COVID Authoritarianism Has Changed Our Polity

We are not the same country that we were just a few years ago.  However unfortunate it may be to realize it, COVID has changed the political identity of America.  To put it bluntly, it has become normal to expect that the government can close your business, robbing you of your livelihood and your family of the fruits of your labor, in order to protect hospital infrastructure and personnel.  

Last March, that was the argument that propelled America into lockdown.  Just “fifteen days to flatten the curve,” we were told.  The prospect of some hospitals, in a very specific few locations, becoming overwhelmed by COVID patients caused the bulk of the economy to shut down and civil liberties to be suspended.

Fifteen days of lockdown and social distancing and school closures, if you remember, became “until Easter,” which became “until the spread slows,” which became “until the number of new cases fall,” which became “if everyone just wore masks, we could get back to normal,” which became “we can’t open until we get a vaccine,” which became “even vaccinated people should mask up and socially distance,” which became “oops, obviously the vaccine is super safe for anyone who’s taken it, so if you’ve taken it, you don’t have to distance or wear masks.”

It’s hard to miss the trajectory of our free-fall down the fabled “slippery slope” toward ideological authoritarianism, but in case we had any doubt, the federal government has just signified that it will be sending agents, door-to-door, to homes of the unvaccinated (the identities of whom are ostensibly protected by a federal “right” to health privacy), and that the federal government is working hand-in-hand with social media companies to ensure that only government-approved health propaganda can be distributed in the most prominent e-town squares.

There is an unmistakable incoherence and disingenuousness to the efforts of the COVID alarmists today, however.

Once, the argument was that by not staying home, by not wearing a mask, you were endangering those who were at serious risk of harm from infection.  You were endangering healthcare workers, too.  And, for reasons never explained and completely unexplainable by any coherent science, young and healthy people who are not significantly affected by the virus and are at extremely low risk of harm from infection, and who would gain vital immunity through exposure, were somehow prolonging the pandemic by venturing outside their houses. 

Make no mistake, these are all weak arguments in comparison to arguments for targeted mitigation of risks among only the most vulnerable, such as Dr. David Katz’s suggestion as early as March 20, 2020, in the New York Times.  But they were seductive nonetheless because they were arguments for the collective good.

Today’s argument is quite different.  There is virtually zero risk that any hospital, anywhere, in the United States will be overrun by COVID patients.  The hospital workers at those hospitals are at equally small risk, given that the vast majority of them are vaccinated, and thus protected, or have been given the opportunity to have become vaccinated.

Likewise, there’s no impulse to get the vaccine to protect old people or sick people.  If any older, high-risk Americans want the vaccine, those Americans have either gotten it or can get the vaccine for free, in most cases.

This all raises two very serious questions. 

Why does anyone care who gets vaccinated at all?

Those who want to have the vaccine have either gotten the shots or have ready access to it.  Those who don’t want the vaccine have not taken steps to get it, because they don’t desire to do so.

Those who’ve gotten the vaccine are protected from serious harm from COVID infection.  After all, if they were not, why would they get the vaccine in the first place?  Those who have not gotten the vaccine, we can presume, are not concerned about the risk of infection. 

Children are incredibly resilient to COVID infection.  And, mercifully, the “science” hasn’t yet suggested that we begin jabbing our youngest Americans with a swiftly crafted, novel vaccine to protect them from something their bodies would easily build natural immunities against.

There is no “public” consideration here.  Adults who encounter an unvaccinated person have had opportunities to have been vaccinated, at this point, whether it’s an elderly person, an obese man with diabetes, or a hospital worker. 

So, who, exactly, does forcing the vaccine upon an unvaccinated person actually protect?

If the government can force vaccination for what is, to you, an incredibly unthreatening risk, what can’t the government do?

We’re outside the realm of government policy based upon the “collective good,” and have reached the realm of government policy based upon what the government believes is “for your own good.”

If we accept that the government should be in the business of coercing Americans to accept the physical injection of an experimental vaccine, which carries unknown risks, to inoculate them against a virus that represents an infinitesimal risk of serious harm or death to the vast majority of healthy Americans, why shouldn’t the government be in the business of telling us what shouldn’t be introduced to our bodies, given new scientific evidence?

The government is already working with social media companies to determine what we should and shouldn’t read, as Jen Psaki reminds us.  Why shouldn’t the government also tell us how much we can eat, drink, smoke, work, or exercise?  After all, the constantly evolving and often wrong “science” says that there’s an optimal level for all of those things.  Why shouldn’t we be made to “follow the science” by our government betters, for our own good?

Make no mistake, the COVID pandemic, with the media and technology infrastructure that was in place in 2020, is an authoritarian’s dream.  But the logic that began the authoritarian push is no longer in play. 

If the vaccines work, the vaccinated are protected.  And nearly all Americans have now had the opportunity to have become vaccinated.  There is no longer a public concern in this matter, neither regarding hospitals nor public spaces, and neither about grandmas nor kids in school. 

What we’re seeing is just plain, old-fashioned authoritarianism -- you will do what the government and its surrogate “scientists” think is best for you.  Trust us, they say.  “It’s for your own good.” 

That’s all the desperate COVID alarmists have left.

Graphic credit: public domain image

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