The Pandemic Creates A Classic And Difficult Ethics Conflict, But The Resolution Is Clear, Part I: Stipulations [CORRECTED]

[Warning: I’m sure there are typos below; I’ll be fixing them, but I’m a bit swamped, and I want to get this post up. It’s a utilitarian decision. Update: I think I’ve fixed them all.]

I have been consciously avoiding wading into this issue, first, because its components are beyond my expertise in two fields, second, because to do a proper job would take a book rather than a  blog post, and third, because to even do an inadequate  job, I will have to quote extensively from the arguments of others, which I try to do as little as possible (believe it or not). I detest appeals to authority, which is basically all I get from my deranged Facebook friends all day long.  Nonetheless, I can’t put this post off any longer, because this is an ethics issue encompassing several related ethics issues. I also can’t cover it in a post of reasonable length, so this will be Part I.

The grand ethics issue facing the nation, the public, the President and our future is when to begin re-opening the  economy, allowing people to get on with their lives. Let’s begin with ten stipulations:

1. This is an ethics conflict, not an ethics dilemma. There are ethical considerations and values on both sides of the equation.

2. Many, too many, of those involved in the problem are going to approach it as an ethics dilemma, in which ethical values compete with non-ethical considerations. Unfortunately, that group includes almost all, and maybe all, politicians and elected officials, including the President.

3. It is a cruel trick of fate, or a bizarre joke by a sadistic Creator, that this crisis is occurring in an election year, and with a national leader with the personal characteristics, chaotic leadership, management style, and divided constituency of Donald Trump….but that’s the situation. It is particularly unfortunate that he does not have a reserve of public trust, because that, if not essential now, would sure help a lot as he makes some difficult decisions. He is significantly responsible for that trust deficit; the media and “the resistance” are even more responsible. That doesn’t matter right now. It is a different issue, though a related one.

4. We still do not have adequate information to make a fully informed decision, and will not have before a choice is unavoidable. That’s a fact. We still aren’t certain how the virus is transmitted, or the degree of infectiousness by the asymptomatic. We don’t know why some areas of the country are experiencing higher rates of infection than others. We cannot compare the U.S. statistics with other countries, because we can’t be sure of the accuracy of those foreign statistics. We aren’t even sure of the effectiveness of the supposedly essential precautions, like masks and social distancing. For example, I have articles on file from the last 30 days by credentialed medical professionals arguing that wearing masks may increase the likelihood of infection. I don’t care if this is a minority opinion; minority opinions are often right. Meanwhile, I just watched HLN interviewing a researcher who claims that social distancing should be 12 feet or more, after measuring how “droplets” from coughs spread. But a social distance requirement of much more than six feet is impractical, meaning that it’s not worth talking about.

5. Making important decisions without perfect information is what effective leaders have to do. Two recent weak Presidents, Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter, were marked by a habitual reluctance to make difficult and urgent choices without “all the facts,” and this resulted in multiple fiascos. The danger in making a premature decision, as defined by those two intelligent men, is that the decision will be subject to second guessing after the missing facts are known. President Trump has to be courageous and responsible and make any choice, knowing that whatever he does will be attacked whatever happens. He has to place his fate in the hands of moral luck, and the fate of the country as well. That’s a terrible situation to be in, but that’s the job.

6. No one can rely on “experts.” First, they don’t agree, so the opinions of experts in various fields can be cherry-picked to support a wide range of options. Second, their record in this episode stinks. Everyone is quoting Dr. Fauci as if he were the guru on the mountaintop, but the record shows that he was completely wrong in January, in February, and early in March. Pundits and people treat him as the ultimate authority now, when it suits their own agenda.

7. Second, experts have the bias of their own field and its priorities. I read some hysterical Facebook friend of a Facebook friend declaring that she would be listening to doctors and health experts, because they know best. No, you idiot, they don’t, because in this case, more than health is involved. Doctors and health experts have only one objective. They don’t care about money, they don’t care about jobs, they don’t care, at least professionally, whether or not the nation is reduced to living in caves. That’s not their professional priority. Similarly, we cannot rely on economists, academics and social scientists. Here’s a quote in an article from March that I’ve been keeping on file about how economists look at the shutdown:

“Economists should be doing this cost-benefit analysis,” said Walter Scheidel, an economic historian at Stanford University. “Why is nobody putting some numbers on the economic costs of a monthlong or a yearlong shutdown against the lives saved? The whole discipline is well equipped for it. But there is some reluctance for people to stick their neck out.”

Some economists who support lifting the current restrictions on economic activity say governors and even the Trump administration have not sufficiently assessed the costs and benefits of those restrictions.

“We put a lot of weight on saving lives,” said Casey Mulligan, a University of Chicago economist who spent a year as chief economist on Mr. Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers. “But it’s not the only consideration. That’s why we don’t shut down the economy every flu season. They’re ignoring the costs of what they’re doing. They also have very little clue how many lives they’re saving.”…

The problem is that society won’t accept such cold-eyed calculations, and that’s a good thing. Ford engineers were able to prove that their calculations in the Pinto case—based on the estimated number of fatalities and burn victims, it was cheaper to pay damages for the rare accident involving the vulnerable Pinto gas tank design than it was to fix it— were perfectly reasonable from an economic perspective, and the kinds of calculations Ford made were not all that different from many public policy calculations that the public accepts (or doesn’t think about). However, the attitude toward human life the infamous internal “Let em burn!” memo displayed is antithetical to the values of a democracy, in which we all have to accept responsibility for the well-being of each other, and be trusted to do so.

8. The  projections and models have been completely wrong more often than not, but are still being hyped as a valid basis for planning. Rahm Emanuel’s epidemiologist bother, Ezekiel, who gets prime airtime on MSNBC because  of Rahm, told viewers at the end of March that there would be 100 million cases in the U.S. by the end of April. It is becoming hard to argue that these projections aren’t being used to frighten rather than inform. Today the New York Times front page headlines  the conclusions of a leaked “government report” with a model that predicts “about 200,000 daily cases by June.” That’s the essence of fake news. First, it’s a draft; second, it’s a model; third, we have no way of knowing what considerations and biases were baked into it. NPR, seven paragraphs into its report, finally informs its readers that

Justin Lessler, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who reportedly created the model reported by the Times, told The Washington Post that the work contained a wide range of possibilities and modeling was not complete.

9. The news media has politicized the lock-down, and most of it is actively lobbying for the lock-down to continue. You can come to your own conclusions as to why; whatever your call, the fact is that lobbying one way or the other isn’t the news media’s proper function. One could fairly conclude, for example, that the news media wants the economy to be wrecked beyond reasonable repair and as many out of jobs as possible so it can, along with the Democrats, blame the President and ensure his defeat. One could also fairly conclude that the news media sees an opportunity in such a disaster to move the nation to a socialist, nanny state  structure and a “green economy,” much as the Great Depression opened the door to a radical overhaul of our institutions and priorities.

One could also conclude that while knowing that the nation has to be taken off of lockdown, the news media is deliberately laying the groundwork for a “blood on his hands” campaign against him by the Democrats, no matter what happens.

Here’s a particularly obvious example. NBC and others are sporting this headline: Government orders 100,000 new body bags as Trump minimizes death toll. It begins,

“Federal coronavirus response documents obtained by NBC News suggest that the president’s optimism about “Opening Up America” is at odds with dire warnings from inside his administration.”

No, this is called “being prepared for worst case scenario,” exactly what the news media attacked the administration for not doing in light of the threat of potential pandemics. Again, the news media will play “gotcha!” to undermine the President and assist his opposition no matter what he decides. The President has to ignore it, its polls, and its selected experts.

10. We have to accept that the ethical system we have to employ here is Utilitarianism, the most brutal of them all. That means balancing likely outcomes and accepting sacrifices to reach the most beneficial result for the nation and society. Reciprocity is useless: “Do unto others”  doesn’t work in wartime or crisis situations, except in isolated cases. Kant’s absolutist principles also fail.  Human lives are in play, but “if it only saves one life” reasoning—I have read and heard people say this, apparently unaware of how illogical and irrational it is, if comfortingly virtuous-sounding–is out. Opening the country will undoubtedly cost lives, whenever it is done. Waiting for a vaccine is not possible.

Ten is a nice round number; I thought of some more as I was writing, but I’ll bring those up in Part II.

I need to think about something else for a while.

27 thoughts on “The Pandemic Creates A Classic And Difficult Ethics Conflict, But The Resolution Is Clear, Part I: Stipulations [CORRECTED]

  1. Everyone is quoting Dr. Fauci as if he were the guru on the mountaintop, but the record shows that he was completely wrong in January, in February, and in March. Pundits and people treat him as the ultimate authority now, when it suits their own agenda.

    Do you have citations?

    Now here is an interesting article.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/2020/04/coronavirus-crisis-lessons-1968-hong-kong-flu-pandemic/

    I am just old enough to remember the Hong Kong flu. Like the majority of those infected, I didn’t get sick. But my family lived down the road from Travis Air Force Base in the Bay Area, the main return point for soldiers coming home from Vietnam in the fall of 1968. Living near the place of that flu’s first contact piqued my interest, and I recall preparing a school report on the virus.

    It amazes me now, but I was able to give my oral report in class because the schools didn’t close in California — or anywhere else in the country. Shawn Steel, now a California attorney, remembers attending a Grateful Dead concert in December 1968 at the Shrine Auditorium at the University of Southern California.

    We were more resilient then, there were no helicopter parents, and we were brought up in an era when it wasn’t unknown to get chicken pox, measles, mumps, German measles, or scarlet fever. Polio had haunted people’s nightmares until a vaccine was developed in the mid-1950s. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s earliest childhood memory is of the day he checked out of the polio treatment center in Warm Springs, Ga.

    During the Hong Kong flu, Americans rode buses less often, washed their hands, and practiced social distancing. But they went to work.

    Marilyn Brown worked at the Los Angeles Department of Social Services during the Hong Kong flu. “Other than my coworkers bringing their own alcohol to wipe down their desks and wipe down pencils and not use pencils that clients had used, we didn’t do anything,” she recently told Travel Weekly.

    Philip Snashall, a now retired professor of medicine, wrote in the British Medical Journal that his two-year-old daughter contracted the first known case of the Hong Kong flu to hit Europe. “How things change,” he noted. “The stock market did not plummet, we were not besieged by the press, men in breathing apparatus did not invade my daughter’s play group.”

    The global response to COVID-19 couldn’t stand in starker contrast. Leaders have made the decision to do everything possible, including bringing entire economies to a crashing halt, to limit the loss of life. They’ve swept aside considerations of the negative health effects of locking people inside with a virus that spreads most virulently indoors. People who’ve been denied nonemergency surgeries are expected to comply and shut up about their pain, even though some will undoubtedly die from their conditions.

  2. The global warming cult has conditioned leaders and the media to trust models over data. If the data doesn’t match the model, it is the DATA that must change, which is why they keep adjusting the temperature measurements more and more to match the model. As with global warming, the model does not match reality and we are being told to trust the model, not the data.

    Just to put things in perspective:
    •Roughly 2.8 million Americans die each year. Around march, that is roughly 8000 people/day.
    •If 5% of the population has asymptomatic coronavirus, that means that 400 dead people with test positive for coronavirus each day, even though it did not contribute to their deaths. Under current practice, that means 400 coronavirus deaths that really weren’t coronavirus deaths (or 12,000/month).
    •It is hard to tell, but the number of deaths/month does not seem to be rising over previous years. It seems that most ‘coronavirus deaths’ are due to reclassifying cause of death, not actual effects of the virus. You can view the California doctor’s censored interview about that somewhere, if you can find it anymore.
    •The number of actual extra deaths from coronavirus appears to be within the yearly standard deviation of deaths. Meaning: Deaths from coronavirus are not statistically significant yet.
    • The fatality rate appears to be less than 0.1%. The flu is about 0.1% and the flu without the flu vaccine is about 0.3%, so this appears to be not as dangerous as the flu. More people are getting it, however, because it is new and people don’t have an natural immunity to it yet. This is why everyone needs to get it.
    •Roughly 500,000 people die each year from medical mistakes.
    •Places that had more restrictive lockdowns did not suffer from worse outcomes. They seemed to have suffered less.

    It seems that our ‘experts’ are morons. Let’s look at some of the policies from ‘best people’.
    •We need people to spread out and ‘social distance’. So, let’s close half the stores, concentrating people in the remaining stores. Then, let’s cut the hours those stores can be open, further concentrating the people in the stores.
    •We need to protect the elderly. Let’s close schools and daycares. If the parents have to go to work, who watches the kids? The grandparents do.
    •We need to protect the elderly. So, let’s forbid the nursing homes from rejecting COVID-19 patients. This will result in hospitals dumping as many contagious COVID-19 patients in nursing homes, infecting the entire system and resulting in sky-high deaths. Good job, New York!
    •The plan of ‘flattening the curve’ was to get to herd immunity (70+% infected) WITHOUT overloading the medical system. We have underloaded the medical system to the point that we are destroying our health care system. We are doing it wrong. We need MORE people to get it each week, not less.

    It is probably an even bet at this point that the real death toll would not have changed (or been less) had we done nothing about this. It seems that this coronavirus has been rampaging through the country since November and we didn’t even notice it. We currently have a 40% reduction in cancer diagnoses because we aren’t doing cancer testing (we are getting more coronavirus cases because we are doing more testing). Elective procedures have dramatically slowed. Elective procedures are not just plastic surgery, they are all procedures that aren’t emergency. Regular cancer treatments, cardiac surgeries, etc are elective and are not being done. A lot of people are going to die from that. More will die because we have run hospitals out of business and laid off hundreds of thousands of nurses (a guess, but 43,000 healthcare workers had been laid off by April 8, it is likely well over 100,000 by now).

    I say open everything up now. Everyone go back to work, school, etc. This is looking more like mass hysteria than a dangerous virus.

  3. 7. Economists are primarily academics and do not want their necks on the chopping block for supporting reactivating the economy when it is fairly clear, now that we have actual data instead of model projections, this is costing a lot more than the benefit. And that benefits America and not the Left.
    8. The models are created by people with biases. In this case every model I’ve seen has way overshot the actual numbers favoring more lockdown. The models are no longer really required; we have data and even that is skewed to exaggerate Covid deaths and infections.
    9. The continued lockdown is undercutting or even destroying the strength of the economy. This was Trump’s strong suit heading into November. Hmmm, wonder why anyone advocating for opening the economy is being alleged to be dumber than dirt and socially irresponsible.

    • 7. But cost-benefit analysis setting economics against lives lost to [insert terrible thing here] are easy to demagogue as money vs. lives. We are seeing that in spades. It’s hard to argue the reality that the results of the economic catastrophe will be more deadly, because the virus is real, and the other can be characterized as hypothetical.

      8. Exactly.

      9. That was always the goal. In order to make the Left’s program attractive, you have to put the people in a position where they fear for their economic and health safety so that they will be willing to entrust government with both, and abandon liberty.

  4. I can’t find much to disagree with on items 1-6. So I won’t.

    Item 7 is interesting. I think I would restate that to say that we can’t rely exclusively on experts, no matter what their field of expertise. This is always wisdom, not just now.

    Your explanation is correct — experts have professional biases which cannot be reconciled with the overall problem. It’s very much like fighting a war; you don’t just fight the enemy, but his propaganda, your own supply chains and lines, the weather, the perception of other countries, the positions of your allies, the list is endless. There are experts in every one of those fields of endeavor that require consultation and consideration.

    But the big picture must be kept in mind, not just a piece of it. The media and Democrats have decided that they are going to place medical experts ahead of everyone else because a) it is a health crisis, and b) it allows them to more easily appeal to emotion, thereby enabling a more convincing appeal to authority. Medicine is must needs a “touchy-feely” discipline.

    But when we wake up to the economic destruction giving the physicians free reign has produced, it’s going to be an eye-opener. The Democrats have a self-interest in advancing the economic ruin as far as possible without totally destroying the U.S. economy, so you can expect them to object to anything that won’t get them where they want to go: An America that feels totally dependent on government for its economic and health security.

    We haven’t even begun to discuss the national security implications of this, because we’re lost in the weeds of economics and health care. This virus and our reaction to it has exposed vast vulnerability in the U.S. supply chain that can easily be exploited by a rival country, even to the extent of forcing a change in our political system favorable to their interests. That’s a terrifying problem, but nobody wants to talk about anything other than the economy or the potential lives lost to the virus. The national security question holds the highest stakes of all — the very existence of our country as a political entity, and the survival of our way of life. Our two-issue myopia could end up ignoring the most important problem of all, to our woe.

    There are other important questions at stake, but they become relatively minor next to the Big Three, only two of which are even being discussed.

    Item 8 and 9 are not really separate, but a self-reinforcing whole. The Left is used to using models in their arguments for global warming, which they have done for years. It’s no surprise to see them insist on modeling the pandemic, demanding policy decision based on their inaccurate conclusions, and then simply moving on to another model when the flaws in the instant case become too difficult to defend. The press is the other prong of the same effort.

  5. The whole purpose of the shut down and social distancing was to flatten the curve so our healthcare system across the United States doesn’t get completely overwhelmed and people that need treatment can still get treatment. As far as I can tell this flattening of the curve has worked but if people look at the graphs when they were talking about flattening the curve it also stretches the overall infection timeline significantly…

    The flattening of the curve doesn’t mean that no more people will die and the infection rate is zero, they expect infections to continue. The point is that there is still going to be a LOT of people that will die due to this pandemic but the health care system won’t be completely overwhelmed and will be able to treat and save as many lives as possible. I think they were reasonably successful with their goal of flattening the curve but we don’t want people to get too relaxed and allow the curve to spike. There are areas of the USA that have zero infections and some that have an infection rate that’s at or near zero. People know what to do, they’ve been doing it successfully for a month, it’s time to allow those areas (individual counties and municipalities) that have had zero infection growth in damn near a month or rapidly declining infection rates to reopen while maintaining a a continued high level of social distancing. There are major metropolitan areas like NYC, Detroit, Indianapolis, Nashville, Milwaukee, Atlanta and medium size cities like Madison, WI, that should stay shut down on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. It’s time to stop punishing the less populated areas because the dense populated areas can’t control it.

    • The whole purpose of the shut down and social distancing was to flatten the curve so our healthcare system across the United States doesn’t get completely overwhelmed and people that need treatment can still get treatment.

      That was the purpose — until it wasn’t. Unfortunately, the virus was much too mild for the people who made these models. They desired a response that would produce a)government health care for all and b) an agreement by all Americans safety is the over-arching goal. After all, like the famous Franklin quote, once you trade freedom for safety, you lose you freedom and your safety.

      So now, they are essentially using “even one life…” to get the rest of the way the virus failed to take them.

    • Indiana is slowly opening up with all counties except three opening in stages. One of the counties that is excepted is Marion County which contains Indianapolis (the other two are Lake County – right across Lake Michigan from Chicago – and Cass County which contains the Tyson Food Factory that had a big surge in positive testing). The others can open slowly with limitations.

      Marion and Lake Counties have been pushed back a week before they can begin stage 2 (Cass County pushed back two weeks) which will involve some business reopening with limited capacity permitted and other services, like hair salons, can open (by appointment only) and with social distancing. At risk people are urged to stay home regardless and those able to work at home are asked to continue doing so. There are other stages that are expected to last until 7/4 but, nothing’s set in stone, we don’t know for certain when everything will start looking normal.

  6. Why do I have to go to an obscure blog run single-handedly by a guy running around blogging like a mad scientist in his Hollywood movie set lab to get this quality of thought on such an important situation?

    • And not just the blog, but the comments. They’re consistently higher quality than most of what gets published in the media.

      • As I’ve been saying for almost two months now, I firmly believe this over reaction to this virus will go down as the hugest public health and economic fuck up in recent memory. And I’ve also been shocked to discover what a bunch of chickens we baby boomers are. Sheesh.

  7. We’re seeing the problem with the vast majority of people’s inability to grasp statistics, and in particular the statistics of risk. That’s the problem here – with the Wuhan flu, we’re talking about something that – at most – could kill 1 in 100 people. We’re seeing higher numbers for death rates in many places, but they’re talking about case fatality rate. 1% in the US means 3 million people die, and we’re at 70K dead as of this morning in the US, 3.2 million short in 1% of American’s dying. Yes, I get many haven’t been infected and many more will die, but we’re absolutely on a trajectory far short of a 1% fatality rate.

    As soon as you’re talking about numbers that low, far too many people’s brains stop being logical and emotion takes over. The tell for this is the saying “if it just saves one life.” People say that, but they’re turn a blind eye to so many things that kill people an no one addresses. Because there is no critical thought being applied, they remain illogical and darn near impossible to considering any position other than those formed by emotion.

    We take risks every day that we don’t think about and we ignore things that people die from because of normalization of that risk. If you’re under 45, your odds of suicide, homicide and accidents killing you outweighs your risk of dying of health complications. If you’re under 25, that risk is three to one that it’s something other than a health condition that kills you. Even amongst the health conditions, there are many that are swayed by our own conduct and we ignore that.

    Through most of the existence of the automobile, it’s ranked as the number one cause of premature death in the United States. Only in the last decade has the rise of the opioid epidemic managed to surpass the death rate of automobile fatalities. The opioid epidemic is a harder one to discuss, so I’ll start with the automobile. Automobile deaths are ignored, few people are afraid to get into a car because it might kill them. There are marginal improvements in automobile safety, but many of the key contributors have had little improvement. Mass use of air travel has had about 1/2 the time of the mass use of the automobile, but air travel has had massive improvements. At first there were many crashes because airplanes broke and directly or indirectly through the distractions they caused resulted in mass fatalities. That got fixed first. Then aviation regulators figured out that a growing fraction of accidents were pilots flying perfectly good airplanes into the ground or each other. They borrowed ideas from the nuclear industry, and instituted many policies that have resulted in a remarkable fall in airline fatalities. Do you realize the last time an passenger aircraft went down in the United States was November, 2001? 19 years. The only other crash was a 777 in San Francisco that stalled on approach, and most of the passengers came out with no or minor injuries. That’s truly remarkable.

    The medical community has noticed, and has adopted the same philosophies. You can see this in examples like surgical checklists that every instrument and disposable is counted before and after surgery with checklists to stop sowing patents closed with those items left in them. Or every person asking a patient over and over again, what’s your full name and date of birth and what they’re in for so they stop giving the wrong medication or taking out the wrong kidney and those other simple but devastating mistakes. Have we seen the same in automobiles? No. Why? Because the public won’t accept many of them. We’ve pushed on drunk driving some but not really. Certainly not in proportion to the risks. We’ve made cars smaller and lighter to save fuel, citing the limited resource it is and the environmental costs of emissions. But that comes at a real cost in maimed and killed. Bigger cars save lives, but we’re pushed into smaller and lighter cars by governmental regulations. Few were willing to drive Jimmy Carter’s 55 MPH. Heck, I’m sure not, I hated it and pretty much ignored it. We have an enforcement focus on aggressive and fast driving, but don’t put a focus on the other bad behaviours drivers had. A good example is slow left lane drivers. That conduct is bad both because it is indicative in inattentive driving and it disrupts the flow of traffic. Smooth flow is vastly safer, it is the mixing of some people trying to weave by them that causes accidents. In many cases don’t do infrastructure improvements based on risk. A good example is crossover accidents – ones where a vehicle loses control and crosses into oncoming traffic. They’re brutal, being high speed crashes with a high incidence of fatalities. Getting every divided highway in the US outfitted with barriers will save more lives than any other infrastructure, but most of the miles are still not protected.

    Going back to the irrationality aspect of these discussions, I face this professionally as I am the design leader for a product line that carries considerable risks. We manage them, but there is inherent risk. So many of these accidental injuries and deaths are about the unintentional release of energy. Falling from a height is releasing your gravitational potential energy. Crashing a car is releasing the kinetic energy of you and the car. Ditto for electrical arcs burning people or electricity shocking people, hydraulic fluid, compress air or other fluids exploding something, a spring exploding something, a machine coming apart and so on. It’s all about tradeoff of risk vs utility. We’re not going to stop using electricity, we’re not going to get rid of farm and factory machinery. There is risk, and there is the need to manage it but it’s going to be there unless we forgo technology. The greater the energy the greater the risks. The irrational statement that I get and struggle against is “Isn’t it safer if we just….” Yes, you’re correct, it is safer. It is also ignoring the level of ‘accepted’ risk. “Isn’t it safer” far too often ignores the unintended consequences. The guard that gets in the way of the operator too much is the guard that is more likely to be removed. A “less safe” guard that is left in place is far more safe than the guard that’s sitting in the corner of the room not doing it’s job.

    That’s rather long winded way to make the point that the reaction to Covid won’t be rational and is only the last installment of the mass public failure to apply critical thinking to the area. What’s to be done? I’m not sure. Of course this is the appeal of the communist ideal where the “experts” are put in charge. It’s a great appeal to the university professor crowd where they think they’re smarter and more knowledgeable than the public. It’s also failed utterly every time it’s tried because who is an “expert” remains a political decision, the more centralized the power the more it corrupts, and it considers dissent heretical where any dissent must be stamped out. “Experts” can’t remain experts where an open and free dialog is suppressed. While you and I don’t always agree on all of the politics Jack, we’re both ardent supporters of representative democracy and individual liberty. I too reject “experts” as being the go to leaders here.

    I’m all for “urging” and “imploring” but the moment it treads into where the government is placing restrictions on personal liberty, that’s where I’m going to draw my line. Legal restriction on the health in the name of public health is a new growth of government power, and we’re already seeing some of the government officials behaving power drunk. We need to nip that behavior before it grows.

    • Apparently I messed up my closing italics there.

      Much of that response was centered around point #8 – business every day still makes those choices. Every dang day for any business that deals with risky stuff. What has changed as a result of the Ford Pinto lawsuit (or the GM side saddle gas tank)? In house counsel is very good at preventing that type of calculation from biting you in the butt if you’re sued. Otherwise there is little change in the actual conduct. You won’t find documentation of any kind of knowledge of known risks being “bad” as the real discussions are done in non-discoverable verbal communications and the written documents won’t reflect the true conversations that happen.

  8. 6 & 7)

    Experts can only tell us what is. They cannot tell us what ought to be. And, when those whose job it is to shape our notion of what ought to be have given us that shape, Experts can only partially inform us on how to get there.

    Even when experts tell us what is, they still are never 100% right and they often have internal disagreements. They rely only on a well-but-incompletely developed sets of theories and practices, that, while good…often times very good…still suffer from being very specialized and without completely consensus. Even then, when applying their theories and practices to what is, they ultimately rely on incomplete data…or worse, wrong or improperly gathered data.

    In the case of THIS virus? Our data is VERY incomplete. In the case of THIS virus? We have NO experts…we only have experts in analogous viral situations, regardless of good those analogies are.

    While people love citing experts to bolster their own notions of what ought to be, they forget that isn’t the business of experts. But these types of people have fallen in love with the notion of a technocracy run by the “experts”…they’ve been fooled into the notion that society can be controlled by “those who know better”. They’ve been lulled into a false sense of comfort that we even had control and stability before (not brought on by the experts by the way).

    • Oh, the job of those who shape our notion of what ought to be isn’t solely the realm of any one set of people or professionals. While there are individuals and skills sets that do lend themselves to discussing these topics…like philosophers or ethicists…often the job of what ought to be is a collective effort…either actively through influencing the community or through political discourse or passively as cultures and their values gradually change.

      And when cultures are divided as to which value set is the correct route to weigh more, such as what we’re facing now, you see this appeal to “experts” even more voraciously as though the experts know what ought to be. In reality, when you invoke a particular expert, it’s through the lens of what you think is the right answer. Funnily, this can lead to two people in a disagreement appealing to the exact same “expert” as a type of proof text of righteousness of their own conclusions.

  9. On a personal note, I’ve been torn on what to think about opening everything up vs. waiting for a day when the experts claim we’re “safe.”

    A couple days ago the sister of my wife’s aunt died from this virus. Her daughter still lived at home and refused to social distance, bringing it home to her mother. The daughter just got off a ventilator yesterday. Watching the news and knowing a distant family member was the 109th person to die in Oregon from it was surreal and made all the talk of “let’s open now” feel like a slap in the face.

    At the same time people are close to the edge financially and there really isn’t a “safe time” just like there really aren’t any “safe spaces.” Too boot none of the experts seem to know from day to day what the correct statistics and projections are. This combined with straight-up CCP propaganda at every media turn and hyper-partisan quackery makes one have to stop listening to others and make best choices for the individual and family. I suppose you just hope that choice doesn’t kill your mother.

  10. 4. “We cannot compare the U.S. statistics with other countries, because we can’t be sure of the accuracy of those foreign statistics.”
    And how can we be sure that American statistics are any more accurate than that of other first world countries?

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