Playing the Coronavirus Lottery in 2020

With great fanfare, your state announced a lottery.

Oh, they said, this is going to be great.  For just a dollar, you will have a chance at huge prizes.  Million-dollar prizes.  Multi-million-dollar prizes, even.  And for those who don't win the big prize, there will be smaller ones too — a hundred thousand, a few ten thousands — every single week!

Oh, and the money goes to such a good cause: the public schools!  Little Johnny and Little Mary can finally get those new encyclopedias, those modern chemistry labs, that Olympic-sized pool for the swim team.  So even if you lose, you feel like a winner, just for participating!

Now, obviously, the odds are against winning the big prizes, but what's a dollar per week?  You'd never notice it.  So you got in the habit of buying just one ticket, maybe playing regular numbers every week.  "Hey, somebody's got to win, right?'

Before you knew it, though, they added a second drawing each week.  Then a third.  Then different games.  After a couple of years, there were so many different ways of playing the lottery that you were spending as much at the convenience store as a gambler does at the track, and the odds aren't anywhere near as good.

The schools are still bankrupt, and Little Johnny and Little Mary still don't have those new chemistry labs or that big swimming pool, but you find yourself spending $30 or $40 per week on what now can only be called an addiction. 

You find yourself facing a choice: do I double down and keep throwing good money after bad, praying to win that million before I've spent myself into bankruptcy?  Or do I quit cold turkey, terrified that my numbers will finally come in the week after I stop playing them? 

Or do I find some middle ground — go back to buying a ticket a week, perhaps?  I'll still never miss $52 a year, and heck, somebody's got to win — but admit to myself that I went too far with the $30- and $40-a-week "investment," and I've really got to draw it back, now, without putting off the admission any longer?

This isn't that unusual a scenario, when you come to think of it.  All of us make misjudgments in life sometime.  We go all in for some plan — maybe an investment, maybe a career or a relationship, maybe a time-consuming hobby or money-wasting collection — and we eventually realize that this indulgence — let's use the right word: this "habit" — has become much costlier than we intended, and we're now jeopardizing our health, our families, our career, our retirement. 

It was all about the odds — we misjudged the odds of success, and it has really begun to cost us.  We have to correct the mistake before we go off a cliff.

This probably happens to everyone sometime.  The important thing is to learn our lesson, admit it, and correct the error.

The CCP Virus of 2020

How did our experience with the Wuhan Flu — officially known as COVID-19 — develop in 2020?

Well, at first, we were told it's this terrible, virulent, extremely lethal virus.  There are no cures for it, and it kills fast, indiscriminately, and painfully.  It spreads incredibly quickly. 

But it won't be hard for us to avoid it — just stay six feet away from each other, wash your hands until they dry out, and don't touch your face.

Well, that seemed manageable enough, at first, so we accepted it.  These minor inconveniences would save countless lives.  How could we not sign on?

But before we knew what happened — in just a matter of mere weeks, in fact — the changes to our society grew like a snowball that turned into an avalanche halfway down the mountain.  Soon, states were banning church services and restaurant dining, haircuts, and theaters.  Governors started closing factories and malls.  Not to be outdone, mayors started ordering the police to ticket married couples for going on walks.

Not only did it become impossible to find legal authority in our states' constitutions for such overreach, nobody could even identify a consistent theory behind the draconian decrees — what is the line between essential and non-essential now?   The logic in declaring this store of 100 people "safe," while closing down (and likely bankrupting) its neighboring store of a different 100 as "unsafe," is simply incomprehensible to the objective observer.

Now that the numbers are in, with more statistics pouring in from all around the world, we are finding that we went too far.  We indulged the predictions; we swallowed the advertising hook, line, and sinker, and we went all in before we knew what we'd gotten ourselves into.

Just like the lottery, where, yes, somebody really does win a million, but awfully rarely, and awfully few...with the CCP Virus, some people do die, but awfully rarely, and awfully few.

Is it real?  Yes, of course it is, and it is tragic for those few who have the bad luck to get a bad case.  But the numbers of those thus affected are far lower than the fear-mongers predicted, and our response has been at a far greater cost than imagined.

State Legislatures and city councils barely had a chance to process the information before their governors and mayors started issuing edicts — banning everything from gun sales to garden seed — so fast that legislators' and lobbyists' constituencies were shuttered before they ever knew what hit them.

No Turning Back?

Many of our politicians — particularly the Democrat governors of failed states, who hope to use the pandemic to justify a federal bailout of their long-bankrupt public pension plans — hope to double down, extending the lockdowns for months to come, until all of Washington, D.C. cries wolf and prints all the money they want.

But they are living in an alternate reality.  The numbers are in, and while they justify concern for the old, weak, and immune-compromised, they simply don't justify letting these broad shutdowns continue another day.

Now that we have a full understanding of the odds — the way the math works, the odds against most of us getting those few really bad cases, and the genuine cost to our children's and grandchildren's future — it is time to admit the error, and correct the behavior before even more damage is done.

It's hard to admit you've gone too far, especially if you're a politician or scientist who got your job, in part, because of the assumption that you have wisdom and judgment.  It's not easy to say "I should never have gotten in so deep; I should never have jeopardized my city, my state, my country by going in whole-hog on this thing."

It's hard to admit, but you have to stop...before there's nothing left of the once-greatest country on Earth to save.

John F. Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based trade compliance trainer, writer, and actor.  His weekly column has been run in the Illinois Review since 2009.

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