A quick aside: does anyone remember all those stories from over the summer, up to and including Dr. Anthony Fauci’s congressional testimony in August, in which the lockdowners lavished praise on Europe for supposedly shutting down the “right way” in the spring and successfully beating back the virus? Or how that experience supposedly showed that the United States did not lock down hard enough or that it reopened too soon? Those stories were shown to be utter nonsense at the time also – the U.S. lockdowns matched several European countries in stringency, and generally lasted 1-2 months longer than their European counterparts. But Europe’s new Covid case patterns have now vastly overtaken the same metric for the United States.
Unfortunately, lockdowner ideology continues to spread in the United States as well. True to form New York City recently reimposed zip code-based “hot spot” lockdowns last week – and promptly went to work issuing over $150,000 worth of fines to violators, once again targeting poor people and minority groups in the process. We will likely see this pattern spread in coming weeks much like Europe, only in the United States’s case it will come in addition to residual restrictions from the spring. Although the middle of the country has “reopened” for the most part, large sections of the Northeast and the West Coast – two of our major population centers – were still operating under more stringent restrictions as of two weeks ago than almost all of Europe.
Inconsistency about whether mask wearing was virtuous or antisocial also bred defiance of mask requirements, turning the pieces of fabric into “a flash point in the virus culture wars,” as The New York Times put it. Blame for the controversy can be laid, at least in part, on confusion sown by government officials themselves.
“Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!” U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams tweeted on February 29, in an effort to maximize masks available to health care workers. “They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus.”
By June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had changed its messaging and was urging general use of masks. But that guidance was contradicted by the World Health Organization, which said that “the widespread use of masks everywhere is not supported by high-quality scientific evidence.”
One reason economists care about lost earnings is that they increase the risk of death. Lower incomes mean people aren’t able to buy safer cars and afford healthier foods, which inevitably leads to shorter lifespans. Even if the reports overstate the financial losses dramatically, these are large losses and will surely lead to tragic health outcomes in the future. Moreover, mental-health surveys indicate that keeping young children isolated from each other for months has devastating psychological consequences.
International trade and cross‐border investment produce some degree of reliance and risk, but in policymakers’ rush to indict trade and globalization, they dismiss the enormous benefits that Americans get from participating in the global economy as workers, consumers, producers, and investors. Those benefits would be casualties of a protectionist overreaction that would make us poorer, more vulnerable, and less resilient.