“In an unlikely but conceivable turn of events, what if that scientist becomes infected with the virus, which leads to an outbreak and ultimately triggers a pandemic?” Anthony Fauci penned these words in a 2012 paper, long before the COVID-19 outbreak, about gain of function research. “Scientists working in this field might say — as indeed I have said — that the benefits of such experiments and the resulting knowledge outweigh the risks.”
The benefits outweigh the risks. For research involving scientists extracting viruses from the wild and engineering them to infect humans in order to study potential therapeutics, Fauci determined the high risk was worth the potential benefit. Whether Fauci was right or wrong — although hindsight and mass casualties have certainly teamed up to condemn him — all the doctor did was perform a cost-benefit analysis.
It’s something you do every day. You do it when you decide whether the benefit of nine extra minutes of sleep is worth the cost of forgoing your pre-work coffee stop (or, more realistically, worth scrambling into the office nine minutes late). You do it when you decide whether getting rid of the umbrella weight in your purse is worth the chance of getting caught in the rain.
Should I ride my bike without a helmet? Is the taste of this donut worth the calories? Some of our cost-benefit calculations, of course, are far less breezy. Should I endure cancer treatment again? What if I convert? Do I need this insurance?
Thanks to a trove of Fauci’s emails made public by the Washington Post and BuzzFeed last week, and a year of his decisions being made in the public eye, we’re aware of many more of his similar calculations, and it’s worth examining them within the cost-benefit framework.
Fauci’s Cost-Benefit Analysis
Remember the infamous “60 Minutes” clip of Fauci insisting there was “no reason to be walking around with a mask,” which coincided with the surgeon general tweeting “seriously people — STOP BUYING MASKS!” in March of 2020? Fauci later claimed that guidance was actually an attempt to ration masks for health-care workers.
“The public-health community — and many people were saying this — were concerned that it was at a time when personal protective equipment, including the N95 masks and the surgical masks, were in very short supply,” Fauci said a few months later.
In other words, Fauci figured the cost of lying to the American people about how to protect themselves was worth the benefit of reserving protective equipment for other doctors.
Or think back to Fauci wearing a mask after he had been vaccinated and arguing with Sen. Rand Paul about whether that was political theater.
“You’ve been vaccinated and you parade around in two masks for show. You can’t get it again,” Paul said back in March, calling Fauci’s masking “theater.” “There’s virtually 0 percent chance you’re going to get it, and you’re telling people that have had the vaccine who have immunity — you’re defying everything we know about immunity by telling people to wear masks who have been vaccinated.”
Fauci denied it, saying, “I totally disagree with you.” But that didn’t last long. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases admitted to George Stephanopolous last month that his decision to wear a mask after being vaccinated was about imagery, not science. For Fauci, the cost of political theater that sent an anti-scientific message was worth the benefit of keeping up appearances.
Don’t forget Fauci’s blatant fudging of the herd immunity threshold numbers when polling made him believe he could get away with it, which he outright admitted to The New York Times. According to the Times, in COVID’s early days, Fauci said about 60 to 70 percent of Americans would need to be inoculated against the virus in order to achieve herd immunity. Over time, he bumped that number up to 75, 80, and even 85 percent.
“When polls said only about half of all Americans would take a vaccine, I was saying herd immunity would take 70 to 75 percent,” Fauci reportedly told the Times in a phone interview. “Then, when newer surveys said 60 percent or more would take it, I thought, ‘I can nudge this up a bit,’ so I went to 80, 85.”
Fauci decided the cost of peddling misinformation was worth the benefit of potentially improving vaccine hesitancy and vaccine compliance.
The Great Cover-Up
Perhaps Fauci’s most damning cost-benefit analysis was his decision to cover up the Chinese lab-leak theory and his role in potentially U.S. taxpayer-funded gain of function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Fauci’s emails show scientist Kristian Anderson told Fauci on Feb. 1, 2020, that SARS-CoV-2 had “unusual features” that “potentially look engineered” — and Anderson wasn’t the only scientist to raise the issue to Fauci.
Despite these warnings, Fauci was soon throwing cold water on the lab-leak theory, for which Dr. Peter Daszak — who ran EcoHealth, which funded the coronavirus research in Wuhan — thanked the White House coronavirus task force member in April.
This, of course, all happened after the Obama administration had banned gain-of-function research in 2014 because it was so dangerous and after Fauci’s NIAID subsequently and quietly helped lift that ban. Fauci previously fiercely denied that U.S. taxpayer dollars had been funding gain of function research in Wuhan, but that facade fell just two weeks ago when the doctor admitted there was “no way of guaranteeing” how that money was being used.
Fauci — who, remember, once said gain of function research was worth the risk of a pandemic — has a lot to lose if it turns out his agency was doling out taxpayer money for a lab in communist China to do risky research that somehow got unleashed and killed half a million Americans. So Fauci did a cost-benefit analysis: The cost of lying about the risky research and the possibility of a lab leak was worth the benefit of the doctor saving face. After all, he’s got a book to sell.
You Pay, I Benefit
This trend isn’t limited to Fauci, of course. Electeds and bureaucrats across the country did the same throughout the entire pandemic because the benefits of increased government power far exceeded the costs of lost freedom and livelihoods that they imposed on their constituents.
Nancy Pelosi peddled performative COVID playacting for the C-SPAN cameras but treated herself to a blowout when she thought nobody was watching. Drunk-with-power Gavin Newsom kept kids home from school but enjoyed a night out on the town at a boujee French restaurant with other elites. And Andrew Cuomo was happy to squelch businesses if it meant he could market a book on lockdown leadership.
Meanwhile, Americans paid. They paid with their savings accounts when they tacked “closed” signs onto their family businesses. They paid with their futures when they pretended Zoom classrooms were an acceptable substitute for in-person education. They paid with their freedom when they masked up their healthy faces and catered to the irrationally terrified. And in too many cases, they paid with their souls when they “counted the cost” of COVID and concluded that isolation was spiritually superior to gathering with the saints.
The problem isn’t that Fauci, or any of these other elites who capitalized on pandemic suffering, weighed costs and benefits. The problem is that they were willing to impose life-and-death costs on unwitting Americans in order to benefit themselves.