No response at all from government would have been far better response to the coronavirus outbreak than what we got: lots and lots of government. From John Tamny at aier.org:
wanted to stay put in Colombia to build a better future for my daughter, but we have to go back.” Those are the words of Nelson Torrelles to Wall Street Journal reporter John Otis. As Otis reported in the August 31 edition of the Journal, the “haggard and hungry” Torrelles along with his wife and 5-year old daughter are walking back to Venezuela on a Colombian highway.
They’d initially moved to Colombia to escape Venezuela’s socialist hellhole, only for Torrelles to get a job as a waiter at a barbecue restaurant in Bogota. But when Colombia joined much of the rest of the alarmed world in shutting down its economy in March in response to the coronavirus, Torrelles lost his job and soon enough the family apartment that he couldn’t make rent on. Hard as it may be to imagine for those of us lucky enough to live in the United States, the hungry Torrelles and his family are moving back to Venezuela.
Please stop and think about this for a minute. Please stop and imagine the pain Torrelles is in. It surely extends well beyond hunger. Imagine not being able to adequately provide for your family, including a daughter too young to understand that your failures are largely beyond your control. Words don’t begin to describe what Torrelles must be going through, nor can someone lucky enough to be in the United States understand just how awful things must be for Torrelles and his family.
About the coronavirus shutdowns, this column will stress yet again what it always has: the greater the presumed lethality of any virus, the less of any kind of need for shutdowns or government intervention. Practicality is behind this simple assertion.
For one, economic growth has long been the biggest enemy of virus and disease precisely because economic growth produces the surplus resources that can be mobilized in pursuit of cures for what ails us. If something threatens us with sickness or even death, no reasonable person would respond with forced economic contraction.
Second, the greater the presumed lethality of any virus, the more that any laws or rules meant to limit its spread are superfluous. Really, what about the high possibility of sickness or even death requires a law? People don’t need to be told to not hurt or kill themselves. No reasonable person would seek to expand government power over human action during the spread of a virus precisely because wise people would govern themselves.
To which some who absolutely revel in being told what to do will respond that not everyone is rational when it comes to protecting themselves. So true.
All of which speaks to the third reason any kind of governmental response to a virus is impractical. It is because accepted wisdom rarely ages well. Think back to AIDS in the 1980s, and the popular view that it could be spread by people merely existing in the same room.
Some people will most certainly throw caution to the wind about any virus, and it cannot be stressed enough that these people are crucial. Their indifference or their disagreement with accepted wisdom means essential information will be produced. Specifically, those who don’t share the alarmism of doctors like Anthony Fauci and Scott Gottlieb, two individuals who in no way face the risk of going without food, shelter or life’s comforts if it turns out they’re wrong, can tell us if those who aim to protect us are wrong or right. In particular, if some wholly ignore the Faucis and Gottliebs of the world only to experience no ill health effects for doing just that, the medical profession and society more broadly will be much smarter as a consequence.
Lest we forget, Fauci was the doctor who told us a husband could pass on AIDS to his wife just by being in the same room. This was 1983. He knew so little. So did everyone. The past raises an obvious question about the present: why would doctors and scientists eager to know the truth be so adamant as Fauci and Gottlieb are about ongoing governmental limits on human action? Those wholly interested in the truth would presumably cheer those not eager to follow official, or unofficial rules and accepted societal norms. They produce information as important, and arguably more important than the rule followers. Again, there’s so much we don’t know.
At the same time, what we know is that per the CDC, the hospitalization rate for those infected with the virus is .1 percent? As for deaths, the New York Times reported once again on August 18th that “More than 40 percent of all coronavirus deaths in the United States have been tied to nursing homes.” “Once again” is operative mainly because the Times has long reported this fact, and it’s one that has long led the half-awake to a very simple conclusion: some, or maybe a lot of the U.S. coronavirus deaths have been a consequence of the elderly dying with the virus as opposed to having died directly because of it.
It turns out the CDC agrees with this blinding glimpse of the obvious. It recently released a report indicating that over 94 percent of the U.S. coronavirus deaths occurred among individuals with “underlying medical conditions” like diabetes, heart failure, respiratory failure, and other maladies. So while there’s so much so many don’t know, including doctors, what’s long been apparent is now being accepted even by the CDC; U.S. death counts related to the virus are overstated. Perhaps wildly so.
It’s a reminder that the answer to any illness or any other presumed problem must always begin with freedom. Not only does it produce crucial information that truth-focused doctors and scientists would plainly want to know, not only does it produce the growth that provides cures, it also helps those with the least avoid what Nelson Torrelles is enduring right now.
Again, please stop and imagine the many layers of his agony. Having done that, please ask yourself in your relative comfort just how deep your corona-religion is? Is it so deep that you’ll continue to turn a blind eye to the global suffering that’s taking place so that you can feel safe from a virus that thankfully kills so few? Please think deeply about this. The lives of hundreds of millions of innocent people with exponentially less than you hang on your level of alarmism, and the strange joy you derive from being told what to do.
John Tamny, research fellow of AIER, is editor of RealClearMarkets. His book on current ideological trends is: They Are Both Wrong (AIER, 2019)