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Open Debate Is Not a Luxury Only for Calm Times

Mercifully, I received only two negative e-mails in response to my letter in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal – a letter highly critical of Francis Collins and Anthony Fauci. One of the e-mail writers asked me how much I was paid by “the Kochs” to write my letter; the second of the e-mails is answered below.

Mr. T__:

I regret that my letter in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal caused your “blood to boil.”

After asserting that “in deadly emergencies like COVID society must first save itself and can’t afford the luxury of dithering over fine points of science,” you conclude that “Doctors Fauci and Collins were justified to try and stop the flow of information which contradicted what they understood as being best for the public.”

I cannot disagree more.

First of all, the Great Barrington Declaration did not propose to halt covid-mitigation efforts in order to ‘dither’ over “fine points of science.” Instead, by proposing to reduce covid fatalities by using Focused Protection rather than lockdowns, the GBD constructively challenged the very foundation of the chief policy used to combat covid.

Second and more importantly, because emergencies fuel panic and incite rushes to judgment, an emergency is emphatically not an occasion to cut off dissenting voices and silence scientific debate. I understand that what I say here perhaps contradicts conventional wisdom. But I stand by my position. No emotion does more than fear to obstruct our rational faculties and to make us prone to follow the advice of quacks. And so at no time are we humans in greater need of hearing dissenting voices than when we are in the throes of fear – as humanity certainly was in October 2020, when the GBD was issued.

The openness of debate necessary to nurture reason and enlightenment is not a luxury to be enjoyed only when seas are calm. It is a tool indispensable for navigating through the most violent of storms. But Drs. Collins and Fauci arrogantly sought during a storm to toss this tool overboard. For this offense alone they should earn history’s ire.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

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