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On the Reaction to Covid-19

Here’s a letter to a new correspondent:

Ms. Tolbert:

I did indeed see my friend and former colleague Omar Al-Ubaydli’s recent op-ed decrying what he believes to be humanity’s under-estimation of the seriousness of Covid-19. Omar’s essay prompts you to wonder why I – presumably because I oppose the extreme measures taken in the name of fighting this disease – am “not compassionate like Dr. Al-Ubaydli.”

I’ll not dare to compare my compassion to that of Omar, who I know to possess much of it. But I will make two points in response to your e-mail.

First, as I read the evidence, it tells me three things: (1) lockdowns do not work to reduce Covid deaths; (2) lockdowns fuel other health problems, including ones that are fatal; (3) lockdowns create enormous economic hardships for hundreds of millions of people.

If lockdowns actually reduce Covid deaths, we could discuss how to trade-off the benefits of lockdowns against their costs, keeping in mind that Covid victims are not the only persons who suffer and deserve compassion. But because lockdowns don’t even achieve their stated purpose, I simply don’t see how protesting these draconian measures reveals a lack of compassion.

Second, I honestly cannot grasp what Omar has in mind when he complains that “the coronavirus pandemic has failed to produce a comparable emotional response to tragedies on a smaller scale.” Mask-wearing is now nearly universal. The media, screaming about rising Covid cases, incessantly predict a “grim” winter. And so in response, and most tellingly, the vast majority of people – frightened into believing that Covid is far more lethal than it really is, and apparently unaware that Covid is overwhelmingly a danger to the elderly – meekly obey the tyrannical lockdown orders and other restrictions.

These orders and restrictions, on a scale unprecedented in modern history, prove not only that people are taking Covid extremely seriously, but, indeed, that people are taking Covid with a seriousness far in excess of what is warranted by reality.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030


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