Handing Over Policy to Medical Professionals Is as Stupid as Handing It Over to Generals

They aren't qualified to weigh the non-medical costs of their total war proposals

Maybe we can win a total victory against this one specific virus, but if the cost is everything else, is it really preferable to peace with honor?

Governments across Europe are declaring martial-law-like measures (I suspect driven by the media more than anyone else) but hiding behind medical experts as those who supposedly guided their actions.

The problem is that asking the experts for advice is nice and dandy but unreservedly signing onto whatever they come up with is bound to be the height of folly.

The problem is two-fold. Firstly they are not a disinterested party. It is very rarely that virologists are sought by those in power for anything whatsoever. It is even rarer they have the opportunity to command the attention, the prestige and the funding they can grab now. It would take a truly saintly virologist right now to proclaim that COVID-19 is non-exceptional even if he would have reached such a conclusion had there not been all this fuss.

Secondly, technical professionals aren’t responsible for, and aren’t fit to bear responsibility for, the big picture. If you ask the generals how to win a war the answer is always the same: institute total war, pour as many resources into the war effort as possible, wage war in the most unrestricted way possible, and mobilize and regiment the society to the greatest extent possible.

Ask a virologist on how to win a war on a virus and the answer is (apparently) exactly the same. However just as a leader isn’t supposed to automatically go with the proposal of the generals, but weigh it against the social, economic and human costs, so it should be done here.

Okay so locking everyone inside their house/apartment would decrease infection spread. Okay, I think everyone gets that — but at what cost and for what gains?

Would we ban cars to get rid of road accidents? Probably not. Would we carpet bomb civil liberties and the division of labor on which our ability to sustain our population at the current levels rests, to limit the spread of one unremarkable virus? Probably we shouldn’t.

 

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