"Don’t panic" is rotten advice

Is all this an overreaction? If it is, we’ll recover. If we’re too cautious we’ll realize after a while and we’ll all get angry at the economic cost of it and have big arguments and fights. But we’ll be here to argue and fight.

I wrote in February that I believed the coronavirus will be bad, that it will have a bigger impact on America than we imagine, and that a lot of people will be exposed and a significant number endangered. I was beaten up a bit and fair enough—to make a prophecy is to summon animosity, especially when men are scared and especially when they see everything as political. My assertions were based on a long reading of history and a close reading of what had happened in China, then Italy.

Now it’s time to lose the two most famous phrases of the moment. One is “Don’t panic!” The other is “an abundance of caution.”

“Don’t panic” is what nervous, defensive people say when someone warns of coming trouble. They don’t want to hear it, so their message is “Don’t worry like a coward, be blithely unconcerned like a brave person.”