Brownstone » Brownstone Institute Articles » Osterism Won’t Prevent March 2020 From Happening Again

Osterism Won’t Prevent March 2020 From Happening Again


Dr. Emily Oster, the Brown University economist who spent a good part of the pandemic response denying that her own data indicted the uselessness of masking kids in schools, published an article in The Atlantic today, calling for “a pandemic amnesty.” Short version: Let’s chalk up the devastation caused by fear-driven policies to benign ignorance and good intentions.

Eugyppius captured my sentiments with rhetorical brilliance, when he characterized Oster as a comfortable and clueless Ivy League mommyconomist who is ready to mouth support for basically any pandemic policy that doesn’t directly affect her or her family and then plead that the horrible behaviour and policies supported by her entire social milieu are just down to ignorance about the virus.”

Oster’s implicit claim that next-to-nothing was known about SARS-CoV-2 – and therefore all the pointless, unethical, and illegal things people were forced to do are understandable – isn’t the pathway to healing, because it’s dishonest. Inexplicably, she denies that, from the get-go, we knew (for example)

  • covid’s risks were highly skewed toward sick elderly people, 
  • plexiglass and masks don’t stop viruses,
  • school closures are harmful, and
  • exposure quarantines and contact tracing are useless.

She also defends things like closing beaches as “hard calls that people had no choice but to make with imperfect knowledge.” This twisted thinking – this Osterism, I’ll call it – both a) denies the truth about what was knownand b) excuses doing the worst, most nonsensical and predictably harmful things in the name of not knowing.

If an out-of-touch professor were the only person pushing such ideas, we could ignore it. Unfortunately, other vocal credentialed experts – not to mention public officials, school and church leaders, and friends/family members who embraced all manner of superstitious and harmful mitigations – have a similar mindset. 

Osterism in any form will never, ever lead to healing, nor will it prevent this nightmare from happening again. 

By contrast, those who promulgated the mass delusion need to follow a process along these lines:

  1. Admit the wrong you did — accurately, specifically, and without excuse-making.
  2. Explicitly acknowledge that what you did was wrong, in effect if not intent, and damaging.
  3. Apologize.
  4. Humbly ask for forgiveness.
  5. Receive forgiveness from those willing to extend it.
  6. Accept consequences.
  7. Make restitution (if possible).
  8. Put guardrails in place that prevent yourself (and others) from doing it again.

Osterists would prefer to bypass these steps and rebrand under Preventing the Next Pandemic, taking no real ownership. In their world, the only Purveyors of Disinformation were those who promoted injections — bleach injections, that is. 🙄

Do I want us all to “move on,” like Emily does? Absolutely. 

But the road to relief begins at the intersection of confession and truth, not avoidance and prevarication.

Republished from the author’s Substack

Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
For reprints, please set the canonical link back to the original Brownstone Institute Article and Author.


  • Jessica Hockett

    Jessica Hockett has a PhD in educational psychology from the University of Virginia. Her 20-year career in education included working with schools and agencies across the U.S. to improve curriculum, instruction, and programs.

    View all posts

Donate Today

Your financial backing of Brownstone Institute goes to support writers, lawyers, scientists, economists, and other people of courage who have been professionally purged and displaced during the upheaval of our times. You can help get the truth out through their ongoing work.

Subscribe to Brownstone for More News

Stay Informed with Brownstone Institute