Streetwise Professor

March 2, 2020

Be Careful What You Ask For, Progressives: A Failure of the US to Respond to Coronavirus Would Discredit the Progressive Worldview, Not Trump

Filed under: Uncategorized — cpirrong @ 9:03 pm

The latest leftist/statist/progressive/establishment/”elite” freakout is over Trump’s alleged incompetence at addressing the Coronavirus. This is an illustration of their utter cluelessness, because the responsibility for any failure in addressing a potential pandemic utterly discredits the entire progressive vision.

In that vision, a wise, nay, omniscient, technocratic elite foresees problems, devises elegant solutions, and saves the world. In that vision, elected officials–legislators, but especially the chief executive–are at best irrelevant distractions, but more likely meddling interferers who undermine the brilliant designs of the administrative apparatus.

So if the government fails, it is on the permanent government, not on the hapless sod at the top who vainly pulls the levers of the state machinery, to no avail (because the mandarins are far too sophisticated to respond to the commands of such a boorish boob–they know better!).

We already have a perfect illustration of the disconnect between the vanity of the administrative state and its actual competence. The geniuses from the government who are here to help put infected individuals from a cruise ship on an aircraft . . . that also carried (previously!) non-infected individuals. The response of the State Department is priceless. It should be framed for posterity:

“At the end of the day, the State Department had a decision to make, informed by our inter-agency partners, and we went ahead and made that decision,” Walters said. “And the decision, I think, was the right one in bringing those people home.”

Again with the fucking “inter-agency”! Our overlords to whom we owe utter obeisance.!

But there’s more from M. Walters:

“What I’d say is that the chief of mission, right, through the U.S. embassy, is ultimately the head of all executive branch activities. [Er, mere peasant that I am, I thought from reading the Constitution that the President of the United States is “ultimately the head of all executive branch activities.” Silly me!] So when we are very careful about taking responsibility for the decision, the State Department is – that is the embassy. The State Department was running the aviation mission, and the decision to put the people into that isolation area initially to provide some time for discussion and for onward, afterwards, is a State Department decision.”

Yes, we are in the best of hands. The best of hands! How dare you question them, peasant!

Regardless of what you think about Trump’s competence, it cannot be less than the bureaucracy’s. Yet the better thans insist on demanding we defer to the bureaucracy. Because they know better.

And then, they are shocked–shocked!–when people with a modicum of common sense and who rely on empirical reality choose Trump over them.

Maybe you could be this stupid. And arrogant. If you tried really, really hard.

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  1. How presumptuous of you, Prof. Next thing we’ll hear is “I had a decision to evaluate, so I went ahead and evaluated it”. Haven’t you seen they’ve already done that for you?

    Comment by Ivan — March 2, 2020 @ 11:46 pm

  2. So the world is faced with the biggest healthcare crisis in decades with potentially profound economic implications and you, a tenured economics professor, blog on some measly partisan issue? Talk about dropping the ball. I know you’re not paid to write this blog but I doubt many people hereabouts read your academic output.

    Comment by David Mercer — March 3, 2020 @ 5:00 am

  3. One of the more liberal people I work with was salivating all last week that this will be Trump’s Katrina.

    Comment by John Hall — March 3, 2020 @ 5:05 am

  4. This reminds me of Meghan McArdle’s proposition that the reason Americans trust their federal government less than many other populations in advanced countries is that the US federal government is unusually incompetent. If she’s right I guess that some US state governments are more competent than the federal government. Is that true?

    Anyway, the point. Yes, the left whines and pouts at mistakes by governments and always advances the remedy which is to give more power to governments. That is an international phenomenon; no American Exceptionalism there.

    Comment by dearieme — March 3, 2020 @ 9:20 am

  5. easy on the sauce partner….

    Comment by br blbo — March 3, 2020 @ 12:38 pm

  6. David Mercer – nobody pays you to read and leave your aromatic comments, either – but you persist in making your miserable inner content known to the world…

    Comment by Tatyana — March 4, 2020 @ 6:05 am

  7. @David Mercer–Clueless, as always. In this ever changing world, that’s one thing we can count on.

    This is not a “measly partisan issue.” It is the overriding issue of American governance. The entire progressive project presumes the superiority of a technocratic elite that should not be subject to the checks and balances of those who were merely elected by the citizenry. After all, the elected (especially the chief executive) come and go, but the bureaucracy is forever.

    This has been a guiding principle on the progressive left since Wilson. Honest progressives-including Wilson-have always been forthright in their disdain for the Constitution, and in their belief in the benefits of rule by an unaccountable mandarinate.

    Cornoavirus demonstrates in a particularly salient way the issues at stake. What if the presumptions of this soi disant “elite” are delusional? What if these bureaucratic emperors have no clothes? Their pretensions, and their self-asserted claims to superiority, will have very dire consequences if these pretensions and claims are in fact unfounded.

    I bring up this issue in this context precisely because it demonstrates in a most pointed way the implications of the progressive worldview. These self-same individuals want to claim control over more and more of our lives. If those claims are based on delusions of grandeur and systematic incompetence, they represent a mortal threat.

    And re the audience for my academic output. As if you would have any idea.

    Comment by cpirrong — March 4, 2020 @ 10:46 pm

  8. @John Hall. These people are like Wile E. Coyote. Hope springs eternal, I guess. Even when one Acme product after another boomerangs.

    How many years have the walls been closing in? Four?

    Comment by cpirrong — March 4, 2020 @ 10:56 pm

  9. I had thought that David was speaking tongue in cheek. I reread his post, he is merely a mouth

    Comment by Mike Radford — March 5, 2020 @ 9:50 am

  10. @Craig Its funny because, all of a sudden, people are paying attention to what these bureaucrats & experts are saying. Given the moronic performance of the likes of Trump of late, I know who’d I place my faith in. Talking of whom, I wonder who instructed your CDC to remove the reference on their website on how many people had been tested in the US (c.500 as of last weekend vs c.15000 here in the UK – and you accuse China of botched response and cover-up).

    All manner of economists are lining up to give us their view on the impact of this crisis, the policy response needed etc, yet you insist on staying in the playground. How sad.

    Comment by David Mercer — March 6, 2020 @ 4:04 am

  11. @Tatyana Nope, I do it for love.

    If you want to swallow everything Craig tells you without question or challenge, more fool you.

    Comment by David Mercer — March 6, 2020 @ 4:10 am

  12. @David Mercer. All of a sudden? Where the fuck have you been?

    Re the coronavirus data. They suck. They really suck. So many problems. The tests are faulty, with high rates of false positives and negatives. Testing is unsystematic, and rife with sample selection bias: the symptomatic, the exposed, and the hypochodriacs get tested. You cannot go back and test those who might have been affected months ago, but recovered. All this means that you have no idea of the number of actual cases to permit calculation of a death rate or R0. The signal to noise ratio in this data is miniscule, and given the panicked reaction of many who are unaware of the fatal limitations of the data, publishing it can do more harm than good.

    What is needed is a random sample of panel data. That would be informative. The data we have are worse than useless.

    Comment by cpirrong — March 8, 2020 @ 5:41 pm

  13. I was talking about the optics of the decision, not the merits of the data. If you pull some data which the public + media are keeping a watchful eye on, it might be a good plan to explain why you’ve done it. Sure, the CDC don’t seem to be covering themselves in glory on this, but then neither is the Keystone Cop administration you’ve got going there.

    Comment by David Mercer — March 9, 2020 @ 10:57 am

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