Those of you who still believe that politicians can be trusted to use wisely the resources they seize for purposes of dealing with crises such as Covid might want to consult this report by Reason‘s Elizabeth Nolan Brown.
All societies impose taboos – prohibitions the origins of which are not always understood but which help define a community. Britain’s included an aversion to ID cards, a belief that the state had no right to tell us what to think or wear, and that it was none of officials’ business whom we chose to consort with.
Yet such traditional restraints on power are fragile. Once they are widely broken, they cannot be reinstigated: we have turned from a society where none of us knew our NHS numbers (or even that we had one) to a country which relishes the idea of “Vos Papiers, S’il Vous Plaît!”. Until Covid, it would have been unthinkable for a government to shut airports: now it’s just another tool to fight disease. We have normalised the abnormal. This applies equally to economics: if printing money works for Covid, why not for HS2? If higher benefits buy votes during a pandemic, why not all the time? Decline and fall takes many forms.
Most people remember the part when he favored opening the economy, from late summer 2020 onward. What they forget are the two previous periods. There was the initial period in January, when he seemed to deny that the pathogen could do any real damage, as if he could know that. He treated the whole subject like a minor annoyance that would soon vanish (apparently, no one showed him seasonality charts from previous pandemics).
Then there was the second period in which he panicked in the other direction, from late February 2020 when he was being pushed around by Anthony Fauci and others who were pushing an unprecedented experiment of locking down the whole population to control the virus. I will never forget his March 12 speech to the nation which looked like a hostage video. He ended the video with an announcement that he would block all planes from…Europe. I didn’t even know a president had such power.
The third period came many months later, long after the economy had been wrecked, the population demoralized, and his political opponents had him on the run. Out of options, he finally turned to a scientist outside of the government bureaucracy, one who had clarity of mind and the ability to communicate clear truths. He was Scott Atlas of Hoover and Stanford.
The CDC clings to its Covid powers. A slice:
Covid cases have plunged 96% since early January. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults have at least once vaccine dose, and states have lifted virus restrictions. Yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday declared that the public-health emergency continues and extended its nationwide eviction moratorium for another 30 days.