But his larger point is surely right: Policymaking should not be dictated, as it is now, by a combination of raw fear and lousy data, much less the vanity and political calculations of the president.

The term “sustainability” comes to mind. Sooner or later, people will figure out that it is not sustainable to keep tens of millions of people in lockdown; or use population-wide edicts rather than measures designed to protect the most vulnerable; or expect the federal government to keep a $21 trillion economy afloat; or throw millions of people out of work and ask them to subsist on a $1,200 check.

The risks posed by the coronavirus are real, immediate and frightening. The risks of doing ourselves even greater damage by indulging the illusion that we can impose Chinese-style controls in a free society or refuse to countenance trade-offs between public health and economic survival are no less real. It’s a tragedy that we do not have a president who can explain these facts, and who inspires the trust needed to move us toward safety.