The news seeping out now is that the USA had enough ventilators and ICU beds. In fact, we have more ICU beds both in absolute total and per capita than any other country and there are no reports of anybody being denied a place.
Better in our minds
We can always imagine better and we always fear worse. This is part of human nature. We need to resist letting our projections & projections become the narrative. We cannot let the imagined perfect be the enemy of the actual good, nor let our crazier fears determine our reactions to real situations.
The American reality is always less good than we can imagine, but usually better than things we have seen.
Experience shows that our big and diverse country requires diverse and distributed decision-making. This means that we almost always come up with optimal (for the real world) solutions, but it also means that success will not be equally distributed. Over the long run, and even the medium one, it means that the general level has improved more than had we determined the one “best.”
Adaptive and flexible beat the one right thing
Adaptive and flexible systems, as ours is, just outperform command and control in complex and uncertain situations in all but the shortest of time frames. Their problem is with the narrative, again a feature of human nature. We think in terms of stories with somebody doing something leading to results. The problem is that in a distributed decision system nobody is in charge of the whole thing and solutions emerge not from the mind of a signal leader, but rather from the interaction and relationship of many minds, often coordinated by networks we cannot see, run by nobody. Embracing this has been a secret of American success that has perplexed the world, and most of us, for around 250 years. It is counter-intuitive to think that we do not need a central leadership.
e pluribus unum
We must resist our intuition on this. One people, one country, one leader appeals emotionally to many people, but recall where the slogan comes from and that is sounds even better when shouted in German.
The better slogan is out of many – one.