Recently, over at the Brownstone Institute, Donald J. Boudreaux presented a reply to a parent explaining his signature on the Great Barrington Declaration. Read the whole thing, but here’s a couple of relevant excerpts:
Upon returning to my computer this afternoon I discovered an irate e-mail from the mother of a George Mason University freshman. Here’s my reply to her.
I’m dismayed to learn from your e-mail that, because you’ve just discovered that I endorse the Great Barrington Declaration, you’re demanding that your son transfer out of my upcoming Econ 103 course. That decision, obviously, is for you and your son to make. You should advise your son to do what you think best.
Because you offer no objection to the Great Barrington Declaration other than that “it is so anti-science, anti-social and anti-humane a competent professor should loudly critique it,” I challenge you actually to read the Declaration and write back to me with your specific objections. Identify particular passages that you believe are so outrageous that no intelligent person can assent to them.
Note the last sentence, especially this bit: “I challenge you actually to read the Declaration…” The woman in question will not, of course, actually read the Declaration. She has no interest in challenging her own pre-concieved notions. To be fair, most people don’t. More on this in a moment, but here’s the key point:
The central message of the GBD is its call for Focused Protection. Do you object to this message? Do you object to the advice that protection be focused on those groups that we know – and that we knew at least as early as March 2020 – are especially vulnerable to covid, while leaving the great majority of humankind (who are not especially at risk) to continue life as normal? And if you do object, what about this advice is so outrageous that it marks anyone who supports it as being unfit to teach an introductory course in economics? (For the record, I foresee no occasion for me, in the course of mine that your son will now not take, to mention the Great Barrington Declaration.)
In other words, the Great Barrington Declaration called for a sane, measured response to the Kung Flu that would neither ruin lives nor wreck the economy. The same response, in fact, that had always been used in the advent of any new respiratory virus.
I’m afraid that die is cast, though. In March of 2020, when the ‘vid hit our shores, Mrs. Animal and yr. obdt. were still occupying a small apartment in Raritan, New Jersey, near where I was working at the time. For the first few weeks an observer would have been justified in assuming that either 1) the very air had become radioactive, 2) the majority of the population had gone certifiably insane, or 3) both. To this day, especially in some of the bigger cities, you still see people engaging in egregious stupidity like driving, alone, in their own car, wearing a mask. Not that I object to that; stupid people should be conspicuous, so that we may approach them pre-informed of their stupidity, and engage with them accordingly.
That stupidity, I’m afraid, is going to be the norm now when any new respiratory virus emerges.
But back to my first point, wherein the letter-writer is challenged to actually read the Great Barrington Declaration. While this would seem to be two separate issues on the surface, I see them as linked. The general populace largely acceded, wearily, to ever-increasing COVID lunacy precisely because of this kind of incuriousity. An inquisitive mind is skeptical; it checks facts, runs down sources, confirms information with various inputs. But to judge by my observation over the last 60+ years, most people (to be fair, people across the political spectrum) are incurious. They accept what they are told, as long as it confirms their pre-existing biases.
When I was a young man, the Old Man used to admonish me “don’t believe what you see on the television. Check things out for yourself.” That was and still is good advice. I’d add to that “seek out opposing views. Challenge your own opinions. Your preconceived notions are not infallible, and you should not judge them to be so.” I’ve always tried to do so. I wish more people would. Sadly, people like this hysterical twit who penned the angry letter to Donald J. Boudreaux are increasingly the norm.