Will coronavirus deaths be treated like stroke or cancer deaths – an ugly reality in an imperfect world? Or will they become the medical equivalent of terrorist fatalities, blamed on state policy? Early signs point to the latter.
For a year, now, the world’s media have exaggerated the impact of human agency on the virus. Every international disparity in infection or death rates is presented as a result of policy, rather than of differences in demographics, population density, pre-existing immunity, climate or, indeed, luck.
With most diseases, we take for granted that prevalence varies geographically; but, when it comes to the coronavirus, we pretend otherwise.
It is possible that we will eventually treat Covid as an endemic seasonal illness – as we do with, say, Spanish flu, whose virulence has declined over the years. But it is equally possible the reverse will happen, that other diseases will be treated like Covid, that every lethal virus will trigger demands for a lockdown.
“You can’t put a value on human life” is a good slogan, but a bad policy. The one thing worse than putting a value on life is refusing to do so.
Lionel Shriver is correct: “From Trumpism to lockdown, people believe in the craziest things“. Here’s her conclusion:
Nevertheless, 85 per cent of Britons endorse lockdowns to suppress Covid-19, and the stricter the better. Yet liberal democracies have never before responded to contagious disease by rescinding civil rights, repressing family and social life and stifling their economies. Just as conspicuously, lockdowns, and the UK’s equivalent high-tier restrictions, demonstrably have not worked. Turn on the news: lockdown is not working now. The coronavirus is ‘out of control’ because it’s never been in control. Biology does not respond to government fiat, much less to absurd micromanaging like having to order a ‘substantial meal’ with a pint or classifying a coffee as a ‘picnic’. Joining some two dozen similar international studies, yet another peer-reviewed paper from Stanford University documented last week that while mild interventions like social distancing and appeals to the public have some epidemiological effect, lockdowns do not: ‘We fail to find an additional benefit of stay-at-home orders and business closures.’
Yet so imperviously certain is the fact-proof popular belief in lockdown that anything I might write to debunk the policy will fall overwhelmingly on deaf ears. For many readers, I’ve merely revealed once more that I live in the same sort of dangerously deranged, even murderous, alternative universe as the ‘stop the steal’ camp that ransacked the US Capitol. Lockdown advocates have the numbers. But crowds are known for both wisdom and madness. And people believe what they want to believe. No one wants to imagine that they’ve made often drastic personal sacrifices and helped ravage their country into the bargain to no purpose. How can you be sure which of us is living in a delusional, self-reinforcing bubble?
Fraser Myers explains that lockdowns were never truly the only option. Here’s his conclusion:
More alarmingly, there are still calls from fanatical voices demanding a continuation of lockdown even when the most clinically vulnerable have been vaccinated, by which point the death rate will have collapsed. There is also a very real danger that lockdown will be deployed as the tool for dealing with the next pandemic, or even other threats such as climate change. What is perhaps most tragic about lockdown is that it has demobilised society by shutting everyone indoors, when we should have mobilised the country to the task of protecting the vulnerable.
Here’s Jeffrey Tucker on some of Trump’s policy failures. His conclusion:
Counterfactuals are impossible but nonetheless tempting. What if the Trump administration had not alienated virtually the whole of the business community with its attempt to reverse 70 years of progress in global trade? What if it had pursued the path of sincere diplomacy rather than coercive belligerence with China? What if it had pushed legal reforms in immigration rather than executive edicts? And what if in January the White House had consulted traditional public health experts rather than allowing career bureaucrats to talk the president into locking down?
We can never know the answers to these questions. But it is likely the case that the country and world would be a very different place than it is today, perhaps even a greater place. The economic policies of the Trump administration constitute one of the greatest lost opportunities of the postwar period. We’ll be paying the price for decades. The fundamental problem traces most fundamentally to an illiberal philosophy behind the seeming policy chaos. Repairing that problem is essential to laying the necessary groundwork to recover what has been lost.
Ontario physician Patrick Phillips is interviewed by Bright Light News: