Thursday, September 16, 2021

Radical Uncertainty

I am reading a book right now titled "Radical Uncertainty" by John Kay and Mervyn King.

Kay and King are both economists and the book is generally focused on the uncertainty there is in most financial decisions whether personal or business.

For example, trying to answer the question of whether you are going to have enough money to retire?

You can model a lot of scenarios but there are so many uncertainties in answering that question.

How long will you live?

How long will your spouse live?

How much you will be able to save during your working years?

How long will you be able to continue working?

What investment returns can you expect?

What medical care will you need?

What will future inflation be?

The answers to almost all of these questions are unknowable. You can make assumptions in your planning but the reality may turn out to be completely different.

The fact is that there are many situations and questions in life where there is radical uncertainty and the only logical answer is "I DON'T KNOW".

Unfortunately, as Kay and King point out in the book,  there are relatively few (especially experts) that will ever state that they don't know.

And it is exceedingly difficult to make good decisions "by professing knowledge we do not have and cannot have".

When reading this book it is hard not to think about the Covid-19 pandemic. If there is anything that involves RADICAL UNCERTAINTY it is that.

I found it interesting that the book was published on March 17, 2020. Coincidentally, the "15 Days to Slow the Spread Campaign" was announced on March 16, 2020. It seems to another example of God  having a great sense of timing.

Of course, if we look back over the last 18 months dealing with such massive Radical Uncertainty, how many times have any of our public health or political leaders told us "I DON"T KNOW"?

We have lived through all of the pronouncements where the experts told us they had the answer.

15 Days To Slow The Spread


Social Distancing

School Closings

Remote Work

Plexiglass Barriers

Hand Sanitizer

Mask Mandates

We even heard the CDC Director state that masks were more effective than the coming vaccines. Dr. Robert Redfield also said this almost exactly one year ago today.

Redfield said if Americans wore face masks for several weeks, "we would bring this pandemic under control," because there is scientific evidence they work and they are our "best defense."


If you follow a chronology from Dr. Anthony Fauci (the CHIEF KNOW IT ALL) on the vaccines you begin to see how totally wrong this guy has been on almost everything. 

(Hat tip to Alex Berenson for putting this chronology together.)

Last November Fauci said the end of the pandemic was in sight due to the coming vaccines.

Source: Bloomberg

In December, 2020 Fauci stated that we could see signs of herd immunity in March or early April, 2021.

Source: NPR

However, when March arrived Fauci changed the timeline and said we would see a big difference by summer or early fall.


In May, in an interview with The Washington Post Fauci was asked whether we needed to be concerned about how long the vaccines would be effective and whether we should be concerned about another surge in the Fall. ( I guess he should have been asked about a summer surge!)

Here was Fauci's answer.

It seems he missed pretty badly on that prediction.

By August Fauci had changed the timetable to Spring, 2022 at the earliest!

Source: Seattle Times

I still don't know how Fauci could be as wrong as he has on so many things and still have his job?

We are now on to vaccine mandates, boosters and efforts to vaccinate children as young as 5 by November.

We also may be on the verge of completely crashing our health care system on the issue of vaccine mandates.

Hospitals and nursing homes are already living on the edge in keeping their facilities full-staffed.

Are we about to see a string of stories like this?



Brownfield (Texas) Regional Medical Center, a rural hospital, will lose up to 25 percent of its employees if the vaccine mandate is enforced, CEO Jerry Jasper told KCBD. Losing those workers would probably shut down the hospital because some nurses have already quit to take jobs with nursing agencies that offer higher pay, according to the report. 

Not complying with the vaccine mandate and losing Medicare and Medicaid funding isn't an option for Brownfield Regional Medical Center. About 80 percent of the hospital's funding comes from Medicare and Medicaid, Mr. Jasper told KCBD. 

The authors of the book make one other observation on what we should see more of in situations of RADICAL UNCERTAINTY beyond simply admitting that  "I DON"T KNOW".

They suggest asking the question "WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?".

Kay and King explain.

The question 'What is going on here?' sounds banal, but it is not. In our careers we have seen repeatedly how people immersed in technicalities, engaged in day-to-day preoccupations, have failed to step back and ask, 'What is going on here?' We have made the mistake ourselves.


What is going on here?

I have not written about what is going on in Vietnam with Covid previously but it is a good place to ask "What is going on here"?

Vietnam was hailed for most of the last year as having almost no cases of Covid.

Six months ago a global think tank ranked Vietnam as #2 in the world for controlling Covid.

It had only 35 deaths from Covid in a nation of 97 million people.

It began a mass vaccination program in the middle of June.

What do cases look like in Vietnam now?

Is it a coincidence that cases starting rising in Vietnam at almost exactly the same time that mass vaccinations began?

What is going on here?

What is going on in Israel six weeks after they initiated their Booster shots?

What is going on here?

What is going on in the United States as we are introducing vaccine mandates and boosters?

No one was vaccinated at this time last year. We are nowhere close to where Dr. Fauci said we would be with the vaccines in place.

Cases are 4x as high as they were at the same time last year.

Deaths are 2x as high as they were last year.

What is going on here?

I would say we are in a period of RADICAL UNCERTAINTY.

Why then do the "experts" and our leaders seem to be so RADICALLY CERTAIN about what they are telling us is necessary?

Kay and King speak to that situation as well in their book.

"When experts claim knowledge they do not and could not have, they invite the response that people have 'had enough of experts'.

We are getting closer to that point every day.

That is not a radical thought. That is a certainty based on what is happening right now.

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