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Kevin J. O'Toole, the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is a former New Jersey State Senator. (Photo: Kevin J. O'Toole.)

The O’Toole Chronicles: Hanlon’s Razor

By Kevin O'Toole, June 05 2020 12:00 am

I was recently taught by my son about the aphorism – Hanlon’s Razor – which states, in part, that you can never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

These last three months have shown us all sides of our humanity. While we have seen love, hate, death, fear, concern, stupidity, compassion, dedication, it is the comments and actions of elected and appointed officials that I find a tad curious.

It appears that the COVID virus has almost instantly turned everyone into a self-anointed expert in communicable diseases, with a minor in macroeconomics.  How could we all be all things?  The reality is that many of us are not, and as I have written in the past: let the real experts guide the discussion.

Some would argue that we should have shut down earlier and more quickly mandated the use of masks, PPE, and other safety procedures. It was a tough call.  There was a demand on hospitals almost hourly that was potentially pushing our healthcare system off a cliff.  Thankfully, through the collective effort of government and the citizens we have flattened that curve and are on the downward trajectory.

It now appears that government and business have a better understanding of what is needed regarding inventoried supplies. It is clearer now that government and business need to intersect and coordinate much better. With this pandemic, we have seen government and the private sector work at its best – and sometimes at its worst.

Yes, many of us recognize that we are never out of the proverbial woods. A second wave, new hot spots, a reengineered virus, are all things that haunt us.  A vaccine seems promising and the world seems to be working together to race the clock. The public officials who talk about the vaccine being 12 to 24 months away appear to be wrong.  The science and research suggest that after the current human trials, a Fall or Winter vaccine could be possible.

One of the largest issues confronting us now is rebuilding the economy, mom-and-pop shops, a Fortune 100 company, or our local and state governments.  Slow rolling the restart of the economy is one of the biggest complaints that we hear. Some of the crushed businesses will never come back. Unemployment in all sectors will remain obscenely high.

Whether in the public or private sector, we need a concise and consistent plan of recovery. Much like the summer of “Who shot JR?,” people can’t take the suspense anymore – and this is real life.

This pandemic has taught us a lot about ourselves, our governments, our elected officials, our community leaders and our business community. If we do not apply the lessons learned, in real time, to our recovery efforts, while I am not ready to call it out for maliciousness; perhaps Hanlon’s Razor might be more appropriate.

This column originally appeared on InsiderNJ.

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