Friday, August 14, 2020

Blinder's Shallow Call For Mandatory Mask Wearing

Alan Blinder
Former vice-chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Blinder had this to say in Thursday's Wall Street Journal:
First, they [masks]cost money. Probably more important, they are uncomfortable to wear and make you look—how shall I say it?—a bit odd. Individuals who make decisions in their own best interests will balance these costs against the benefit of reducing their susceptibility to the virus—which, scientists tell us, is small. Based on this personal cost-benefit calculus, each individual will decide whether or not to wear a mask.

But wait. What about neighbors, co-workers, and passersby? Since wearing a mask benefits other people much more than ourselves, the beneficial externality from mask-wearing is huge. Consistent with that, several studies have estimated that the health gains from masking are large while the economic costs are small. A good deal. Yet basic economics tells us that self-interested decision makers will not wear masks enough.

More or less the same can be said about social distancing. We all know that keeping our distance is inconvenient (to say the least), especially if other folks aren’t cooperating. It certainly impedes economic activity. Yet no one is handing out rewards to people who distance properly, and few places are penalizing those who come too close. As in the case of face masks, individual decision-making in free markets will produce too little social distancing.

The standard remedy for an externality is a tax or a subsidy. But this is impractical for masking or distancing. The best compromise may be an enforced mandate that people wear masks and practice social distancing in public. Enforcement would be difficult, but it’s been effective in some states and many European countries.

Here, however, we hear thunder on the right—even from some Republican governors—that requiring either masking or distancing infringes on individual liberty. Well, sure. So do red lights and speed limits—which, like masks, save lives. It’s no exaggeration; the anti-maskers are killing people.
You really have to wonder if Blinder was wearing a mask when he wrote this and whether the inhalation of carbon-dioxide from mask-wearing finally got to him.

First, he does not discuss at all any possible negative consequences of mask-wearing beyond the shallow "they cost money and you look funny." Puhleeze!

What about all those "forced to wear face masks all day in the workplace [who] complain of headaches, shortness of breath and anxiety"? Where is this in Blinder's " personal cost-benefit calculus"? (See: IT BEGINS: Workers Claim Mask-Wearing Causes Headaches, Shortness Of Breath And Anxiety)

It doesn't exist.

Second, Blinder does not discuss what the consequences are to the overwhelming majority if they were to be infected by COVID-19. Where is this in his calculations?

Does it not make sense that when a tiny minority is susceptible to a virus in a serious fashion that they practice some type of quarantine while the rest of us go about with the possibility of getting infected so that the threat can be significantly reduced so that the most susceptible can breathe easy again? (See: What Would COVID-19 Sacrifice and Victory Really Look Like?)

Blinder covers none of this. He is just following Cass Sunstein's propaganda orders (See: How To Manipulate People Into Wearing Masks).



  1. He is wearing blinders thats for sure.

  2. How does masking benefit others, if by benefit he means reducing transmission? That's a bad outcome in my opinion. We should want to promote spread to hasten immunity, or we needlessly prolong the virus and given tyrants excuse to continue lock-downs.

  3. Maybe this is to make everyone British again?
    Robert, look up mask mouth, if you haven’t.
    As far as Alan Blinder, go screw.
    This is one reason I don’t think we can wear masks to be nice or to get along. Risk the crazies now and fight back or soon we will wish all we had forced on us was a mask.
    Resist. The odds don’t matter anymore.

  4. The game around the data that shows masks do not protect the wearer is that they protect others.


    David B.