American Values Are Incompatible With Managing the Pandemic

It’s unfortunate American values and belief systems are incompatible with successfully managing the COVID-19 pandemic. We resent or measures that are effective, but inhibit our freedoms or are even mildly inconvenient (social distancing, wearing a mask).

Wearing a mask is the perfect example. All of the ‘rugged individualism’ that people identify with as being distinctly American is counter to thinking communally and putting the good of others above yourself. It’s telling that wearing a mask is more to protect others than it is to protect you and so many are unwilling to wear one.

  • Turner’s Frontier Thesis

    A country with a frontier is shaped by it. It favors people with rugged individualism because common services are not readily available without an existing economy in place. Positive-sum interactions in settled areas are required because people always have the option to leave. Finally, people seeking high variance opportunities will follow the frontier in search of outsized gains.

  • The Further from the Self, the Less Real it Feels

    The realest thing to anyone is themselves. The further from the self the less real things feel. For example, we know about the stars and distant galaxies but the fly buzzing our ear is more important and “real” as to steal our attention. While we have the power to imagine great things and empathize, direct experience is more important because it involves the “I”. Our wants, needs, and desires exceed the realness of all else.

  • Breaking the Bonds on Me Is Going to Liberate Everyone Else

    A distinctly American idea is that liberating oneself will result in the liberation of everyone else. This helps explain teenage rebellion (the whole system is broken so I’ll be a nonconformist and everyone else will follow), but also the behavior of anti-maskers (I value my freedom to decide what’s best so I’ll be loud about not wearing a mask and show everyone). While outwardly projecting a message that this is good for everyone, it’s deeply rooted in selfishness.

  • NYC Mandates Employee Vaccination for Large Employers

    In anticipation of a wave of cases due to the COVID-19 omicron variant, NYC requires private employers with 100 or more employees to mandate vaccination for in-person workers. Every worker must have their first vaccine does by December 27, 2021.

  • § What I Learned 2020