Public health initiatives in the United States are suffering from a crisis of confidence. Recent polls show that only a third of the public trusts insurance and pharmaceutical companies, while only 56% trust the government health agencies that are supposed to regulate these industries. Another survey conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic showed that only about half of Americans have “a lot” of trust in the CDC, while only a third have such trust in the Department of Health and Human Resources. Social services.
This lack of trust is not just temporary. Yes, our health agencies and companies have made mistakes and spread lies over the past two years. But their deep unpopularity is not only the result of circumstances. Without alternatives, these institutions will always lack accountability, and therefore trust. America is nothing without our unique history of popular sovereignty. We can no longer give public servants unilateral decision-making power over our public health response without competing voices, checks and balances.
Think back to the end of 2020. When mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 were made freely available to the public, a national conversation began about “vaccine hesitancy” – the phenomenon of Americans choosing not to be vaccinated even when encouraged and, in some cases, coerced. Much of this conversation has focused on historic abuses against the black community, such as the Tuskegee experiment, which apparently spawned hostility to the vaccine program among African Americans.
This anecdote shows how public health authorities do not know why we are suspicious of them. Vaccine hesitancy was not just a problem in the black community. Many of those who chose to forgo the vaccine made their choice based on very recent dishonesty by authorities, not a tragedy from decades ago. It wasn’t complicated. Americans had seen public health experts lie, get it wrong, ignore evidence and bow to professional pressure since the pandemic began. Few wanted to be their guinea pigs.
Not all of the COVID-19 gaslighting was the fault of the media or politicians – much of it was implemented by pundits abusing their position of apolitical trust. When the first infections began to occur in the United States, public health experts scrambled to convince the public that President Donald Trump’s plan to close the border was unnecessary – and succeeded in convincing President Joe Biden that ‘it was xenophobic. Trump’s criticisms of the World Health Organization and others for highlighting the danger of COVID and shielding China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology from scrutiny have proven correct. But the public health establishment hid the truth about the virus.
Experts who have been brought in to advise on the White House’s pandemic response, including Drs. Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci, insisted on the dumbest, evidence-less preventative measures, including face coverings, lockdowns and social distancing. Their isolated role as health advisers allowed them to manipulate health policy in ways that only benefited themselves. The starkest example was the corruption of data collection at the Center for Disease Control – a scandal that caused public trust to sink to a new low.
None of these crimes against the American people should have happened, but the failures of the past two years cannot be attributed simply to the individual misdeeds of unscrupulous bureaucrats like Fauci. The very concept of a government monopoly over public health makes such misconduct inevitable. This is a problem that can be solved by introducing real competition and accountability, even if we have to look outside of government to get it.
In the summer of 2020, a group of like-minded scientists, policymakers, healthcare workers and other personalities signed the Great Barrington Declaration, which pointed to the faulty reasoning and perverse incentives of the industrial complex of public health and its response to COVID-19. 19. Because of the stranglehold that bureaucrats like Fauci held over funding research and controlling the reputation of industry, these brave men and women risked – and in some cases destroyed – their careers by doing so. doing.
Since the signing of the Great Barrington Declaration, each of the concerns and recommendations it lists has been amply substantiated. He warned of the mental health crisis and rising deaths from preventable injuries and illnesses that would result from the closures. His claim that COVID-19 was a thousand times more dangerous for the elderly and infirm is now common knowledge. His targeted approach to protecting nursing homes could have saved countless lives from the ruthless actions of governors who have subsequently been investigated, such as Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania and Andrew Cuomo of New York.
Because of these facts – which ultimately escaped censorship and obfuscation – former Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill convened Citizens Project America’s Grand Jury, a controversial attempt to publicize legal wrongdoings and scientists from the public health facility. Of course, this effort has been called a conservative political stunt, but is there an alternative for citizens demanding accountability? The goal of public health experts should not be to silence dissent like this, but to welcome it and encourage it to be as professional and accurate as possible.
Critics of the pandemic response like the Barrington signatories and the US Grand Jury show there is room for civil society initiatives and democratic scrutiny. In 2020, these competing voices were simply not strong enough to be heard and convince policymakers to reject misleading analyses. Few were willing to do so, and those who did, like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, had no major research institution backing them.
Before the next public health crisis, we must create a fair, forward-thinking, and reputable institution to serve as a non-governmental alternative to and defeat federal bureaucracies like the CDC. Privately funded laboratory research, an alternative framework for reputational analysis and peer review and uninfluenced findings could revolutionize the policy approach to health and safety. Ideally, such an institution would be a gathering place for those experts like the Barrington signatories who went against the grain and prioritized real science over politics.
Like the school choice movement in education and public-private partnerships in transportation or technology, the creation of new institutions devoted to data collection and health recommendations is of crucial national importance. We need to unleash the power of competition and energize the debate. Above all, we must expose when the “experts” are wrong, so that we can achieve our goals through trial and error – the heart of the scientific method. Unless we can create a new mode of public health decision-making, we are doomed to repeat 2020 over and over again.
Austin Stone is Managing Partner at Beck & Stone. He is currently on assignment in Washington DC, serving as Chief Operating Officer of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE) and Senior Advisor to US Senate candidate Latham Saddler. He can be found on Twitter at @ausstone.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.