The covid pandemonium was a reminder that even rich, sensible, well-mannered, and well-educated societies can descend into the pits of hell faster than you can cry “emergency.” Society always balances on the edge of an unspeakably horrific abyss.
This is the story of a tribe of navel-gazing authoritarians imposing rules on the rest of us, rules that don’t make sense, that are routinely flaunted by their proponents, and in aggregate don’t achieve the goals they’re said to achieve. There is no reason to puzzle about the lost of trust and the rise of grave skepticism about elite plans for our lives.
This is the model that will consume all public discussion of the pandemic response in the future: seeking but never finding anyone to bear responsibility. This is typical for episodes in history that are characterized by mass frenzy and distorted fanaticism. Once the mania is gone, it is hard to find anyone who is willing to accept responsibility for feeding it and acting upon it.
There is much to dislike in Spiegelhalter and Masters’ book on the plague year, but considering the partisan and authoritarian nonsense, garbage advice, and terrible statistical blunders we’ve grown used to, the book comes across as fairly balanced. They have some clear blind spots (vaccines, effectiveness of lockdowns, Vitamin D) but there are much worse things to read than Covid by Numbers.