Author Topic: Risk Aversion and the road to conflict  (Read 4462 times)

TheDrake

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Risk Aversion and the road to conflict
« on: November 30, 2020, 09:35:43 PM »
I've been thinking about this a lot in the context of coronavirus measures and people's reactions to it, and I'm starting to think that there's a much broader source of conflict and misunderstanding that relates to the fact that different people have different levels of risk tolerance.

Risk tolerant people look at risk averse people, and think "Man, these people sure are dumb. They don't understand that their fear is limiting their opportunity, and reducing their enjoyment of their lives."

Risk averse people look at risk tolerant people, and think "Man, these people are stupid. They don't understand the odds of success versus failure, and they are setting themselves up to ruin their lives."

I'm reminded of reading "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" where the author basically disparages anyone who just wants to earn a decent living with low risk. He has a lot more to say, some of it is good advice, but it is the entrepreneurial mindset that leads people to do things a risk averse person would consider utterly stupid. Things like maxing out personal credit cards, taking out maximum equity from their house, quitting good paying jobs.

Then risk averse people, who invest in government bonds, buy various forms of insurance, and hold on to a job they don't like rather than step out on a limb.

We hear things from the risk tolerant people about covid. "99.9% of people recover from covid. You can't live in fear."

From risk averse people, we hear about the threat of 2 million Americans dead. They say (almost said "we say" because I am risk averse) we have to focus on the worst case scenarios.

Both groups think that the other side is composed of idiots, and that they are just not informed.

What if the majority of both groups are actually operating from the same understanding, but there is just that one multiplier based on their view of risk that flips the ultimate analysis?

Nobody gets upset when some person decides to climb out on a crane to get a cool picture, because if they fall off the thing and die, it has no impact on the risk averse person shaking their head. Likewise, nobody really gets upset at somebody who decides to keep all their money in an FDIC savings account. Caveat - unless you have a close personal relationship with the person involved.

But in this situation, with covid restrictions, the conflict is immediate and dramatic because the risks and measures are collective. If the risk tolerant person doesn't wear a mask or throws a birthday party with 100 people present, it effectively forces that risk on the risk averse person. Meanwhile, if the risk averse person seeks to force their measures on the risk tolerant person, it is having a dramatic effect on their outcomes as well.

Does this make sense, or should everyone just consider everyone in the other group stupid?

Seriati

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Re: Risk Aversion and the road to conflict
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2020, 12:49:08 AM »
I've been thinking about this a lot in the context of coronavirus measures and people's reactions to it, and I'm starting to think that there's a much broader source of conflict and misunderstanding that relates to the fact that different people have different levels of risk tolerance.

I think that's part of it, but it's colored through many people truly being terrible judges of actual risk but great judges of personal inconvenience (and selfish to boot), coupled with enormous media/political pressure and misinformation, coupled with our actual leaders sometimes serving political goals ahead of science, sometimes misunderstanding science and always being opaque. 

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Both groups think that the other side is composed of idiots, and that they are just not informed.

Well, both groups are right about that, plenty of idiots to go round, and almost no one is actually well informed, even the educated can't get good information because of the coloring that goes on.  I mean look at hydroxychloroquine (or however you spell it), or the "risks" of the vaccine.  Enough misinformation - even if well intended, a bunch of it is not well intended - creates a basis for everyone to believe whatever it is they want to believe and have "proof" that they are right and the other side is a bunch of idiots.  Five years from now, they may be able to go back and see where there was a mistake, but will they?  And even if they do they just rewrite history to make it so that they were always right (e.g., take a look back at how many people were "always" against the Iraq War, because it was "obvious" that there were no WMDs - talk about a hindsight revision). 

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What if the majority of both groups are actually operating from the same understanding, but there is just that one multiplier based on their view of risk that flips the ultimate analysis?

Then the picture would look completely different.  Risk takers rarely take insane gambles, sure they may play Roulette, but it's someone with a problem that bets their house on a single number (they may bet their House on Black on the other hand).  Similarly, it's only the insanely risk adverse that can't bring themselves to set a spending limit and play till they lose their $200 for the night.  Most people are able to gravitate towards games where they aren't incompetent and feel fairly comfortable. 

Same thing here.  If they all had good information, the results would look something like say getting Chemo for cancer.  Some people will opt not to get the Chemo (and the certainty of sickness and side effects) but rarely just because they're betting they'll spontaneously get better.  Occasionally you might find someone interested in pre-emptive Chemo - just in case  they have a cancer that doesn't show on tests - but again that's a pretty rare group. 

The problem is that we didn't have good information about COVID initially and every new update is filtered through politics.  So for example, it seemed prudent to close schools last spring, yet it turns out that this was most likely not necessary to protect the kids and even not all that helpful overall with severe consequences to both the educational development of the children and our ability to maintain a functioning economy.  The consequences are still reverberating and you're seeing politicians of both stripes making decisions that can't be supported with actual science but that represent caving in to one interest group or another.

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Nobody gets upset when some person decides to climb out on a crane to get a cool picture, because if they fall off the thing and die, it has no impact on the risk averse person shaking their head. Likewise, nobody really gets upset at somebody who decides to keep all their money in an FDIC savings account. Caveat - unless you have a close personal relationship with the person involved.

Actually both those people tick me off.  The former because they're the reason everything is over insured and over restricted, we can't truest anyone to do anything sensible, and the latter because they're a big part of the reason we continue to have generational poverty and people  that can't afford to retire.  Effectively both those groups end up costing the rest us.

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But in this situation, with covid restrictions, the conflict is immediate and dramatic because the risks and measures are collective. If the risk tolerant person doesn't wear a mask or throws a birthday party with 100 people present, it effectively forces that risk on the risk averse person.

See that's what I'm saying though, that's not just a "risk tolerant" person, that's a reckless and selfish person.  Being risk tolerant or even a risk taker is not the same thing as being stupid.  The risk tolerant person, even the risk taker, generally still wears a mask.  The risk tolerant person still went to meetings - socially distant - and got on planes even in the height of the pandemic (hey the doctors said its safe).  The Risk seeker may have used the COVID lockdown as a pick up line - why don't we quarantine together, they went to parties when asked, and were happy to go mask less with friends.  But even they didn't go to COVID parties (which some college kids in fact did do).

They kept their businesses open, but they kept current on the latest COVID fighting measures, they were the first to endorse the outdoor seating and the first to go.

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Meanwhile, if the risk averse person seeks to force their measures on the risk tolerant person, it is having a dramatic effect on their outcomes as well.

Yes it does, when someone decides to shut down a state's entire economy to save just one life, it's a special kind of stupid.  That's the equivalent of the crazy ass risk taker you started describing.  When despite the science showing the damage to kids of closing schools vastly outweighs the risks they still close the schools because "any risk is too much," and somehow the risk adversion doesn't seem to trigger off of the known harms that are balancing the scale. 

A real risk adverse individual is not dumb.  Sure they don't want to take chances when they don't have to, but they understand bad bets.  If suicide rates increase by more than COVID deaths they make a change in policy, they don't foolish insist on the greater harm because of fear (of course they start looking for "long term harms" to push back towards where they feel comfortable, but not to the avoidance of facts).

At it's base, both the risk adverse and the risk tolerant would take a bet where $1 has a 50% chance of winning $10, and neither takes the bet where $10 has a 50% chance of winning $1.  You'd expect they go opposite ways on a 50/50 double your money bet, though honestly even the risk tolerant may bail on those odds and the risk adverse take them depending on stakes.

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Does this make sense, or should everyone just consider everyone in the other group stupid?

Alright I know I said both groups are stupid above, but what I really meant is ignorant.  I think most people really do mean well and try to make sense of the world, they just don't have the brain power, the educational and logical tools and the ability to find real information in a morass of misinformation written and directed by generally very smart people for specific purposes.

I think if you believe in science you have to hold to that even if you're risk adverse.  And you have to consider the odds and the stakes and not make stupid bets even if you're risk tolerant, particularly when you remember that other people are staking you in a pandemic situation.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2020, 12:51:21 AM by Seriati »

Fenring

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Re: Risk Aversion and the road to conflict
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2020, 01:03:19 AM »
Hard to answer this question because it's not clear to me that these two groups map onto the COVID demographics. For instance I would strongly suspect that COVID-concern is more a left-wing thing, whereas "takes my chances" is more a right-wing attitude. That is what I see on my social media anyhow. But when it comes to risk aversion I am not sure that right vs left wing mentalities map onto who is more or less entrepreneurial. Looking at big CEO's or industry giants who made it big, I'm not sure it skews in either direction although I could be wrong. But the kind of nut/dreamer who will take big risks is the same demographic as 'that guy who's always got a scheme or new idea' (in combination with high-octane work horses). For every success there are a ton of failures you don't hear about, and you don't think of them as risk-takers because they never got off the ground; risk-taking in business tends to be something you attribute to people who successfully took risks. So I find the area messy to try to apply to COVID.

And then there's probably a divide between people personally scared for their skin (let's call them nervous) versus people concerned about the community; and the converse of those two axes is those who don't recognize danger to themselves, and those who believe the community has no business telling them what to do. So there's the personal well-being vs collective well-being axis. You probably can map those who think of society as a collective with the left; 'what do *we* need to do'. So that's a left/right divide on that front, not so much a risk averse vs risk-taking divide. Risk-taker or not, I suspect you'll find most people enthusiastic about either lockdowns, mandatory mask-wearing, and other such measures, as more left-leaning people. The "I take my own chances" attitude when it comes to personal safety seems to be a right-wing attitude. Left-leaning people would tend more to view that kind of attitude as destructive to the group, so even the risk-takers among them would probably not condone risk-taking when it endangers the collective.

But putting aside who is in which group, I think there's an asymmetry in the risk-taking vs safe bet groups even when it comes to things like personal safety or finances. For instance in the economic sphere the win/fail condition is mitigated by legal safety nets such as limited liability; you can fail big-time and not lose that much, whereas winning can make you win big. You can often afford to fail multiple times to try to chance one big win. In fact it is even possible to make money off of failure. So from that perspective it's not an even match of "do you risk it all" versus "play it safe." On the personal safety front (and I would have to consult an insurance lawyer or adjustor to be sure of this) I suspect that likewise there's an asymmetry of attitude, where those who pay it forward in risk aversion (either by slow savings, or buying insurance, or things like that) would likely be content with their choice even if you told them they missed a sure bet in the market and are getting screwed on their interest return, or that they've never made an insurance claim after 20 years; whereas those who scoffed at insurance previously are probably more likely to cry foul when they are the ones getting hammered. I view this as similar to people who are against single payer insurance on principle and don't think about all the people who get crushed as a result of being uninsured (under the assumption it will never be them). So often there is a kind of acceptance in the case of risk-aversion that is eyes open, whereas there can be a blindness associated with pretending the risk won't destroy you (but obviously this isn't always the case). I suppose from the perspective of a hardcore risk-taker accepting a meager return on investment would be a kind of blindness, I guess. Of course that's assuming the point of life is to make maximum money.

 
Hm, did I go off-topic?

Grant

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Re: Risk Aversion and the road to conflict
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2020, 11:21:37 AM »
I'm not sure if risk aversion is really playing a part here.  Traditionally, conservatives are seen as being the more risk adverse group, both psychologically and philosophically.  Some conservatives have embraced that characterization, making prudence a high virtue of conservatism. 

Yet in this particular case, it appears that liberals/progressives are more risk adverse than the conservatives.  This is not a blanket statement.  It's an overgeneralization, but I believe it holds. 

This leads me to the conclusion that tribalism generally trumps all other psychological or philosophical drivers for much of the American people.  Conservatives in this case are more risk tolerant in some cases because their thought leaders are telling them that the risk is small and not to worry.  At the same time, the other side, the "main stream media", and Democratic politicians in general, are being more risk adverse.  That in itself is reason enough for most of them in this case to be more risk tolerant. 

That being said, there is another factor involved that I think has been touched on.  That is the difference between risk for a particular individual vs the risk to the population as a whole.  The funny bit is how this also flips the traditional view of conservatism and liberalism, and I think is very telling in the major changes between the parties over the last 40 or so years. 

For a particular individual, especially if they are between the ages of 18 to 60, and if they have no co-morbidities, then the risk really is very very low for them.  That is a completely accurate reading of the risk to the individual to say that they have only a 1 in 1000 or 1 in 10,000 chance of dying from COVID 19.  Yet if they lose their job, they could lose their house or have to go on food stamps.  It's a perfectly accurate individual risk assessment for them to say that the greater risk for them is shut-down. 

But for the community as a whole, the risk is extremely high, particular for those over 60.  A 1% case fatality rate applied to 50% of the American population means over 1,000,000 dead.  That's a huge number.  That's a real disaster, whether it is striking "non-productive" people or not.  That's the total amount of deaths the United States suffered from the Civil War and WWI combined.  It's more than the Spanish Flu of 1918.  The cost would not be measured in just lives, but in economic terms and political terms as well.  No politician could survive such a death toll if people believe it could be mitigated. 

The funny thing here is that again, the traditional views of the conservatives and liberals are switched.  Traditionally, the conservatives have been more philosophically interested in the community as a whole, and still are in some ways, than the liberals. You can see this better in conservative cultures worldwide, such as in Asian and middle-eastern cultures.  But in the last 10-30 years, the Republican party has begun to skew back toward individual rights.  This is partly due to the fact that the United States was founded upon traditional liberal values.  An American conservative is expected to be more leftward than a Japanese or Chinese conservative. 


Fenring

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Re: Risk Aversion and the road to conflict
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2020, 11:30:24 AM »
Traditionally, the conservatives have been more philosophically interested in the community as a whole, and still are in some ways, than the liberals. You can see this better in conservative cultures worldwide, such as in Asian and middle-eastern cultures.

I could see the argument that conservative small-town life is really community minded, but that may be simply because of the overlap between rural people and conservatism. In other words, it's more likely that any rural person would be more community minded, and it so happens to be the case that these are mostly conservatives, but it's not because they are conservatives.

When you get into Asia I don't think this maps very well, because although they are community minded I see that mindedness as being drilled in from the top-down. It's a very hierarchical kind of mentality, where you do what you're told by those at the top. From that standpoint it won't map onto the American conservative very well, even though socially speaking we might call Asian communities rather conservative (especially in regards to views on homosexuality, personal comportment, etc). But the belief in following the central command structure seems to me more a left-wing thing in America as regards social systems, even tough ironically there is an anti-structure element in left-wing philosophy. And when you look at conservatives, you probably find a split where some are the "no one can tell me what to do" crowd and the "bow down to power" crowd who are super pro-military and think it's treasonous to question the government. There are other types of people, but the extreme divide between these two alone among conservatives seems to me to show that the Asian countries don't really have a good direct analogy in America.

Grant

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Re: Risk Aversion and the road to conflict
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2020, 11:48:54 AM »
From that standpoint it won't map onto the American conservative very well,

As I said, you can't really compare an American conservative to a Chinese or Indian conservative. 

BUT, I think it is important to look at some of the changes in American conservatism over the last 80 years.  Post-war conservatism saw a massive change, from paleo-conservatism to the emergence of neo-conservatism.  Eisenhower conservatives were anchored by military veterans from the war and interwar periods.  There was a massive change in opinion when it came to government works.  These individuals had all seen government operations bear success during the war.  They had a different view of government hierarchy.  Liberals during this period were generally the opposite.  You had beatnik and protest and anti-war culture.  The neo-conservative view during this period was to generally look at the larger picture, not just locally, but globally.  That's why y'all love to call them "globalists", etc. 

The conservatives eventually began to rebel against Eisenhower and Nixon type conservatism beginning with Goldwater and Reagan.  But these were still globalists, generally speaking.  It wasn't until Trump that the Republican party really rejected much of the neo-conservative philosophy and returned to something more paleo-conservative.  Now the old Greatest Generation conservatives are all dead, and the Silent Generation and Boomers are rapidly following.  You're left with Gen X and Millennial conservatives whose life experiences are vastly different than their parents and grandparents. 

Grant

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Re: Risk Aversion and the road to conflict
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2020, 10:08:28 PM »
Sometimes a news story just pops up just when you need it to to demonstrate a salient point. 

Jazsef Szajer was a Hungarian diplomat who represented the conservative Hungarian government in the EU parliament.  The conservative Hungarian government has recently been rather strongly involved in protecting the institution of marriage and heterosexuality. 

Szajer was caught breaking Belgian lockdown rules when he was discovered by Brussels police with 24 other naked men at what a police source described as a "gang bang".  Szajer attempted to flee the scene by climbing out a first floor window and climbing along a gutter.  Oh, and he was found with narcotics.  Fortunately he was able to identify himself with a diplomatic passport and was escorted home. 

Szajer stated:  "I deeply regret violating the Covid restrictions, it was irresponsible on my part.  I am ready to stand for the fine that occurs."  Szajer has resigned his position in the EU parliament. 

Who let this guy into an orgy?

So here we have a major juxtaposition of traditional philosophical values while in some ways still trying to appear to be fighting for them. 

Seriati

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Re: Risk Aversion and the road to conflict
« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2020, 11:47:59 AM »
For instance I would strongly suspect that COVID-concern is more a left-wing thing, whereas "takes my chances" is more a right-wing attitude. That is what I see on my social media anyhow.

There's a "causation versus correlation" problem here.  What I think you are seeing (and what I am seeing), is that there's a link between those that favor COVID based lifestyle restrictions and those that have always favored big government involved in your life (i.e., Democrats), and a link between those that oppose excess government restrictions and those opposing what seems to be arbitrary and excessive COVID based restrictions (generally libertarians, some Republicans and many small business owners). 

"Take my chances" is not a "right-wing attitude," but resisting oppressive government is. 

COVID-concern has little to do with the left-wing favoring arbitrary restrictions, rather their always  favoring any  government policies that "fix" what they see as wrong is.  So for example, there's no plausible rationale explaining why a massive BLM rally isn't a COVID risk - and DNC politicians that close businesses on Monday may attend such a rally on Tuesday - yet a small anti-government restriction rally has to be shut down "for COVID."  Nor why when data shows that transmission is occurring at big box stores (and if you've driven buy any their parking lots are packed) you'd keep them open and shut down small businesses.  It's just arbitrary discrimination that certain politicians believe they have a license to engage in "because COVID." 

Our experience here is that our left wing friends strongly advocate for invasive restrictions for all, but don't believe those rules apply to them personally.  Literally people driving around the neighborhood taking pictures of 3 kids on bikes without masks and sending them to the police, then holding a party at their house with a hundred people that they picked up and brought in so there wouldn't be too many cars together.  Literally, spreading out for the "socially distanced picture" of their get-togethers (the smaller 8-10 people ones they have several times a week) after spending six maskless hours in close proximity.  Parents literally having massive parties for teens inside their homes so that people won't "get the wrong idea," and sending their kids to school and even later lying to contact tracers about the event.   You can see it on a national scale where prominent DNC mayors and governors have repeatedly been caught violating their own COVID orders or exempting events for friends and family and political favorites (and to my knowledge, not a one has been held accountable in any meaningful way).

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So there's the personal well-being vs collective well-being axis. You probably can map those who think of society as a collective with the left; 'what do *we* need to do'. So that's a left/right divide on that front, not so much a risk averse vs risk-taking divide.

The difference on left-right is not based on who thinks of society as a collective or a community, it maps solely to whether they believe an individual has rights inherently (rights excluding "rights" that actually are entitlements imposed on the community mislabeled as rights), or whether the individual only has rights that the community grants.  That's why you have things like a history of community service and charity on the right while the left tries to accomplish somewhat similar things by taxing and then spending on government services.   Both groups are demonstrating a collective sense of community.

But even more you can't make a valid judgment based just on looking at COVID about this.  How do you parse someone who places maximum value on community health, but therefore determines there should be NO COVID restrictions because the negative consequences of those restrictions has a greater negative impact on community health than COVID would?  It's not remotely implausible that this is the case, in fact it's probably actually true.  What's the long term impact on suicide, health outcomes, job prospects and the related standard of living, educational outcomes, and everything else about lock downs that changed how our kids and even adults function in society and the world?  Its now a fact that the achievement gap that exists for poorer and minority students increased during the lock-down.  Wealthy kids had an easier time going remote, many of their parents kept their white collar jobs with minimal disruption, and a big number of them transferred into private schools - much of that is reality in "blue" areas around cities.  Meanwhile those same blue liberal elites adamantly oppose school choice and try to shut down schools that other people's kids are in, have no problem hiring a private tutor for their own precious Johnny while simultaneously advocating to close the public schools.

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Left-leaning people would tend more to view that kind of attitude as destructive to the group, so even the risk-takers among them would probably not condone risk-taking when it endangers the collective.

Not my experience at all.  The left talks a big game, but I find things like vaccine refusal (not just COVID, full on vaccine refusal) to be things that are far more common among the entitled left.  They won't risk the damage for their child, and that's "okay" to them because they'll rely on herd immunity.  I have never met more anti-vaxers than when I lived in Park Slope in Brooklyn - deep, deep blue area.

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...whereas those who scoffed at insurance previously are probably more likely to cry foul when they are the ones getting hammered. I view this as similar to people who are against single payer insurance on principle and don't think about all the people who get crushed as a result of being uninsured (under the assumption it will never be them).

You view "as similar" your mischaracterization of people?

People who "don't have insurance at all" are not the same as people who have problems with single payer.  In fact, people who have a problem with single payer are far more likely to be people that have actually paid for their insurance for years.  People  with individual policies that have paid for them.  People that own businesses or are partners in businesses who see both sides of the health care costs, which are not the same thing as what you pay as an employee.  People who have always been responsible and take offense at having a patronizing lecturing government (mostly run by people that have NEVER paid for their own insurance) that has no concept of what they actually need coming in and insisting on a one size fits all and excessively expensive option.

No, the people that have never been insured, that have refused to pay for insurance, and that whine about it when they get hammered are the exact people that demand single payer, the exact people who insist they should be able to buy insurance when they "need it" without regards to pre-existing conditions, and they are enabled by people who think they should be entitled to that coverage and think the only thing wrong with the picture is that we didn't tax them for years to pay for it.

You'd be better off - healthwise and insurancewise - backing the government regulation out of healthcare  rather than moving to single payer.  Refocus the government on prosecuting unfair insurance practices and not on nanny state monitoring and paper work.   I mean honestly have you ever had to challenge a claim?  Our current process -after decades of "reform"- allows that process to be a nightmare with little to no recourse.  Under single payer, you'll have even less recourse to a denial because you'll never even get the treatment to fight about whether you have to pay for it.  The answer will be you don't get the service at all because a bureaucrat determined that you don't need it, or that the medicine that causes you physical illness is good enough because the better med is too expensive, or even that we need to ration the treatment that you need to save costs.  Refocus the government on ensuring the system is straightforward and does what it says, and take them out completely from telling the system what it has to say.

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So often there is a kind of acceptance in the case of risk-aversion that is eyes open, whereas there can be a blindness associated with pretending the risk won't destroy you (but obviously this isn't always the case).

You guys seem to be conflating "risk-adverse" with "sensible" when that is not what the term means, and conflating "risk-neutral" or "risk taker" with "foolish" or "reckless" when that is not what the term means.

Both terms are about a general preference that isn't necessarily rational.  In economics a "rational actor" should be indifferent in the choice between getting $1 dollar or getting a 50/50 chance of $2 or nothing.  The expected returns on both options are equal.  The concepts exist to explain why nonetheless some people will take the $1 and some people prefer the double or nothing.  Departing that scenario in either direction leaves the realm of the rational actor (for economic purposes).  So for example, if you'd prefer 95 cents to the 50/50 shot at $2 you are irrationally risk adverse.  If you'd prefer 50/50 chance of $1.75 over a guaranteed dollar you are irrationally risk seeking.

This becomes a material question in a world where there isn't perfect information.  So you may actually be dealing with a question where you have something between a 75% and a 99% chance of receiving a dollar (with the actual payout being +/- a standard deviation of 5 cents) and a "negative result" of half that, versus an alternative option with a positive outcome chance of somewhere between 35% and 85% to receive $2 (with the payout having a standard deviation +/- 25 cents), an outside 0-2% chance of receiving $5 and a potential negative result of receiving nothing (+/- a standard deviation of 5 cents, which means you could actually owe money). 

Which do you choose?  Which do you choose when there are a dozen more choices?  Which do choose when you don't have time to research them?  Which do you choose when you believe you're an expert and can predict the chances with 75% more accuracy than the average person?

It's complicated, but you can't necessary determine from what someone did whether they were a risk taker or not.  Some companies are founded as sure things, whether that's an accurate judgement of the founder or a mistake is hard to tell.  I mean how do you take Obama's solar boondoggle for example?  It "failed" but it was a "sure thing" based on government subsidies.  Was that a risk for the owners because it failed, or was it just a corrupt payout scheme (ie a sure thing) that had a big potential lottery style win (if the company had taken off) attached?

Anyway that's a lot of words to say that I seriously doubt you're accurately describing "conservatives" and "liberals" on this and that their primary motivations related to COVID restrictions are mostly likely barely correlated with their position on the advisability of COVID based restrictions based purely on their personal concern on a risk spectrum with catching COVID.
 
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I suppose from the perspective of a hardcore risk-taker accepting a meager return on investment would be a kind of blindness, I guess. Of course that's assuming the point of life is to make maximum money.

It's not blindness for a risk taker unless there's an alternative use of capital with more potential upside.  Now it would be blindness to look up 90% of your net worth in a 2 year CD at 1% interest when the stock market has been returning 10% per year, and there are other oppotunities that have even better return profiles.

Seriati

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Re: Risk Aversion and the road to conflict
« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2020, 01:22:36 PM »
For a particular individual, especially if they are between the ages of 18 to 60, and if they have no co-morbidities, then the risk really is very very low for them.  That is a completely accurate reading of the risk to the individual to say that they have only a 1 in 1000 or 1 in 10,000 chance of dying from COVID 19.  Yet if they lose their job, they could lose their house or have to go on food stamps.  It's a perfectly accurate individual risk assessment for them to say that the greater risk for them is shut-down. 

But for the community as a whole, the risk is extremely high, particular for those over 60.  A 1% case fatality rate applied to 50% of the American population means over 1,000,000 dead.  That's a huge number.  That's a real disaster, whether it is striking "non-productive" people or not.  That's the total amount of deaths the United States suffered from the Civil War and WWI combined.  It's more than the Spanish Flu of 1918.  The cost would not be measured in just lives, but in economic terms and political terms as well.  No politician could survive such a death toll if people believe it could be mitigated.

It's interesting that you understand the logic of a young person seeing a greater risk from loss of job on than from COVID on a personal level, but don't seem to translate that same thought process into the community where it applies equally.  The community "as a whole" is even more at risk from economic harm than the individual is, as a community with massive economic loss can't effectively act to aid the individuals within it - its not resilient.  You see this all the time where middle and upper class communities can easily band together to help an unfortunate member and poor communities must rely on outside help.

Similarly, if you were to protect the most vulnerable and let the general community stay as open as possible, you could have achieved a balance minimizing the harms of both extremes.  Instead, we frequently got a system that failed to protect the vulnerable (hello blue state governors sending COVID patients to nursing homes), while simultaneously over restricting - to great harm - those that weren't as vulnerable (hello urban NYC, where businesses were shuttered everywhere and schools were shut down unnecessarily).

I'm also interested that you NEVER hear any one discuss what this means for public transit.  Is that because pro-public transit is a sacred cow, and there's no way to square it with preventing something like COVID?  It's one of those places where official DNC positions are in massive conflict - therefore we won't talk about it.

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The funny thing here is that again, the traditional views of the conservatives and liberals are switched.

It seems to me that you have to have made a conclusion about what in fact is best for a community to reach this derivative conclusion and you have to believe that this conclusion is so obviously true that the people making the decision have also reached it.  However, I doubt that many people on either side believe their chosen policy isn't better overall for the community and I think that implied conclusion is probably false, which leads to much of why you think there's been a "flip" here.

TheDrake

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Re: Risk Aversion and the road to conflict
« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2020, 02:31:12 PM »
A lot of quality thoughts here, I haven't had time yet to consider them carefully enough to respond. I'm following along, though.

Grant

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Re: Risk Aversion and the road to conflict
« Reply #10 on: December 02, 2020, 02:39:38 PM »

It's interesting that you understand the logic of a young person seeing a greater risk from loss of job on than from COVID on a personal level, but don't seem to translate that same thought process into the community where it applies equally. 

That's because I disagree that it applies equally, for two general reasons, economically and morally. 

Economically, a shutdown can and does cause a great deal of harm individually.  It can also seem to cause a great deal of harm economically to the whole, but some of this is illusory.  Let's take for example our bartenders.  Bartenders and bar owners may suffer extensively during a shutdown that effects bars.  But that is an individual outlook.  All the money that was going to bartenders is still moving in other directions.  A person who went to bars often may begin buying alcohol more often at the grocery store, or have it delivered by a service.  Hence, the grocery store and delivery services are now making more money than they used to.  Any savings that Norm Peterson may be gaining by buying his alcohol from a store rather than from Sam Malone is either being held as savings, which hurts economically in the short run, but is basically an investment with long term benefits, or these savings are immediately shunted to new areas.  Norm buys a laptop so he can Zoom meet with Cliff.  So all the economic loss taken by Carla and Sam are being moved elsewhere. 

Simultaneously, Carla and Sam do have some options when the bar closes.  Sam and Carla may actually be the ones opening an alcohol delivery service, or a grocery delivery service. 

This outlook can be extended to every sector of the economy that is damaged by shutdowns.  Restaurants, theatres, stadiums, etc.  If you can no longer go to Applebee's every Friday, you're going to cook for yourself more often.  That means more money to the grocer.  That means more stock and more transportation etc etc.  Consumption does not go away, it just shuffles around, to the detriment of particular areas. 

On the other hand, death in itself is a pretty large economic loss.  Certainly, during an uncontrolled pandemic, certain sectors will thrive.  Hospitals, pharmaceuticals, and the funeral industry will gain by more deaths and those dying.  But those gains are small when you compare the long term losses by the loss in consumption.  Every "non-productive" member of society is still a consumer.  They are still buying groceries, paying for electricity, watching TV, buying alcohol from Sam and Carla's delivery service, etc.  When they die, even if they only had 1-10 years left of life to them, the economic loss was greater than the economic gain by their death.  The only real gain is that the wealth moves from the dead to the living.  So large death tolls are certainly better economically for Gen X, but not for the economy as a whole. 

The second point of course is the moral point.  While Sam and Carla might suffer during the shutdown, generally speaking they are not at risk of dying.  So the choice becomes between Sam and Carla suffering and Coach dying.  Dying is permanent.  Poverty is often not, depending on the particular situation of the individual.  Hence, from a societal triage standpoint, preventing death is more important than preventing temporary poverty.  This should be easy to comprehend for people who want to demand that American consumers and businesses buy American steel and American products instead of Chinese and other foreign products, despite costing more. 

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I'm also interested that you NEVER hear any one discuss what this means for public transit.  Is that because pro-public transit is a sacred cow, and there's no way to square it with preventing something like COVID?  It's one of those places where official DNC positions are in massive conflict - therefore we won't talk about it.

I said public transit needed to be shutdown or avoided way back in February.  This is a major urban area problem rather than a general national problem.  Most of these major urban areas are run by Democratic governments, as you already pointed out.  Maybe it's a sacred cow for them.  I really don't know.  Maybe Abraham Trump should have ordered or advised for a national shutdown of public transit.  I might have. 

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Instead, we frequently got a system that failed to protect the vulnerable (hello blue state governors sending COVID patients to nursing homes), while simultaneously over restricting - to great harm - those that weren't as vulnerable (hello urban NYC, where businesses were shuttered everywhere and schools were shut down unnecessarily).

If you're looking for someone to defend the greater response to COVID in urban areas, particularly in NYC, you're barking up the wrong tree.  I said at the very beginning, back in February, that nursing homes were particularly vulnerable and that the elderly were.  The problem is that complete isolation is very difficult, and letting the infection spread rampantly throughout the "non-vulnerable" population is probably a mistake for several reasons.  The death rate for those 40-49 is still roughly half a percent.  Rampant infection among those 40 million Americans, with a 50% infection rate, could eventually lead to up to 200,000 deaths.  What would be worse is if the "curve" was not flattened at times and hospitals overflowed and suddenly medical care became scarce.  Care to guess what the case fatality rate would be then?  Let's say it's only 5 times as worse.  There is your one million dead Americans between the ages of 40-49.  Not vulnerable. 

Shutdowns were never the first line solution.  Masking and social distancing were, for the general populace.  It's just a shame that there has been so much pushback on masks and social distancing.  When the curve begins to approach the point where state medical systems are looking at overcapacity, then shutdown is your only option.  At the beginning of the crisis, there was a PPE shortage and the curve hit so quickly in places that there was no other option than the shutdown. 

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It seems to me that you have to have made a conclusion about what in fact is best for a community to reach this derivative conclusion

I think you missed the fact that a Hungarian member of the EU parliament who was a member of an anti-gay party was caught breaking Belgian shutdown rules at a homosexual orgy. 

Fenring

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Re: Risk Aversion and the road to conflict
« Reply #11 on: December 02, 2020, 03:12:49 PM »
There's a "causation versus correlation" problem here.  What I think you are seeing (and what I am seeing), is that there's a link between those that favor COVID based lifestyle restrictions and those that have always favored big government involved in your life (i.e., Democrats), and a link between those that oppose excess government restrictions and those opposing what seems to be arbitrary and excessive COVID based restrictions (generally libertarians, some Republicans and many small business owners).

Yes, but I think you are underrating those opposed to what you are calling arbitrary and excessive restrictions. There is a significant crowd, almost all right-wing, for whom any restriction at all will be considered arbitrary and excessive, on the grounds that they don't think it's a real problem. From that standpoint a term like 'excessive' becomes redundant because to them anything more than zero is excessive. I have a few such people on my social media; one is a religious conservative, a few are more 'let's not act like weaklings' types. You did say 'some' Republicans but I think it's a huge amount of people. Granted, I think there is probably a particular type of left-wing person who is against these measures too, most likely to be found in the hippy/granola community, which we could connect to some extent to the anti-establishment movement in the 60's and 70's.

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"Take my chances" is not a "right-wing attitude," but resisting oppressive government is.

One is an attitude about oneself, and one an attitude in relation to others. I believe here you are conflating (or partially conflating) two different axes. Some people do resist oppressive government (which in some cases means any government activity at all), and see 'take my chances' as being a way of saying to leave the people alone. Without psychoanalyzing this from an armchair (which might lead us to conclude that even this position is rooted in an attitude about oneself, which I actually think it is), this is different from the sort of person who actually feels capable, or that they worked hard and don't feel threatened, or perhaps feel even a kind of disdain for asking for help. This kind of 'self-reliant' person is disposed to want to do things themselves, to not accept help (even from friends), and to view effort and will as being solitary realities. And it is my view that this type of personality (which may have overlap with the 'get the government out of my life' crowd) is going to be found more often in the right-wing crowd. The idea that personal vigor and strength can 'overcome' COVID is something I would expect more of a right-wing personality, and likewise the idea that "I'm responsible for my own mistakes." A left-wing thinker would be much more prone to feel that one is actually responsible to others first and that you do not even have the right to 'make your own mistakes' because they affect everyone.

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COVID-concern has little to do with the left-wing favoring arbitrary restrictions, rather their always  favoring any  government policies that "fix" what they see as wrong is.

I'm not sure we're disagreeing on this point. The idea of 'when will they fix things' is in fact probably related to other social areas of life where left-wing people want government to manage things. It's sort of like a worker's attitude toward management; "when will they get around to doing X," with the idea that of course it's management's job to take care of the premises and everything involved with it.

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So for example, there's no plausible rationale explaining why a massive BLM rally isn't a COVID risk - and DNC politicians that close businesses on Monday may attend such a rally on Tuesday - yet a small anti-government restriction rally has to be shut down "for COVID."

You'll get no disagreement from me on this one. But also note that there is a difference between practicing what you preach, versus believing what you believe. It is entirely possible to categorize a type of personality as 'preferring government to manage things' and therefore being welcoming to COVID restrictions, and yet to be aware that like anyone else these people will be prone to "rules for thee and not for me" syndrome, which can probably be applied equally to the various personality types. You would no doubt find equal and opposite examples of hypocrisy in various segments of the population; this was just a notoriously public one. In the other thread there's that article about the Hungarian anti-gay gay conservative advocating for COVID restrictions and having a gang bang. These types of "doesn't apply to me" things are not uncommon. And, hey, the guy may legitimately be anti-gay and just think that's he's guilty too. Who knows.

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Literally people driving around the neighborhood taking pictures of 3 kids on bikes without masks and sending them to the police, then holding a party at their house with a hundred people that they picked up and brought in so there wouldn't be too many cars together.

Dunno what to say about that, other than I tend to think of self-serving behavior and stupidity as being prevalent all over. Just different flavors. I guess people who feel more entitled may be more likely to have extreme swings between what they 'believe in' and what they actually do, and perhaps you could put forward an argument that at present left-wing people feel much more entitled. Actually I think that would probably be accurate, just as in the 90's I think right-wing people acted much more entitled; so the pendulum can swing. But you would have to give me a pretty good argument to make it plausible that they act in the way you describe because they are liberals.

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The difference on left-right is not based on who thinks of society as a collective or a community, it maps solely to whether they believe an individual has rights inherently (rights excluding "rights" that actually are entitlements imposed on the community mislabeled as rights), or whether the individual only has rights that the community grants.

We may be getting into the weeds here, but I think that once the definition of what a "right" is becomes the point of disagreement then the conversation isn't even about the same thing. For instance people who are pro-choice and believe in the inalienable right to an abortion don't believe they have that right because it's inherent to the universe, nor do they believe they have that right because the government gave it to them. At bottom I think they believe they have that right because their belief says it's obvious that they should be allowed to do it, and therefore it's clearly a right because it's clearly right. I suspect that the word "right" in this instance essentially means "we are right (i.e. correct) and you are wrong". Maybe there are very good reasons to believe you are correct on that topic as a pro-choice person, but the term "right" here doesn't really have anything to do with moral realism versus moral constructionism. I suppose you could argue that there's a philosophical position hidden underneath, but it may be simpler than that. I want this, and I am right to want it, so it is a right. Someone taking that position is not even talking about the same sort of thing as a right-wing thinker discussing where rights come from and how they relate to the law, so a disagreement here isn't even actually a disagreement, it's just a different topic.

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That's why you have things like a history of community service and charity on the right while the left tries to accomplish somewhat similar things by taxing and then spending on government services.   Both groups are demonstrating a collective sense of community.

Hm, maybe I can try to be more clear here. I think I mean something more like a left-leaning person won't just care about the collective, but will actually have a blurred line between the individual and the collective on an existential level. It's not so much they happen to care about the collective, but rather than they see themselves as actually inextricably connected to it so that one cannot disentangle the two. From this standpoint it would be moot to discuss 'individual' rights since the real entity requiring protection is the group. You are of course right that there are plenty of conservatives who care about the community. But they are far less prone to think of it as anything other than an assemble of sovereign individuals. A left-leaning person does not see the individual as sovereign, or even individual, in the same way. That, I think, is why left-wing social philosophy so often involves accounting for individual action in terms of collective or environmental factors.

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But even more you can't make a valid judgment based just on looking at COVID about this.  How do you parse someone who places maximum value on community health, but therefore determines there should be NO COVID restrictions because the negative consequences of those restrictions has a greater negative impact on community health than COVID would?

As with most issues these days, reasonable positions such as this are swept aside in favor of some kind of crazy extreme divide, where most people seem to suspiciously just fall directly into line on one side or the other. It's a very distressing issue, and I suspect powerful social pressure (or even veiled threat) is in play here, where people feel like they have to choose one or the other of the stupid pre-fab sides handed to them. That's how I largely feel about U.S. national politics, btw. It's baffling to me that people could argue that either side is any good in that arena.

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The left talks a big game, but I find things like vaccine refusal (not just COVID, full on vaccine refusal) to be things that are far more common among the entitled left.  They won't risk the damage for their child, and that's "okay" to them because they'll rely on herd immunity.  I have never met more anti-vaxers than when I lived in Park Slope in Brooklyn - deep, deep blue area.

I also can't really comment on this point, other than to say there is clearly a distinctly left-wing community that is "all organic, no GMO, no vaccine, no 'chemicals'," and so forth; part of this is the hippy/granola crowd, part of it is some kind of offshoot social movement maybe. But there is also clearly a distinct right-wing crowd against things ranging from vaccines, to public education, to sex education, to materialist values, and other things. I'd probably be overly narrow to suggest these are religious communities, although I have seen religious communities like this. Which group (left vs right) has the greatest number - I have no idea. Maybe in Park Slope there are more leftists of that ilk, but then again Park Slope is known to be a yuppie area anyhow. I'm sure there are neighborhoods in other cities (or even other areas in NYC) that have more of the religious or conservative anti-vaxxers.

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People who "don't have insurance at all" are not the same as people who have problems with single payer.

I'll bow out of this aspect of it, I was just using insurance as an analogy anyhow, plus I suspect you know far more than I do about the medical insurance system.

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You guys seem to be conflating "risk-adverse" with "sensible" when that is not what the term means, and conflating "risk-neutral" or "risk taker" with "foolish" or "reckless" when that is not what the term means.

This is all a bit relative anyhow, isn't it? After all, someone firmly convinced that COVID is a material threat will view anyone not taking direct and serious actions (social distancing, etc) as reckless and foolish. Sure, those people may believe they are taking sensible and carefully-considered actions, but I suppose would have to conclude that either they are hard-wired to sensibly conclude they are not in danger, or that they feeling of threat from the same stats someone else hears just don't concern them as much. For the purpose of this conversation that's a "risk-taker" even if they are not cavalier in the traditional sense. I think it's about how somehow they just don't feel that quaking in their bones that someone else does at being told the same set of facts. Could be courage, or stupidity, or blindness; but calling a position 'sensible' really requires having absolute knowledge of the fact-set, no? And not only that, but of the 'best' choices given that fact said, if there is such a thing.

If you wanted to go with a numerical analogy, return on a $1 investment isn't the best bet. It's more like people faced with a double or nothing type proposition, wherein they either lose significant money with 100% certainty, or take a chance to keep it all and in exchange take on a 1/10,000 of losing it all and being wiped out. For almost all people the 'rational' choice with maximum net money at the end is to keep what you have and incur the small chance of being wiped out. But the fact that it's the net winning choice doesn't actually make it a good choice. In this case acting rationally *can* mean making the most money on average (taking on the minor risk), but it can also mean refusing to accept any chance at all of being wiped out since that result is totally unacceptable. And it may well be that different types of personality would dictate which choice to make here.
 
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It's not blindness for a risk taker unless there's an alternative use of capital with more potential upside.  Now it would be blindness to look up 90% of your net worth in a 2 year CD at 1% interest when the stock market has been returning 10% per year, and there are other oppotunities that have even better return profiles.

Again, I don't think any of us are talking about simple efficiency metrics. It's not risk-taking to just make superior investments. It's more like, would you gamble your retirement savings on a good chance to win big in a business venture. For some people if the odds were good then the prospect of winning big would just be too good to pass up; and on odds it might even be a winning strategy (i.e. if 100 people did it the majority would win out). But for many people they would insist on 100% certainty that they know how much they'll have for their retirement planning, and no potential payout of any magnitude would justify risking it, no matter how good the odds were.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2020, 03:15:07 PM by Fenring »

TheDrake

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Re: Risk Aversion and the road to conflict
« Reply #12 on: December 02, 2020, 10:38:16 PM »
Well, most of the points I was going to make just got erased because they have already been made well.

I don't want to pick on public transit too deeply here, but there is little evidence that transit is creating significant spread in terms of clusters compared to other danger situations. Most cities can't afford to just "turn it off". NY would collapse in days. Hospitals would be understaffed, grocery stores, sanitation, first responders. Or did you think most of those people lived on Manhattan Island? Or did you want all of them to take Taxis?

As of July 15, four transport clusters had been identified in Paris, accounting for roughly 1% of 386 total clusters, according to data from the agency.

Can the results apply in the US also? Hard to tell, because our contact tracing won't support a similar study, or wouldn't at the time of the article.

TheDeamon

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Re: Risk Aversion and the road to conflict
« Reply #13 on: December 02, 2020, 11:28:30 PM »
I'm also interested that you NEVER hear any one discuss what this means for public transit.  Is that because pro-public transit is a sacred cow, and there's no way to square it with preventing something like COVID?  It's one of those places where official DNC positions are in massive conflict - therefore we won't talk about it.

At least for Amtrack the train cars they're preparing to put into service on the new/faster Acela Train sets had their ventilation systems altered to now perform on par with what the airlines have in place for their aircraft. Hepa Filters, fast turn-over of air, and generally limiting the ability of airborne pathogens to spread.

For me, and I'm sure I've mentioned it before, the large discussion is about how ventilation in public spaces in general is handled going forward. Bars in particular, with their tendency for being notorious for poor airflow are some of the prime contenders on that front.

Of course, all of those ventilation refits/retrofits also means much more $$$ being spent, and the energy costs of moving that much air around as well as the energy losses incurred by such high rates of air exchange. Even assuming 90% energy recovery, something a number of systems are able to do right now, that's going to come at an energy cost. Something which isn't going to please the Greens out there.

TheDeamon

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Re: Risk Aversion and the road to conflict
« Reply #14 on: December 02, 2020, 11:40:21 PM »
On the other hand, death in itself is a pretty large economic loss.  Certainly, during an uncontrolled pandemic, certain sectors will thrive.  Hospitals, pharmaceuticals, and the funeral industry will gain by more deaths and those dying.  But those gains are small when you compare the long term losses by the loss in consumption.  Every "non-productive" member of society is still a consumer.  They are still buying groceries, paying for electricity, watching TV, buying alcohol from Sam and Carla's delivery service, etc.  When they die, even if they only had 1-10 years left of life to them, the economic loss was greater than the economic gain by their death.  The only real gain is that the wealth moves from the dead to the living.  So large death tolls are certainly better economically for Gen X, but not for the economy as a whole.

That could be argued, someone in the last years of life are mostly "consuming medical services" more than anything else. Sure there are some nurses and doctors who take a hit on that, but given the overall manpower shortages in medical staff, it isn't like they would be unable to find other work in a closely related field.

The only real "losers" in that equation from the economic side is the big Pharma companies who lost a customer that was swallowing 20+ pills a day.

Instead, that money now moves to their children, grandchildren, or other associated friends/family members/charities or even their government as the case may be. As that money now moves into younger hands, it either gets re-invested in their retirement plans(in which case it remains in play on wallstreet/bond markets), or it gets used as they "consume" the financial windfall that has come their way, however large or small it may be. Even more, much of that consumption is likely to filter through businesses local to where they are before turning up in some shareholders quarterly earnings report.

For others, it may mean a large debt-load gets paid down, which then allows them to have more disposable income(spending) going forward. Those debts paid off also means the lender has more liquid assets they can use to finance more debt for others, and so on and so forth.

Grant

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Re: Risk Aversion and the road to conflict
« Reply #15 on: December 03, 2020, 08:20:51 AM »

That could be argued, someone in the last years of life are mostly "consuming medical services" more than anything else. Sure there are some nurses and doctors who take a hit on that, but given the overall manpower shortages in medical staff, it isn't like they would be unable to find other work in a closely related field.

The only real "losers" in that equation from the economic side is the big Pharma companies who lost a customer that was swallowing 20+ pills a day.

Instead, that money now moves to their children, grandchildren, or other associated friends/family members/charities or even their government as the case may be. As that money now moves into younger hands, it either gets re-invested in their retirement plans(in which case it remains in play on wallstreet/bond markets), or it gets used as they "consume" the financial windfall that has come their way, however large or small it may be. Even more, much of that consumption is likely to filter through businesses local to where they are before turning up in some shareholders quarterly earnings report.

For others, it may mean a large debt-load gets paid down, which then allows them to have more disposable income(spending) going forward. Those debts paid off also means the lender has more liquid assets they can use to finance more debt for others, and so on and so forth.

Sounds like a good argument for euthenasia.  Enter the carousel.  Now is the time of renewal.  Be strong and you will be renewed. 

First, I'd like to point out that the healthcare industry is a "whole sector of the economy".  Hospitals and nursing homes employ doctors, nurses, PAs, admin staff, custodians, accountants, pharmacists, scientists, schools, executives, etc.  My impression from your post is that you believe the healthcare industry is a kind of "lesser sector", or an "undesirable sector", and that the money these people are paying to the healthcare industry would be better spent by having them die and giving their property to their relatives and charities. 

I mean, that's fine that you have that opinion.  But it's still you picking winners and losers, which isn't what you're supposed to do.  My entire point was that these "non-productive citizens" are important parts of the economy, and they are, no matter where their consumption goes. 

Secondly, I believe the idea that the majority of their consumption goes to the healthcare industry is an oversimplification.  Certainly some of the elderly end up spending the majority of their consumption on nursing homes, etc.  Perhaps just as many spend the years on travel, etc, and that their hospital bills are paid mostly by insurance that represents money that they would not be able to spend or pass on to their relatives anyways. 

Finally, flipping the script to a more individual point of view rather than the larger economic picture, I would guess that the majority of these "non-productive" members of society would tell any individual suggesting that society or the economy would be better off with them dead to go *censored* themselves.  Most of their relatives that would economically benefit from their deaths would possibly say the same thing. 

Fenring

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Re: Risk Aversion and the road to conflict
« Reply #16 on: December 03, 2020, 09:13:41 AM »
I mean, that's fine that you have that opinion.  But it's still you picking winners and losers, which isn't what you're supposed to do.  My entire point was that these "non-productive citizens" are important parts of the economy, and they are, no matter where their consumption goes. 

I'll just play devil's advocate for a moment. I think it could be argued that stealing from younger people in order to save the elderly (which is one way of framing shutting down society to prevent the spread of COVID to the most vulnerable) could already be construed as picking winners and losers. From what I would call an extreme libertarian point of view, allowing people to make their own choices under the pandemic would probably mean businesses stay open for the most part and the level of virulence increases. So protecting the weak in this case is already knowing that to do so you are shutting down either the livelihood or some of the freedoms of younger people. Once that door is open the only question is what the measures are going to be when you pick the winners and losers, not *whether* you are doing the picking.

Grant

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Re: Risk Aversion and the road to conflict
« Reply #17 on: December 03, 2020, 09:57:36 AM »
I'll just play devil's advocate for a moment. I think it could be argued that stealing from younger people in order to save the elderly (which is one way of framing shutting down society to prevent the spread of COVID to the most vulnerable) could already be construed as picking winners and losers. From what I would call an extreme libertarian point of view, allowing people to make their own choices under the pandemic would probably mean businesses stay open for the most part and the level of virulence increases.

Meh.  Sure.  Except that we're talking about people's lives instead of just economic gain.  Public safety is a different animal than choosing economic winners and losers such as saying that you're hurting the youth by not letting the elderly die so that they can keep working and inherit more $$$. 

That's the argument.  Practically, I'm basically there already.  Enough Americans have already shown me that they have neither a good understanding of the risk to others, the risk for themselves, or don't really care about the risk for others, or the community as a whole, and are two individually minded, focused on themselves rather than the community or nation as a whole, that I don't really see the point of shutdowns and mask mandates etc.  They're somewhat unenforceable.  The people who would wear masks and stay home are already doing so.  In the case of a pandemic, I see the entire thing as kind of self correcting.  People who ignore health directives from the government are putting themselves at risk foremost, and people who allow them near them.  If they get sick and die or get others sick and kill them, that's their choice. I know that's pretty heartless, and we've had members of ornery themselves become sick from COVID19.  But America really just doesn't have the social infrastructure that we did say 50-80 years ago.  It's my same outlook on foreign intervention.  There are things we should be doing, but we can't because Americans are just too flakey. 

I've never strongly recommended shutdowns or mask mandates from the government, because you just can't fix stupid.  That is why my advice has always generally been aimed to be personal.  If you care, wear a mask, social distance, stay at home as much as possible, work from home if possible, wash your hands frequently, look out for and protect your elderly friends and relatives. 

Fenring

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Re: Risk Aversion and the road to conflict
« Reply #18 on: December 03, 2020, 10:09:36 AM »
Meh.  Sure.  Except that we're talking about people's lives instead of just economic gain.  Public safety is a different animal than choosing economic winners and losers such as saying that you're hurting the youth by not letting the elderly die so that they can keep working and inherit more $$$. 

I'm a big advocate of taking the pandemic seriously, so take that as a preface prior to me continuing my devil's advocacy.

I don't think it's fair or just to just say "lives" vs "$$" as if that's an obvious gimme. I have serious problems with the state of the world we're handing to younger people (among whom I am perhaps at the upper end), which include skyrocketing real estate costs and rent levels, stagnant or even weakening real wages, and a political system that increasingly loses the faith of the public. Millenials are going to have a rough time ever buying a house. Scratch that, they are going to have a rough time even paying off student debt. I guess you can add that to my list. Compared to boomers who basically lived a cushy life in comparison, economically speaking, I think the odds are stacked against young people realizing 'the American dream' the worst it has been since the Great Depression. What we are talking about is not just "money for lives", which is btw already the way American foreign policy works. What we are talking about is the state of a generation's entire lives. It's not a temporary inconvenience, but an aggravating of a permanent situation that will span decades. I am just making sure we are framing the trade-off properly, because when picking winners and losers I think it is important to recognize that physical infirmity is not the only weakness people can have when we protect the weak. Weakness of position in life, employability, opportunities, and chances at happiness in general, is another kind of weakness which we need to protect.

I am very much in favor of stricter measures than I suspect you are in the pandemic, but when making the choice of what to do and what its impact will be,  the risk/reward structure needs to be completely understood. In this respect I mean something like what Seriati did above when he was talking about how risk-aversion vs risk-taking will be misunderstood if there is an incomplete understanding of the situation. Risk-aversion in the case of saving lives may in fact be, from another point of view, an incredibly risky choice to make in terms of...total well-being? It's very hard to say unless we add in all the variables.

Grant

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Re: Risk Aversion and the road to conflict
« Reply #19 on: December 03, 2020, 10:41:16 AM »

I don't think it's fair or just to just say "lives" vs "$$" as if that's an obvious gimme. I have serious problems with the state of the world we're handing to younger people (among whom I am perhaps at the upper end), which include skyrocketing real estate costs and rent levels, stagnant or even weakening real wages, and a political system that increasingly loses the faith of the public. Millenials are going to have a rough time ever buying a house. Scratch that, they are going to have a rough time even paying off student debt. I guess you can add that to my list. Compared to boomers who basically lived a cushy life in comparison, economically speaking, I think the odds are stacked against young people realizing 'the American dream' the worst it has been since the Great Depression. What we are talking about is not just "money for lives", which is btw already the way American foreign policy works. What we are talking about is the state of a generation's entire lives. It's not a temporary inconvenience, but an aggravating of a permanent situation that will span decades. I am just making sure we are framing the trade-off properly, because when picking winners and losers I think it is important to recognize that physical infirmity is not the only weakness people can have when we protect the weak. Weakness of position in life, employability, opportunities, and chances at happiness in general, is another kind of weakness which we need to protect.

Meh.  I agree with the gist of alot of what you are saying.  It's simply a fact.  That being said, life isn't fair.  A millennial really shouldn't be comparing their economic status with the status of their grandparent's at the same age and complaining that it's not equal.  It never will be.  That's just an effect of the times.  Boomers grew up in an era of unprecedented prosperity for America.  They really didn't do anything to deserve it and millennials really didn't do anything to deserve the problems they're facing.  It's not equal, but it's really not unfair either.  It's just life.  It's just history.  From another standpoint, Millennials have never had to deal with a military draft sending people to fight communists in jungles or have 10,000 Soviet nuclear warheads pointed at them, about to snuff out their entire lives and the lives of everyone they know in an instant because somebody got an itchy trigger finger.  Millennials have tons of better education opportunities than Boomers did, though that has backfired into having a larger cost of higher education.  A bunch of these problems have effected Gen X as well.  If you're a company type of guy in Gen X, you'll never be in a similar management or salary position at the same age as your Boomer boss.  That's just been the way of things for the last 20 years.  There are a bunch of Boomers and they are living longer and longer.  I don't feel it's fair of me to demand that my bosses die or retire so I can move up the ladder at the same pace they did. 

Eventually, the Boomers will die off and things will reverse.  There will be unprecedented opportunities for Generation Z.  Wealth will transfer and people will move up ladders.  There is no other demographic glut quite like the Boomers, so things should get better.  It's just a matter of time.  I see no sense trying to rush it by pushing the elderly under the bus during a pandemic.  We live in an unprecedented age of prosperity, but it could all end one way or another.  It rains on the just and the unjust alike. 

There are still plenty of opportunities for Millennials.  Sometimes more opportunities than were afforded Boomers or Gen X.  It just costs more sometimes.  As for the political system, Millennials have the power themselves to make things better, but I honestly don't think they will.  Being fixated on Boomers and the unfairness of life isn't condusive to success.  Millennials live in an age of wonders that hopefully will continue, in part because of the work put in by Boomers. 

In the final analysis, I cannot equate any level of suffering with death.  I remember we did some sort of thought experiment on Ornery a long time ago, where the question was how much suffering would you allow before then allowing some other person to die.  I'm not a utilitarian hedonist, so my answer was different than most peoples.  I don't think that any level of suffering should be alleviated if it results in a death.  I understand this makes no sense to some people, but this is the old school morality.  It's also how triage works and that's how I was trained to handle multiple problems.  So the fact that 30 million Millennials may not have as good a life that Boomers had at the same age, doesn't mean to me that I should be pragmatic about letting 1 million Boomers die.  Besides which, I think it's all in how you look at it.  Like I said, Millennials live in an age of wonders.   This idea that 1946 to 2000 was a big party isn't really accurate. 

Fenring

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Re: Risk Aversion and the road to conflict
« Reply #20 on: December 03, 2020, 11:06:14 AM »
A lot of good points, Grant. Times change, sure enough. But when the change is mechanically engineered to have a predictable result it ceases to be merely the currents of time but is actually an orchestrated mechanism. It is not mere chance that real estate prices went insane. It is at least in part a result of the laws and how foreign investment is allowed, which drives local people out of their own city in favor of powerful investors. There is an entire systemic issue in play here which I don't intend to get into, but it's not just 'the times' in cases where it's directly a result of the intended system that things go in the direction they go. It could change; it would be as simple as modifying the system. So in some instances the passive 'Millenials have to pay more' should more properly be stated as 'Millenials are made to pay more.' It makes it sound more sinister, and in a way it is. So some of the change you mention is merely the turnover of time; but some is deliberate policy whose outcome is irrelevant to certain people reaping the gravy. I suppose that itself is a result of something that has not changed, which is that those with control over policy will make sure it favors themselves.

Regarding the "nothing is as precious as life" argument, you will find me surprisingly close to that. I don't think it's dumb at all. But one thing to keep in mind is life at what cost. It is one thing to do one's best to try to preserve life as much as possible, but quite another to steal from one life to give to another. For instance, taxing a young person to save the life of an older person may seem like a gimme on the moral front: work on the one hand (aw shucks) versus saving a life (big win). But even traditional moralities like Christian would not condone the notion of enslaving someone for someone else's benefit, no matter what that benefit is. So it is quite relevant where this resource comes from that is used to preserve life. If it comes as a result of an action that is morally questionable then suddenly it's not so sure. To take a more extreme example, if money from organized crime was used to give medicine to a nursing home, that would not suddenly make it an obviously moral venture, saving lives notwithstanding. So the question of what is being done to procure this protection for the elderly is not trivial to me at all.


Fenring

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Re: Risk Aversion and the road to conflict
« Reply #22 on: December 03, 2020, 01:21:29 PM »
Ultimately, there are far too many variables and uncertainty to say "aha! now we know the best long run economic outcome."

True enough.

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So I think to evaluate, people default to the "what's the short run outcome", and the answer is always going to be "let er rip", I'm about to have my car repossessed if I can't go back to waiting tables. Which is why paying unemployment on time is critical, stimulus is critical, economic support to make it to the long run is critical.

Well yes and no. I was mostly responding to the idea of "saving lives...QED" which seems to be the backing of many arguments about Covid-19 restrictions. I am not even saying out of the gate I am against these or other particular restrictions. In fact if I had my way there would be more restrictions than there are! But what I am saying is that even the "human life is paramount" argument does not automatically and neatly mean "all these restrictions are the moral choice." It is much more complicated than that.