Leave it to the experts: That’s what folks are telling President Trump about Coronavirus guidelines. Should he? Even if the medical experts really do know how best to survive the pandemic, should we give them the reins of power? Each expert also represents an interest group. That’s fine, but the job of the president and Congress is to take the interests of all people into account and balance them against each other. Giving all the authority to a single group results in a form of tyranny, even if done expertly.
One Life Lost
Hopefully, your doctor is fully committed to saving your life and health. “One life lost is one too many” is precisely the attitude you would like him to have when he treats you. There is then no clash of interests between practitioner and patient; both want the same thing.
But what happens if this physician now became a health politician and brought that attitude to governance? How would he act? More than 30,000 people die in car accidents every year, and since “one life lost is too many,” would he advocate banning cars?
Excess salt is bad for you. As a physician, your doctor would recommend reducing your intake. As a politician, however, would he regulate salt consumption, only allowing restaurants and food producers to use small amounts of salt and other substances deemed unhealthy?
Balance of Interests
In the real world, activities that result in reduced health and even death are routinely accepted by just about everyone because of other benefits – rewards that outweigh the risks. In a society based on liberty, judging the pros and cons is left to the individual. Only emergencies justify the encroachment of these rights.
The COVID-19 crisis provides a real test of the boundaries of government intervention. From the beginning, the media has demanded that the president leave decisions to the experts – and he has, to a large extent.
That impulse is understandable, but a doctor has the luxury of only having to see the world through a single lens: saving lives at any cost. Taken to its logical conclusion, however, this would mean leaning on legislation rather than recommendations, removing consent from the equation.
Even if done expertly, most people would describe this as a dystopian society. When taken to its extreme, we end up in tyranny. Therefore, it is wrong to demand the president “leave it to the experts.”
During World War II, American soldiers sacrificed their lives to save liberty. Currently, America is on a path toward sacrificing liberty to maybe save lives. For a nation forged from the principles of freedom, this should be a worrisome trend.
Read more from Onar Åm.
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