So-called experts looked and sounded like fools. At some point, the US Congress stopped legislating and handed over most “rulemaking” governing Americans’ lives to the administrative state’s sprawling bureaucracy. The brainchild of progressive President Woodrow Wilson, the modern administrative state is rooted in a disdain for the messy give-and-take of politics and a preference for rule by an enlightened clerisy. “Trust the experts,” in other words. Over the century-plus since Wilson’s presidency, the federal mandarins themselves, as well as many citizens and lawmakers, elevated the slogan to the status of dogma. To question the numerous agencies of the federal government and their armies of “experts” became tantamount to questioning science itself.
Then came COVID-19. The virus dealt an irreparable blow to the credibility of our ruling class and its appeal to its own authority as a coterie of highly credentialed and capable experts. No single person exemplifies this fall more than Dr. Anthony Fauci, who attained celebrity status during the pandemic as the nation’s leading immunologist and forward-facing spokesman for our public-policy response. As Steve Deace and Todd Erzen detail in their new book, “Faucian Bargain: The Most Powerful and Dangerous Bureaucrat in American History,” Fauci has repeatedly contradicted himself throughout the pandemic, waffling on what “the Science” demands at any given moment, while still always seeming to err on the side of draconian overreaction.
The treasures yielded by recent Freedom of Information Act requests by BuzzFeed and The Washington Post only underscore the point. Perhaps most damningly, the FOIA requests revealed a February 2020 Fauci e-mail explaining that store-bought face masks are “really for infected people to prevent them from spreading infection to people who are not infected, rather than protecting uninfected people from acquiring infection.” He added that the “typical mask you buy in the drug store is not really effective in keeping out virus, which is small enough to pass through material.”