Will liberty survive the lockdowns?
Back in March, when the coronavirus lockdowns were first being imposed, President Trump tweeted, "We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself."
At the time, the public was willing to go along with a brief shutdown to prevent hospital overcrowding. But here we are more than seven months later, and the lockdowns that were originally sold as a temporary expedient to "flatten the curve" continue to remain a feature of much of the U.S. economy and continue to exact an enormous toll both financially and in terms of personal liberty. The three largest cities in the U.S. — New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles — remain barren wastelands bereft of the normal bustle of urban life.
In his new book, Liberty or Lockdown, Jeffrey Tucker, the editorial director for the American Institute for Economic Research, makes a cogent case that the lockdowns have been a crime against human rights and science and argues for the restoration of economic and personal liberty.
Tucker's book covers the onset of the lockdowns and the political response, the media hype, the psychological and medical toll, and the immense economic costs. In addition, he provides needed context by surveying pandemics past, including an interesting digression into the American Revolution, which occurred in the midst of a terrifying smallpox epidemic.
Prior to COVID, Tucker explains, societies dealt with new viruses by protecting the vulnerable while allowing groups with low or no immunity to become exposed and to thereby acquire immunity. This old knowledge was thrown out in favor of shutting everything down, an idea that, according to Tucker, had its origins in Bush-era proposals for how to deal with biowarfare.
"Based on the data," Tucker writes, "there seems to be no relationship between lockdowns and lives saved." The lockdowns, he contends, have all been based "on an implausible claim that viruses can be controlled via coercion, same as people can be. But they cannot. And it is not surprising to find enormous evidence, accumulating by the day, that everything they have done has achieved nothing." The recent spike in Europe, in precisely the places that locked down the hardest, attests to Tucker's point.
Tucker's book is more than just a dry recitation of data. He describes poignantly, through first-person accounts, the human carnage exacted by the destruction of livelihoods, the shuttering of schools, and the delay of medical procedures. The psychological toll of the shutdown, measured in terms of drug overdoses, domestic abuse cases, and suicides, may never be fully known.
Tucker makes a telling point about the lack of empathy from the most privileged classes, the ones with the stay-at-home tech jobs for whom the lockdowns "are just fine."
What about a bit of empathy for the waiters, actors, musicians, athletes, hotel workers, airline employees, and all the technicians associated with all affected industries, who saw massive financial losses and job losses? Not a tear shed for the small business owner wrecked. And who could possibly care about the millions locked out of their churches at Easter?
In his foreword, George Gilder, author of the influential 1981 book Wealth and Poverty, noted the failure of the intellectual classes to speak out against the lockdowns. "The civil libertarians went quiet. The center-left became full pro-lockdown, mostly likely for political reasons, regardless of the cost." To be pro-lockdown became an orthodoxy, Gilder writes, and to favor normal life and freedom of association "became a thoughtcrime."
Unfortunately, Tucker's book may be relevant for some time. Joe Biden is now promising that his first official act will be a national mask mandate; one of his top health advisers is urging a new four- to six-week lockdown; and his putative health czar, Dr. Fauci, is telling people not to expect a semblance of normalcy until the end of 2021, even with a vaccine. Meanwhile, global policymakers are using the pandemic to advocate for "A Great Reset" with the intent of creating a global technocracy.
Nonetheless, Tucker closes on a hopeful note. He predicts that the prolonged lockdown misery will result in a rediscovery of classical liberal principles and will lead to blowback against the media, politicians, environmentalists, "the experts," and academia. This is precisely the opposite of what our ruling class wants, but maybe the law of unintended consequences will assert itself. Suppress freedom long enough, and people may come to value it again.
"This is not a time for more government control," Tucker argues. "It is time to look again at the foundations of modernity and human rights and once again believe in them and practice them."
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Image: Alexandra Koch, Pixabay.