# syllogism comments on Breaking quarantine is negligence. Why are democracies acting like we can only ask nicely?

• I mean...The same way we always do? It depends on whether the risks are reasonably forseeable. We know that if you go about your business as normal while infectious with the coronavirus, you might infect 4 people on average. If we take a lowish infection fatality rate and say that 0.1% of infected people die, then you have a something like a 0.4% chance of directly causing someone’s death.

How bad is a 0.4% chance? Should the law tolerate people putting others in danger, at about that level? If you could load up a 200-barrel revolver, would it be okay to put one bullet in, spin and fire?

Here’s one way to think about it: if you were to act such that you introduced a 0.4% chance of someone else dying every day for a year, there’s a 23% chance someone would eventually die. So I would say, no, this is not a level of danger we can accept people to impose on non-consenting strangers.

In practice the way that I think the law normally works is, if your actions show a disregard for the welfare of others and someone is in fact harmed, then you can be held culpable. So if you go outside, someone catches coronavirus and dies, then you can be held responsible. By my crude calculation, there’s about a 1200 chance of that happening. I don’t think most people would break quarantine if they knew there was a 1200 chance of someone dying and them going to prison. I think just explaining that the law was seeing it that way makes them take the risks seriously, while as it currently stands, lots of people think it sounds like bullshit.

• It’s the “someone is in fact harmed” that is the tricky part in this case. If somebody who was previously asymptomatic got coronavirus a week after Bob walked past them, how do you propose to determine whether they got it from Bob? If you’re proposing a criminal penalty in the U.S., then you will need to prove this beyond a reasonable doubt. Probabilities of less than 99% won’t do, and there may be a few jurors who think 99.9999% still gives a reasonable doubt (the jury system has been described as “trial by people you would not normally consider your peers”).