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Who’s Being Mature About the Covid-19 Risks?

It has become a common refrain in legal opinions that young people are reckless, impulsive, and prone to “heedless risk-taking.”  This fact, which “any parent knows,” has been deployed to invalidate death sentences and long prison terms imposed on juvenile murderers, the logic being that even the most heinous crime, when committed by the young, does not necessarily indicate incorrigible depravity. The age at which we mature, and become fully accountable, is drifting higher and higher. The Scottish Sentencing Council has proposed that anyone under that age of 25 not be incarcerated.

Lately, this critique of youth has been invoked to explain and condemn young people’s flouting of social distancing norms. Disregarding adults and health experts, they are recklessly gathering again, not only in political protests, but on beaches and at parties. As a parent of three children, including two teenagers, I can attest that the lockdown is losing whatever grip it once held on our youth. It is a worldwide phenomenon and raises concerns, it is said, about a possible second wave of covid-19 cases. Although “excess deaths associated with COVID-19” in the United States have plummeted since April 11, this trend may reverse as restrictions on commerce are lifted and hospitals become overburdened.

In a New York Times op-ed Lawrence Steinberg, a much-acclaimed author on adolescence (broadly defined to extend into one’s 20s), makes “pessimistic predictions” about college student behavior in the fall. Ominously entitled, “Expecting Students to Play It Safe If Colleges Reopen Is a Fantasy,” the operative word being “if,” the article exudes doubts about the feasibility and prudence of re-opening universities. At times invoking the august authority of Aristotle, Steinberg has judged the young “less able to control themselves and more prone to risk-taking than adults.” They will not wear masks and socially distance, and he concludes his op-ed by saying that he for one is opting out: “I will ask to teach remotely for the time being.”

Risk Tolerance

Tolerance for risk declines as we age, but it should be acknowledged that adults in the past were complacent about hazards that would inspire terror today. Consider the acceptance and even celebration of the dangers that accompanied the brisk construction of the Empire State Building. Completed in May 1931 in just over one year, the venture cost the lives of about 10 men. This lethality could have been abated with safety precautions, but no one at the time thought them necessary. It was the Great Depression, and the 3,000 jobs created by the project were eagerly vied for. New Yorkers cheered the steelworkers and riveters as “sky boys,” who dangled hundreds of feet above the ground. According to the New York Times, they “put on the best open-air show in town. They rode into the air on top of a steel beam that they maneuvered into place as a crosspiece by hanging to the cable rope and steering the beam with their feet, then strolling on the thin edge of nothingness.” Wrote London’s Daily Mail: “They were right there, in the flesh, outwardly prosaic, incredibly nonchalant, crawling, climbing, walking, swinging, swooping on gigantic steel frames.”

Working conditions are much safer now. No one died during the less dramatic construction of the World Trade Centers in 1970, thanks not only to technological improvements, but also to the country’s greater wealth, which allowed builders to devote substantial resources to worker safety. There are still jobs filled with perils, but those workers, unlike professors, are not generally afforded space in the op-ed section of the New York Times to ventilate their concerns. In a recent year, for example, nearly 100 roofers died on the job. On an actuarial basis, logging and commercial fishing are even more dangerous occupations.

Aristotle suggests that the old are overly obsessed with safety and the young are overly inclined to risk-taking, so the wishes of neither the old nor the young should be given priority.

Those of us—academics, lawyers, journalists, etc.—fortunate to enjoy safer lives have become ever more obsessive about remaining dangers. Alexis de Tocqueville famously observed that as conditions become more equal the remaining inequalities are even more irksome. One could say the same about the acceptance of risk. With ever fewer threats, those that linger arouse mounting anxiety, and we then project this unease on our children, whom we bubble-wrapped long before the recent pandemic. Heather Mac Donald describes a pre-covid scene that triggers a flash of uncomfortable recognition for many readers:

A young child, maybe 40 inches tall, would be slowly wheeled along on a tiny tricycle scooter by his father, the father’s hand resting protectively on the boy’s shoulders. This three-wheeled toy is eminently stable, yet the boy would invariably be wearing a massive helmet, lest somehow he keel over and hit the ground. Given the boy’s lack of both height and momentum, such an unlikely fall would not even produce a bruise, yet every possible precaution had been taken to protect him from calamity.

As a parent, I recognize and sympathize with the impulse reflected here but am nonetheless conflicted. Of course, I want to protect my children, and then exhort them to act responsibly and live to a doughty old age. And yet, does a parent really want his children to be unceasingly cautious? Being scared of one’s own shadow (a time-honored insult that seems to have gone out of fashion), is not an attractive quality at any age, and certainly not in a young person. Kipling’s famous hope for his “son”—that he be prepared to “make one heap of all [his] winnings/ And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss”—still rings true today. Tax-exempt bonds and guaranteed income funds are appropriate for old people, but a community depends on daring in its youth. This lust for adventure and even danger should, in a measured way, be cherished and nurtured. As Jordan Peterson teaches (Rule # 11), do not bother children when they are skateboarding.

Aristotle and the Mean

Which brings me back to Aristotle. Steinberg and others wrap their critiques of the young in the illustrious garb of the great authors of the past. (Shakespeare also gets worked over—implausibly—in this regard.) True, in The Art of Rhetoric Aristotle depicts the young as driven by sensual pleasure and “carried away by impulse.” But his treatment of the character of youth is paired with a discussion of “old age.” And Aristotle’s sympathies are unmistakably with the young. They are “generous” and “fond of their friends”; the old are “querulous, and neither witty nor fond of laughter.” The young “prefer the noble to the useful”; in the old, there is “more calculation than moral virtue.” Even in their attitudes towards risk, Aristotle is pro-youth. They are “courageous, because they are full of passion and hope.” Youth provide the energy and even reckless abandon that give rise to and then sustain civilizations. By contrast:

Old age paves the way for cowardice, for fear is a kind of chill. And they are fond of life, especially in their last days. . . And they live not for the noble, but for the useful, more than they ought, because they are selfish.

Aristotle’s stated purpose in this paired discussion of the vices of the young and the old is to direct his reader to the virtues of those in the “prime of life.” Aristotle suggests that the old are overly obsessed with safety and the young are overly inclined to risk-taking, so the wishes of neither the old nor the young should be given priority. An honest confrontation with Aristotle would generate the following question: is America’s strategy in dealing with covid-19 prudent and mature, promoting the common good, or geriatric and cowardly, serving the interests of America’s unhealthy gerontocracy? The latter possibility seems to be the sentiment of many teenagers—who, like roofers, are seldom given the opportunity to express their opinions in the New York Times (unless the subject is climate change).

A peculiar aspect of our nation’s lockdowns and mandatory safety precautions is that they have been imposed on everyone, irrespective of age. To make this plausible, the media scours the nation for evidence of young people taking ill from covid-19, and of course in a nation as large as ours, there will be unfortunate cases. But the dominant reality as it is experienced by young people today is that covid-19 is, as one teenager told me, “an old person’s disease.” To judge from my own children and their friends, most teenagers have been socializing with others of their age cohort, sans masks and social distancing, and none has taken ill. Many more young people are said to be “contracting” coronavirus in recent weeks, but this is likely a function of more widely conducted testing.

Consider the report that 100 students at the University of Washington’s fraternity row tested positive for covid-19. A local “health officer” pronounced this “very concerning” and muttered about the “risks” of bringing students back in person. Yet in what would seem to be a classic case of burying the lede, the article only faintly alludes to the fact that none of the undergraduates was hospitalized; indeed, it is unclear whether most experienced any symptoms whatsoever.

To be sure, the recent death of a Penn State undergraduate, reportedly from covid-19, is distressing, as are accounts of a few undergraduates taking ill after fraternity parties in the South. But the risk from covid-19 needs to be situated in the panoply of risks young people confront. Even before the lockdown, we are in the midst of what has been called a “youth suicide epidemic,” with suicide now the second leading cause of death in college-age Americans. How clamping down on in-person interactions, which will only enhance the power of social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok, can be expected to improve the situation is seldom addressed by public health experts. Nor do all the statistics compiled by the CDC ever tabulate the number of “young people’s lives that have been stifled or destroyed” to satisfy our gerontocrats’ desire to protect life, whatever the costs.

It is certainly fair for older professors to request an accommodation, such as online teaching, in recognition of their vulnerabilities. For some professors, this is the prudent course. But it is also fair to recognize—and accommodate—the intense desire of young people to socialize with their friends and to participate in communal activities. Precisely where to strike a balance between these two perspectives is hard to say, but a first step in in arriving at a prudent and mature approach to the risks universities face would be to be wary of septuagenarians peddling their expertise on adolescence.

Reader Discussion

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.

on July 22, 2020 at 08:13:58 am

America should not have a “covid lockdown policy.” If there’s truly benefit to various precautions, those can be listed as safety guidelines and allow people to entrepreneurially find ways to implement them. I cannot see how the Federal or State Constitutions five governments the powers to lock healthy people up because there’s a disease, and I can’t imagine rational moral argument for it.

The lockdowns at present are a political tool used by proponents for political ends that have little to do with health. In *that* sense there’s a rational argument for them, but it’s not moral.

If college administrations wish to have Institution wide policies, then yes, it makes sense that vulnerable people - the elderly and the infirm - should be encouraged to sequester while those who are robust, e.g. young healthy students, behave normally.

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Charles N. Steele
on July 22, 2020 at 10:07:09 am

Charles Steele says just about all that needs be said about the lockdowns, but I will elaborate.

The lockdowns are politics, wholly politics and nothing but politics. They are both supra-public health and supra-constitutional. They arise solely out of the reality that the Democrat Party will never let a good crisis go to waste. Thus, just as it did with the riots and as it has done with every other crisis within the memory of anyone alive, the Democrat Party also did with the China Virus. It weaponized the China Virus and used the lockdowns for political gain.

A major part ( but just a part) of the Democrat Party's process of politically weaponizing the China Virus was to deploy the lockdowns so as to harm President Trump's prospects of re-election and improve the Democrat Party's prospects of retaining the House while taking the Senate and thereby clearing the way for radical structural changes in governance (e.g., open the southern border, legalize 20 million illegal immigrants, eliminate the Senate filibuster rule, neutralize the Electoral College, eliminate single-family housing in the suburbs so as to flood Republican districts with inner-city Democrats, and, of course, stack the Supreme Court with 2-4 additional Democrat Justices) so as to empower the modern, revolutionary Democrat Party indefinitely.

Besides increasing the prospects of long-term damage to the structure and foundation of government, in deploying the lockdowns to win the next election the Democrat Party has also badly damaged the economy, undermined national security, abused the constitution, upended the law, assaulted religious worship, trampled on morality and offended common decency while giving America's enemy, the Chinese Communist Party, just what it wanted.

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paladin
on July 25, 2020 at 18:09:07 pm

Bravo, well said!

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Deb
on July 22, 2020 at 11:26:59 am

The author asks that we laud the virtues of youthful risk taking, while grudging acknowledging that age imparts the prudence, judgment and caution, born of life experience. He then accords each perspective moral equivalence, reminiscent of a noteworthy comment made in the wake of Charlottesville. We are to led to conclude, as we are told Aristotle might, that there are “fine people on both sides”.

The fallacies in this argument are that while youthful risk-taking might be productive, it does not generally carry with it the risk of serious illness or death to others who choose not to join in. The argument also fails to acknowledge the Social Contract so fundamental to our Founders concept of freedom, tethered to responsibility. Locke and Rousseau, respected by those Founders, argued that our civil rights are predicated upon our acceptance of a reciprocal obligation to respect and defend the rights of others and in so doing, we surrender unabridged freedom of action. In the age of COVID-19, it hardly seems unreasonable to expect those whose actions may endanger the lives of others to abide by that Contract. In a Nation where many have an unqualified reverence for the Right to Life, it is incongruous, at best, not to insist that our fellow citizens and our government act in a manner focused upon the preservation of life.

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Henry Wansker
on July 22, 2020 at 18:18:23 pm

And to ADD to Paladin's assessment re: the duplicity, mendacity, prevarication and "crisis enhancement" proclivities of the Democrat Party, I must add the self serving claims of Democrat Mayors, County commissioners, AG's and Governors that Trump a) is using dictatorial powers b) is violating the constitution c) is engaging in a "test run" to overturn a Democrat victory in November and d) etc etc etc any manner of patently false and fantastic mischief BY sending in Federal Marshals to stem the rampant lawlessness and violence in DEMOCRAT controlled cities.
Listen to the rhetoric. It is almost as if they have initiated the unrest in order to portray the President as a third world dictator (actually called that by a noted Dem Pol) hellbent on crushing *peaceful* opposition. While they, the Dem Pols, may not have initiated, they certainly know how to manage AND enhance a crisis, now don;t they?
Better for The Trumpster to simply let the Democrat politicians stew in their own juices.

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gabe
on July 23, 2020 at 01:57:07 am

Professor Lerner's essay is limited by a hazy and generic use of the term "risk." Risk has both qualitative and quantitative characteristics, and identifying these is essential to such tasks as risk assessment, risk management, and determining risk tolerance.

The qualitative aspects of risk include such things as risk of what, and to whom. With respect to COVID-19, these entail such considerations as risk of catching the disease compared to risk of dying from it, risk of passing the disease on to someone else, risk of overwhelming the healthcare system compared to simply rising numbers of comparatively less serious cases, unobvious risks of mitigation efforts, such as foregoing regular surgical treatment of non-healing diabetic foot ulcers due to fear of COVID-19, and non-health related detriments associated with risk management efforts, such as psychological and economic harms. There are many qualitative unknowns, such as whether particular interventions are effective in mitigating COVID-19 risk, whether the biology of virus spread and pathogenicity is amenable to available interventions, and whether current strategies to eventually control the virus are feasible.

The quantitative aspects arise from the idea of risk as the probability of an undesirable outcome. This is composed of sub-parts, those being the probability that a particular undesirable outcome will occur, and the comparative seriousness of each such outcome. Knowledge of both of these is necessary in order for risks to be assessed , weighed and used to balance risks and benefits in decision-making. These calculations are inherently data dependent, and the state of COVID-19-related data is disastrous. This is because of the politicization of COVID-19 information, policy blunders such as providing financial incentives to attribute diseases and deaths to COVID-19, shifting priorities, competing interests, and lack of competence in developing strategies for collecting and managing data in a manner that is most useful to actual scientists, not the bureaucrats whose interests are more short-sighted and parochial.

As a result of uncertainties afflicting both the qualitative and quantitative aspects of COVID-19 risks, it is difficult to provide rigorous arguments for or against any particular policy intervention, such as opening schools, or ending capricious lockdown policies. It does appear though, looking at the worldwide data, and even noting the widely divergent experiences, that if a person is determined not to get COVID-19, he can reduce his individual risk to near zero: Stay at home, and have all food delivered; wash you hands compulsively; don't touch food with you fingers; etc.

As to the topic of Professor Lerner's essay, a few observations are in order. The risk of contracting the disease by young people is quantitatively different both in terms of probability of exposure and severity of outcome. The risk/benefit assessment is therefore different than it is for, say, an octogenarian. Similarly the benefit of foregoing behaviors that might cause one person to infect someone else are qualitatively and quantitatively different than those interventions that people may invoke to prevent becoming infected themselves. These also vary according to age, health status, and such. Young people will assess risks differently, based on what they observe in their own experiences, wholly apart from any presumed youthful disregard of risk.

Even if calculation of accurate absolute risks is not feasible because of data limitations, it is possible to identify groups with significantly lower comparative risks. These facts make it difficult to make an evidence-based case for restricting freedoms and imposing burdens on people who are at low relative risk, in order to benefit people who have the most ability to minimize their own risk of contracting COVID-19. In this, I agree with Professor Steele. The virus has a vote in the course of the epidemic, and this is not cancelled by scattershot impositions that may work for individual circumstances, but do not translate into practical general policies. It is not helpful to equate the risk of catching COVID-19 with the risk of dying from it; it is unreasonable to extrapolate the risk of contracting it to the risk of spreading it; it is not logical to distribute burdens of decreasing disease prevalence as though risks are evenly distributed, when they obviously are not. Most importantly though, it is unreasonable to try to compensate for our self-imposed impediments to reasonable risk assessment by pretending that the risk of catching COVID-19 is the only thing that matters in the world.

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z9z99
on July 23, 2020 at 10:29:01 am

Flu season will be coming up. What isn't known in the medical community is what will happen when a lot of people have the flu and covid at the same time. Will the flu be one of those pre-existing conditions that makes covid especially nasty? We may be wishing the government imposed herd immunity on us instead useless masks. Since government prevented herd immunity and extended covid to flu season we can anticipate government going back to extreme lockdown again during flu season. Since the government is erring on the side of excess restrictions I actually try to balance that out encouraging young people to spread the disease more today so we won't have to deal with it tomorrow.
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The disease isn't going to go away and pretty much everyone is going to get it eventually. I prefer to get it today when I'm younger, stronger and healthier than I will be a year from now. Most people get various health problems as we get older. You don't know if you will develop cancer or heart disease this year while covid is still going around. I am most unhappy that government has taken from me this critical choice about my family's health and safety.
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Preventing an overload of hospitals is one thing, but what we are seeing today goes way beyond that.

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Scott Amorian
on July 23, 2020 at 10:36:55 am

I cannot help but wonder, given the fact that risk has “both qualitative and quantitative characteristics, and identifying these is essential to such tasks as risk assessment, risk management, and determining risk tolerance”, and for the elderly and those who are immune compromised, this particular virus is extremely fatal, due to the susceptibility of this particular population to hypoxia, whether Covid 19, is an accident in nature, or a man made design.

https://arxiv.org/pdf/2003.12191.pdf

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrgD5TyJmrM

http://www.micatholic.org/advocacy/board-bishops-statements/board-statements/statement-on-euthanasia/

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Nancy
on July 23, 2020 at 23:25:19 pm

One more thought:

After reading the essay and associated comments a couple of times, I still find the original essay by Professor Lerner and the comment by Mr. Wansker unpersuasive. The reason, I think, is found in Professor Lerner's phrase "social distancing norms." This is an oxymoron. The healthy, natural norms in social interaction are those illustrated in the photograph accompanying the essay. Professor Lerner skims over this, setting up a dichotomy of "reckless, impulsive, and prone to 'heedless risk-taking'" youth, and anxious, joyless old people, who feel death's hand in every draft.

Mr. Wansker follows the same path, choosing to draw a distinction between "youthful risk-taking" and the unwanted threats imposed on those "who choose not to join in." Both views, in my opinion are in error. The activity portrayed in the above photograph is not unjustifiable risk-taking, or the misguided recklessness associated with underdeveloped frontal lobes. It is human beings doing meaningful human things. This is where I think Professor Steele has the appropriate insight. Forcing people to forego natural, instinctive and ultimately essential interactions, even in the face of a threat to public health is not moral. Forcing humans to forego grieving lost loved ones, or to avoid the last opportunity to mean something to someone is not moral. The distinction is not between some elective foolhardy thrill seeking and monastic solitude; it is between normal human life and bureaucratically imposed quasi-solitude of questionable efficacy and dubious rationale. We have no shortage of epidemics, plagues pandemics and contagions throughout history to tell us that trying to hide from them and treating everyone as walking death is not only unnecessary, but it doesn't work.

Young people who do not follow artificial "social distancing norms" are not heedless or reckless, nor are they violating an implicit social contract. They are not providing the sine qua non that dooms everyone over 65. They are instead, behaving as normal humans do, even in times of contagion.

And, as Mr. Amorian points out, they may actually be doing the right thing.

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z9z99
on July 24, 2020 at 13:19:43 pm

And another thought:
It is important to note that because of the “Distant sequence similarity between hepcidin and the novel coronavirus spike glycoprotein: a potential hint at the possibility of local iron dysregulation in COVID-19”,
we must be careful that any vaccine for Covid 19 will not result in hypoxia, which is the real danger for those who are most at risk.

25 March 2020 (revised on 21 May 2020 and 30 June 2020)
Distant sequence similarity between hepcidin and the novel coronavirus spike glycoprotein: a potential hint at the possibility of local iron dysregulation in COVID-19
Sepehr Ehsani 1,2,*
1 Theoretical and Philosophical Biology, Department of Philosophy, University College London, Bloomsbury, London, WC1E 6BT, United Kingdom
2 Ronin Institute for Independent Scholarship, Montclair, New Jersey, 07043, United States * E-mail: [email protected] / [email protected]
ABSTRACT
The spike glycoprotein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, has attracted attention for its vaccine potential and binding capacity to host cell surface receptors. Much of this research focus has centered on the ectodomain of the spike protein. The ectodomain is anchored to a transmembrane region, followed by a cytoplasmic tail. Here we report a distant sequence similarity between the cysteine-rich cytoplasmic tail of the coronavirus spike protein and the hepcidin protein that is found in humans and other vertebrates. Hepcidin is thought to be the key regulator of iron metabolism in humans. An implication of this preliminary observation is to suggest a potential route of investigation in the coronavirus research field making use of an already- established literature on the interplay of local and systemic iron regulation, cytokine-mediated inflammatory processes, respiratory infections and the hepcidin protein. The question of possible homology and an evolutionary connection between the viral spike protein and hepcidin is not assessed in this report, but some scenarios for its study are discussed.

https://www.google.com/search?q=hepcidin+and+covid+19&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en-us&client=safari

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/spotlights/2019-2020/vaccine-stronger-immune.htm

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N.D.
on July 24, 2020 at 13:21:32 pm

Well, given the Gulag Gruel which L&L has offered up today, Friday, July 24, it seems we are obliged to dine instead on the leftovers of yesterday's far better fare. So I return to that topic and discuss the matter of risk assessment, which was so smartly addressed by Z9Z99. My comments are not systematic, so as to avoid the accusation of being "systemic," a word disfavored nowadays and definitional rigor being also out of favor. However, I would observe that the politicization/weaponization of public health and environmental science and of their risk assessment methodology and data (as well as the data and methodology of opinion polling, sociology and education, and epidemiology) is so systematic as to have become systemic and render their results highly unreliable, if not useless, except for punitive regulatory purposes. In my profession, environmental law, this abusive politicization of science and of risk-assessment methodology and data has been going on, getting progressively worse, for 50 years, culminating in the dangerous climate change crusade, as embodied in the scientifically-unreliable Endangerment Finding of the Obama Administration, from which the Revolutionary Democrat Party (RDP) would seek to profit by gaining control of the whole world even at the cost of losing its own soul (as if it had a soul.)

Yet, in the midst of the RDP's ongoing world war against science, economic prosperity, religion, morality and social well-being, the China Virus threat arose as a special gift, which the RDP has exploited fully for political gain and to punish its opponents, once again by abusing science and the methodology and data of risk assessment. In the order in which these appear, I offer some few thoughts on some few of the comments on this matter by the essayist and Z9Z99:

Professor Lerner says, "Tolerance for risk declines as we age, but it should be acknowledged that adults in the past were complacent about hazards that would inspire terror today."
"One could say the same about the acceptance of risk. With ever fewer threats, those that linger arouse mounting anxiety, and we then project this unease on our children, whom we bubble-wrapped long before the recent pandemic."

In reply I would note the paradox that the Greatest Generation, having faced the most dire risks, sired snowflakes as heirs to its heritage, three successive generations of cowards so afraid of death that they fear life and seek to abolish death, each generation progressively more risk-averse, safety-obsessed and snowflake-like than the last. The RDP's political abuse of science and of the methodology and data of risk assessment has contributed greatly to that qualitative moral decline and quantitative diminution in the depth, breadth and frequency of the virtue of courage.

By way of segue Professor Lerner quotes Aristotle, "Old age paves the way for cowardice, for fear is a kind of chill. And they are fond of life, especially in their last days. . . And they live not for the noble, but for the useful, more than they ought, because they are selfish."
Lerner then says, "Aristotle’s stated purpose in this paired discussion of the vices of the young and the old is to direct his reader to the virtues of those in the 'prime of life.' Aristotle suggests that the old are overly obsessed with safety and the young are overly inclined to risk-taking, so the wishes of neither the old nor the young should be given priority. An honest confrontation with Aristotle would generate the following question: is America’s strategy in dealing with covid-19 prudent and mature, promoting the common good, or geriatric and cowardly, serving the interests of America’s unhealthy gerontocracy?"

In reply I would say that Aristotle's empirical observations about young and old are of no contemporary value since he had knowledge neither of the bravery of today's elderly nor of their ancestors, those countless, stalwart, courageous adults who made America great, America's Founders, those who pioneered beyond the frontiers of the Adirondacks, Appalachia, the Great Plains and the Rockies, of A. Lincoln, U.S. Grant, Calvin Coolidge, the Greatest Generation, George Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan. Nor could Aristotle's empirical and experiential wisdom embrace any knowledge of the human type which makes up the three most recent generations of youth, the snowflakes which the Greatest Generation sired, who, unlike the youth of olden times, appear risk-averse and self-obsessed. In fact, the generational divide, today, is the opposite of that which Aristotle describes, on which Lerner relies.

Professor Lerner says, "A peculiar aspect of our nation’s lockdowns and mandatory safety precautions is that they have been imposed on everyone, irrespective of age." and speaking I assume from his personal concerns as a university professor, "It is certainly fair for older professors to request an accommodation, such as online teaching, in recognition of their vulnerabilities. For some professors, this is the prudent course. But it is also fair to recognize—and accommodate—the intense desire of young people to socialize with their friends and to participate in communal activities. Precisely where to strike a balance between these two perspectives is hard to say, but a first step in in arriving at a prudent and mature approach to the risks universities face would be to be wary of septuagenarians peddling their expertise on adolescence."
A nation victimized by the Leftist likes of Dr. Fauci and the thoroughly politicized public health establishment can certainly agree with Lerner's sentiment "to be wary of septuagenarians peddling their expertise.'' But the rest of Lerner's admonition, unfortunately, is a mere statement of what courts and bureaucrats love to do and too often, for political reasons, do badly and immorally, a blinkered balancing of what, looking at life through cataracted lenses, are perceived as competing political interests rather than basic human rights to live, work, learn, communicate and socialize.

Z9Z99 says, in response, "Most importantly though, it is unreasonable to try to compensate for our self-imposed impediments to reasonable risk assessment by pretending that the risk of catching COVID-19 is the only thing that matters in the world."
"Risk has both qualitative and quantitative characteristics, and identifying these is essential to such tasks as risk assessment, risk management, and determining risk tolerance."
"We have no shortage of epidemics, plagues pandemics and contagions throughout history to tell us that trying to hide from them and treating everyone as walking death is not only unnecessary, but it doesn't work."

To all of which, I say, "Precisely, and the RDP's decades-long campaign of politicized abuse of science and of the methodology and data of risk assessment has led the nation down this road to perdition.

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paladin
on July 24, 2020 at 14:46:05 pm

This raises a lot of good issues, far more than can be addressed in a single reply. Right off the top of my head however, I am reminded of the story of King Canute who, Wikipedia tells us

demonstrates to his flattering courtiers that he has no control over the elements (the incoming tide), explaining that secular power is vain compared to the supreme power of God. The episode is frequently alluded to in contexts where the futility of "trying to stop the tide" of an inexorable event is pointed out

We could use a King Canute at the CDC, if nothing else to remind the folks there that perhaps they don't know as much as they think they know.

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z9z99
on July 24, 2020 at 16:33:34 pm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNsTndy9CZo

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paladin
on July 24, 2020 at 15:38:31 pm

A second thought is that there are disciplines euphemistically called "administrative medicine," "legal medicine," and "entreprenuerial medicine." To these we can add "bureaucratic medicine." These are medicine in the same sense that "social justice" is justice and wax fruit is fruit. The focus, and priority of the practitioners is not on the subjects, but the respective modifiers. A physician in a bureaucracy, as a rule of thumb, is a bureaucrat first.

As to the idea that there is such a thing as "the science" that one's political opponents ignore, I would recommend a brief perusal of the website medicalreversal.com . Being that the word "science" comes from the Latin word meaning "to know," when we start listing all of the things we don't know about COVID-19, one wonders if the word is more aspirational than descriptive. Rather than saying" we are following the science," a more accurate claim is probably "we are groping our way through the uncertainty."

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z9z99
on July 24, 2020 at 13:40:22 pm

And another thought:
It is important to note that because of the “Distant sequence similarity between hepcidin and the novel coronavirus spike glycoprotein: a potential hint at the possibility of local iron dysregulation in COVID-19”,
we must be careful that any vaccine for Covid 19 will not result in hypoxia, which is the real danger for those who are most at risk.

25 March 2020 (revised on 21 May 2020 and 30 June 2020)
Distant sequence similarity between hepcidin and the novel coronavirus spike glycoprotein: a potential hint at the possibility of local iron dysregulation in COVID-19
Sepehr Ehsani 1,2,*
1 Theoretical and Philosophical Biology, Department of Philosophy, University College London, Bloomsbury, London, WC1E 6BT, United Kingdom
2 Ronin Institute for Independent Scholarship, Montclair, New Jersey, 07043, United States * E-mail: [email protected] / [email protected]
ABSTRACT
The spike glycoprotein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, has attracted attention for its vaccine potential and binding capacity to host cell surface receptors. Much of this research focus has centered on the ectodomain of the spike protein. The ectodomain is anchored to a transmembrane region, followed by a cytoplasmic tail. Here we report a distant sequence similarity between the cysteine-rich cytoplasmic tail of the coronavirus spike protein and the hepcidin protein that is found in humans and other vertebrates. Hepcidin is thought to be the key regulator of iron metabolism in humans. An implication of this preliminary observation is to suggest a potential route of investigation in the coronavirus research field making use of an already- established literature on the interplay of local and systemic iron regulation, cytokine-mediated inflammatory processes, respiratory infections and the hepcidin protein. The question of possible homology and an evolutionary connection between the viral spike protein and hepcidin is not assessed in this report, but some scenarios for its study are discussed.

https://www.google.com/search?q=hepcidin+and+covid+19&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en-us&client=safari

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/spotlights/2019-2020/vaccine-stronger-immune.htm

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Nancy
on July 24, 2020 at 13:57:42 pm

Terrific article. The topic of 'safetyism' deserves much more attention than it currently receives. Well done

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Skeptical1
on July 25, 2020 at 21:08:43 pm

https://nonvenipacem.com/2020/07/24/would-you-be-surprised-to-learn-that-coronavirus-vaccines-have-a-tendency-to-kill-the-patient/

This is certainly worth investigating, whether the addition of a viral uptake enhancer to the flu vaccine, can result in hypoxia for those most vulnerable to Covid 19, the elderly and immune compromised.

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N.D.
on July 26, 2020 at 16:36:26 pm

Some rather excellent comments above.
Let me just add one or two observations:
1) It would appear that most folks are accepting Lerner's supposition that the old codgers amongst us are living in fear and trepidation. I contest that. The elderly folks with whom I associate and play golf with are evidence to the contrary. Most of us wear a mask ONLY when it is mandated by the (im)proper government authorities or the establishment with which we are currently engaged. My own observation is that at least an equal number of folks are rather unimpressed by the "precautions" they are informed are necessary.
2) Paladin's claim that the Greatest Generation sired 2-3 generations of sissies is probably correct. BUT not all of us are sissies cowed by the slightest hazard.
Yet, without engaging in psychobabble, but rather relying upon anecdotal evidence, I will suggest that in many instance this "intentional" softening / protecting was indeed intended. While working in the construction trades in NYCity between High School and University, the WWII / Korean War veterans commented as follows: "After the sh^t we experienced, we learned life was short. We don;t want to see our kids go through that but also we figure since life is short, why not enjoy yourself. Let then be."
Not exactly a "Do your own thing" mantra of the 1960's but a knowing desire to relax previous standards and expectations. coupled with this, there was an increased protectiveness in their approach to their children.
For what it is worth!

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gabe

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