Preventing a Repeat of Disastrous Lockdown Policies

The announcement that Texas and Mississippi are lifting their COVID lockdowns and mask mandates is welcome news. “It is really over now,” reporter Alex Berenson tweeted on March 3. “The vaccines will be the excuse,” he added, although cases were plunging well before a significant number of people had been vaccinated.

One certainly hopes that Berenson is correct, although President Biden immediately responded in a predictably unhinged fashion, calling the reopenings “Neanderthal thinking.”  Meanwhile, the CDC continues to wax hysteric and Dr. Fauci predicts that we may be wearing masks into 2022. And, thanks to the Teachers Unions, students still aren’t back in school in large parts of the country. There are many people and institutions in the U.S. that are heavily invested in the pandemic and they won’t turn on a dime. Nonetheless, the movement in the red states may well herald the beginning of a change in some of the big blue states where the financial realities of the lockdowns are becoming impossible to ignore.

Once COVID is in the rear-view mirror, however, conservatives and libertarians -- the pro-freedom forces -- need to seize the narrative from the Left to make certain that policies like these never happen again.

Economics writer Jeffrey Tucker, whose book Lockdowns or Liberty? is a fount of good sense, recently wrote that the issue of lockdowns “has the capacity to be a theme that will resonate far into the future” and could reshape politics for generations.

Tucker speculates on how we might begin to move away from the lockdown mentality:

“Why have the people put up with this? Under normal conditions, they never would have. None of this would have been possible. The one reason they did this time: fear. Fear of getting sick and dying or, if not dying, experiencing permanent health effects. This emotion can last far longer than one might think. But eventually emotions do catch up with facts, among which is that the danger of severe outcomes was wildly exaggerated and the lockdowns achieved nothing in terms of disease mitigation. You mean all this suffering and horror was for naught? Once that realization dawns, fear turns to anger, and anger to action.”

Or, as Charles MacKay put it in his famous book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, “Men… go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”

As that day of realization dawns, the pro-freedom movement must encourage a reappraisal of the lockdown policies by emphasizing three main points:

First, to “follow the science” does not mean to blindly heed whatever the designated technocratic elite say at the moment. Rather, it requires a spirit of free and open scientific inquiry -- a search for truth using the empirical scientific method. Allowing Big Media and Big Tech to censor unpopular scientific views is actually the opposite of following the science. It is repeating dogma.

Second, while the state may invoke certain extraordinary powers in an emergency, the people still retain their basic Constitutional rights. The actions taken by governors and mayors, on dubious legal authority, to shutter lawful businesses that they deemed “nonessential,” restrict church attendance, limit group gatherings, restrict personal movement, and close schools, must not be repeated.

As U.S. District Judge William S. Stickman IV wrote in his September 14, 2020  decision striking down Pennsylvania’s lockdown: “The Constitution cannot accept the concept of a 'new normal' where the basic liberties of the people can be subordinated to open-ended emergency-mitigation measures.”

Third (and most important): we must be always mindful of the unintended consequences of radical state action. The lockdowns, which were of limited value in containing the virus, have actually led to an overall deterioration in the quality of health care.

Dr. Scott Atlas, who served as Special Advisor to President Trump and as a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, has noted that:

“The harms to children of suspending in-person schooling are dramatic, including poor learning, school dropouts, social isolation, and suicidal ideation, most of which are far worse for lower income groups. A recent study confirms that up to 78 percent of cancers were never detected due to missed screening over a three-month period. If one extrapolates to the entire country, 750,000 to over a million new cancer cases over a nine-month period will have gone undetected… Beyond hospital care, the CDC reported four-fold increases in depression, three-fold increases in anxiety symptoms, and a doubling of suicidal ideation, particularly among young adults after the first few months of lockdowns, echoing American Medical Association reports of drug overdoses and suicides… Finally, the unemployment shock from lockdowns, according to a recent National Bureau of Economic Research study, will generate a three percent increase in the mortality rate and a 0.5 percent drop in life expectancy over the next 15 years, disproportionately affecting African-Americans and women. That translates into what the study refers to as a “staggering” 890,000 additional U.S. deaths.”

These effects will be felt for decades. “Perhaps,” said Dr. Atlas, “that is why lockdowns were not recommended in previous pandemic response analyses, even for diseases with far higher death rates.”

The lockdown policies were a disaster for many Americans. The global elites, however, look to those policies as a template to deal with future crises -- real and imagined.

The World Economic Forum has been quite open about using the response to COVID as a pretext for they call a “Great Reset.” In his book, COVID-19: The Great Reset, World Economic Forum (WEF) founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab wrote that:

“With the economic emergency responses to the pandemic now in place, the opportunity can be seized to make the kind of institutional changes and policy choices that will put economies towards a fairer, greener future.”

These institutional changes would be transformational, designed to create a global technocratic world order utterly alien to liberal western values. (Scholar Michael Rectenwald has authored a valuable series detailing these changes and the impact that they would have on economic and civil liberties.)

Today, the old cliché that “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” is more than a warning. It’s a promise.

Image: Pixabay