Monday, June 29, 2020

Interview and Goodfellows

I did an interview on Covid-19 and economics last week with Carlos Carvalho who runs the Salem Center for Policy at the McCombs School of Business, UT Austin. Carlos is doing a series of these interviews. I objected that anything on this subject will be out of date in 5 minutes, but Carlos wants to look at broader issues, and also see how well the interviewee's prognostication bears out. We'll see about that. So far, I would score that I underestimated just how much Americans were itching to go to bars and party. (Really, fellow citizens, pub crawling? Are you out of your minds?)

Niall, H.R. and I also did a Goodfellows interview with Hoover's own Condoleezza Rice. This was a really interesting conversation on Russia, China, the place of the US in the world, and inevitably Condi's thoughtful views on race in the US.

All Goodfellows here  Podcast version:


  1. John, I think you are too introspective as regards your concerns about human rationality.

    I'm willing to bet 100:1 that the person who went to a karaoke bar was extremely low risk. Selfish? Yes. Rational? Probably! Very low risk people who are sufficiently selfish are probably rational to take risks--their likelihood of being a super-spreader may be relatively low.

    I don't think this is an innocuous point, and is consistent with your model. I am willing to bet no 65+ year olds are going to those karaoke bars.

    You can adjust your rational behavioral model to include a subpopulation that doesn't respond to death rates because of heterogeneous death rates. I expect you could get this phenomenon.

    The testable implication would be that the death rate should decline severely (old people take fewer risks, as your model predicts). I believe we're seeing exactly this.

  2. Keep doing these. :D It's great to listen and learn from scholars and professionals.

  3. "So far, I would score that I underestimated just how much Americans were itching to go to bars and party. (Really, fellow citizens, pub crawling? Are you out of your minds?)"

    Surely you are not attempting to substitute your own view of rational action for that of millions of your fellow citizens, are you? [removes tongue from cheek]

    Seriously, as the previous commenter has observed, most people--especially young people--do not see themselves at risk, and--by extension--do not believe themselves to be a part of the problem.

    On this same note...what is your view of people who engage in so-called "extreme" sports and activities?

    I read earlier today that the COVID-19 death rate among the below-50 age cohort is 0.05 percent. That's probably lower than the death rate of young folks who do snowboarding, parachute jumping, untethered rock-climbing /e tutti quanti/!


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