The anti-libertarian approach to COVID policy

Here is Michael Bang Petersen in the New York Times:

As a researcher and an adviser to the Danish government on the pandemic, I have repeatedly stressed that we need to make complex trade-offs between deaths, the economy, public well-being and constitutional rights. There is not a single right answer for how to proceed. Within the set of legitimate strategies, the choice of strategy is often less important than whether or not people follow and support it.

This perfectly captures the spirit of a sensible response to COVID that balances the claims of democracy and expertise.

Petersen acknowledges that there are complicated tradeoffs involved in policymaking, and that reasonable people can disagree on the best way forward.  This encourages people to have some humility about their own policy beliefs.  This is essential for democracy, because democracy requires a willingness to compromise.

Petersen also acknowledges that policymakers need to be willing to defer to public opinion.  This is also essential for democracy.  Good policymaking requires responsible political leaders and competent experts, but these elites need to recognize the limits of their influence.  The alternative is populist backlash, which is an all-too-real threat in the United States.