Gongol.com Archives: February 2023

Brian Gongol

February 8, 2023

Threats and Hazards When people who should know better choose not to

Robert Reich, a professor at a brand-name university and a former United States Secretary of Labor, tweets: "Egg prices are up 60%. That's absurd. People are paying up upwards of $6 and $7 for a dozen eggs. Why? Corporate greed. Cal-Maine, the largest egg producer in the US, is raking record profits -- $198 million in its latest quarter. That's a 65% increase from a year ago." ■ It's entirely within bounds to simply say "I think corporations are greedy". Such an opinion would be simplistic and petty, but it's an opinion and everyone's entitled. But it's toxic for someone with notoriety and status (like a former Cabinet secretary) to bark out this nonsense when it's patently untrue. ■ There were big outbreaks of avian influenza in 2022. That's a fact with very clear consequences for the number of laying hens. That population dropped precipitously, from about 393 million in December 2021 to about 366 million in June 2022. Lose 7% of your egg-producing population and you're going to lose a lot of egg production, and that can have big consequences for marginal costs at the store. ■ The public shouldn't stand quietly for the corrosion of public debate by people who absolutely, positively should know better. It's not an overstatement to call it a blow against civilization. Upon taking office in the Cabinet -- and thus in the line of Presidential succession -- Reich had to swear to "bear true faith and allegiance" to the Constitution of the United States, and through it, to the people. His strict obligation to that oath may have expired on January 10, 1997, but he still profits from his recognition as a public figure. ■ He, and everyone in a like position, ought to recognize the public's reasonable expectation that their continued presence in the spotlight as a public figure comes with a continued expectation of "true faith and allegiance" to the Constitution and to the public. It's entirely well and good for people to take interests in subjects beyond their own expertise, and nobody expects a former Secretary of Labor to also be an expert on animal health. ■ But at the very least, one might expect a person whose curriculum vitae includes 58 instances of the word "economy" (in one form or another) to hold himself to a standard of behavior that might befit a person who once held a significant office of public trust, eleventh in the line of succession to the Presidency. And he ought to hold himself to a critical standard of intellectual curiosity such that he would look for an obvious root cause (like widespread animal disease outbreaks) before offering reductionist rallying cries on the Internet. ■ The public deserves serious thoughts from those who position themselves as thought leaders. If that's too much to ask, then those "leaders" ought to keep their idle musings to themselves. Otherwise, it should be their civic duty to be thought-provoking, not mindlessly provocative.