increasingly polarized and emotional public discussion. The pandemic focused me on this one overwhelming issue, but I may discuss other issues as well as we finally come out of this. Certainly, the economy will be a topic for discussion for a long time.

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