Why our experts might think twice before saying children should not return to the classroom
Fatal conceit: it is the concept that central planning, with decision-making concentrated in a few hands, can never fully grasp the millions of complex individual interactions occurring simultaneously in the marketplace.
It is a fatal conceit to believe any one person has the knowledge necessary to direct an economy or dictate public health behavior. I think government health experts during this pandemic need to show caution in their prognostications.
It is important to realize that if society meekly submits to an expert, and that expert is wrong, a great deal of harm may occur when we allow one man’s policy to be foisted on an entire nation.
Take, for example, government experts who continue to call for schools and daycares to stay closed. Or those who recommend restrictions that make it impossible for a school to function.
For a time, there may not have been enough information about coronavirus in children. But now there is.
There are examples from all across the U.S. and the world that show that young children rarely spread the virus.
Let’s start in Europe. Twenty-two countries have reopened their schools and have seen no discernible increase in cases. As I presented this morning to Dr. Anthony Fauci during a Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing, there was no surge when the schools opened. This included data from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany and the Netherlands.
Contact tracing studies in China, Iceland, Britain, and the Netherlands failed to find a single case of child-to-adult infection.
Here at home, child-care for essential workers continued to be available in some states throughout the pandemic.
Brown University researchers collected data on daycares that remained open during this pandemic. Out of over 25,000 kids in their study, they found that 0.16 percent of children in these daycares had confirmed cases, and barely more than 1 percent of staff — out of more than 9,000 staff.
The YMCA has also offered daycare service throughout the pandemic and found that, out of 40,000 children at 1,100 sites, there were no reports of coronavirus outbreaks or clusters.
Dr. Joshua Sharfstein of Johns Hopkins writes that “there is converging evidence that the coronavirus doesn’t transmit among children like the flu—that it’s a lower risk.”
Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement noting the Academy “strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.” They even cite “mounting evidence” that children are less likely to contract the virus.
Ultimately, this all comes down to the fatal conceit — that central planners have enough knowledge to tell a nation of 330 million people what they can and cannot do.
Perhaps, our planners might think twice before they weigh in on every subject. Perhaps, our government experts might hold their tongue before expressing the opinion that we can’t play NFL football or Major League Baseball. Perhaps, our experts might think twice before telling the whole world that a COVID-19 vaccine likely won’t provide herd immunity. Perhaps, our experts might consider the undue fear that they are instilling in teachers who are now afraid to return to work.
No one person knows the answers to these questions.
Hayek had it right. Only decentralized power and decision-making based on millions of individualized situations can arrive at what risks and behaviors each individual should choose.
All of this begs the question: When are we going to tell people the truth—that it’s okay to take their kids back to school?
Rand Paul is the junior senator from Kentucky.
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