Inside Track

Summer Daze

Summer Daze

By Eric P. Harding

Here in the Commonwealth of Virginia, school just let out for the year. This was a school year unlike any in my lifetime; my kids had a weeks-long hiatus while the county got ready for distance learning. When school finally started up again, they had an hour a day of synchronous video school time, supplemented by packet work provided by the county. 

To say there were hiccups would be an understatement. 

But my kids got through it, and (thanks largely to the tireless contributions of my wife, who provided the younger members of the Harding family a curriculum of earth science, baking, civics, and the like) even managed to learn a few things. What the next school year will bring—in 10 short weeks—is still up in the air.

What I’ve learned is that we are resilient. We have rolled with this uncertainty better than I could have hoped for. (I hope that resilience isn’t tested for too much longer, to be sure.) For now, though, the kids are enjoying a week off before Harding Family Summer School begins. Because Fairfax County may say school is over, but Mama has more lessons to teach.

In “Actuaries, Decision-Making, and COVID-19,” author Kurt Wrobel grapples with uncertainty. While we know more today about COVID-19 and the virus that causes it than we did at the beginning of this maelstrom, there’s plenty we don’t know—and Wrobel says that’s OK. Not knowing may be uncomfortable, but it’s part of the human condition … and it’s in keeping with the actuary’s skillset. Wrobel argues that actuaries are uniquely qualified to lend perspective during this crisis.

Our second feature, “Then and Now,” takes a look back at the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic to see what we might learn about how COVID-19 might play out going forward. Sometimes called “the forgotten pandemic,” Spanish flu decimated the population amid the backdrop of World War I. Author Greg Szrama III looks back at the headlines and attitudes of the time; the parallels with today’s outbreak may surprise you. 

Time to dust off your spiral-bound notebooks. It’s back to class with “On Economics,” our third feature this issue. In this introduction to what will be an occasional series, the authors lay out foundational principles of economics—what economics is, what it is not, and why actuaries should care. From Adam Smith to Tim Geithner, this article serves as a survey course in modern economic theory. There’s the bell. 

Finally, Leo Apilash returns to these pages with “Caught Stealing,” a new work of fiction that ponders questions of personal morality. I hope you enjoy this period piece that harks back to an era in which shag carpet was more than a punchline.

I hope you’re dealing with summer—and uncertainty—with aplomb. 

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