Wall Street Journal columnist Barton Swaim – inspired by Notre Dame law professor Carter Snead – discusses the inhumanity of lockdowns. A slice: Physical presence is what governmental authorities snatched from people, especially from the vulnerable, during the pandemic. Some of those interventions were necessary, Mr. Snead concedes, but the authorities—together with alarmist news media—showed little capacity to weigh costs against benefits. We exchange stories of well-intentioned but cruel policies carried out on the elderly and infirm. Mr. Snead tells me about a court case in New Mexico in which an elderly man had to sue the state to care for his wife. The couple lived in an assisted-living home—the husband in independent living and the wife in a dementia unit—and a government edict
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Physical presence is what governmental authorities snatched from people, especially from the vulnerable, during the pandemic. Some of those interventions were necessary, Mr. Snead concedes, but the authorities—together with alarmist news media—showed little capacity to weigh costs against benefits.
We exchange stories of well-intentioned but cruel policies carried out on the elderly and infirm. Mr. Snead tells me about a court case in New Mexico in which an elderly man had to sue the state to care for his wife. The couple lived in an assisted-living home—the husband in independent living and the wife in a dementia unit—and a government edict had prohibited them from touching each other. Their health declined precipitously, but “the guy won, thank God.”
Is the benefit of not contracting Covid-19 worth the cost of going without the bodily presence of, say, one’s children and grandchildren for months on end? Put that way, I suspect most Americans’ answers would range from “probably not” to “hell, no.” But in 2020 public-health experts and their defenders in the media proceeded as though “yes” were the only conceivable answer. That suggests our cultural elites and policy makers haven’t thought deeply, or at all, about what the human person is.
“I’m worried that our risk calculus has shifted in a dramatic way,” Mr. Snead says. “You think about the flu, you think about other diseases that could be dangerous—or just driving your car—and it feels to me that our risk tolerance is basically zero at this point. And what does that mean? Is the point of human life simply to hide away in a bubble-wrap container so that you don’t ever encounter any risk?”
The pandemic also cast light on the elites’ attitudes toward work. Many politicians like to proclaim the dignity of work. “A job is a lot more than a paycheck,” Joe Biden’s father used to say, according to the president. “Joey, it’s about your respect, your dignity, your place in the community.” Yet a great deal of policy making since March 2020—months-long prohibitions on gainful labor, cash payments to able-bodied people—did not reflect that sentiment. Hasty and ill-defined appeals to public health were all Western political leaders needed to decree lengthy cessations to productive labor. A German TV ad suggested that the young could achieve heroism by doing absolut gar nichts—absolutely nothing.
That we face many more threats than Covid-19, yet to read the mainstream press or to listen to broadcast media you’d be forgiven for thinking that there is little else that faces us either individually or collectively.
Bombardment with meaningless statistics, invariably out of any context, has bullied many of us into believing we only face one threat to our existence and subjected us to the whims of a class of scientist desperate to control our every waking moment.
Beginning with the latest of our invisible enemies, Tim Stanley in The Telegraph writes about George Orwell’s notion of perpetual war in Nineteen Eighty-Four as a way for leaders to keep the masses in check. Ensure that we remain poor, frightened, and divided: “War is peace because it guarantees elite control.” Stanley is writing about Britain’s policy interventions for the pandemic, and the looming threat that restrictions on the poor Brits – who’ve already endured too many government atrocities in the last fifteen months – may not be lifted out of fear that a new coronavirus wave could paralyze the country (despite a 60%+ vaccination rate, one might add).
The Covid-19 coronavirus is invisible to the human eye, and it takes tests and specialized equipment to detect it (often with a time delay) which means that anyone, anywhere, could be a potential threat to you. The mythology surrounding the pandemic turned not so much the pathogen invisible, but the threat of extreme and unpredictable harm. Remain vigilant and nervous, always.
The trouble is, we haven’t done nearly enough rational assessment of the harms and benefits of anti-Covid strategies. Invoking the idea of existential risk to push us all into complying with behavioural rules got the Government a free pass for policies that, in normal times, would have been unthinkable. Critics of specific measures were easily lumped in with conspiracy theorists who said the whole thing was a hoax, or “just the flu”. Suggesting that baton-charging sunbathers in parks was counter-productive provoked cries of “How many people do you want to die!?”
But there is also a danger that we’ll come to see the world only through the prism of risk, whether quantifiable or existential. If no level of risk is acceptable, why not surrender our everyday freedoms forever? When will we ever reach the point of it being safe to take off the masks and sit next to a stranger? When they first announced a lockdown in March 2020, the UK government turned on the tap of fear, but I don’t think they realised how hard it would be to turn off.
The investments that make people live longer are not usually direct healthcare investments. They are instead things like clean water, dealing with city waste, functional sewerage systems, reducing urban and local pollution, and clean food supplies. These have been proven time and time again to be what makes people living longer.
Now consider the cost of locking down India. Each year investments in these types of basic services create enormous health improvements of around 0.25yrs of additional life expectancy across the population (i.e. every four years life expectancy increases one year). Delaying this process with lockdowns is hugely costly there. A one year delay costs 0.25 life-years x 1.37 billion population = 342 million years of life—an astronomically high figure compared to even the worst-case COVID death toll.
On top of the dodgy data, we had Independent Sage chair Sir David King last week rather hysterically warning that the situation could “explode” into a third wave. Would that be the same Independent Sage which last July proposed “a new overarching strategic objective of achieving a Zero Covid UK”? And the same Sir David King who, in January 2020, provided a defence statement in support of five Extinction Rebellion defendants, declaring that people “will die” if the Government doesn’t bring forward the zero emissions target?
Along with Susan Michie, professor of health psychology at UCL, King and his cabal have been among the chief contributors to the Post-Pandemic Stress Disorder now doing the rounds (look up PPSD, it is actually a thing). If it wasn’t bad enough that these academic doom merchants were perpetuating anxiety with not only misguided but also misleading advice, their damaging emotion-based messaging is also clearly politically motivated.
Left-wing King, the former chief scientific adviser to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, insists his group offers “robust, unbiased advice”. Yet supposedly “Independent” Sage includes two Labour donors, two communists (one former, one practising), a handful of Corbynistas and a Momentum activist.
Texas watch: The seven-day average of new Covid cases in Texas was yesterday (June 18th) only 14 percent of what it was on March 2nd, the day that Gov. Greg Abbott – accused then by Biden of “Neanderthal thinking” – eliminated all state-wide Covid restrictions. Since March 2nd, Covid cases, Covid hospitalizations, and Covid deaths in Texas have all fallen rather steadily and steeply.