Here’s a letter to someone unhappy with what he calls my “heartlessness in the middle of a historical catastrophe”:
You write that I have “a monotonous Covid obsession” and that, unless I stop, you will quit reading my blog.
I regret that I’ll lose you as a reader, for I will not stop pushing back against the Covid-19 madness.
Tamping down the current derangement is the most pressing challenge facing humanity today. I believe that this effort is the most important one to which I have ever, and will ever, contribute. Liberal civilization – the open society – itself is threatened by what my friend David Hart calls “hygiene socialism.” This hubris is a mix of several insane dogmas. Here are only three.
Dogma 1: The spread of an infectious pathogen once on the loose in a globalized world can be, and must be, successfully halted until the arrival of a vaccine. Such a halting, the dogmatists devoutly believe, will happen if we humans alter our behaviors with sufficient discipline and in unquestioning obedience to public-health experts.
Dogma 2: Protection from the pathogen du juor – today, SARS-CoV-2 – is life’s be-all and end-all. Every other goal is either to be ignored or severely discounted if pursuit of that goal is alleged – if only on the flimsiest of evidence or even on mere conjecture – to possibly interfere with humanity’s new Great Purpose, which is reducing as much as is physically possible the risk of exposure to the pathogen. Dying of the likes of cancer, suicide, drug overdose, or poverty is sad but acceptable; dying of Covid-19, however, is an unspeakable tragedy and utterly unacceptable. And wishing simply to enjoy life at the risk of exposure to the virus is the height of suicidal irrationality and homicidal evil.
Dogma 3: Concern for freedom is not merely foolish but downright intolerable if our rulers tell us that we can reduce our risk of exposure to the coronavirus by giving up more of our freedom. All dissent from efforts that are said to promote the Great Purpose must be ignored and perhaps even forcibly quashed. All for the greater good, you see.
As is true of all human experience with governments wielding unlimited, arbitrary power, we little folk are assured that our rulers are shepherding us into paradise. And our rulers have legions of hangers-on and apologists who devoutly believe in both the reality of the promised paradise and in our rulers’ goodness and god-like ability to guide us there if we obey.
Humanity – now in the throes of a deranged, out-of-proportion fear of a somewhat-more-dangerous-than-normal virus (and one that, mercifully, reserves its dangers overwhelmingly for the very elderly) – is collectively agreeing to enslave itself to those persons who promise a paradise of hygiene.
Unless this madness stops, what really awaits us all is a hell of horrors.
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