“Everybody counts or nobody does.” – Detective Harry Bosch
If the US Government handles the threat of Ebola well, then I, my family and my community should have absolutely nothing to worry about from the disease. The only way this disease could be a major problem for a significant portion of the US population would be for a lot of people in charge to make some very poor decisions. Thus, if a recent comment from a Peggy Noonan column is an accurate representation of how our leadership thinks, there may be a chance of a significant Ebola problem in the United States.
And I thought, just like a normal person, “No, your No. 1 priority is to forestall a sense of panic. To do that you’ll say what you need to say. Your second priority, connected to the first, is to assert the excellence and competence of the agency with which you are associated. Your third priority is to keep the public safe.”
Bad decision-making can be explained via an old canard popularized by computer scientists. “GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out.” This means that any computational device will output a result in line with the quality of your input. Decision-making comes as the result of what should be a well-ordered system. Data, values, goals, organizational hierarchies and decision paradigms all interact to produce an output. If four of those five elements are properly executed, but one input is garbage, then you get what Mark Steyn famously describe the United Nations as – Dog Feces Ice Cream.
“It’s a good basic axiom that if you take a quart of ice-cream and a quart of dog feces and mix ’em together the result will taste more like the latter than the former. That’s the problem with the U.N.”
The problem here is the priorities. In an Organic Culture, individual well-being would matter. As Detective Harry Bosch puts it in the Michael Connelly novels. “Everybody counts or nobody does.” The Organic, Small-Government, Community-Centered Culture is where everybody counts.
But no, that’s not how the Managerial State rolls. In the managerial state, the government is a hammer. This whole Ebola thing is another nail. It manages a dehumanized beast called the public using metrics such as public opinion, or national morale. You first and foremost turn the right dial on the national morale setting and don’t let anyone panic. Then you dress all spiffy in your scrubs and look like good management material. Then it would be nice if a bunch of sick proles didn’t stagger around in search of a suitable place to die.
For the nonce, I’m not about to actually panic over Ebola. The math and the science of epidemics remain on our side, even if the government really doesn’t give a rat’s rear-end about us. I’m well enough informed to believe facts from public officials, regardless of their twisted ethics. Know the following and be less frightened.
“Ebola is a virus. It’s easy to kill if you wash your hands,” said CDC chief Thomas Frieden . You are only infectious once you are sick, not before. Ebola will not, all agreed, produce a full-fledged American epidemic. “We are stopping it in its tracks in this country,” Dr. Frieden said.
So a government that acted responsibly and barred travel from infected regions would be able to go on with life like normal. That way people would not be able to lie about being in contact with infected people to enter the country and initiate infection. Then we wouldn’t have the problem of having to justify putting people under armed quarantine athwart our Bill of Rights.
A government basing its decisions on the proper set of goals can accomplish the following.
No new cases have been reported in weeks in Nigeria, where the disease was carried by a Liberian-American diplomat who left a hospital in Monrovia, where he had exhibited Ebola symptoms, and flew to Nigeria. He infected 20 people in Lagos, Africa’s largest city of 21 million people, and the oil capital of Port Harcourt. Nigerian health workers tracked 894 people who had made contact with the diplomat and made some 18,500 face-to-face visits to monitor for Ebola symptoms, according to the CDC.
As Detective Harry Bosch said in the crime novels, “Everybody counts or nobody does.” When everybody counts, and the authorities care enough to protect them from things like Ebola, problems get solved and panic is never necessary. It’s only in countries where the government is more corrupt and less concerned with the welfare of the citizenry than the government in Nigeria where something like Ebola could become a major problem. We’ll get to find out if the bureaucracy of United States can still lay claim to being less corrupt and uncaring than the Nigerian Government.