Sheer cowardice explains most of the dearth of dissent. It’s easy to forget how cravenly careerist people become when they are afraid. Most people would rather lie or be silent than risk facing disapproval of friends and colleagues. Cancel culture makes this worse. Doctors who dare talk about natural immunities or the talisman of masks and distancing find themselves investigated by medical boards. Academics who speak out are accused of encouraging superspreaders, blasted by colleagues including students. It’s way beyond witch hunts at this point. As a result, you can easily get the impression that everyone agrees with the desperate need to dismantle civilization as we know it.
Every day, on the airwaves, in the newspapers and on social media, people famous and not famous get more and more bloodthirsty for harsher lockdowns. Communism is the new value system, and I have to say I did not see this coming. From people at the Adam Smith Institute who describe themselves as ‘neo-liberal’, extolling the virtues of communist lockdowns to columnists at the Daily Mail the thirst is for more and more power over your neighbour.
It is no longer love thy neighbour: it is crush your neighbour, judge your neighbour, snitch on your neighbour. And we are told this is all for the neighbour’s own good. I don’t think so.
Cynicism is the refusal, or the inability, to believe. We lockdown sceptics, for this reason, though we may be labelled as cynics by our moralistic opponents, are in fact not cynical. We believe in freedom, dignity, reason, truth, joy, and many other human possibilities. We believe. Neither are the lockdown zealots cynical. They too believe, in the primacy of health and safety, in the threat posed by the virus, in the need to sacrifice individual rights for the common good, and other events and values. The argument on both sides is populated by believers, many of whom may have surprised themselves and us. Before the Covid events of this year, we may never have felt ourselves to have the convictions on which we have recently relied upon and acted. But we clearly did have those convictions; it is just that we lived with them in more or less peace and were not required to make urgent appeal to them on a daily basis.
In practice, the five Pacific “success stories” may have similar results thus far in limiting outbreaks. But they also employed five completely different policy responses to the virus. One would not know this by reading the remarks of Fauci or the many commentators who invoke these countries, only to stress the supposed propriety of locking down again. Although the Oxford Stringency Index remains a deeply imperfect measure of lockdown severity, it nonetheless captures the extreme policy variation in the Pacific “success stories” when compared to the United States.
The latest lockdowns across the country will be deadly for the small businesses that have endured the pandemic this far. While there are no official numbers yet, business data show significant losses. Yelp’s Local Economic Impact Report found that, from March 1 through Aug. 31, nearly 100,000 businesses listed on Yelp had closed permanently due to the pandemic, an average of more than 500 a day.