“Follow the Science” on the Corona Virus Pandemic

The Lincoln – Douglas Debate Rematch

As House speaker Nancy Pelosi publically alleged, the Republicans are “domestic enemies of the (deep) state.”

The central campaign issue of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election has been the response to the Corona Virus pandemic, which roughly follows along party lines. Based on the administrative state’s scientific “consensus” Democratic politicians generally argued for a nationwide lockdown of most “non-critical” economic activity as a civic responsibility of all citizens, enforced by state police powers. Republican politicians generally question the “consensus,” reject a one size fits all statist solution, and (mildly) complain about the violation of constitutionally protected individual rights.

In the 1858 Lincoln Douglas debates, Douglas, the incumbent Democratic Senator and Committee Chairman who had extended slavery into Kansas and Nebraska based on majoritarian democracy, i.e., the majority of white male voters, believed in the scientific theory that slaves were inferior and hence property. Lincoln argued that slaves had the same inalienable individual rights as all Americans that “government of, by and for the people” could not take away.

Douglas maintained his incumbency, but a few years later Lincoln became POTUS and in defense of his principles engaged in a Civil War that sacrificed a tenth of his population and devastated the country. The 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments protecting former slaves were passed before Southern Democrats rejoined the Union, further enhanced by the Civil Rights Acts of the early 1960s proposed by a Democratic President but passed only with large Republican support. While the demographics have since shifted dramatically – the Democratic Party is now 40% people of color – the philosophical divide remains unchanged. Contemporary Democrats still argue the state is sovereign, subject to a majority coalition, but governed by an administrative state.

Follow the Scientists and Technical Experts

That’s the siren call of every utopian society. In the case of the COVID 19 Political Pandemic the data was scarce, misleading and frequently mis-interpreted, the existing models seriously flawed or inapplicable, medical understanding imperfect and learned from scratch, and understanding of how it spread continuously revised. Nevertheless, the statistics were massaged and a consensus declared, always in support of greater state intervention. The indirect consequences of this excessive intervention on public health were multiples the protection offered, if any.

To some extent the massive extended lockdowns reflect a political impulse to take charge and appear to be doing something. The wide disparity in the use of such measures between red and blue states may reflect the stronger totalitarian instincts of the latter, but it is hard to avoid the conclusion that election year politics played a role, shifting the debate from the Republican strength of renewed economic growth to the perceived Democratic strength of administrative management. (While there is no reason to believe Democratic management would have been any better than Republican, who generally have more accountable private sector experience, the main stream media generally ignores or lauds it.) Democrats countenance mass demonstrations and ignore riots while demanding more and greater business lockdowns, with counter-productive multi-trillion dollar bailouts.

America’s Economic Foundations: from Tzu/ Zhu and laissez-faire to Mussolini and Biden/Sanders

American Founding fathers were aware of Adam Smith’s contemporaneous works, including the “invisible hand,” and undoubtedly of the French laissez faire – let it be – and perhaps the prior work of Aristotle. Murray Rothbard’s first volume of the history of economic thought starts 2500 years ago with to the Chinese version of “let it be” (put to music by the Beatles in 1969). The point of the American Constitution was to weaken the restrictions for collective action in the Articles of Confederation, not eliminate them. This tradition of resistance to a heavy political hand has generally been elaborated by the Austrian School of economics. The current Germanic school of statist direction or control started with Karl Marx, and was imported in numerous variants to Russia and much of Europe, with the English (i.e., Germanic Anglo-Saxon) Keynesian mixed market/statist model finding its greatest support among American intellectuals. The debates of almost a century ago between the interventionist Keynes and his laissez-faire Austrian colleague Hayek still resonate in spite of an additional century of empirical evidence of the dangers of political over-reach.

The Democrats’ Democracy: Tocqueville’s Tyranny of the Majority

Democratic President Kennedy’s 1961 Inaugural Address invocation was: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” Now, with over a hundred thousand federal regulations and a million pages of fine print, the Administrative State will tell you what you can and cannot do. The institutional constraints on democracy have withered. The left of the Democratic Party, whose control is a matter of weeks, months, or maybe as long as a year or two away, is wedded to fascist methods most directly stated by ANTIFA (antifascist), based on the writings of Berliner neo-Marxist Herbert Marcuse: “intolerance, aggression, coercion, and intimidation in order to subvert—in their estimation—the oppressive patriarchal capitalist society” that feeds, clothes and houses them.

Multiple histories will emerge from the political spin of the next four months.


Kevin Villani

Kevin Villani, chief economist at Freddie Mac from 1982 to 1985, is a principal of University Financial Associates. He has held senior government positions, has been affiliated with nine universities, and served as CFO and director of several companies. He recently published Occupy Pennsylvania Avenue on the political origins of the sub-prime lending bubble and aftermath.

6 thoughts on ““Follow the Science” on the Corona Virus Pandemic”

  1. Folow the science? Great idea. But which science?

    The science that says 170m Americans have died from WuFlu? Or the science that says only 6% of that number actually died from it? The other 94% had, on average, 2.6 other causes of death.

    The science that says that we have some hundreds of thousands of people who have tested positive? Or the science that says that 90% of all positive WuFlu test results are false positives as a result of dialing the test sensitivity up too high?

    Which science should we follow??

    Not directed at you, Kevin. Just a pet peeve of mine that too many people say follow “the” science when they really mean Follow MY science or else.

    John Henry

  2. “Follow the science” and “Listen to the Scientists”

    If you listen to the virologists and epidemiologists who are focused on Covid-19, they will give you one set of advice…if you listen to the public health experts who are concerned with the whole range of diseases, they may well advise you differently. Talk to social scientists who are concerned with things like suicide and addiction, there will be yet another perspective. And then there are the economists.

    One would think that anyone who has run a reasonably complex organization–complex enough that he can’t personally know everything about everything within its scope–would be familiar with the above thought. But evidently, Biden either hasn’t run a project that was that complicated (unlikely) or he was too clueless to understand what was really going on.

  3. And among those multiple histories Mr. Villani speaks of will be justifications for each political movement to believe that all the others are not legitimate even if they win. There is no middle ground to stop at when a political system fails to be considered to be legitimate. It goes automatically from politics to war throughout human history.

    Clausewitz was right:

    KRIEG IST EINE WEITERE FORTSETZUNG DER POLITIK MIT ANDEREN MITTELN. Wir sehen daher, dass Krieg nicht nur ein politischer Akt ist, sondern auch ein echtes politisches Instrument, eine Fortsetzung des politischen Handels, eine Durchführung auf andere Weise.

    WAR IS A MERE CONTINUATION OF POLICY BY OTHER MEANS. We see, therefore, that War is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means.

    Subotai Bahadur

  4. “Douglas maintained his incumbency, but a few years later Lincoln became POTUS and in defense of his principles engaged in a Civil War that sacrificed a tenth of his population…”

    First, “his population”? The people don’t belong to the President.

    Second, the War killed 600,000 soldiers and probably 200,000 other people due to destruction and disorder. At that time the US population was about 31.5M

    “The 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments protecting former slaves were passed before Southern Democrats rejoined the Union…”

    Those three amendments were ratified after the end of the war, and all of them were ratified by many southern states dominated at the time by Democrats.

    Tennessee, Arkansas, South Carolina, Alabama, North Carolina, and Georgia ratified the 13th Amendment in 1865 (only counting ratifications required to approve, and not Virginia and Louisiana, which nominally ratified in February, when most of each state was still in rebellion). This was during the period of “Conservative Reconstruction”, when President Andrew Johnson allowed Democrats including ex-Confederates to control Reconstruction. Ratification was made a condition of re-admission to Congress; even the die-hards knew that slavery was dead, and went along.

    Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, Louisiana, and South Carolina ratified the 14th Amendment in 1866-1868. This was also a condition of readmission.

    Louisiana, North Carolina, Arkansas, South Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia ratified the 15th Amendment in 1869-1870. At this time these states were controlled by Republicans under Radical Reconstruction. All but Virginia, Mississippi, and Georgia had been re-admitted earlier.

    And I wouldn’t say Douglas believed in any “scientific theory” about blacks. To him, as to nearly all Americans at the time, the “inferiority” of blacks was merely an obvious reality. One doesn’t need “science” to know whether it’s night or day. (Though Lincoln, in his response to Douglas, carefully avoided saying that blacks were inferior – only that there were differences which made civil equality impossible, and therefore as a white man he favored white superiority.)

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