On the Best and the Brightest

May, 2020

In the early 1960s President Kennedy (JFK) gathered together a team of cabinet secretaries and advisors from the most prestigious Ivy League universities. The press dubbed them “the best and the brightest.” They led JFK’s successor President Johnson (LBJ) into the Vietnam quagmire while at the same time LBJ’s administration was spending enormously on Great Society welfare programs. This “guns and butter” policy spelled the beginning of the end for middle class America which has steadily declined ever since. In 1985 the Census Bureau announced that it took both husband and wife working fulltime to afford the same home as the father alone could purchase in 1955. And it has only gotten worse since then.

It seems that every generation must relearn the lessons known well to previous generations. After the First World War ordinary people rejected the notion that their vaunted leaders knew best as they had proven otherwise, and revolutionary movements flourished around the world. A young British army captain named Basil Henry Liddell Hart wrote that the “conventional opinion is almost always wrong.” He was commenting on the opinions of military experts on controversial questions, but the political and economic experts had also gotten it completely wrong. In 1914 the politicians of every almost every European nation dismissed the idea of a general war; they said that the nations of Europe were too economically interdependent, having adopted the globalist agenda of Great Britain first professed in the 1840s when the British produced about three quarters of the world’s manufactures. Globalism promised world peace. Moreover, the economists that shilled for this new world order (including John Maynard Keynes) assured the public that even if war did break out in Europe that it would be over in less than 3 months as each nation would run out of money and face economic ruin. When the war did begin, the generals of all nations were quick to say that it would all be over by Christmas. After the First World War, Liddell Hart developed a new military doctrine which was rejected by the British Army; unfortunately for the British it was adopted by the German Army and so in the Second World War it came to be called “Blitzkrieg” (lightening war). There are experts and then there are experts. Those with great reputations and high positions acquire their prestige by advocating for the status quo of the current elites; they pretend that there is no other reasonable option. The real experts are the unconventional minds that critique the powers that be. The Elder Moltke sought out such young rebels when he developed the German General Staff system in the mid-nineteenth century. He then used these “demi-gods” as they were known to quickly conquer France in 1870, ignoring the traditional chain of command.

President Trump has been urged to “listen to the experts” by the brainless media and the chattering classes in dealing with the Wuhan Virus, and unfortunately he has done so against his better instincts. In the past he rejected the advice of our economic experts, those that led us into the Great Recession, and the Trump economy blossomed on the back of a tariff regime. He rejected the advice of our National Security establishment, the generals, scholars and spies who led us into Iraq and Afghanistan, and is negotiating to get us out of these quagmires while avoiding new war with Iran. Yet he is letting the medical “experts” run the show on national policy in the handling of this so-called pandemic. Is their expertise in public policy? Hardly. Doctors have a bias toward saving lives. Should the saving of lives be the first priority of a national leader? If so then I have a plan. Let us lock down the entire country during flu season beginning October 1st and ending April 1st every year, allowing only “essential business” to operate and forbidding gatherings of more than 10 people, all of whom must be more than 6 feet apart. Moreover, I propose that every person in the country be issued a medical burka (personal protective equipment or PPE) that must be worn whenever leaving home. If my plan is adopted I guarantee that somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000 lives will be saved from the flu every year. I have a second plan that will save not only lives but money; the President should immediately disband the military. It takes two to tango; if one side refuses to fight then there can be no war and hence no lives lost.

Obviously, the saving of life cannot be the first priority of a national leader as for most of us the quality of life is more important than the quantity of life. We are willing to sacrifice our lives and the lives of our children to achieve national goals and preserve our way of life. Just as “war is too important to be left to generals,” a lesson learned a century ago, so too is public policy too important to be left to doctors and other medical experts. For the nation to survive and prosper we must have real leaders. Real leaders are able to keep their heads while all around are losing theirs. Our politicians are not political leaders, but barkers in a media circus.

On a personal note, I am old (68) and immunocompromised, having been on immunosuppressant medication for myasthenia gravis for over a year. If I thought of myself first, I would retire. If I retire then my 25 employees would be looking for work, so that is not going to happen. Life only has meaning if you live for something beyond yourself. We should seek to live honorably, and if possible to die honorably. There is no more honorable death than in the providing for or in the protecting of others. It is hard to do the right thing in an individualistic social order. The central myth of capitalism is that if everyone pursues his own self-interest then everything works out best in the end; and it does – for the wealthy. The rich have all the cards in the game of individualism. Fortunately, most people identify with something greater than themselves and try to do the right thing for the greater good. We should all seek to lead by example and that is especially important in an era in which we have a morally bankrupt leadership class. We can live or we can live in fear, but we cannot do both. I choose to live.

– Gary Gallo, MD