Politicians still wonder why we don’t trust or respect our leaders. We find ourselves in the middle of a pandemic, and they want us to fall in line behind pronouncements and guidance that comes from… where? The Centers for Disease Control? The same people who less than a year ago warned that vaping would kill us with some kind of mysterious lung disease, and who wanted to ban vaping everywhere they could?
Government officials thrive on panic. That’s true even for officials who tell the truth, well intentioned as they may be. The more scared we become, the more influence they accumulate. Even as they spread fear, they follow the standard script of officials with power: trust us, and we’ll take care of you. We’ll protect you from the new threat. As CDC’s name suggests, disease control means they reside at the center.
Thus CDC has managed to persuade a large number of people that centralized control – for planning, resources, regulations, research, money, delivery of care, information – and on and on, are all in our interest. Of course, they compete with FDA, FEMA, NIH, and God knows how many other agencies, for control, but few question the need for a guiding hand from the feds. Where would we be without them?
I cannot tell you how much better off we would be. I actually can’t. But I can tell you that when you give up the idea of control as your governing principle, and instead let people decide for themselves how they want to manage risk, you will have, overall, better outcomes. What makes us want to listen to these people? If we stopped being so afraid, we would not need to turn to authorities who want to manage, administer, and control us.
Time for leadership’s greatest hits in public health:
“Americans are too stupid to understand” what’s in the Affordable Care Act. ~ A contempuous Jonathan Gruber, advisor to President Obama, as he brags about how he disguised a tax increase as something else.
“I can’t go out and save every undercapitalized entrepreneur in America.” ~ A sarcastic Hillary Clinton in 1993, when asked about effects of her health care plan on small businesses.
“If you like the plan you have, you can keep it. If you like the doctor you have, you can keep your doctor, too. The only change you’ll see are falling costs as our reforms take hold.” ~ Con-man Obama’s sales pitch for his health plan in June, 2009.
“I like the numbers being where they are,” Donald Trump remarked on March 7, 2020. “I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault.” ~ Clown-man Trump’s justification to keep sick passengers on the Grand Princess off California’s coast.