It’s called Dutch disease, although you might know it as the Shoe Event Horizon. It’s apparently possible for one sector of an economy to become so overheated that it is no longer economically feasible to work in another sector of the economy. This is already true in a very limited sense for certain aspects of the United States, most notably with regards to choice of careers at certain intelligence levels: if you are above 99th percentile but not quite in the 99.9999 percentile, the absolute best occupation for you is in finance, more specifically in trading. Second-year associates at Goldman Sachs can earn $350k a year, which is more than the average oncologist in his prime — and the compensation only goes up from there. Therefore, you’re literally throwing money away if you’re smart enough to work at GS but don’t, unless you are so smart that you can easily invent and produce something more valuable on your own. The problem is that not every 1-in-a-thousand fellow can find a job in the business; that would require employing 20,000 new graduates a year in perpetuity. So a lot of smart people target finance and then fail, which leaves them unprepared to enter other fields where knowledgeable new prospects would be welcome, from manufacturing to medicine.
Don’t confuse “Dutch disease”, a term coined by The Economist and which refers to a specific economic situation in the Netherlands during the 1920s, with Dutch elm disease. Turns out that “Dutch Elm Disease” originally came from China, the same way that the Emerald Ash Borer originally came from China. It was called “Dutch elm disease” because it killed Dutch elms. There’s quite a history of Occidental trees and people experiencing some unpleasantness thanks to various unwanted Chinese imports; in addition to the above-named disorders, we have the now-omnipresent Brown Marmorated Stink Bug and the Northern Snakehead and the Asian citrus bug and… can you think of another recent biological invader from China? Not H1N1… not SARS… not H7N9… not the “Asian Flu” of 1956… not the “Hong Kong Flu”… of 1968… oh, that’s right! It’s COVID-19, which is this year’s killer disease from Asia, er, the latest global virus of completely mysterious origin.
No doubt you’ve been told how important it is that we not associate COVID-19 with China in any way, shape, or form. It’s also possible you’ve heard the opinion of WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who recently told a panel of Geneva reporters that “Stigma, to be honest, is more dangerous than the virus itself. Let’s really underline that. Stigma is the most dangerous enemy…”. In fact, for every person who appears to be working on either countermeasures or a cure for COVID-19, there are a hundred, or perhaps a thousand, maybe a million, people who are insistently alerting us to the greater dangers posed by stigma… or racist disparities in virus effects and treatment… or climate change. This is obviously far from a productive state of affairs — not since the last Super Bowl has the ratio of (useless-people-bloviating-from-their-couches)-to-(properly-trained-people-attempting-to-accomplish-something) been this high. How did we get here? More specifically, why are we spending so much time talking about racism and bias and climate change when there is a deadly disease sweeping around the world?
Turns out we have a little Dutch Disease of our own. Call it the Hammer Event Horizon, whydontcha?