When the only choice is between different risks

Alice Smith:

The opposite of risk isn’t safety.

The opposite of risk is another type of risk.

I don’t think “opposite” is quite the right word here. The truth is more that sometimes there’s a choice between risk and possible reward on the one hand, and not risk and not reward. However, there is often, as now, a choice between risks, as above. The reward of taking the right risk is that you get to avoid an even bigger disaster, and maybe also get rewarded, but maybe no disaster or not such bad disaster is your only reward.

(Think 1940. For Britain then, there was no safe or painless alternative. Both alternatives, war or surrender, were horrifying.)

But I know exactly what Alice Smith means. People often speak about health risks as if skill in avoiding a list of only the more obvious ones will confer immortality.

To talk, during a crisis, such as the one now winding down, as if the choice is between big risk and no risk is, as Alice Smith is surely saying, foolishness. If that was the choice, there would be no crisis. The definition of crisis is that there are no risk-free alternatives. Whatever gets done will have been a big risk.

I now favour the risk of ending Lockdown. But, it is a risk. I just think that keeping it going is a bigger risk.

To put it in Twitter speak, the argument is not about whether to kill your granny, but how.

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