Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Scott Atlas Goes To Washington

During his four month stint in the White House, Scott Atlas learned what many who went to Washington before him experienced.  Logic and evidence are a poor match against entrenched political interests and the network of politicians, career civil servants, and the media, which can be, and was in this case, extremely vicious.


Scott spells it out in his book, A Plague Upon Our House:  My Fight at the Trump White House to Stop COVID from Destroying America.  His account is enthralling, documented throughout with irrefutable evidence.


From the beginning, there were two approaches to coping with COVID at the federal, state, and local levels of government.  Although the federal government could allocate resources and offer advice, the power to implement coping policies was, and remains in, the hands of state and local government officials.  


One approach was to treat every person as a potential victim regardless of risk, and lockdown the country to prevent its spread to anyone.  This entailed closing schools, businesses, offices, and halting social events.  The other approach was to protect the elderly, especially those in nursing homes, the immunocompromised, and essential workers remaining on the job.


The federal government, taking its cue from career civil servants in the federal health agencies, advocated lockdown.  After a brief period, Trump wanted the second approach, protect the vulnerable but otherwise leave the country open.  Atlas was brought in to bring rigorous evidence to the deliberations of the COVID task force and White House messaging.


Despite presenting reams of evidence that the lockdowns were failing and causing great harm to children, the economy, and normal social interaction, he was repeatedly rebuffed in the White House COVID Task Force by those who lacked his medical experience or expertise in broader health policy analysis.  Every chapter tells this story in great detail.


An example of the authority of local control is Sara Cody, the health officer and public health director of Santa Clara County.  She dictated Stanford’s response to COVID, a "shelter-in-place" lockdown.  The evidence Atlas assembled and presented contradicted her instructions to Santa Clara County residents, firms, and institutions.  For this reason and others, 85 percent of the members of the Stanford Faculty Senate in late November 2020 voted to condemn him, only the second instance in Stanford history.  The intervention of the former provost, worried about academic freedom, persuaded the Senate against  recommending that Stanford discipline Atlas.  Only two of his Hoover Institution colleagues publicly defended him. 


Every page in the book is rich in content, facts, and figures.  Read it and judge for yourself.  You won’t go wrong.


David R. Henderson said...

Which two Hoover colleagues publicly defended Scott?

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