A humble request

There is a curious phrase I keep seeing, an invocation so alien I could never imagine myself saying it.

“Follow your local covid-19 rules” it advises, ending an article on covid-19 policy, “do as your local public-health department tells you”.

Paradoxically, while covid-19 guidance varies from place to place, i.e. is “local”, a person’s reaction to these guidelines – to do as they are told – should not vary from place to place.

This strikes me as a cowardly way of trying to avoid responsibility. If you think a policy is advisable, you should advise people to follow the policy. If you think people should wear N95 masks, you should tell them to wear N95 masks, regardless of the local rules. Likewise, if you think quarantines of a certain length are not worth the cost, you should tell people to break quarantines (if they can get away with it). It’s deeply weird that someone living in place X optimally should follow one policy, and someone living in place Y – indistinguishable to X, except for different rules – should follow a different policy. Your advice isn’t gospel, what people do in the end is still their choice.

My humble request: stop pretending it is good to follow local rules. Some rules should be broken. Though if you think it takes everyone following the rules to reach salvation, you do have company.