The Sunk Cost Fallacy and the Silly Billy Effect

A fascinating visit today to the audiologist. Agreeably, she turned out to be a clinician utterly bemused, like me, by the fantastically disproportionate response to Covid. While she was setting up the kit to peer into my lugholes, we had a fine time comparing our favourite Covid absurdities, whether the outdoor wearing of masks, the voodoo science by which vaccines get a fast-track approval, while drugs like ivermectin, in use for years to treat scabies, face every conceivable obstacle, including the deliberate overdosing of trial patients in order to discredit them. When it came to the question of why any attempt to deal rationally with this moderately nasty disease was confronted with a wall of counter-scientific opposition, she told me she had been driven, for want of alternatives, to consider some of the wilder, darker conspiracy theories floating around.

Here we slightly parted company, and I’d like to offer an alternative, or at least to expand on the alternative I offered here. When it comes to choosing between conspiracy and cock-up, I am, by nature, inclined to plump, in the first instance, for cock-up. In the case of Covid-19, as I argued here, I attribute the wilful disregard of any evidence that the original threat of Covid 19 was greatly exaggerated to the Silly-Billy Effect (SBE).

SBE is a variant of the sunk cost fallacy; more virulent, more easily transmissible, and harder to eradicate. The sunk-cost fallacy is committed by people who persist in a futile and damaging endeavour because of the time, effort and/or money they have previously invested in it. In the case of SBE, people persist in damaging behaviour because as well as destroying wealth on an epic scale, they have also invested their reputations, their tribal loyalty and their dignity in a theory that turns out to be bunkum. In the case of Covid, the panic was so widespread that those gripped by it outnumbered their more level-headed fellow citizens.

Panic gripped our entire political class in March 2020, so that acceptance of the closure of parliament was bilateral, and no opposition was offered to governments determined to spend ‘whatever it takes’ in pursuit of unattainable real-world outcomes. The mass media, with few honourable exceptions, have enthusiastically endorsed the panic, and are in any case populated by a largely scientifically illiterate and gullible cadre.

Even so, it beggars belief that these people are not now aware that their faith in their original theory – that Covid 19 was a true plague that justified the expenditure of trillions of dollars and the ruination of our societies – was misplaced. But shame and indignity that they would experience if they had to admit it are just too much to bear, and since they are in the majority, they are not compelled to recant.

Of course, it’s quite possible that I’m wrong, and that Covid 19 is being manipulated by Bill Gates as an opportunity to fulfil his dreams of global depopulation. But for the moment I’m sticking to SBE.

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