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As the number of COVID-19 cases starts to rise again in many U.S. states, the question is whether residents of those states will tolerate another lockdown. I used to think so, but it is increasingly clear that Americans have become comfortable with a remarkably high number of casualties.

There is a mechanism of social conformity at work here. Most people will not tolerate a small risk to their lives to dine out, for instance — but they might if all their friends are doing the same. The appeal of a restaurant isn’t just the food, it’s the shared experience and the sense that others are doing it, too.

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