Tom Evslin: Pandemic lesson No. 2 — Experts are too narrow to make policy

This commentary is by Tom Evslin of Stowe, an entrepreneur, author and former Douglas administration official. It is republished from the Fractals of Change blog.

“Lock it all down,” the epidemiologists said. They were correct that, the less people left their houses, the less the disease would spread.

“How will food get to their houses?” we can imagine leaders asking.

“There will have to be few essential exceptions,” we can imagine an epidemiologist responding.

Tom Evslin

“And those would be?” Not a question to ask the epidemiologists. Outside their area of expertise. No criticism of them; we should expect experts to be narrowly focused on their area of expertise.

If you were a mayor or a governor or a head of state who must make immediate decisions in the face of a new pandemic, you have two choices: 1) just listen to the epidemiologists — a strategy which allows you to claim that you made the expert-endorsed decisions regardless of the outcome; 2) as quickly as you can, consult as wide a variety of experts in different fields like logistics, food supply, energy, and waste removal, talk to people whose thinking (as opposed to expertise you trust) and make the best decision you can at warp speed.

The first approach gives you the political cover that you listened to the experts and the science. You can claim that you are “acting from an excess” of caution. You will be tempted to stick with this decision even in the face of adverse effects like lost years of schooling, an economy in tatters without unsustainable subsidies, a rising suicide rate, etc. China is sticking to its lockdown policy despite people starving in their homes. How can you not do what the experts in infectious disease said to do?

If you take the second approach and do the best job you can of balancing the recommendations of experts in diverse fields, you are in the short term more vulnerable to second guessing. You, the non-expert, made the final decision. You will have to monitor results and almost assuredly adjust policy as both the virus and the society react and mutate in unpredictable ways. Experts from different fields (sometimes in the same field) will continue to disagree. You will be blamed for every death. You will be blamed for the demise of every business which you did not deem essential. And you will have done what leaders are chosen to do, synthesized the best advice you can get, acted, observed, and modified your actions.

Gov. Scott (R -VT and the second most popular governor in the country) took mainly the second approach and Vermont avoided the worst results of the pandemic in terms of mortality and also avoided the worst effects of an “excess of caution” — our schools reopened relatively early. Trump actually took a third course at first — he tried to wish the pandemic away. But he shut down international travel early and was accused of xenophobia (of which he is guilty in general), then was accused of acting too late. Recent “expert opinion” is that shutting down travel always amounted to locking the barn door while the horse galloped down the street. Some governors like Gavin Newsom in California took the “epidemiologist” approach of very tight lockdowns; others like Ron DeSantis in Florida kept their economies largely opened.

We saw surges of Covid first in the mainly blue states with strict measures. Before the partisan gloating was over, the virus surged in the red states. Now, although much less virulent, it’s been back strong on the coasts again. Florida’s age-adjusted death rate is a tiny bit better than that of California. Florida’s unlocked economy has fared better.

The danger is that we see all this through partisan lenses and don’t learn the lesson we need for the next emergency. There is no simple “the science” according to which a leader can govern. There is no one type of expert who can make overall policy from the narrow perch of his or her expertise (sorry, Dr. Fauci). We must do our best to elect competent, calm people to executive positions and hope that they encourage a clash of expertise and opinion before making decisions, then monitor the results and change course as often as necessary.

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6 thoughts on “Tom Evslin: Pandemic lesson No. 2 — Experts are too narrow to make policy

  1. What a phony Mr Evslin…it was you who demanded mandatory ‘vaxxes’ for the masses during the CDC bankrolling of bloggers and other assorted public influencers paid for pushing the vax and a bounty for each person they convinced to enter the syringed gas chamber. Stunning lack of character much

  2. He missed the elephant in the room.. there are many people that are being called “Experts” and they are not experts at all.

    Look at how many people are working in the Biden administration at jobs that they don’t even have backgrounds in.

  3. The train wreck that was our response to Covid-19 was born of willful ignorance.

    Everyone got on board this train. The CDC, FDA, the WHO, Dr, Fauci, the medical journals, most governors and heads of state. The train wreck said: there are zero medical measures we can take to prevent serious Covid– nothing– therefore we must impose so-called non-pharmaceutical measures such as lockdowns, masks, and social distancing.

    Let’s think about that for a moment. In a country– let alone a world– filled with top physicians and laboratory scientists faced with a dire emergency, no one anywhere had discovered anything at all– zero– that was effective against a novel virus that was, in fact, similar to the SARS-CoV-1 virus. It was a respiratory virus, something we’d encountered numerous times before, yet no one had a clue. It’s incredible to think that really was true, and in fact it was never true. Many doctors were relentlessly censored– just stop and think about that for a moment– if they dared to speak a word of how we could overcome the Covid darkness.

    We had extremely good evidence that we had at least one good remedy to prevent serious Covid-19, and it turns out we likely had several remedies to prevent serious Covid (vitamin D, budenoside, fluvoxamine, etc.) That one good remedy was the Zelenko protocol given by Dr. Zelenko on March 23, 2020, and subsequently dismissed by Dr. Fauci and the medical establishment. Studies were done to “prove” the Zelenko protocol– consisting of a modest course of hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, and zinc for five days– were ineffective and even dangerous, and this was done by giving the wrong doses at the wrong time to the wrong patients. https://ahrp.org/how-a-false-hydroxychloroquine-narrative-was-created/

    Drs. Fareed and Tyson wrote a book, “Overcoming the Covid-19 Darkness,” that documents how they saved 7,000 lives with a version of the Zelenko protocol, with virtually no deaths.

    So what happened wasn’t that we listened to the wrong experts or had to make choices or made mistakes here and there. What happened was a wholesale and astonishing act of the deepest and most shameful ignorance and outright deception that has ever occurred in the medical profession.

    I know many people can’t believe this, because it’s so unbelievable. But dig into it; the link I provided will show you. Incredibly, it happened, and we should never, ever let this happen again.

    We, the people, need to put our thinking caps on and learn to question the authorities and demand answers whenever they ask us to give up liberties for some supposed emergency. The next grave emergency they’ll use to bludgeon us with be catastrophic CO2 warming. But, this is nothing but a shadow on a cave wall, a ghostly chimera projected by models, with no substantial reality, yet that people are made to see everywhere.

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