Not the least of our current difficulties is that, just when we desperately need answers, no accurate answers are available.
This is particularly true of the coronavirus, where its character and behaviour can be assessed only as it develops because it has no precedent.
The same is true of the economy. There are no convincing answers on the impact of the extraordinary measures introduced by governments because nothing like this has happened before.
The questions may not be as urgent as the ones about the virus but the answers - whatever they turn out to be - will have enormous effects, for good or ill, when the immediate crisis is over. It would help morale if people had a clearer picture of what is going to happen to their jobs, incomes and savings.
The best one can say is that, while nothing on this scale has happened before, the nature of the policies being implemented is well understood, and there is a general consensus that they are the right things to do. It is the scale that is stunning and unprecedented. The nearest parallel, in terms of both the shock and the response, may be the oil price rises at the beginning of the 1970s. Particularly the suddenness of it all.
The thing I remember is that the cost of filling up my modest car quadrupled. In today's money, a rise from €1.50 per litre to €6. Those too young to remember can perhaps imagine the impact that would have had as it rippled through the economy. And all in a matter of months.
The other parallel is the response of most governments in rich countries. They flooded their economies with money - much of it borrowed but some created out of thin air by central banks. Today's measures make that flood look something of a trickle but the shock is far greater than even a quadrupling of energy prices.
It may be a mistake to think of this as primarily an economic policy at all. It was more of a humanitarian necessity, once the pandemic had forced the closure of so many businesses and the laying-off of so many workers.
If the purpose had been merely to sustain demand in the economy, something more targeted and less dramatic might have been in order. That was simply not an option. As most economists have recognised, it is no good arguing about whether these actions were right or wrong. They were unavoidable.
One key question is how great the interest rate cost of the extra debt will be when the health crisis is over.
Back in the happy days when we worried mostly about Brexit, the predictions were that a serious, but normal, recession would trigger a rapid rise in Ireland's public debt. This is much worse than a hard Brexit.
Much will depend on whether financial markets will continue lending to governments at near-zero interest. If they do, most economies, including Ireland's, could absorb a significant increase in government debt. The odds seem fairly evenly balanced but there have been signs of strain in the Italian market and the share price collapse shows the dangers of panic.
That is why there is talk of 'helicopter money', where central banks lend to governments. That is quite different from the large-scale quantitative easing of recent years. There, the central banks print money to buy real assets, increasing the amount of cash in the system. Creating money for governments to spend really is printing the stuff.
This is not the long-term answer to anything but some of it may be needed in the short term. The American and British governments will be thinking about it - although the British will be looking at the all-time lows already reached by sterling - lower than the old Irish punt.
Amazingly, the European Central Bank this week appeared willing to create helicopter money and the reaction from Germany was muted.
These are early days and the crisis is upon us. That damaging eurozone argument between fiscal hawks and doves could yet break out again. If it does, it will likely be one of many.
Opinions on the shape of the post-pandemic economy vary widely. This week the biggest credit ratings agency, Moody's, produced comforting forecasts of a serious but not calamitous recession. At the other extreme, there have been predictions which see economies collapsing by a quarter.
Rather than guessing about numbers, it might be better to think of the practicalities of ending emergency supports and borrowing. This is always difficult. We have only just got over the disputes about whether it was right to have austerity measures to restore the public finances while economies were still recovering from the financial crash.
We can expect them to reignite, perhaps more fiercely than ever. The costs of this crash may fall more unevenly than in 2008. Many people will have lost savings, got into debt or become unemployed. Others will actually have more cash in their pockets. How long can the former be helped, and how quickly can the latter be asked to pay more tax?
The ultimate question is whether the economic consensus developed in the 1980s in the wake of the oil shock can survive this one, or whether these emergency measures might become part of a new mainstream.
The past, as they wisely say, is no guide to the future. But the fact is that the world of 1969, with its fixed exchange rates, stable employment and low inflation, never did come back after the oil crisis.
Once again the odd coincidence of big changes at the end of a decade has come about. We cannot know what the 2020s will be like but they must surely be different from the 2010s.