At times of crisis and uncertainty, people surrender judgement to authorities


This is a story as old as time

There’s nothing better than the metaphorical warm hug of a top-level bureaucrat in a crisis. Humanity is more-informed that ever but with uncertainty at extremes, we still abandon critical thinking and defer to authorities. It’s a tale as old as time.

The WHO has soothed the nerves of markets for the moment by spinning the announcement of a global heath emergency into something like a commercial for the Chinese tourism office.

“I have seen the capacity and I believe they will control this outbreak as soon as possible,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

There is some mockery on twitter but it’s something that’s straight out of the public health playbook. As I wrote before the press conference:

In public health 101 they teach two things on the first day:

  1. Wash your hands
  2. Don’t spread fear and panic

There could be bodies on the streets outside their Geneva office and they would be up there spreading calm. Why? The only thing worse than a pandemic is a pandemic without any authorities.

If you’re waiting for the WHO to tell you when to sell risk, you’re going to be painfully behind the curve.


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