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What’s worse than coronavirus? This. 

Written by Brian Hicks
Posted April 22, 2020

“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” ― Andy Dufresne, The Shawshank Redemption

I’m starting today’s Wealth Daily with a controversial quote I’ve been repeating for the better part of two decades (pretty much to deaf ears). 

Here it is:

Most convincing as evidence of populousness, we have become a burden to the Earth. The fruits of nature hardly suffice to sustain us, and there is a general pressure of scarcity giving rise to complaints. Need we be astonished that plague and famine, warfare and earthquake, come to be regarded as remedies, serving to prune the superfluity of population?’

Ah yes. Eloquent, isn’t it? 

It’s a sentiment that a struggling poet could’ve given catastrophe darling Greta Thornberg for her latest book. 

But check this out; this paragraph was written over 1,800 years ago by ancient Roman philosopher Tertullian in 212 A.D.

Death, Taxes, and Gloom and Doom

Professional catastrophists’ predictions are just as old as, well, the oldest profession. 

Call it whatever you want. Fear. Panic. Doom and gloom. Pessimism. A Debbie Downer. Humans are programmed to search out, highlight, and avoid even the smallest problems. 

And trust me, they love to exaggerate a problem's magnitude. (Remember when California was in imminent danger of falling into the Pacific Ocean?)

Worse yet, they try to make sure you’re just as terrified and miserable as they are. 

Even before this global pandemic started with a bowl of bat soup, they were easy to point out in a crowd. They're the ones that lather up with sunblock before going outside, even though it's cloudy and in the dead of winter. Their kids look like astronauts riding bikes. And they make sure not to breach their self-imposed limit on miles driven per week in order to not spew too much carbon into the atmosphere. (Many of them took me to task for buying a home on an island: “Good luck when your house is under water in a few years.”)

They’re exhausting. 

But honestly, it’s really not their fault. It’s simple human nature. We were baked this way when we crawled out of the primordial mud so that we didn’t get eaten by giant snakes. 

Even when the data suggests otherwise, humans will bend over backwards to point out the “end of the world” is nigh. 

It really is hardwired into our DNA.

And there’s science to back this up. 

In a recent Quillette magazine article titled “Beware Your Innate Pessimist,” Marian Tupy writes:

We have evolved to prioritize bad news. “Organisms that treat threats as more urgent than opportunities have a better chance to survive and reproduce,” wrote the eminent Princeton University psychologist Daniel Kahneman in his 2011 book Thinking, Fast and Slow. This powerful impulse can deceive even the most dispassionate and rational observers. As Marc Trussler and Stuart Soroka from McGill University in Canada found in their 2014 paper ‘Consumer Demand for Cynical and Negative News,’ even when people insist that they are interested in more good news, eye tracking experiments show that they are in fact much more interested in bad news. “Regardless of what participants say,” the authors of the study conclude, people “exhibit a preference for negative news content.”

As the Harvard University psychologist Steven Pinker noted in his 2018 book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, the nature of cognition and the nature of news interact in ways that make us think that the world is worse than it really is. News, after all, is about things that happen. Things that did not happen go unreported. As he points out, we “never see a reporter saying to the camera, ‘Here we are, live from a country where a war has not broken out.’” Newspapers and other media, in other words, tend to focus on the negative. As the old journalistic adage goes, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

This brings me to the current pandemic crisis.

There’s been a chorus of joyous, ghoulish cheerleading going on for deaths among any state that has decided to relax state-at-home orders. 

Let me explain. 

Last week, Florida announced it was re-opening its beaches. 

The professional catastrophist class went nuts, going as far as starting a Twitter thread with the complimentary label #floridamorons.

An overwhelming majority of the comments on this thread were, “Florida is going to get what’s coming to them for this stupid move.”

Not once did I see a comment that said, “I hope it turns out well.”

Georgia announced it's re-opening its economy this week. Catastrophists were quick to jump in, claiming this is an underhanded strategy for genocide. 

Genocide?!?

But the verbal attacks on Sweden are even worse. 

Sweden decided not to lockdown its country during this pandemic. Once a beacon among liberals of a perfect, socialist utopia, it’s now a pariah. 

The media has been salivating and waiting patiently for Sweden to get what it deserves for its stupidity. 

When it looked like Sweden was going to get away with around two times the deaths of a regular flu season, these people were nowhere to be found. Then, on the Tuesday after Easter Monday (a holiday), when all the deaths were reported from the weekend, giving a single-day spike, these people were all over, tap dancing on the graves of the dead.

This just goes to show you how little this has to do with real caring for the dead and how much it has to do with wanting to be right. A person who called for sheltering in place should be happy to see what happens in Sweden. It doesn’t affect them and gives them information to calibrate the best response. Instead, they run victory laps every time bad news comes from there and constantly insist and pray that Sweden is becoming a wasteland.

As American governors grapple with re-opening their economies, understand this: Three states account for 60% of all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. 

You won’t hear that from any news channel. 

Here's a tally of each state's coronavirus-related fatalities (as of yesterday): 

  1. New York: 18,653 deaths
  2. New Jersey: 4,520 deaths
  3. Michigan: 2,468 deaths
  4. Massachusetts: 1,809 deaths
  5. Pennsylvania: 1,357 deaths
  6. Illinois: 1,349 deaths
  7. Connecticut: 1,331 deaths
  8. Louisiana: 1,328 deaths
  9. California: 1,229 deaths
  10. Florida: 823 deaths
  11. Georgia: 774 deaths
  12. Washington: 658 deaths
  13. Maryland: 582 deaths
  14. Indiana: 577 deaths
  15. Texas: 520 deaths
  16. Ohio: 509 deaths
  17. Colorado: 447 deaths
  18. Virginia: 300 deaths
  19. Wisconsin: 234 deaths
  20. North Carolina: 220 deaths
  21. Missouri: 215 deaths
  22. Arizona: 191 deaths
  23. Mississippi: 169 deaths
  24. Alabama: 164 deaths
  25. Nevada: 163 deaths
  26. Rhode Island: 155 deaths
  27. Kentucky: 154 deaths
  28. Tennessee: 152 deaths
  29. Oklahoma: 143 deaths
  30. Minnesota: 143 deaths
  31. South Carolina: 124 deaths

- Washington, D.C.: 105 deaths

  1. Kansas: 102 deaths
  2. Iowa: 79 deaths
  3. Oregon: 75 deaths
  4. Delaware: 72 deaths
  5. New Mexico: 58 deaths
  6. Idaho: 48 deaths
  7. New Hampshire: 42 deaths
  8. Arkansas: 42 deaths
  9. Vermont: 38 deaths
  10. Maine: 35 deaths
  11. Nebraska: 33 deaths
  12. Utah: 28 deaths
  13. West Virginia: 26 deaths
  14. Hawaii: 10 deaths
  15. Montana: 10 deaths
  16. Alaska: 9 deaths
  17. North Dakota: 9 deaths
  18. South Dakota: 7 deaths
  19. Wyoming: 2 deaths

New York alone has accumulated more deaths than 46 states combined. And New York City’s subways are still running and jammed packed with people. And alarmists are more concerned with Jacksonville re-opening its beaches?!?

The catastophists continue to hold the field. But that’s changing, and fast, because there’s no other option. 

But one thing is for sure: A lot will change in normal life after this is all over.

Two of the nation’s preeminent medical doctors, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Zeke Emanuel, have proposed that handshakes become a polite gesture of antiquity… and that Americans wear masks forever the same way we wear seat belts. 

I doubt either will take hold. But who knows?

I’ll leave you with a final passage from Beware Your Innate Pessimist… and a tsunami of optimism:

Good and bad things tend to happen on different timelines. Bad things, such as the outbreak of a pandemic, can happen quickly. Good things, such as the strides humanity has made in the fight against HIV/AIDS, tend to happen incrementally and over a long period of time.

As Kevin Kelly from Wired magazine put it in his book The Inevitable:

"Ever since the Enlightenment and the invention of Science, we’ve managed to create a tiny bit more than we’ve destroyed each year. But that few percent positive difference is compounded over decades in to what we might call civilization…  [Progress] is a self-cloaking action seen only in retrospect."

To that end, remember that our species has eradicated or almost eradicated smallpox, cholera, typhoid, measles, polio, and whooping cough. We have made great progress in our struggle against malaria and HIV/AIDS. And the speed of our successes is increasing. The earliest credible evidence of smallpox comes from India in 1500 BC. The disease was eradicated in 1980. That’s 3,500 years of suffering. In 1980, we started to learn about HIV/AIDS. By 1995, we had the first generation of drugs that kept infected people alive. That’s 15 years of suffering. The Ebola epidemic raged between 2014 and 2016. The first Ebola vaccine was approved in the United States in December 2019. That’s five years of suffering. Last December, the coronavirus did not have a name. Today, human trials for the coronavirus vaccine are underway throughout the world.

It’s going to get better. The economy will rebound. The markets will rebound. 

And new industries are thriving and popping up as you read this. 

One industry is not only thriving, it’s being used to fight this pandemic with great success.

You can learn about it here.

Brian Hicks Signature

Brian Hicks

Brian is a founding member and President of Angel Publishing and investment director for the income and dividend newsletter The Wealth Advisory. He writes about general investment strategies for Wealth Daily and Energy & Capital. Known as the "original bull on America," Brian is also the author of the 2008 book, Profit from the Peak: The End of Oil and the Greatest Investment Event of the Century. In addition to writing about the economy, investments and politics, Brian is also a frequent guest on CNBC, Bloomberg, Fox and countless radio shows. For more on Brian, take a look at his editor's page.

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