Christian Britschgi shares insightful responses by Matt Kibbe, Karol Markowicz, and others to former Biden Covid advisor Andy Slavitt’s grotesque accusation that Americans, over the past 16 months, failed to sacrifice enough.
I never believed that the Government’s response to the epidemic was proportionate: it had no right to the freedoms it took from us; now it continues to withhold them despite the emergency having passed, accordingly it has set the most disastrous precedent for the future of liberty in England.
First, the government is excessively risk averse. It accepts that Covid is here to stay, but refuses to accept the implications of that. The risk of illness is part of life. Covid is now part of life. It cannot be suppressed without suppressing life itself. Viruses mutate all the time. As Oxford’s Professor John Bell has observed, if we bolt down a rabbit hole every time it happens, we are going to spend a very long time underground.
The second thing that has gone wrong dates right back to the original lockdown decision of March 2020. It is the Government’s abiding contempt for its citizens. It does not trust them to take sensible precautions and so resorts to coercion. The logic of coercion is that every one must be treated the same. It makes life easier for the police.
Yet people are not the same. Different groups face radically different levels of risk, depending on whether they have been vaccinated, whether they have certain clinical vulnerabilities, whether they are old, and whether they live in a hot spot like the north-east. The only efficient risk assessments are those made by the people involved, i.e. us. With each week that passes this anomaly becomes more glaring.
Thirdly, there is the tunnel vision which treats public health as the only relevant consideration. The Government’s four tests for emerging from this Hell are all clinical. They attach no weight to our jobs, our mental wellbeing, our culture, our emotional relationships or any other aspect of our lives as social beings.
If we are trying to produce a technical model to inform policymaking and there is uncertainty about some parameter, such as how effective vaccines are in this case, how should we proceed? The correct way to go is to present our central best-estimates and then to express the uncertainty with ranges or alternative scenarios that explore how things might turn out better or worse than our central case.
Yet that does not appear to be what the Government’s Covid modellers are instructed to do. Instead, they build pessimistic assumptions into their central cases, then make their pessimistic cases a kind of disaster scenario where everything is much worse than even the worst current data suggest, and their optimistic scenarios assume things turn out roughly as the latest data implies.
“Rejoice!” as a great prime minister once urged. Ah, but she wasn’t frit, was she? I have never missed Margaret Thatcher more in my life. Imagine the withering appraisal of her successors who somehow manage to be both draconian and timid. You just know Mrs T would have told Sage to get stuffed.
I have written before about the troubling inversion of the traditional view that impositions on fundamental freedoms must be justified, with benefits shown to outweigh the costs, to the Government’s present position that impositions on our freedom of association are to remain until it is satisfied that (unspecified) risks have been eliminated.
In 2020, liberty was taken away in what seemed like an instant. There is a good excuse, they said, one that had never been tried before in living memory. That reason came out of the blue: public health, and the sudden assertion of the rights of people (some people) not to be exposed to germs. That one consideration became the overriding consideration, and liberty had to fall by the wayside. The “libertarian” movement (with some exceptions) not only had no consensus answer to that claim – people had not thought much about it either way – and many top voices in this community even affirmed this view, as if germs are a phenomenon visited upon the world for the first time and therefore required extraordinary measures by the state to protect society from pathogens. The lack of understanding of public health fundamentals disabled the decisive influence the “libertarian” sector of life might have had during the worst attack on liberty during our lifetimes.
DBx: The world owes Jeffrey Tucker a galaxy of thanks for sparking the meeting that produced the Great Barrington Declaration.