In 2018, Professor Roger Koppl of Syracuse University published a timely and important book, titled Expert Failure (Cambridge University Press). The fundamental insight of his book is that most experts are government bureaucrats, who are protected from competition and the consequences of their decisions. More specifically, such experts are accountable to no one. We also observe that they are often lionized in the media as dedicated, selfless scholars toiling for the good of the people.
Professor Koppl’s theory of expert failure comes to mind when contemplating the actions of the architects of our state-run religion of mandatory social distancing: infectious disease experts. These experts are responsible for the establishment of a “public health” police state, which governs all aspects of our lives. Note that we place the phrase “public health” in quotes, given that the same experts who formulate police state policies relating to COVID fail to report data that would allow us to determine whether their policies actually advance public health. The preponderance of evidence that has leaked out through other outlets strongly suggests that quarantines and lockdowns have degraded public health and will ultimately kill more citizens than the virus. Even the WHO now acknowledges this.
Experts are even more dangerous when they have a compliant media, anxious to promote and magnify their dire predictions (which complements their business model), echo their claims of “victory” in addressing a “surge” in cases or whatever the chosen metric is that fits the narrative of panic, and failing to challenge the expert’s model and underlying statistics. The end result is that the media have functioned as accomplices in promoting the public health police state.
Last week, these myopic experts, who constitute the intellectual arm of the coronavirus lockdown chorus in Arizona (a.k.a., the “COVID Modeling Team” at the University of Arizona), penned a letter to the chief bureaucratic masters/experts at the Arizona Department of Health Services. There were three predictable aspects to this letter. The first is that it strongly recommends a three-week stay-at home shutdown and a state-wide mask mandate. According to the experts, such draconian measures are required to address the latest impending “crisis,” or what they refer to as a “humanitarian crisis of unparalleled proportion.” As always, their preferred course of action involves maximal use of unprecedented, deviant, and destructive “non-pharmaceutical interventions,” i.e., quarantining healthy people and shutting down “non-essential” businesses.
A second predictable aspect of the letter is the assumption that the taxpayer can once again cover the collateral economic damage generated by their proposed lockdowns. The following passage from the letter is quite revealing: “Of course, such restrictions will impose severe economic hardship on businesses and families at a time when state and federal governments are doing little to ameliorate them. Therefore, it is imperative that the state also expand its efforts to alleviate food insecurity, to prevent evictions and foreclosures, and to protect access to health services.”
The economic naiveté of this statement is staggering. Where do these infectious disease experts think the money comes from to fund the public sector? The answer is that for most cities, counties, and states, those funds come from the same “non-essential” business that were shut down and “reopened” at 50% capacity (or less) during the past nine months. The final, predictable aspect of the letter is its virtual silence regarding any negative effects of lockdowns on non-COVID aspects of public health, such as increased domestic violence, human trafficking, child abuse, rape, drug and alcohol, addiction, teenage suicide, stress-related illnesses, mental health degradation, and deaths of despair.
It is clear from this arrogant and misleading letter that the experts are supremely confident about two things: (1) the transcendent wisdom of their pseudo-scientific non-pharmaceutical interventions and (2) the sublime ignorance of the great unwashed citizenry, who refused to obey their dictums by travelling to see their families over the Thanksgivings holiday or convened with family in Arizona. How dare the subjects of their noble experiment exercise independent thought and free will? Don’t they know that they must obey for the common good? After all, we are all (FORCED) to be in this together?
In sum, the letter is a perfect example of the devastating consequences of a narrow-minded view of public policy, in zealous pursuit of a single goal. As such, it is a perfect reflection of the simulation models they have used throughout the pandemic to inaccurately predict and prolong the “crisis.” Saint Thomas Aquinas once said: “hominem unius libri timeo,” which means “I fear the man of a single book.” In the mind of an infectious disease expert, there is a single book, consisting of a set of non-pharmaceutical interventions, including lockdowns.
The academics who penned this letter do not see us as humans, with rights and the ability to reason and make sound judgements regarding our appetite for risk. Instead, we are organisms, who must abide by the edicts of government officials, based on their pseudo-scientific recommendations to implement non-pharmaceutical interventions, which severely restrict the liberties we cherish and that so many in this country have fought and died for to preserve. They have deemed that we are likely to spread the disease even when we are asymptomatic, even though there is little credible evidence of asymptomatic transmission for this virus.
The great statesman, Edward Everett, who served as Governor of Massachusetts, Ambassador to England, President of Harvard, and Secretary of State in the pre-Civil War period, applied Aquinas’ dictum not only to the man of one book, but also to the man of one idea. He said that such men lack a sense of proportion and humility and only see that which they are looking for. The authors who penned that letter have designed our state-run religion of mandatory social distancing and will twist their data to justify maximal use of non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as lockdowns.
The public health police state is responsible for the greatest political act of theft in history, consisting of three categories of theft. The first is theft of private property, stolen from business owners, since businesses classified as “non-essential” have been closed and then significantly altered to operate at significantly less than full capacity (sometimes as low as 25%). A second category of theft involves citizens who have paid for services that have not been delivered or have been significantly degraded, due to the fact that the government has shut down the service provider, outlawed the delivery of that service, or “re-opened” the service, subject to regulatory guidelines. For example, most schools have been effectively closed or significantly degraded by the public health authorities, despite the fact that parents continue to pay for this service. A third category of theft is that quarantines and shutdowns have severely restricted our economic, personal, and religious liberty. The latter is a matter of absolutely no concern to public health authorities.
We must let our politicians know that this theft cannot continue and that our love of liberty will not be vanquished. More specifically, we must signal to them that the grace period for these experts has come to an end and we will not comply with another round of lockdowns. It’s time to stand up to the infectious disease experts and dismantle the public health police state.
Donald S. Siegel, Foundation Professor of Public Policy and Management and Director, School of Public Affairs, Arizona State University (Donald.Siegel.firstname.lastname@example.org)
Robert M. Sauer, Professor of Economics, Royal Holloway, University of London (Robert.Sauer@rhul.ac.uk)