Leggo my Cipro!
Here's a classic test of patriotism. It's easy to wave the flag
when terrorists kill thousands of your fellow citizens, and it's
easy to salute your brave police and firemen and emergency
personnel. Now the threat of anthrax has everyone feeling
nervous, and a few people I know are hitting websites to stock
up on Cipro, even if they are at low risk of contracting anthrax
and are currently as healthy as can be. We studied this in
econ--it's the tragedy of the commons.
If everyone in an interconnected network (I think we studied
this particularly as it applied to democratic, capitalistic
societies) optimizes for their own well-being, i.e. stocks up
on cipro, then the entire society's well-being is undermined,
i.e., people who really are sick with anthrax can't get
So don't stock up on Cipro unless you really need it. If you
somehow catch Anthrax, count on society to get you the
necessary medication. It's a bit harder than waving a flag,
but no less patriotic.