We will learn many lessons, in the coming months, from the COVID-19 pandemic. While I have been circumspect in drawing hasty or premature conclusions, in believing particular models or projections, or in concluding whether Policy A or B or C has been good or “the best,” these weeks of government response have (re)confirmed what I long ago concluded: Big Government cannot solve all our problems.

This should be obvious. Politicians are people, who sometimes (often?) make bad decisions (whether they be of pure motive or due to political infection), just like the rest of us. Being elected to higher office neither validates nor confers Solomonic wisdom or God-like all-knowingness, and it’s pretty clear that the smartest people out there are very rarely the ones who choose to go into politics.

We find some of those smartest people in medicine, and THEY haven’t figured this out yet, not to the point where we can make the disease an also-ran like the measles (no comment on anti-vaxxers, yet). What are the odds that our political leaders are going to deliver a perfect or even good response, with all the realities of who and what politicians are?

I don’t intend to blanket-condemn our elected officials. They’re trying, even though their efforts are often skewed by politics. But, it’s blatantly obvious to anyone who looks that they can’t achieve a “mommy and daddy, please fix it” outcome in this matter – that they’ve made errors in judgment, missteps, miscalculations, under-reactions, and over-reactions. And, that they continue to do so. And that they would even if they were a blend of Solomon, Socrates, and Pasteur.

There is no panacea solution to this crisis. The lockdowns and social distancing mandates have slowed the spread of the disease, but at enormous cost (and not just in dollars – people’s lives and health have been impacted). Government is trying, but there’s only so much it can do, and that’s before we factor in the inevitable errors in analysis and judgment.

On top of that, Big Government actions spawn counterproductive behaviors. Many tales of people who’ve figured out they’re better off taking unemployment money than going back to work have crossed my newsfeed. We hear of billion dollar companies and extremely wealthy universities hoovering up CARES Act money (and hopping to the front of the line), with only the pressure of public scorn getting them to back off. Pet projects and pork barrel politics-as-usual have infested the government’s responses, and personal agendas and control-obsession have limited innovation and private-sector responses. Some are overdoing it, some are under-doing it, and many are quicker to bark at their across-the-aisle brethren than to set partisanship aside.

All of this was easily predictable, and this pandemic should starkly illustrate both the limits of what Big Government can accomplish and the down side of relying on Big Government. Yes, this pandemic required a governmental response, but when it’s over, we should demand less government in our lives, not the more-government that will inevitably be heaped upon us.

Mike Bloomberg, technocrat and micromanager extraordinaire, is going to head up a program to track COVID patients and their interactions. I’m rather skeptical of this effort’s chance at success, but I suspect its real purpose is to create an infrastructure ahead of the next potential pandemic. That fills me with dread, because it’s a Big-Brother-esque tool in the government’s toolbox, that will inevitably be used in times of non-crisis for whatever purpose some aggressive politician or bureaucrat thinks he can get away with. Your privacy, already a joke, will be a dim and distant memory.

There is, indeed, one thing that our Best-and-Brightest politicians are great at. It’s not running things, history makes that amply clear. It is, instead, the accrual of power over the rest of us, and even those “noble” crusaders like Bernie Sanders prioritize that over everything else.

Rahm Emanuel famously said “Never let a crisis go to waste.” We of a liberty mindset should heed those words – both in resisting the Big Government expansion that’s likely to follow this crisis and in actively pressing for easing of restrictions and shrinking of bureaucracies, including but not limited to the restrictions and bureaucracies that we’ve seen hamper the response to the pandemic. Next crisis, it’ll be some other bureaucrats making things more difficult, and not just for the private sector but for the government’s efforts themselves.

We should also resist the tendency to hero-worshipping politicians. We bore witness to liberals beatifying Obama, we bear witness to conservatives thanking God for Trump, and we had to deal with the zaniness of Bernie-Bros thinking an unrepentantly leftist near-octogenarian could make a failed and murderous ideology work where it never has before. None of these deifications stand up to any sort of scrutiny. When we elevate leaders to such heights, not only do we set ourselves up for failure, our ability to criticize them suffers.

Our political leaders are responding as they can and as they will, within the boundaries of human nature and the limits of what government can do. That’s as expected – they chose those jobs, and they should honor those who elected them by doing their best. But, they’re also politicians, with motives other than selfless public service routinely rising paramount. Time and time again, we see this reality, yet many continue to think that this time or next time things will be different and better. ‘If only we can get the true Best-and-Brightest in power, we won’t be disappointed as we have been by the previous Best-and-Brightest.’

It never works out that way. Some are better than others, and some are disasters, but none deserve the quantity and broadness of power that those of a socialistic or statist mindset wish to confer.

If you take one lesson from this pandemic, it should be that big government isn’t all that. Stop expecting it to be.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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