June 2, 2021
P.J. O’Rourke here…
Whether you think that the illegitimate baby from a pangolin and bat hook-up got loose in a provincial wet market, or that Wuhan Institute researchers made a once-in-a-millennia oopsie, or – if you have a really active imagination – that Xi Ping is a James Bond villain who unleashed the pandemic as a nefarious biological weapon upon the world (and his own people)… there’s one nagging, consistent truth: the inconsistent coronavirus narrative from the nagging Powers-That-Be.
Lately, our experts and authorities have been giving the Wuhan Lab Leak theory credence. But are they employing the tools of science or using the cynicism of Poly-Sci? What’s that smell coming from the lab – the fume of test tubes or the stench of politics?
Thankfully, my old friend John Tamny brings a nose for the facts to the corona kerfuffle. John’s the vice president at FreedomWorks and editor at Real Clear Markets, and his timely book has just been published: When Politicians Panicked: The New Coronavirus, Expert Opinion, and a Tragic Lapse of Reason.
Don’t Let the Wuhan Lab Leak Theory Distract You…
By John Tamny
Last week, USAID head Anthony Fauci inched a bit more toward the possibility that the new coronavirus was perhaps a man-made virus released from a lab in Wuhan. Fauci’s hedge was surely manna from heaven for a U.S. political class that created such a massive economic and human rights disaster in 2020.
But first, it’s useful to stop and consider Fauci’s flip flop… It’s a reminder of something I stress over and over in my new book When Politicians Panicked – what we know to be true rarely ages well. In Fauci’s case, he rather famously got a lot wrong about AIDS in the 1980s, including how it spreads. Put another way, the “science” that Fauci believed he was following in the 1980s was often incorrect.
Now, the science being wrong doesn’t indict him… It’s not science unless there’s doubt unless there are all sorts of trial and error on the way to knowledge. But what indicts Fauci now is that he didn’t let his past, along with (yes) science, get in the way of his own certitude.
Fauci: A History of Uncertainty
The very idea that the virus came from a lab was wholly dismissed by the USAID head. Worse, Fauci was clear in his view that politicians shouldn’t be held back by the truth about the slippery slope that is knowledge; instead, he clamored for lockdowns regardless of their personal and economic implications. The time for questions would be later…
Fauci was wrong in so many ways. Precisely because knowledge evolves with time, freedom is most crucial when knowledge is least certain. Think about it… Just as Fauci misunderstood how AIDS spread, it wasn’t unreasonable to speculate that he wasn’t fully versed in how the coronavirus made its way around. At the very least, we know he was unsure as evidenced by his 2020 flip-flopping about the worth of masks.
Contra Fauci, free people are a virus’ best friend… They produce information in addition to the economic growth that begets resources for doctors and scientists to seek answers, and solutions to answers. Free people taking all manner of precautions, along with free people throwing caution to the wind, produce information about how a virus reaches us. Are expert assumptions correct, or are they wildly false? We can find out most quickly via free people approaching a spreading virus in all manner of ways.
Let’s go back to the Wuhan Lab theory that Fauci initially dismissed… He’s no longer so dismissive. Maybe he was right early on, maybe he was wrong. We don’t know. All we know is that Fauci has been able to be wrong, or to flip flop, a great deal over the past 16 months, and he’s been able to do this without missing a meal or a paycheck. Others in the U.S. and around the world weren’t so lucky. Fauci’s certainty brought with it immense job loss, business death and impairment, along with poverty and starvation around the world. For much of the world, Fauci’s stridency was enormously costly.
At the same time, Fauci’s track record over the past 16 months should give us pause. That he’s been so consistently incorrect at times, and at other times uncertain, should have us wondering about the latest lurch. Is reality finally intruding on Fauci’s vision, or is he flip-flopping to yet another incorrect conclusion?
In other words, just because Fauci is now open to the possibility of a Wuhan lab leak isn’t the same as the latter being true. If Fauci has been so routinely incorrect as conservatives, in particular, have reasonably argued, they can’t have it both ways… Just because he agrees with some of them now doesn’t suddenly render him wise.
A better approach is to be skeptical about Fauci’s latest pivot… And not just because Fauci has a weak W-L record in the correct category.
One unassuming bunch of 80 tech stocks has slain every other comparable group — for 17 years. And one rogue analyst is naming names right here.
The China Syndrome
Skepticism is similarly in order when it’s remembered just how advantageous it would be for Fauci and the political class he helped gull into tragic lockdowns if the Wuhan Lab leak theory turns out to be true. If so, attention will shift… to China. Politicians, experts, pundits, and others will rage about how the Chinese released a virus, that either their ineptitude or sinister ways caused endless global hurt, along with economic tragedy right here in the United States.
Except that the rage would be misplaced.
Stated simply, there was never any excuse or reason for the lockdowns. Never. If we’re realistic, the worst arguments for the lockdowns were the initial ones about protecting U.S. hospitals from overflow (“Stop the Spread”), along with the one about millions of Americans dead. These arguments presumed a level of carelessness on the part of the American people (and humanity more broadly) that doesn’t exist… Really, who among us needs to be forced to avoid behavior that might result in hospitalization, or worse, death?
OK, and what would have happened if the virus had been a major cause of hospitalization or death? The answer is simple. Any political force would have been meek relative to the individual precautions taken by free people. Translated for those who need it, people don’t require laws or force to avoid harm. It’s ingrained in all of us to avoid what might hurt us.
As such, we should approach the Wuhan Lab leak story carefully, while also being circumspect in our reactions if it turns out to be true… Because we once again can’t have it both ways.
Indeed, a major reason we were against the lockdowns beyond the injustice of them was a growing realization that the virus was extraordinarily unthreatening for people who were healthy. For those who were rather old, otherwise very sick, or very obese, the virus was more threatening, but even then – not extraordinarily so. Conservatives have long dismissed the virus as a major threat, and with good reason. For them to change their tune based on the virus’s origins would be for them to dismiss their past calm as fake, or worse… political.
The better approach is to seek answers. If the answers take us to a lab in Wuhan, well then, that’s all well and good. Let’s just not let the U.S. political and expert class off of the hook. They erred with their lockdowns and did so inexcusably. Let’s not do as they wish, and shift our rage to China… It would be misplaced, plus it would take the focus off of the U.S. politicians whose actions most need spotlighting.
Love us? Hate us? Let us know how we’re doing at [email protected].