29 April 2021

In defence of government

Figure: "Thank you" in sign language. Source: https://www.babysignlanguage.com/dictionary/thank-you/

Start with a particle so small that 100 million of them fit on the head of a pin. Each of these particles can replicate inside the human body, disable you, kill you. Each of them can mutate and become nastier. A lot nastier. 

Add to this an array of professional politicians, administrative bureaucrats, health officers, statisticians, ecological modellers, epidemiologists, vaccination experts, drug regulators, welfare economists, financial experts, experts on trade agreements, on constitutional law, on law enforcement, ... This is your government. All imperfect people, all with imperfect information.

Add their constituents -- children, students, senior citizens, citizens informed, half-informed, misinformed, disinformed, people who fell ill, people who lost family or friends, ... Throw in different interest groups -- ethnic communities, congregations, small business associations, the nurses' union, the teachers' union, First Nations, doctors' associations, ... 

Add actors from areas that are suffering economically -- face-to-face retail, restaurants, the travel industry, tourism, oil and gas, sports, concerts, theatres, ... Add actors from areas that are benefitting -- pharma big and small, e-commerce, streaming services, food delivery, hot-tub installers, ... Be sure to add some actors who are uncertain where they stand -- banks who suddenly see no need for expensive downtown office towers, credit card companies who see an explosion in credit card usage, universities who can operate at lower cost using blended course contents delivery, ... 

Don't forget to add a few anarchists and archconseratives who share in their delusion that the best government is no government, some anti-vaxxers who think that the government is out to get them, some loud pundits trying to make a name for themselves, and a few people who are simply nasty for no particular reason.

Now, consider the demands on the government to fulfil the varied goals of all the different stakeholders. Consider that government actions are always limited. Consider that outcomes are always uncertain. Consider that indicators are often ambiguous. Consider that data are always incomplete and often inconsistent. Consider that no government action occurs in isolation.

Hey presto! The CoViD crisis.

I don't know where people like Dr. Henry and Mr. Horgan find the strength to get out of bed in the morning. But I for one thank them that they do.

(After I had finished my article, my wife and I had a discussion over dinner what it is that you can demand from your government. That they be honest with us and that they give it their best effort towards the public good, not less, not more. In Canada, we sometimes forget how lucky we have been. Think anything Trump, think Brazil, Russia, India, and China, think W.M.D.s in Iraq, think Iran-Contra, think Chernobyl, ...)

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