Medical Tuesday Blog
The Downside of Listening to Experts
Unbalanced intellectual specialization has contributed to bringing about the current crisis.
By ZACHARY YOST
As with everything in this imperfect world, specialization comes with certain tradeoffs that are important to understand. As the unemployment numbers continue to rise by millions more every week, as meager savings are eliminated, and as our highly organized society slides into chaos it is important to understand the way in which an unbalanced intellectual specialization has contributed to bringing about the current crisis.
In his 1930 book The Revolt of the Masses, Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset addresses what he considers to be a strange byproduct of the prevalence of specialization in everything, specifically the intellectual sphere. “Previously,” he writes, “men could be divided simply into the learned and the ignorant, those more or less the one, and those more or less the other.” Now, however, a new kind of person has emerged, “an extraordinarily strange kind of man,” who cannot be called “learned for he is formally ignorant of all that does not enter into his specialty,” yet at the same time cannot be considered “ignorant because he is ‘a scientist’ who ‘knows’ very well his own tiny portion of the universe.” Thus, Ortega y Gasset says that the only fitting name for such a person is a “learned ignoramus.”
There can be no doubt that numerous learned ignoramuses can be found in all parts of society, but most importantly they are very clearly involved in the response to the COVID-19 virus, as sweeping calls for months of lockdown make clear.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and seen by many as the face of the federal virus response, has perhaps made the most ridiculous assertion, stating at a White House briefing on April 1 that “we could ‘relax social distancing’ once there’s ‘no new cases, no deaths,’ but the real turning point won’t come until there’s a vaccine.” Similarly, Dr. Zeke Emanuel, an architect of Obamacare and current advisor to Joe Biden, declared that it will be impossible to return to “normalcy” for eighteen months and that no matter the economic cost: “The truth is we have no choice….We cannot return to normal until there’s a vaccine.”
Such ideas are frankly madness, and would take an incalculable toll on the health and wealth of all Americans. Tens of millions of Americans find themselves out of work or with reduced hours or pay. The idea that society could continue to exist in such a state betrays a lack of any understanding of the social order.
Zachary Yost is a Mises U alum and freelance writer.
Medical Myths originate when Specialists are in charge.
Myths disappear when administrators use Specialists Opinion only to Help Formulate Policy
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