Individuals often spend without thinking but it’s not something you’d want a government to do. What you’d want to see is a reasoned explanation of the proposed expenditures and the sources of the budget to fund them. The evidence should be documented with no less detail than a judicial summary of a trial. The same care and detail should documented for the management of public health.
I’m trying to categorise the political capital that is being squandered by government around the world as humanity fights its way out of the current Covid-19 pandemic. What is the thinking behind the actions? And why are the same public health mistakes being repeated in different jurisdictions across the planet?
The unrolling of lockdown restrictions is not going to be easy. Road maps are being made but there are no routes to follow. Three thousand years ago, the Phoenicians who explored the oceans probably didn’t expect to fall off the edge of the world. They they had evidence that the world wasn’t flat.
The sea-faring Phoenicians, and indeed the Chinese over 5000 years ago, saw clues in the discs of the moon and the sun. Their celestial cyclicity has long since been documented in almanacs. The disk that is the earth was seen as a shadow, a round shadow cast on the moon. And besides, sailors who disappeared below the horizon, usually returned with stories of distant places. These curvatures would have informed anyone who looked that they were standing on a ball.
I’ve often wondered why Columbus thought he had arrived in China when he landed somewhere in Haiti (Hispaniola). Some say that Columbus was still relying on calculations made by Ptolemy over a millennia earlier. Ptolemy had used the lunar eclipses to estimate the curvature of the earth. Because his measurement tools were crude and a bit inaccurate, Ptolemy had overestimated the length of the Mediterranean by 1000 km. Add to this, a wildly inaccurate misunderstanding of the length of Marco Polo’s journey east, Cathay was presumed to be about as far west as California is today.
Columbus didn’t have access to all of the astronomical and geographic evidence known to mankind when he set out. He had some bad information which he compounded with his own biases. For example, he backed the wrong team in the game of estimating the length of a degree of geographic latitude. The Arab scientists knew it quite precisely. But Columbus relied on the Italian estimates and they were 45 rather than 60 miles per degree of latitude. Which meant Columbus could tell his Italian sponsors, using Italian maths, that the journey measured in degrees would require 75% of the effort (he probably knew this). By telling them what they wanted to hear, he got his funding. The politics of sponsorship haven’t changed much.
Some worry that many developed nations are about to fall back into the abyss of public health crises. Some say there is no evidence to the contrary. Some argue that there’s motivated reasoning behind every decision every government makes. One narrative is that even those administrators that are science led have at some point used political interference to nuance the messaging. The problem is that so much the governments do with public health is reactive not proactive. Some may be planning canals to deliver water or ships in 50 years time. Others governments may be working jointly to import minerals from Mars a century from now. But the people living today need public health policies that help them today and in perpetuity. Or should we worry that 99% of people are becoming expendable to the 1% that control the world? Today’s 1% is around 80 million which equates to about 20% of the global population when Columbus set sail in 1492.
The principles of exponential growth have not changed. We see it in our population numbers. We see it in viral spread. The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus probably started with one person, soon infected two, four and from there got into 150 million people in fifteen months. And those are the symptomatic and the infected people that can be tested to be confirmed and counted. No one suggests these number are high. Some evidence suggests they may be half right. Statisticians in America have estimated the count to be only 10% of the true number. Others are thinking 1% as a possibility. 1.5 billion infection may be too high but no one knows.
The methods of viral transmission have not changed. That initial infection was from one mutation of some virus that a human immune system couldn’t defeat. Once in, the virus found the human vectors ideal and held on tight. The virus replicated and when faced with mankind’s interruptions, it mutated to try a different path. A virus is not sentient but it will continue to mutate to replicate. Neither mutation nor replication are opinions. Those are evolutionary facts.
I’d like to see policies that are focussed first and foremost, on saving lives. That’s the ethical and moral imperative of any government that might aspire to be of the people, for the people and by the people.
Otherwise, the 99% may perish.