Should nations be run by specialized “experts”?

In our “corona-crazy” time[1], our political leaders receive much advice from medical “experts”.  Some leaders are attacked in the media for not following the advice of the “experts”.  For example, radical Democrat, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, attacked President Trump for not “listening to the medical experts”.[2]  Pelosi means Trump was not making decisions which followed the opinions of the “experts”.

Even if we assumed that the medical “experts” all agree (which they do not) concerning how to respond to the current corona-craziness, who should run the country?  Should Trump (or any political leader) simply do whatever the health “experts” tell him to do?

In other words, should specialized “experts” run the government and the nation?  No!  A nation (and other political bodies) should no more be run by specialized “experts” who are focused on a particular field than an individual man should make all of his decisions based on one of his passions which is focused on a particular desire.

 

Let’s look at how an individual man should weigh competing concerns when making his decisions

A man has many desires such as food and sleep.  He has many passions such as fear and anger.  These passions and desires are good and are part of the nature God gave him.  But a man should not be ruled by those desires and passions.  For example, he should not allow his fears to rule him. 

Instead, man should be ruled by reason, while taking reasonable account of “advice” he receives from his passions.  So, e.g., a man should “consult” his fears while his reason is weighing what decision to make.  But if a man’s fear rules him then he acts wrongly because he acts as if nothing is more important than to be safe.  He lives (and wastes his life) locked up in safety, whereas there are many things more important than safety.

If a man’s desire for food ruled him, then he acts as if nothing is more important than eating.  His decisions would lack balance (and temperance) and all of his decisions and actions would serve the goal of eating.

If a man’s desire for sleep ruled him, then he would act as if nothing is more important than sleeping and his need for sleep would not be balanced with other parts of life.  The man would get a full night’s sleep every night but would lose his job because he does not come to work on time.

If a man’s desire for health (or fear of disease) is allowed to rule him, then he would stay away from all possible health risks and he would waste his life in useless fear.  Here is how billionaire Howard Hughes allowed himself to be ruled by the desire for health (or the fear of disease):

Howard Hughes – the billionaire aviator, motion-picture producer and business tycoon – spent most of his life trying to avoid germs.  Toward the end of his life, he lay naked in bed in darkened hotel rooms in what he considered a germ-free zone.  He wore tissue boxes on his feet to protect them.  And he burned his clothing if someone near him became ill.  …

He wrote a staff manual on how to open a can of peaches – including directions for removing the label, scrubbing the can down until it was bare metal, washing it again and pouring the contents into a bowl without touching the can to the bowl.[3]

This is unreasonable!  The correct course is for a man’s intellect to rule him and to make decisions which take into account all of the various desires and passions as far as they are reasonable.  A person should take risks, act reasonably, weigh the different competing concerns, the advantages and disadvantages, all in light of his Final End and the Common Good.

 

Now let’s apply this principle to see how a leader must make decisions for a nation

A nation’s leader should act like a man consulting his passions as far as they are reasonable, but making his decisions with his intellect.  A nation’s leader should be a man of reason and prudence, analogous to the intellect in that individual man (in the example above).  This nation’s leader (just like the intellect of an individual man) must balance competing concerns, advantages and disadvantages of different courses of conduct, and make decisions for the Common Good.

This leader should take into reasonable account the advice of “specialists” and “experts” but he should not necessarily follow their advice.  This is analogous to an individual man taking into account the “advice” of his other faculties (such as the desire for food which reminds him that he should maintain his strength and his health by eating when reasonable and appropriate).

So, a nation’s leader should receive advice from military experts.  But these military advisors tend to elevate the importance of military concerns – which is the focus of their careers – often downplaying other important aspects of life.  The nation’s leader should no more slavishly follow the advice of such an expert than an individual man should slavishly follow one of his passions, e.g., fear – whose single-focus is avoiding danger. 

The advice of this military expert (like the individual man’s passion of fear) should be weighed by reason and then the nation’s leader should make an independent judgment what is best for the nation. 

Likewise, other specialized “experts” (e.g., doctors), tend to focus mainly on the concerns of their own specialized field (e.g., medicine).  So, a nation’s leader should no more follow – slavishly – the advice of an expert in infectious disease prevention, than a man should slavishly follow his passion whose single-focus is food.  Instead, the advice of the experts should be weighed by the leader before he makes an independent judgment what best promotes the Common Good of the nation.

 

Conclusion

If a nation’s leader is not “listening to the infectious disease experts”, this does not tell us that he is wrong.  It might be better not to follow them in the particular circumstances.

A nation’s leader should not be singularly focused on disease prevention or any other single aspect of national life.  He must weigh competing concerns and make a prudential judgment what is best for the country, based on the Common Good.



[1]           There is evidence that the danger of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is greatly exaggerated in order to justify heavy–handed government intrusion and destruction of rightful liberty.  However, even if this virus were terrifying and not exaggerated, this virus presents the issue of whether our leaders should simply follow “the experts” in making their decisions.