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Why Won’t They Admit Failure?

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It seems strange that one of the world’s richest men would feel the need for a book tour to boost sales. But that is what Bill Gates is doing, granting a series of interviews with deferential journalists. 

The thesis of his book and his interviews is that we should have locked down harder, sooner, and more precisely. Plus the vaccines need to be better next time. 

But make no mistake: in his view, there is no overall failure in the whole theory of pandemic control they deployed two years ago. That is sound. To be sure, mistakes were made but we can only learn from them, which is why public health agencies need more resources, more intelligence, more power, more deference. 

In this interview, Bill grants that he did not know the demographics of risk of the pathogen, even though the whole world knew in late January. 

And in this interview, he grants that there was no chance for eradication of covid, and also that “young people don’t sick very often,” which makes one wonder about the reasons for the extended lockdowns, from which the poor suffered most. He has regrets but hey, who doesn’t? 

His theme is the same as we are hearing all over the planet. Yes, it could have been done better but the people who did this to us have only learned from their errors and they will do better next time. 

Even on vaccines, Bill is somehow sure that the next time, the vaccine will stop infection and spread, will be one dose, and probably won’t be an injection, as if these are points no one could have hope for in this round, and as if this is all just a matter of funding more R&D. Just like Windows Millennium Edition, it will get better. 

Again, the theory is right and so is the method. They just need another chance! 

Think for a moment of other failed experiments in human history. One that comes to mind is the Bolshevik Revolution. Its leader, Vladimir Lenin, never really expected to take power, much less be put in charge of implementing the system he had spent a career promoting. He was asked in his writings to speak to what communism would mean. He answered (in 1917) that it is not really an issue: just make the whole economy work like the post office. 

After taking power, confiscating privately owned shops and land, nationalizing industry, setting prices by dictate, everything fell apart very rapidly. Energy supplies collapsed and food shortages were everything. The failure was obvious to the whole population because people were starving. 

Lenin went back to the canonical texts and noticed that Karl Marx had said that communism only comes after the stage of history of industrialization. Russia was mostly an agricultural economy. He said then that the answer was obvious. He had to make electrification a reality for all Russians. Then communism would work. 

So in December 1920, he gave a speech in which he said “Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country.” That of course didn’t work either, so the next year he pushed the New Economic Policy – the end of lockdowns, so to speak. Markets were newly tolerated and the war on property mostly stopped and the economy revived. This happened over the following 6 years, after which Stalin came to power and discovered that “Soviet power” was even more important than Lenin though. 

Power over normalcy: that was the choice made by the party. They never admitted error. It would be many decades until Stalinism was finally repudiated and long after that before the failure in total would be largely granted, though even to this day, a vast number of Russians truly regret the dialing back of the empire in 1989 and following. Putin himself recalls the glory of the Soviet past.

It’s always the same with these people: the theory of despotic rule is fine; it’s just the implementation that has to be tweaked. 

The issue of failing plans from elites has vexed rulers from time immemorial. We live in such times today, arguably on a larger global basis than ever. They said they would suppress a virus but everyone got it anyway. They said they would print and spend their way out of the lockdown recession but now we have inflation plus recession. They said they would minimize the social and economic carnage but it is everywhere. 

No one has taken responsibility. No one has admitted error. Or more precisely, what people like Bill Gates say now is that their theory was fine and their plans were brilliant, but there were periodic missteps in judgment owing to a lack of information, but keep trusting them because they will get better at this. Just wait and see. 

At least we aren’t going the way of China. Xi Jinping announced to the party congress over the weekend that he will tolerate no dissent against the zero Covid ideal. The pathogen will be crushed everywhere it appears. China now (if you can believe the official data) has one of the lowest rates of infection of anywhere in the world. That means that another billion or so people still will get it, and that means rolling lockdowns for the duration. 

If this really happens, the great promise of this great country will be torn down by the arrogance and crankishness of one single dictator. That’s a tremendous tragedy, one that will have a profoundly negative impact on the global economy for many years to come. 

Meanwhile, it’s become infuriating to see mainstream news sources talk about the unfolding disasters all around us and pretend like no one could have anticipated this. The latest is the New York Times. 

Across the country, hospital emergency departments have become boarding wards for teenagers who pose too great a risk to themselves or others to go home. They have nowhere else to go; even as the crisis has intensified, the medical system has failed to keep up, and options for inpatient and intensive outpatient psychiatric treatment have eroded sharply….

Nationally, the number of residential treatment facilities for people under the age of 18 fell to 592 in 2020 from 848 in 2012, a 30 percent decline, according to the most recent federal government survey.The decline is partly a result of well-intentioned policy changes that did not foresee a surge in mental-health cases. Social-distancing rules and labor shortages during the pandemic have eliminated additional treatment centers and beds, experts say.

It’s also almost difficult to keep up with the ongoing disasters taking place these days. Let’s talk about the impending shortage in electricity, the stuff we are all supposed to be using as a replacement for fossil fuels in the brave new world being created for us by our lords and masters. 

Reports the WSJ, in a piece that went largely unnoticed:

California’s grid operator said Friday that it anticipates a shortfall in supplies this summer, especially if extreme heat, wildfires or delays in bringing new power sources online exacerbate the constraints. The Midcontinent Independent System Operator, or MISO, which oversees a large regional grid spanning much of the Midwest, said late last month that capacity shortages may force it to take emergency measures to meet summer demand and flagged the risk of outages. In Texas, where a number of power plants lately went offline for maintenance, the grid operator warned of tight conditions during a heat wave expected to last into the next week.

The risk of electricity shortages is rising throughout the U.S. as traditional power plants are being retired more quickly than they can be replaced by renewable energy and battery storage. Power grids are feeling the strain as the U.S. makes a historic transition from conventional power plants fueled by coal and natural gas to cleaner forms of energy such as wind and solar power, and aging nuclear plants are slated for retirement in many parts of the country.

In summary, another central plan born of arrogance and presence seems to be on the verge of complete failure, even to the point of blackouts, like a third world has experienced for many years. Green energy is becoming no energy. Zero emissions is becoming zero power. 

Further: 

Speeding the build-out of renewable energy and batteries has become an especially difficult proposition amid supply-chain challenges and inflation. Most recently, a probe by the Commerce Department into whether Chinese solar manufacturers are circumventing trade tariffs on solar panels has halted imports of key components needed to build new solar farms and effectively brought the U.S. solar industry to a standstill.

So here we see the combination of consequences of many different cockamamie ideas: tariffs, lockdowns, green energy policy, fiscal irresponsibility, plus money printing. Amazing. We have high inflation, the breakdown of global trade, plus a failed attempt to dial back fossil fuels and rely on wind and solar. It’s absurd, and we could pay the price sooner rather than later. 

If that weren’t bad enough, there are people raising alarms about an impending food shortage to complement the shortage of so much else. Plus we are less than three months away from the declaration of recession. And while inflation has calmed down a bit for now, there is every reason to believe that it will kick back up again by late summer. This will give us a combination of inflation, recession, blackouts, and food shortages. 

That’s a politically toxic mix, to say the least. And let’s add one more piece to the puzzle: weakened and falling financials. The terrible year seems ever less an aberration and more and more the beginnings of an enduring bear market in nearly everything. This has even affected the crypto market, as large institutional investors have gotten squeamish about a technology they never understood but only embraced in hopes of return. 

Looking back, there is nothing terribly surprising about any of this. It’s a consequence of safety culture, arrogant elites, and a belief that powerful, rich, and intelligent people can manage the world better than the rest of us. We’ve been here many times in history, and it has always foreshadowed a long period of suffering. 

Lenin failed just as Gates, Powell, Fauci, and Psaki have failed, along with hundreds and thousands of others who put themselves in a position to deploy a crazy experiment in the eradication of liberty. They are all culpable but none will admit it. Why? Pride, sure, but also fear: fear of the public outcry. 

Few things are more dangerous to the future of humanity than a failed and humiliated ruling class that still possesses power. They cannot and will not admit error, so their only plan is to double and triple down on failure. The term “scorched-earth” is usually used metaphorically. Maybe this time it will become real. 

Author

  • Jeffrey A. Tucker, Founder and President of the Brownstone Institute, is an economist and author. He has written 10 books, including Liberty or Lockdown, and thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press. He writes a daily column on economics at The Epoch Times, and speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.


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