How Sweden Triumphed over COVID

Earlier this year, Sweden’s top health official, Johan Carlson, felt obligated to tell the world how wrong everyone else was.  “Some believed that it was possible to eliminate disease transmission by shutting down society,” he said.  “We did not believe that and we have been proven right.”

Is he right?  The three-day moving average for COVID deaths in Sweden is frequently zero these days and hasn’t been in double digits since May.  Sweden has seen a lower mortality rate than most of Europe in 2020.  That wasn’t the prediction.  Sweden never mandated masks, nor did its citizens adopt masking in any significant way.  Sweden never shut down schools for its youngest pupils, nor restaurants or retail stores.  All of the supposed “experts” said that such a non-interventionist response would lead to Sweden becoming a tragic cautionary tale for the rest of us.

Coerced lockdowns and masks must be the only viable solutions, progressives told us for over a year,  because their “experts” like Anthony Fauci said that was what “the science” demanded.  

And yet, there proudly stands Sweden, openly mocking the leftists’ most sacred orthodoxy of the moment. 

But Sweden’s relative success isn’t limited to its medical outcomes.  Not only did Sweden avoid the ravages of the virus in terms of death rates, but its citizens are unquestionably happier and more readily poised for the future.  According to a new Pew Research poll, 86 percent of Swedes say the current economic situation is good, which dwarfs the assessments of Brits (44 percent), Canadians (49 percent), or the French (26 percent).  Sweden’s citizens are most likely, among a host of world nations, to say that their government did a “good job” in handling the 2020 pandemic.  Sweden’s 86 percent positive outlook on the economy is nearly reversed in America, with 71 percent saying that the current economic outlook is bad.

In a world with very few certainties, here are two.  The first is that mask mandates and lockdowns are soul-sapping infringements upon individual liberty and calamitous to the people and economies that employ them.  The second is that mask mandates and lockdowns clearly cannot stop the spread of the virus.

So why do masks and lockdowns continue to be the assumed default responses to any negative news about the virus?

To be sure, the efficacy of those strategies should have always been dubious to any thinking person.  If you remember, the initial proposition of the lockdowners and maskers took the form of infectious slogans like “flatten the curve” and “slow the spread” and, perhaps most insidiously, “we’re all in this together.”  When some, like Dr. David Katz, argued in favor of targeted mitigation for the minority segment of older and vulnerable Americans while allowing the rest of us to go about our lives, we were told that it was simply impossible to think that this small demographic could be protected from the virus.  However, when the government claimed that it could protect everyone from the virus, that was somehow achievable. 

So, the smart guys in government decided that the best way to do that was to send healthy college kids home to live with mom and dad, while grandma and grandpa were living upstairs.  Last May, a pre-disgrace Andrew Cuomo was shocked to find that two-thirds of hospitalizations in New York were people who got the virus at home.  “We thought they were taking public transportation,” he said, “but actually, no, because these people were literally at home.”  He said this before hectoring the public about individual choices, saying that “much of this comes down to individual choice,” because “everything closed down, government did everything it could.”

No one ever explained exactly how lockdowns and masks would make it any safer for us when we emerged from our homes to live normal lives again.  One has to imagine that many Americans simply accepted that COVID might magically disappear if people just masked harder and stayed more isolated from each other for some undefined longer period of time -- which, when you think about it, is no less stupid and unscientific than accepting that a trip to a crowded Costco or a Black Lives Matter protest was safe while going to church or a Trump rally would be a death sentence. 

But perhaps the questions about how masks and lockdowns could make us safer in the long run never required substantiation because they’re not as important as the other question we already answered early in 2020.  And that is, who gets to decide when we can live “normal” lives again?

Cuomo’s hectoring of New Yorkers last year is instructive.  First, citizens were told that they, as individuals, either aren’t capable of making the choices to keep themselves safe or that they can’t be trusted to do so.  Then, when the government enacted policies that simultaneously made people less free and less safe, it was still New Yorkers’ bad individual choices that were blamed.  The answer to this, of course, was to further limit the choices that people have in responding to the risks of COVID in their own lives while giving the government more power to intercede.  This, in most American states and cities, included the doubling down on the bad policies already enacted and the creation of even more intrusive policies.

“Shutting down society,” as Sweden’s Dr. Carlson correctly reminds us, has unequivocally proven to be a failure in eliminating “disease transmission,” though it has proven to be a very successful means of creating corporate monopolies, expanding government authority and influence, and spreading economic and social malaise in the places that employ them. 

So why are these two things assumed to be the default reactions to any negative news around COVID?  Who benefits from dehumanizing the individual in favor of promoting collectivist signs of conformity, and who benefits from creating corporate monopolies, or expanding government authority and influence while stirring economic and social malaise to promote greater dependence upon government institutions?

You know the answer to those questions, just as you know who benefits from mass mail-in voting, ballot harvesting, and a prohibition on photo identification requirements in voting.  

Image: Traut

To comment, you can find the MeWe post for this article here.