During lockdown, some mayors and governors put into place policies that would pay people to snitch on neighbors who were violating coronavirus restrictions. Did they justify these actions? I seriously doubt it.
First, they would have to show that their restrictions were more likely than not the correct way to fight the virus. Based on some things I have heard from immunologists about herd immunity, this is not clear.
Second, they would have to show that enforcing the restrictions could more likely than not be done without causing more harm than good. Since police can spread disease or catch it from criminals, this is not clear.
Third, they would have to show that soliciting tips from the general population more likely than not increases the efficiency of law enforcement. Since people will sometimes make false accusations out of revenge, and the policy could pit people against each other when we need unity the most, this is not clear.
Fourth, they would have to show that paying people money more likely than not improves the snitching program. Since the availability of money creates an incentive for people to invent up a bunch of imaginary snitches while keeping the money for themselves, this is not clear.
In order to show that the money-for-tips plan is a good idea, all four of the above propositions must be shown true. It is no good if paying people is okay if the lockdown restrictions themselves are misguided. ALL FOUR MUST BE SHOWN TRUE.
The probability of all four being true is equal to the product of the probabilities of each alone being true. Thus, if the first has a 1-out-of-2 chance and the second has a 1-out-of-2 chance, the chances of both being true is only 1-out-of-4. If all four have the same probabilities, the chance that all four are true is a tiny 1-out-of-16. Not good.
In order for the set of all four to be at least as likely true as not true, the chance of each should be at least 86%. The lowest one could go is 50% - but only if the other three are all 100%. Was it ever shown that any of these ideas had a greater than 86% chance of being true?
The burden of proof is so high, that it would be a miracle if they found the evidence. Even if it was the right answer, we would not know it, and we shouldn’t be doing risky things we don’t have good reasons to believe in. Math.