January 1, 2018


I Win All My Ebola Bets (Bryan Caplan, 1/01/18, EconLog)

Back in 2014, Ebola was national - and global - news.  Even in Africa, fears ultimately turned out to be overblown.  The WHO's official tally was about 11,000 fatalities.  The true figure is almost certainly higher, but not grossly so.  This is far short of the hundreds of thousands of deaths so many predicted.  Brad DeLong, for example, opined: "Ebola will not become the biggest public health problem in West Africa unless deaths reach the high seven figures - which they may: it is highly likely that deaths in the six figures are now baked in the cake." [...[

Rather than fruitlessly argue with a maelstrom of passion, I publicly proposed the following bet in October, 2014:

$100 says that less than 300 people will die of Ebola within the fifty United States by January 1, 2018.

Four noble souls took the other side.  Since today is January 1, 2018, I am pleased to announce that I have won the bet.  (Since all prepaid, we're already settled up).

Part of the reason deaths were mercifully low, no doubt, is that health workers took the danger seriously.  But of course, that's one of the variables wise bettors will factor into their decisions.  And despite angry Congressional calls for travel bans, Obama went with the moderate expert consensus.  Domestically speaking, little was done.  And domestically speaking, even less happened.

How the Ebola Crisis Helped Launch Donald Trump's Political Career (STEVEN HATCH, APR. 3, 2017, Mother Jones)

In July 2014, as the largest Ebola outbreak in history was ravaging West Africa, Donald Trump took to Twitter to complain that two sick American health workers were being flown back to the United States for treatment. "Ebola patient will be brought to the U.S. in a few days--now I know for sure that our leaders are incompetent," wrote the future leader of free world. "KEEP THEM OUT OF HERE!" Over the months that followed, Trump would tweet about the outbreak more than 50 times.

Trump's social-media outbursts were among the earliest shots fired in the political war over Ebola. The timing of the Ebola outbreak could not have been more propitious for Republicans, many of whom echoed Trump's calls for a temporary travel ban.

Posted by at January 1, 2018 8:18 AM