How ‘15 Days to Slow the Spread’ Became a Year - Foundation for Economic Education

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A pastor conducted a humorous Twitter poll a few months ago, asking people how to interpret "15 days to slow down the spread." Refer to the religious debate about creation, the options are as follows.

This joke makes a serious point. Facts have proved that "it takes 15 days to slow down the spread." Indeed, one year has passed. Lock-in was originally sold as a short-term measure to "flatten the curve" and avoid overwhelming the medical system, but now, when the number of cases increases to a few inches, lock-in has become a subconscious countermeasure of politicians.

But why the ever-changing goal post? Why are we so obsessed with only temporary strategies (it turns out to be temporary)


The answer is obviously a concern for public health. However, there is another explanation that may be related to psychology.

There is a well-known cognitive bias

, This is the tendency to focus on the original information or methods when making decisions. Even if our starting method clearly fails, we will stubbornly stick to the path we have already taken.

Examples of anchoring bias are everywhere. For example, in chess, the player has the urge to come up with the first decent move without having to consider all other options. Therefore, the motto often quoted in chess is: "When you find a good move, look for a better move."

Our way of education also suffers from this problem. Although the traditional teaching method is not suitable for many students, it has become a familiar default teaching method. Alternative methods such as collaborative problem-solving, self-directed learning or experiential learning have not received the attention they deserve, because many teachers and institutions use lecture-based methods.

The same thing may happen in response to COVID-19. Since lock-in is the first major policy consideration, lock-in has become the focus of response work. Therefore, it is too early to find alternative solutions because we think we have found the tools we need.

However, the problem with relying on the first tool we found was that we began to assume that it was the best tool for every job. As

Will say: "If the only tool is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail."

Indeed, with lock-in means, politicians are beginning to do their best to find everything they can find. enterprise? Turn them off. church? Turn them off. school? Don't even think about it. Regardless of the background, locking is a solution that can be used in almost every situation and is still widely used today.

Of course, the problem is that locking has proven to be an incapable tool for the job. It's like trying to screw in a screw with a hammer. This is a brute force method that will not be perfect at best, and you may end up destroying something and failing to achieve your goal. Indeed, the blockade measures

In people’s lives, they


So, which method is better? Well, one idea is to delete

. If private companies are allowed to develop and sell toolkits they deem appropriate, testing will become more affordable and popular to the extent that everyone can test every week or even every day. With extensive testing, if asymptomatic carriers test positive, they will know that they are staying at home, while everyone else will be able to continue their normal lives because they know they do not have the virus.

Another way is to delete

, Such as lengthy trial requirements and other regulations. If private companies are allowed to compete for vaccines in the free market, they can develop safe and effective products in a very short period of time at a fraction of the cost.

Ironically, it is the government health department that sets the biggest barrier to these alternative solutions. They think their tough methods can make things better, but in fact, the best thing they can do is to avoid them.

Of course, we believe that the first solution is a universal trend in humans, but this trend is especially common in governments. From school to confinement to almost everything else, the government is often helpless and slow to adjust.

But this is not just a coincidence. In fact, this is a natural result of the incentives built into the system. Since the government will not face competition, taxpayers have no choice but to fund it, so they have no pressure to innovate or improve. As a result, ineffective and harmful practices tend to become deeply ingrained, even long after their shortcomings are exposed.

But the free market is different. As private companies face competition and their customers can walk away, they must constantly adjust their practices to meet people's needs as much as possible. Companies that come up with new and better solutions will get higher profits and be encouraged to develop, while companies that have been troubled in the past will soon suffer losses and eventually go bankrupt.

Then, the free market is the key to overcoming the anchoring bias. Indeed, competition and consumer choice are the main drivers of innovation and progress.

On the other hand, the government...well, we hope that the blockade will not last for a year.

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