My GMU Econ colleague Dan Klein finds inspiration in the writings of Hugo Grotius. A slice: Grotius taught European rulers their accountability to their subjects, to God, and to nature. He taught that the individual human being, as such, has natural rights. He taught rulers, through conscience and justice, to moderate their rule and their conflicts. There is a direct line from Grotius to Adam Smith’s “liberal plan of equality, liberty, and justice” and to what Deirdre McCloskey calls The Great Enrichment. Grotius was a great liberal because he saw that everyone has moral agency, as an individual: Rulers are to be judged by the ruled. Everyone has the capacity and the responsibility to judge. Even in war, he suggested that all declarations of war be “accompanied by a declaration of the
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Grotius taught European rulers their accountability to their subjects, to God, and to nature. He taught that the individual human being, as such, has natural rights. He taught rulers, through conscience and justice, to moderate their rule and their conflicts. There is a direct line from Grotius to Adam Smith’s “liberal plan of equality, liberty, and justice” and to what Deirdre McCloskey calls The Great Enrichment.
Grotius was a great liberal because he saw that everyone has moral agency, as an individual: Rulers are to be judged by the ruled. Everyone has the capacity and the responsibility to judge. Even in war, he suggested that all declarations of war be “accompanied by a declaration of the cause of the war; that the whole human race, as it were, might judge of its justice.” Citing Aristotle, he insisted, “Justice is a virtue which belongs to man as man.”
We are not slavish tools of autocrats or government agencies. “Stratocles was laughed at in Athens for proposing a law that whatever was thought good by Demetrius, should be reckoned right and pious.” We laugh at Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook for shutting down discourse that challenges whatever they pretend to regard as the Mount Olympus of Covid wisdom.
In an effort to completely disrupt illicit socializing, Columbia reprogrammed key cards so that they would only grant access to students’ individual residence halls. The campus is currently in the midst of a “temporary” two-week ban on hanging out with other people.
This is madness. Few people are safer from COVID-19 than vaccinated 18- to 22-year-olds, yet campus administrators (and sometimes students) are acting like any amount of non-masking or basic socializing is likely to get people killed.
I’ve written quite a bit about cultural trends in higher education, and how the illiberal values of campus activists have come to dominate all professional spaces where elite opinion holds sway. Progressive young people who view basic free speech principles with antipathy or even disdain are in the process of fundamentally changing the workplace. “We should look to the campus activist culture of the present to discover what our broader culture might resemble a few years from now,” I wrote in a recent article for the Deseret News.
If recent history is any guide, we should be terrified that the current crop of college students might leave campus possessed of the notion that the most insane version of pandemic oppression is perfectly normal and desirable.
If you got your pediatric COVID news from New York Times science and public health correspondent Apoorva Mandavilli, you might be under the mistaken impression that (as Mandavilla asserted Monday) “the reopening of schools has fueled the [recent] surge,” and that “children are as likely as adults to transmit the virus to others, and more likely to do so than adults older than 60.”
Neither of these claims are supported by the evidence.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rise in U.S. COVID hospitalizations began on June 28 (when the rate was at 0.56 per 100,000 residents), or precisely when most schools were closed for the summer. The rate then steadily climbed to 3.73 per 100,000 on August 27, at which point three-quarters of K-12 schools had flung open their doors. Now that the remaining 25 percent of schools have started the 2021-22 school year, hospitalizations are steadily sinking, down to 2.94/100,000.
Mandavilli’s shoddy article, dissected at hyperlinked length in this Twitter thread, deployed such pediatric scaremongering in the service of adding outside pressure to the Food and Drug Administration process of approving under-12 vaccinations. But a more accurate depiction of COVID and schools could be used to fix a policy error that’s negatively affecting families right now: excessive school quarantine policies.
The COVID vax mandates & zealous advocates have turned the anti-vax movement from a tiny minority into a much larger group.
The naivete stuns me.
Coercion & disdain breeds distrust and resistance. Data / respect / persuasion is the better path.
This institutionalisation of fear allows the political establishment to control and immobilise civil society. In this context, the label “anti-vax” becomes an efficient means of silencing any opposition to the narrative of the status quo, thus undermining one of the primary pillars of democracy: freedom of speech. The anti-vax slur operates via a form of “contagion theory” whereby calling anyone a “conspiracy theorist”, or implying that they oppose all forms vaccination, are Machiavellian attempts to silence rational debate and democratic dialogue.
As the Prime Minister said, we go into this winter in much better shape than the last. Unfortunately, there are coronaholics in the media who are loathe to spread comfort and joy. Their work will not be done until Christmas is cancelled and Santa is distributing lateral flow tests instead of presents.
Last week, the BBC got off to a flying start with a report featuring a doctor in a Nottingham Intensive Care Unit. The doctor reported that his unit was already under severe Covid pressure and things were going to get worse. Really? Even though the number of Covid patients in hospital has been flat for the past two months and cases are falling?
So annoyed was I by this first wave of winter scaremongering that I texted “George”, Planet Normal’s senior source in NHS England with access to the very latest data. “Is Nottingham ITU really under pressure?” I asked.
Within minutes, a reply came back. “One of Nottingham’s hospitals is reporting a high level of Covid pressure,” George said, “but the other two hospitals in Nottingham are both green so clearly they are load balancing very well across their three sites. There really isn’t an issue. It is so irresponsible of the BBC to pick out the exceptions and present them as the rule.”
It really is. Totally irresponsible. I’m afraid this is what we have come to expect of the BBC and other broadcasters during the pandemic. One of their favourite tricks is to film in hospitals on a Monday when wards are fullest, because there are no discharges over the weekend. By the time the camera crew has packed up, a large number of fully recovered Covid patients will have been sent home, but you can bet Chief Pallbearer Hugh Pym won’t mention that.
The toll that Pym’s sepulchral mien and shroud-waving reports have taken on the mental health of this country is incalculable. We can expect more of the same over the coming weeks. NHS managers, who have done shamefully little to prepare for respiratory virus season plus Covid, will be keen to scare people away from hospitals by exaggerating the crisis.