I suppose Professor Robert P. George, Princeton’s resident ultra-conservative political philosopher, is being allowed to run the James Madison Program as a private fiefdom, but it was still shocking to see that the Harold T. Shapiro Lecture on Ethics, Science, and Technology was given by Dr. Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford. Dr. Bhattacharya was one of a core of health policy “experts” who, from the beginning, underestimated the dangers of COVID and opposed measures that attempted to mitigate its damage.

For example, in June 2021, in a joint column with Dr. Martin Kulldorf (then at Harvard) in that rigorous scientific publication, the Opinion section of the Wall Street Journal, he wrote that the “[COVID] pandemic is on its way out,” after 600,000 deaths. He was off by many months and about half of the deaths. Earlier, in April 2020, he, colleague Dr. John Ioannidis, and others mostly at Stanford attempted to calculate the mortality rate for early strains of COVID, and arrived at a figure only 1/5 of what later, more complete analysis showed. What made their estimate egregious, instead of simply mistaken, was that it was incompatible with the observed number of deaths that had already occurred in New York City, an early center of COVID infection and death. Far from searching for why they were wrong, the authors continue to maintain these Flat Earth beliefs in any venue that will publish them.

Drs. Bhattacharya and Kulldorf both signed the Oct. 4, 2020, Great Barrington Declaration, which called for a “let it rip” approach to COVID. More precisely, they called for opening everything up, with some vague “focused protection” for the elderly and others at greater risk. (See the new book We Want Them Infected, by Jonathan Howard.) I refer to this plan, which would not, of course, spare teachers and parents when young people fell ill, as “cull the herd immunity.”

Great Barrington, Vermont, the eponymous source of the declaration, is the headquarters of the libertarian American Institute for Economic Research, which sponsored it. AIER’s dedication to public health can be measured by its quondam editorial director’s endorsement of teenage cigarette smoking.

We can do much better.

Andrew J. Lazarus ’79
Berkeley, Calif.