The Sunk Cost Virus

I finally figured out what government and WHO policy regarding coronavirus reminds me of – a 419 letter advance-fee scam (those emails from third world customs officials wanting your help in sneaking money out of the country).

“We work for the Blogostania customs office and through vigorous enforcement of regulations we have collected $ 20,000,000 (twenty-million!) US dollars in excess of our quotas. We would like to move this money out of the country and require your help, for which we will pay you 10% or two million US dollars!”

If a sucker takes the bait the next step is to set the hook.

“We need you to set up a bank account and give us access to it.”

Then a month or two later “You’ll have to deposit $2000 and let us take it out so that we know we can use it.” There will be convincing arguments about why they can’t just deposit money themselves.

Then a month or two later “An official has learned of our plan but promises not to turn us in provided that we make a one time payment to him of $5000.”

Then a month or two later “New banking regulations have come into force since you opened the account they require a one time payment of $3,500 for using an international account.”

Then a month or two later “There’s a new reason you need to send us money.” Needless to say the mark never gets the money the endless series of petty requests are the payoff for the scammer.

One of the hooks of this type of scam is the sunk cost fallacy, the mark might be getting suspicious but says to themselves “I’ve spent this much money, what’s two thousand more? It’ll all be worth it once i get that two million dollars!”

With coronavirus the bait was “A horrible killer virus is coming and the streets will be littered with corpses!” and of course people were concerned about this. Then they set the hook with “Agree to a lockdown of a couple of months and the economic burdens that that entails and you’ll gain the benefit of defeating the virus”.

The next stage is confusion with conflicting messages about masks and the possibility of a vaccine (any day now! or maybe never!) so that the public can never really relax.

We’re now in the stage where each new concession just buys a week or month of reprieve before a new scare is trotted out “Second wave!” “Reproduction level!” “Long term affects!” so that we keep giving up more and more. “We’ve gone this far and given up this much, what’s a few weeks/months/years more? It’ll all be worth it once we’ve defeated the virus.”

Guess what? You can’t defeat a virus. The only real purpose of a lockdown is to give the medical establishment a chance to get prepared for the worst – which never really happened outside a handful of cities. Once you let up on the lockdown the virus will predictably continue to spread until it burns itself out. More lockdowns now just mean more lockdowns in the future.

By all means individuals should practice due caution (especially if they belong to a high risk group or have contact with members of high risk groups) but the idea that a virus can be eliminated through lockdowns is magic thinking and/or hubris. It’s not gonna happen.

It’s time to come to terms with what has been lost already and move on before we lose even more.

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1 Response to The Sunk Cost Virus

  1. eD says:

    This is an excellent description of what has been happening.

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