March 9, 2020

It’s a beautiful pre-spring day in Virginia.  About 70 degrees outside, blue skies, clear, fresh air.  And yet, the air is filled with fear and trembling because of Covid-19.

The market dropped by close to eight percent today.  In percentage terms, it was far from the biggest one-day drop, but in terms of sheer number of points it set a record.  People are cancelling flights, staying home from church, being sent home from school.

I have to say I don’t get it.  About 150,000 people die every day from something, usually old age.  After six weeks, Covid-19 has killed about 4,000.  That’s tragic, and we mourn for every soul.  But it is a reason to shut down the world?  To destroy our collective wealth?  To stop learning, working, traveling?

Of course everyone should wash his or her hands.  Of course everyone should take other reasonable precautions.  And there is probably no reason to fly in a metal tube full of strangers if it’s not absolutely essential.  But the current levels of hysteria – in the media, in government, in the markets — seem, well, hysterical.

I will check back in on this subject in about six weeks.  Maybe I will be horribly, tragically wrong.  Maybe I will be flat broke.  But in the meantime I’m going outside to play with Maxine, the new puppy.

Just a PS – this seems like a reasonable take on what is now being called “social distancing.”  The idea is not to prevent the spread (that’s impossible) but to slow it down so that health care facilities don’t get overtaxed.

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