Sunday, October 19, 2014

Lessons of the Ebola Crisis | National Review Online

Yuval Levin has a good post on this and in particular our touching belief in the power of experts. It is worth reading.

But it is disheartening to see Republicans join in the chorus of denunciation over the President's choice of a political hack to run the government's ebola response for it feeds into this same fallacious belief in the power of people with the right degree to solve every problem.

For one thing, the mistakes that have been made so far are not matters of lack of expertise so much as lack of judgement and courage. We did not ban travel and stop issuing tourist visas in Lesotho because we did not have enough people with medical degrees in the State department or the number of the people in the CDC. We were afraid to do something that might have looked racist. More people in the CDC with impressive credentials from Ivy League schools would not have helped and quite possibly would have made the problem worse. The elite schools have much more ideology baked into the curriculum than the 'mere' technical schools out in the states.

The deeper conflict between the Republicans and the Democrats is the belief in the power of experts armed with government power to manage society's problems. Tammany Hall politicians would never have made the mistakes that Administration has made. The whole argument in our political system is whether people can make decisions on their own better than experts can make them for them.

There is another question about how government works. I am in favor of political hacks running things. The big problems with Ebola are not problems of medicine, they are the problems of getting the government to work, of understanding how bureaucratic organizations alter their routines, and of getting bureaucracies to take chances by altering their routines and take what are essentially political risks. Political hacks are often not only the best, but quite often the only people that can make that happen.

This is quite often done better by political hacks than by people with some sort of narrow technical expertise. The idea that there should be some person with a white coat on telling us what the answer is at the root of many of our problems and the acquiescense of people to ever greater levels of government control in their lives.

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