The Premonition

The Premonition by Michael Lewis

Wherein Lewis mulls over the various failures of governance revealed by the CoVID-19 pandemic.

Granted, there is a long history to the problems of switching operations from peacetime to wartime. For example, the ancient Roman Senate found democracy too cumbersome during emergencies and would vote in a temporary dictator, who was given wide powers to deal with the specified problem within six months.1

While not directly arguing for a dictatorship, Lewis believes that we can do better.

Potemkin Values

California's governor had a cabinet that only looked good. The head of the Department of Public Health2 was (a) unable to convince leadership of the necessary public health steps, and (b) sidelined staff who were prepared to fight the pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been run by political appointees for the last four decades, and is no longer capable of forcing politically sensitive issues.

The optics of these are horrible: a diverse seemingly well-structured team fails, and is saved by a petite blonde ex-president of a sorority turned infectious disease doctor (think "Medically Blonde"). And the CDC, once a world-renowned killer of diseases, has been defanged and relegated to recording deaths for future study.

The Trolley Problem

Sometimes potential pandemics fail to thrive. Leaders who geared up for war, only to see peace, would face a litany of ridicule from political opponents. And perfectly good wartime medical consiglieri would be fired for no other reason other than "heads must roll".

At the heart of this political ethics dilemma3 is the inability of political discourse theatre to refrain from trying to score political points against "the other team" when an emergency appears only probable.

What Kind of Society Do We Want?

Ultimately, this all boils down to whether we (a) are angry enough to try to fix our society, and (b) can overlook our differences long enough to ensure the common good.

I cannot wait to see what the Congressional inquiry finds.