When my wife Nellie was pregnant last year, we became obsessed with Economist Emily Oster’s book, Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong–and What You Really Need to Know. Amidst a barrage of conflicting and confusing pregnancy advice, Oster laid out the data on everything we needed to know. Despite what doctors said, sushi, cheese, and the occasional glass of wine were all okay during those nine long months. It gave us the much needed calm we needed during a time of so much uncertainty.
I'm not a mom, but listen to Honestly often--and as someone who wrote about Oster's desire for a "pandemic amnesty," I felt I should hear her out. It changed nothing, really. Oster's nuanced response to her call for following the data during covid belies her own admission that she had her children yelled at other children to keep their distance and put their masks on. Outside. While walking past them. But more importantly, or perhaps tragically, Oster seems to think that this is all some sort of incompetent explosion of not following the data. Not once does she even make a possible conjecture that the data was manipulated (death rates, who is dying, what they're dying from), sometimes invented out of whole cloth (masks work, vaccines are safe and effective). Nor does she point out the most obvious data flaw; that during now a whole three years not one randomized controlled trial was done--not one. Not on masks. Not on the virus and its impact. Certainly not on vaccines. The failure of the CDC, NIH, FDA and WHO--are not merely failures, then--they are at the very least, some of them are--willful strong-arming of un-elected government officials over a supposedly free populous. It is a shameful period of our lives, and there is no guarantee that it won't happen again unless people of every political stripe choose liberty over this dangerous, even maniacal, money-grab/political control. Oster was more concerned about forgiving Fauci, Birx, Collins--the former and latter of the triumvirate who clearly worked to destroy the reputations of Dr.'s Battacharya, Kuldorf and Gupta, and Lord knows what else they did, though the Twitter files make it clear that at the very least, they--and actors within govt. up to and including the immediate former, and current POTUS's worked to remove the free speech rights of American citizens. And for that--we're supposed to call an amnesty? At least be a serious player, if you're going to play at all, Ms. Oster.
First, I love your podcast and have listened to literally every episode. Im really glad there is a way for listeners to comment on those episodes and interact with them. I really liked this episode and its definitely not the first time Ive bought a book after listening to the podcast. I just wanted to offer a thought on the question of why bars were open when schools werent and how a society could possibly allow or argue for that. My take is that it makes perfect sense when you consider the characteristics of Millennials and whatever that next generation of young adults is called. We live in an incredibly entitled and self-centered society and those are the two primary characteristics of these younger generations of adults. This is a result of the parenting styles of Gen X (everyone gets an award, helicopter parents, no suffering, etc) as well as of the effects of social media which is almost entirely about self-glorification. In your last podcast with David Sedaris, he makes a point about people going to art museums and taking selfies in front of the art, thereby placing themselves at the forefront and the art becomes secondary. I think that really speaks volumes to how these generations view the world and their place in it. For all of the talk of equity and whatnot, most of the energy and action is purely performative, again placing the "cause" in the background and themselves at the center. When considered from that standpoint, it makes perfect sense that these adults would prioritize their ability to blow off steam or whatever over the interests of children. You combine that with the plummeting birth and marriage rates and you have adults who are entitled and self-centered, many of whom have no idea of the sacrifice required to make relationships work in the long term and who have no kids, and it just sort of becomes the logical conclusion. We keep kids home to signal how altruistic we are and bars open so we still get what we need to maintain sanity. Its all about self-glorification and self-interest. A society that does not value or teach the value of self-sacrifice and instead promotes celebrity style self-indulgence is going to do a lot of pretty immoral things. Anyhow, thats just my take on it. Again, love the podcast (and really everything you all are doing here!)
Great episode! I'm glad you talked about pandemic amnesty and Emily's explanation was clarifying. I am not right-wing but, like Nellie, Covid policy as it related to children radicalized me. When she defended Randi Weingarten, I felt myself doing a giant Liz Lemon eye roll (again, Team Nellie). I'm not at a point where I'm ready to grant "amnesty", but I have a better understanding of where Emily was coming from. Thank you for that.
I gotta say, this is disappointing, Bari. The discontent over Emily’s amnesty plea didn’t come from the political right thinking that Emily dropped the ball on advocating for kids’ mental and physical health. The problem was that Emily, herself, couldn’t wait to get experimental Covid mRNA injections into her kids…and everyone else…as soon as they became available, and now that the repercussions and irresponsibility of that decision are becoming painfully difficult to ignore, it rather looks like Emily (along with all the decision-makers/pushers) would like to sidestep any personal responsibility for her part in completely abandoning her own method of decision-making—that is, to look to the data SKILLFULLY in order to make an informed choice—falling victim to the fear propaganda machine that she had previously denounced, and peddling a lot of manipulated data to the public. For whatever unfathomable reason, Emily bought into the story of the experimental vaccine as the saviour and anxiously awaited the approval of mRNA injection for children, the safety of which was completely unsupported by data because, as an experimental treatment, there wasn’t ANY data for hardly anything. If “your unvaccinated kid is like a vaccinated grandparent”, then why the sudden desperation to start poking kids and pumping god-knows-what into their systems? There was a disturbing change in Emily’s tune that made me unsubscribe to her substack long ago. It is astonishing to me that you wouldn’t include this in your Covid discussion with her. The vaccination part of the discussion is glaringly absent. What gives?
Perhaps the idea of forgiveness and amnesty is very appealing to someone like Oster, who bought into the vax story, hook, line and sinker. If she can forgive and forget how manipulated SHE was (extending the benefit of the doubt here), then it is possible that she may BE forgiven as well, and nothing has to change…she doesn’t have to question the origins of the data in first place…she doesn’t have to second-guess the meaningfulness of her work, which she is admittedly loath to do, and which she is obviously relying heavily upon for her brand. I think Emily doesn’t want to face the reality of what she still seems to be refusing to look at. And you did her NO service by choosing to avoid this pretty important part of the story.
I gotta ask, as a new parent, are you wanting Emily to maintain guruship so much that you won’t ask the obvious questions? Just the same as Emily is clearly wanting the data to be sound so badly that she is advocating for sweeping it all under the rug and moving on with a clean slate?
Haaaaaaaaa!! Nellie is hysterical! I can totally relate, checking ALL NIGHT if the baby is breathing! That is 100% the right thing to do!
THIS WAS SO GOOD, we need more Emily Oster's in the world. NELLIE, you are a "Danger Ranger" mom, welcome to my world (or used to be, empty nester now.) I noticed you didn't ask any questions/have a discussion on daycare. It definitely can be a hot button issue!
You asked Emily Oster a question about building resilience in children. A stable household is part of it but giving children more independence and autonomy also contributes. I am a huge fan of both Lenore Skenazy (Free Range Kids) and The Blessing of a Skinned Knee/The Blessing of a B- (Wendy Mogel). My children started sleep away camp the summer after kindergarten, for a week, moving up to 4 weeks at a time over the next few years. We expected them to work part-time starting their junior year of high school. We do not track them. And we have learned to count to 10 before responding to a big confession because we want them to keep talking to us and can only help with the problems we know about. They have stumbled and mistakes have definitely been made but the message is always, "You get to decide how this chapter ends." That being said, there is no right way to parent and we are all making it up as we go along to some extent. Good luck with the baby!
It seems to me there's not enough shame attached to physically and sexually abusive mothers or the single-parent households, etc. I wonder if all the hoopla around relatively trivial issues is some sort of compensation for this.
Check out John Rosemond. He has a podcast and books. VERY old school parenting and very Common sense! Loved this episode. Thanks, Bari and Nellie!
This was such a joy to listen to, Nellie made me laugh so many times, I relate to her in so many ways! I listened with my wife and we had interesting and long conversations afterwards, our son will be 2 in April!