What Croissants, Vaccines and the Speed at which you Speak have in common- Part II of II

Looked for carefully enough, the consequences of opportunity costs abound in our natural habitat as rational economic agents. Take for instance this author’s fondness of enjoying a fresh-out-of-the-oven croissant with a cup of morning coffee. The author is, however, blessed with this picture-perfect good fortune (rather like one of the many pictures of a roadside Parisian café in a tourist’s guidebook for France) much less frequently than she would like to be the case. The reason becomes aptly clear once you take the pains of acquainting yourself with the method of preparation of this now prized French pastry that (fun fact coming up—) took its roots in Austria. Indeed, the process is, as you may have guessed by now, most arduous indeed. No pain, no gain magnificent, flaky, buttery layers of confectionery bliss. Take that into account, along with the fact that in Pune, where I live, the general tastes are not so favoured towards croissants in particular that A) you will encounter them in the windows of every bakery and also B) that they can be sold keeping in mind the true cost of the labour that goes into making them. Alas, as a result, bakers prefer to make other, less labour-intensive substitutes for accompaniments to hot beverages taken in the morning with the same ingredients at hand.

These instances may seem to be rather innocuous, frivolous even, but opportunity costs don’t stop here. Many of the most obvious and most often encountered ones are those where we have already made these negotiations and weighed out the pros and cons in our minds. The more recent one that comes to mind is an update in the Netflix mobile app that allowed the user to alter the speed at which videos get played. This feature is, by all accounts, already available on YouTube and other platforms like podcast apps. YouTube, in fact, is home to a whole treasure trove of content that has as its sole objective presenting in a concise, straightforward manner the subject matter of the more challenging works and concepts of our time. Name any one off the top of your head, preferably one that took you awhile to wrap your head around the first time you came across it in an intimidating setting (read book in the library) and you’re sure to find more than a few summaries and/or five-minute explainers dedicated to the cause. And when humanity tired of even a couple of minutes’ long videos, TikTok reared its head to fill in the gap. It’s only demand meeting supply.

Now, that’s all still fun and games, but we’re missing one of the most important breakthroughs of the blockbuster year that we know better as 2020— why, vaccines, of course! Life-giving elixirs, marvels of modern medicine coming to the aid of an ailing race like knights in shining glass armour. Any drug must be subjected to rigorous testing, often lasting years, before it can be safely released to the public. So is the case with vaccines. Remember the Ebola breakout? The vaccine came a whole four to five years’ worth of research and development later. It was also the fastest developed one in history. So by those standards, these scientists have saved our lives, big time— and quite literally so. Even though Ebola was much deadlier than is the Coronavirus, to many people it was still somebody else’s problem; only हम तो डूबे हैं सनम (literally: I’ve drowned anyhow, my Beloved), not तुमको भी ले डूबेंगे (I’m taking you down with me too), if you will. This time, on the other hand, it’s personal. What you have on your plate with a global pandemic like the one we’re facing with COVID-19 is opportunity costs all around. There’s an à la carte of only the finest economic and health crises along with an on-the-house buffet of anything and everything you can use together with the adjective ‘unprecedented’. So maybe the development, manufacture, approval and distribution timeline of these vaccines shouldn’t come as a surprise. Maybe we should’ve known all along that अरे, यह तो होना ही था (it was inevitable)!

Anoosheh Zahra Mirkhushal

SY B.Sc.

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