Sub-optimization

Enough time has passed since COVID-19 paid its first call on this country to see that we overreacted.  My state of Ohio has suffered just over 2000 people dead from the virus.  The Ohio Department of Public Health recently announced that 70% of those deaths were suffered by people who were patients in nursing homes.  We are not supposed to say this, but we all know that most people in nursing homes are just being warehoused until they die. That means Ohio really lost about .05% of our population to the bug.  It’s not exactly the Black Death.

No one knows whether the economy of Ohio or the nation will recover quickly or not.  The markets are betting on a quick recovery.  The establishment media are doing their best to panic everyone so they stay home, don’t buy, and by election day we find ourselves in a second Great Depression.  To the establishment, that’s worth it to get President Trump out of the White House and an establishment politician back in.  Remember, the establishment does not care about the rest of the country.  It only cares about remaining the Establishment, which means it must control all senior positions in government.

It is safe to say, at least here in Ohio, that the economic damage we have already suffered was disproportionate to the health threat.  So why did it happen, beyond the Establishment’s desire to wreck everything while Mr. Trump is in office?

A major reason has been and continues to be sub-optimization by healthcare professionals, especially those in charge of public health. What is sub-optimization?  It is something virtually all professionals in every field do in their area of expertise. It is not nefarious in origin; it is simply how human nature works. Simply put, sub-optimization occurs when a professional optimizes everything for his speciality.

When lawyers write laws, they sub-optimize by making the law impossible to understand unless you are a lawyer.  When preachers and priests sub-optimize, they urge you to sell all that you have and give it to the poor.  When the designers of fighter planes sub-optimize, they sacrifice all other qualities of the aircraft to combat maneuverability (well, unless they are recent American designers, whose planes maneuver like bricks).  And when health professionals sub-optimize, they tell us to shut down the whole economy to prevent the spread of disease.

They have not thereby done anything wrong.  From their perspective, that is what their expertise required.  They would see themselves as derelict in their duty had they urged anything less.

The fault lies with our political leaders, at every level.  It is their job, not the job of doctors, or lawyers, or preachers, or fighter plane designers, to reconcile all the many sub-optimizations the professionals offer into a balanced package. 

The political leader is supposed to be a generalist, not a specialist.  He is charged with reconciling a wide variety of competing visions, interests, and recommendations, from all the specialists in all their many specialties, into policy that best serves the broad interests of society as a whole.  That is not what has happened with COVID-19.

In the beginning, shutting down most places where people congregate made sense.  We did not know how deadly (or not) COVID-19 would turn out to be.  But now we do know.  Ohio’s Republican Governor is moving smartly to open everything back up.  By the end of May, 95% of all businesses will be open in Ohio.  But two important questions remain.

The first is, did not those in charge, i.e., top political leaders, including governors, know before the rest of us that COVID-19, while highly contagious, is not very deadly except to old people who are already at death’s door?  If they did not know sooner, why didn’t they?  And if they did know, why did they allow the sub-optimization focused on public health to continue longer than it needed to, at vast economic cost?

The second question is, now that we do know COVID-19 is not very dangerous, why are our political leaders not taking to task the mainstream media that continue to promote panic?  Those media are crying “Fire!” in a crowded theater, in terms of the danger to our economy.  Yet not even President Trump is calling them on it.

We need political leaders at every level to urge people to resume normal economic life, such as shopping in person in retail stores and going out to eat.  Where is the leadership for that?  Hiding, it seems, as the public health officials still want us all to do, under the bed for fear of the virus while the house that is our economy burns down around us.

Interested in what Fourth Generation war in America might look like? Read Thomas Hobbes’ new future history, Victoria.