Over vs Under Reactions

Corona KidThere are lots of examples of different styles of reacting to situations. We surely have numerous stories from our own lives of over-reacting vs under-reacting, and how things played out over time as we think about the effects of our actions. The same is true of society as a whole and governments.

We over-reacted against Saddam when we thought there were WMD in Iraq. Given what had happened with 9-11 and our complacency to those known threats, this seemed prudent at the time.  If you see a potential threat, attack rather than risk being attacked.  The strategy was sound, though the execution (Paul Bremmer) was flawed.

With Corona we drastically under-reacted.  Trump’s entire life has been a bet and pray strategy.  He bets huge on one of his gut feelings. This might be a hoax, or overblown in its seriousness since the flu is more deadly and we do nothing. And then pray that he is right. He was right that xenophobia, Russian fueled fake news, America-first, Hillary hating misogyny, and a reality TV host was the winning formula for his election. He was also right to close the border to China when this problem flared up (bad execution and follow-up).

Thus far, his bets haven’t had any lasting effect on his finances (4 bankruptcies where he wrote off debt) or his reputation (steaks, schools, a fake charity, airlines, employing illegal immigrants, marrying an illegal immigrant, Taj Mahal, Atlantic City, Putin). But now we are dealing with a bet that affects lives. And if changing life means an effect on the stock market, he pays attention. But only until those around him give him the confirmation bias he needs to go where his gut tells him, He is reactionary to the loudest chicken-little in the room at the time. That is not leadership. And thus it by definition is under-reactionary, since he can never get ahead of a problem. He finds it easy to get ahead of a solution, like goosing a hot economy with tax cuts. A no brainer since the ‘problem’ of our out of control deficit and debt haven’t become a problem for him…yet.

So which is better? Assuming that we could have rebuilt Iraq without disbanding the government, military and the Ba’ath party, that could have worked out well. The homeland has largely been safe from terrorist attack. This seems an expensive, but effective strategy if the objective was to save American civilian lives. Over-reacting actually worked in the way we wanted (security).

The jury is still out on Corona. If the reports that 50% of the UK have the virus already and their death rates are tiny, then my theory that good health and civility/respect for others (quintessential quality of Brits) is definitely a winning strategy for society to isolate enough to stay safe. In which case, under-reacting and caution seem to be the stronger play.

But I think the decision is out of our hands. America is too fat, lazy and stupid to take care and put herself in a position to weather such a storm. We have been bred to be entitled and coddled so that we are weak when it comes to real-world threats, epidemics and pandemics. There is always someone else to handle it for us, and we can pay someone (health care workers, scientists) to solve our problems rather than taking menial steps to universally contribute to the solution (climate change, pollution). For Covid19; vapers, fat diabetics, smokers, drug addicts, McDonalds-cholesterol-infused-heart-disease sufferers, couch addicted Netflix/YouTube/video game shut-ins, party-hardy millennials on spring break in Florida, the out-of-shape elderly, etc present a cohort that is a majority of the population particularly susceptible to this disease. It is stronger than the flu, lasts longer, has no vaccine shot, and requires treatment that we are fundamentally unable to support in the kind of numbers we see in China/Korea/ Italy/Spain.

In general, I am a strong believer in over-reacting. If I hear a noise in the middle of the night, the first thing I do is grab my .45 from the safe and check out the house, inside and out. My personal belief is that Corona is one that needed over-reaction. Government needed to protect us from ourselves and our ego that “If I get Corona, I get Corona” because someone will save me. Isn’t that why I pay taxes?

President Oompa Loompa’s luck might finally run out. But just like everything else he fucks up, he won’t pay the price, we will.

About Josh Rutstein

I am an aspiring entrepreneur and hopeful political candidate. Father of 2 very special girls, husband to an amazing woman, and passionate American. I snowboard whenever possible and follow a 20x mentality for exercise. I also play golf and ultimate frisbee and am a die hard New England Patriots fan and season ticket holder. Everyday I wake up wanting to make this country a better place, someday I hope to actually succeed.
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