On Tuesday, Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) was the sole Republican senator to vote against ending mask mandates on public transportation. According to one report, Romney defended his stance by arguing that elected representatives should, essentially, cede the decision making on matters of public health over to the government medical establishment.
Romney may think it prudent to blindly follow the so-called experts, but he could use a lesson from one of President Ronald Reagan’s favorite authors and thinkers, George Gilder.
In April of 2020, Gilder stood practically alone as a prominent thinker arguing that it was the politician’s job not simply to allow health bureaucrats like Dr. Anthony Fauci dictate COVID-19 policy, but that a politician must discern all available information and continue to craft government policy for the greater good with the input of those experts, not necessarily at the direction of those experts.
That message was true then as it is now.
On Tuesday evening, The Daily Wire reported that after the senate passed the resolution 57-40, with eight Democrats joining the GOP, the lead sponsor of the bill, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), proclaimed, “the Senate said enough is enough, and sent a message to unelected government bureaucrats to stop the anti-science, nanny state requirement of travel mask mandates.”
In April 2020, Gilder was remarkably prescient in an opinion column for The Wall Street Journal, writing, “We’re told in this plague year that politicians have no role—in essence, that the people have no real rights against consensus science, which can demand that we forfeit our liberties and suspend the Constitution.”
“Political leaders, elected to exercise judgment on our behalf, must defer to doctors, because the viral threat is addressable only through medical expertise,” the best-selling author of “Wealth & Poverty” said at the time, explaining much of D.C.’s view of COVID-19 at that point.
If we are to believe CNN’s Ali Zaslav, that is almost a word-for-word defense of what Romney had to say Tuesday night after siding with the Democrats.
“A GOP aide in Romney’s office says he voted against Sen. Rand Paul’s measure to repeal travel mask mandates because, as he has been vocal about in the past, he believes it’s important for public health officials to make these types of decisions, not politicians,” Zaslav tweeted:
A GOP aide in Romney's office says he voted against Sen. Rand Paul’s measure to repeal travel mask mandates because, as he has been vocal about in the past, he believes it’s important for public health officials to make these types of decisions, not politicians
— Ali Zaslav (@alizaslav) March 16, 2022
But, to that line of thinking, Gilder offered another area where politicians do not simply hand over complete control to the “experts” — the United States Military.
His comparison in the Journal showed how misguided Romney’s course of action in other government affairs would be:
Yet since many liken fighting the coronavirus to war, we should remember that in war admirals and generals defer to civilian authority—to the president, as commander in chief, on matters of strategy and to Congress on matters of budget.
This is not a design flaw but how a free people governs itself, even in a perilous crisis. It is how we bring the largest possible perspective to decision-making.
Gilder went on to say that our leaders needed to consider the greater risk of the economy, and whether or not the prevailing precautions like lockdowns would harm society as a whole in unprecedented ways.
He argued they would, and some people may say he was correct. There are certainly numerous examples of rising drug overdoses, failing childhood literacy, abuse, and more to lend credit to his argument. Others would probably disagree and point to arguments from folks like Bill Gates to make their case.
But Gilder actually took it beyond the debate of the immediate crisis of the pandemic.
The “man who predicted the iPhone“ foresaw that the government’s reaction to COVID-19 — and large swaths of the American people’s willingness to go along with it — was only the latest sign of a deeper problem with how Americans view the role of science and the role of government.
“There are not, and never will be, scientific answers to all public problems,” Gilder warned. “Scientific expertise and specialization inform good policy, but they should never be the final word.”
“To navigate successfully between competing interests or competing calamities, between war and peace, and even between deadly pandemics and deadly economic depressions, we need politics—and politicians,” Gilder opined.
“We are beset by more than a virus; we are beset by bad ideas about what government can and should do, and about who should be making crucial decisions,” the man credited with bolstering Reagan’s belief in supply-side economics concluded.
Of course, one may expect the Democratic Party to throw their unquestioning trust behind government and “the science.” That has been their MO for quite sometime.
But it is a little appalling that Romney — who once tried selling himself to voters as “a severely conservative” politician — would follow their suit, even after two years of seeing how that method of government has affected American society.
Gilder’s full opinion column, titled, “We Need Politicians in a Pandemic,” can be read here.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.