Coronavirus Diary (19): This Isn’t John Galt Speaking

The existence of inanimate matter is unconditional, the existence of life is not: it depends on a specific course of action. Matter is indestructible, it changes its forms, but it cannot cease to exist. It is only a living organism that faces a constant alternative: the issue of life or death. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action. If an organism fails in that action, it dies…

–Ayn Rand, “The Objectivist Ethics”

Imagine a version of Atlas Shrugged in which the Taggart Tunnel disaster involves a causal process driven primarily by Mother Nature, and what goes off the rails is not a train but a health care system. Now imagine that the hero of the piece is not a shadowy figure like John Galt but the functional (not moral) equivalent of Dr. Robert Stadler. Now imagine that a retreat to Galt’s Gulch is a physical impossibility. If, for some readers, this requires a re-conceptualization of how the world works, maybe a lot of other things do, too.

2 thoughts on “Coronavirus Diary (19): This Isn’t John Galt Speaking

  1. I can’t resist adding my own item to this particular rumor mill:

    Apparently, the Faucis are from Brooklyn, and Anthony has a brother who either is an Objectivist or is partial to Objectivism. Allan Gotthelf (also from Brooklyn) once told me that he met Anthony Fauci through the brother, and tried unsuccessfully to persuade him (Anthony) of the truth of Objectivism, to which Anthony objected on pragmatist grounds.

    I can’t be entirely sure that that’s true, but as rumors go, it strikes me as relatively benign.

    Here’s a nice interview with Fauci, describing his upbringing, education, etc.

    Click to access fauci89.pdf

    What are the chances, when this is all over, that we can persuade people to replace those statues of Christopher Columbus, bringer of disease, with some of Anthony Fauci, expert on epidemiology? And replace Columbus Day with Fauci Day? People say that they’re so desperate to worship a hero–an Italian-American hero? Why not put an actual Italian-American on the pedestal–one who actually made it to the mainland of the United States, as Columbus never did?

    While we’re at it, we might want to cultivate a little historical empathy for the native populations destroyed by the introduction of European diseases. If you think COVID-19 is bad in 2020, imagine what smallpox would have been like in 1493. When we deride Native Americans as “primitives,” we’re deriding the victims of the epidemics (and advanced forms of warfare) that Europeans brought to American shores. Maybe it’s time to re-think that?


  2. The first draft of part of the history that will eventually have to be told:

    For now, however, I intend to hold off on any attempts to offer a comprehensive explanation for the COVID-19 disaster. At this early stage, we probably don’t even have enough perspective to come up with a proper formulation of the explanandum, much less the explanans. Right now, the explanandum is more or less “what happened.” And the explanans is “COVID-19.” Precision will come later.


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