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In Defense of the Morality of Lockdown Opposition

Here’s a letter to the first commenter on my recent letter to Tyler:

Mr. Wise:

Commenting critically on my recent open letter to Tyler Cowen you describe my opposition to Covid-19 lockdowns as springing from an “anarchist/libertarian fantasy.” This description is inaccurate. One doesn’t have to be an anarchist to oppose lockdowns. In fact, one doesn’t even have to be a libertarian. Two of the three co-authors of the Great Barrington Declaration are on the political left, while the third describes himself politically as skewing “center-right.”

Also, my position on prevention – which I share with the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration – is, contrary to your claim, not so much to have “the infected voluntarily self-isolate” as it is to have the vulnerable self-isolate, with medical care concentrated upon them. There’s no good reason to indefinitely shut everyone in their homes and out of places where they work and socialize when only the elderly are at serious risk of dying from Covid.

Furthermore, the fact that Covid can be lethal and is caused by an infectious pathogen is not close to being a sufficient condition for forcing people to steer clear of each other. As is well-known, children are less likely to die from Covid than they are from seasonal flu. Yet no one argues that society should be locked down every flu season in order to save some children from succumbing to the flu

Indeed, I suspect that you yourself would oppose seasonal flu lockdowns even in the face of claims that such measures would save some children’s lives – claims that would be just as credible as are claims that Covid lockdowns save lives. If I’m correct, would it be appropriate for someone who has children in mind to fling at you the following condemnation: “Only the most bankrupt of moral ideologies support the idea that exercise of your liberties has no limits when the consequences are the death of the most vulnerable”? If not, what justifies your flinging this condemnation at me for my opposition to Covid lockdowns? (By the way, I’ve never said that the exercise of liberties should have “no limits.” That’s a straw man.)

Finally, you write – as do many others who support lockdowns – seemingly in ignorance of Covid’s actual lethality. According to the CDC, Covid’s infection-fatality ratios in the U.S. are these:

0-19 years: 0.00003
20-49 years: 0.0002
50-69 years: 0.005
70+ years: 0.054

Thus, for example, of all Americans aged 20-49 who are infected with Covid only 0.02 percent will die from it.

Covid is indeed more dangerous for adults than is the seasonal flu. Yet I, at least, cannot look at these numbers and conclude that government is justified in upending our society and economy as it is doing in the name of fighting this disease. And if my having this attitude means that I’m morally bankrupt, then to this charge I plead guilty.