Some Covid Links

by Don Boudreaux on October 3, 2021

in Current Affairs, Legal Issues, Property Rights, Risk and Safety, Seen and Unseen

Christian Britschgi reports on the CDC’s, and state and local governments’, unlawful eviction moratoria. A slice:

These eviction moratoriums were dropped into place with virtually no public discussion of the limits of bureaucratic power, the rights of private property holders, the unintended consequences, or any other ramifications of such moves. Governments simply asserted that they had these powers and then used them.

The moratoriums—like so many other extreme COVID-era measures that were supposed to be an emergency stopgap—soon became a seemingly permanent feature of public policy. In the initial months of the pandemic, 43 states adopted some form of eviction restriction, according to the Eviction Lab at Princeton University. By September 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), leaning on a novel, near-limitless interpretation of its own powers, put a national moratorium in place. States could still implement their own eviction bans, but only if they were stricter than what existed at the federal level.

Bravo for Sen. Rand Paul for standing up – with science on his side – to the authoritarian, dogma-trumps-science Xavier Becerra.

Martin Kulldorff on Twitter:

Those who have had #COVID and do not want the vaccine are not anti-vaccine. They simply understand science and natural acquired immunity.

Here’s another report of the cruelty and suffering that inevitably spring from a single-minded focus on avoiding one particular risk. (HT Jay Bhattacharya) A slice:

It can not be easy to measure the impact of isolation, while we can not avoid data on COVID cases, rates of infection, and the models they breed. The isolation experienced by special-needs individuals, like that visited upon so many of society’s vulnerable through pandemic restrictions, receives little attention because those touched by it are unable to speak effectively for themselves. I can not imagine that the officials who made the decisions that closed special-needs programming thought carefully about how much damage their decisions would cause to individuals around the world. All I can hope is that one day, those responsible for decisions that have unleashed such isolation will take advantage of the solitude that life offers to reflect fully on what they have wrought.

Matthew Ratcliffe explains “how lockdowns eclipse the harms they cause.” Three slices:

What else could have been done? It was never a case of imposing “lockdowns” (a term I employ here to refer to combinations of (a) stay-at-home orders, (b) school- and university-closures, and (c) closure of non-essential shops and hospitality) or doing absolutely nothing. One alternative would have been to adopt a more discerning approach, focusing our efforts upon protecting and supporting vulnerable people (instead of, e.g., discharging thousands of untested hospital patients directly into care homes). But, regardless of what else we might have done, did the benefits of lockdowns at least outweigh the harms inflicted? Let us suppose for the sake of argument that lockdowns (or, at least, some of them) did succeed in significantly reducing the number of virus deaths. Before endorsing such measures, it remains important to consider the many harms they cause, including deaths due to a variety of other causes. However, the costs of lockdowns have received remarkably scant attention throughout the pandemic. Of course, there are regular snippets in the news, regarding one or another actual or potential harm associated with them, but these need to be scrutinized systematically and in detail—only then do we get to see the full picture.
The task of evaluating lockdowns, of identifying and responding to matters of importance, posed a distinctive challenge. Lockdowns profoundly disrupted the very frameworks of values, commitments, concerns, projects, habits, expectations and relationships relative to which the significance of unfolding events is more usually grasped. Previously taken-for-granted political values concerning liberty and autonomy were turned on their heads overnight: citizens of democratic countries were punished for straying more than a few miles beyond their homes, forbidden from kicking balls in parks with their children, publicly shamed for taking walks in the countryside, arrested for going surfing at public beaches, and even had masks forced onto their faces by police officers. Established moral standards underwent a similar upheaval. Depriving people of the opportunity to be with loved ones during their final days and hours was now the right thing to do, even as thousands of care home residents and hospital patients died lonely, frightened and confused. Children were prohibited from seeing their friends, confined to their homes (which, for many of them, were small flats with no outdoor space), allowed out no more than once per day (for exercise, not play!), with significant risk of serious harm in the guise of mental health problems, neglect, abuse, impaired social and emotional development, and loss of educational opportunities. Women had to give birth without the support of partners, family members or friends, leaving many of them traumatised. The unthinkable became not only acceptable but obligatory. Then there were all of the usual routines, through which we encountered the little things that mattered to us during the course of our daily lives—the walk to the shop; morning coffee with a friend; the journey to work; regular visits to an elderly relative. On top of this, many of those projects that gave people’s lives short- or longer-term meaning and structure were lost, suspended, curtailed, or substantially altered—getting married; starting or developing a business; studying for a university degree and graduating; doing one’s A-levels; visiting relatives overseas; training to be a pilot; participating in community groups.
Human beings are not objects that can be stored away for a while, remaining unaltered until they are re-activated. Human life is a process of pursuing meaningful life possibilities, which fit together as parts of a larger, temporally organized pattern. Many of us experienced not just the suspension, but the irrevocable loss, of possibilities that were profoundly important to us. For some, this involved losing whole networks of goals and values that were central to the structures of their lives, to who they were and to who they aspired to be. There are certain possibilities that cannot be taken away from someone while leaving their identity intact. For instance, being a musician may be more than just something that a person does; it may be central to the kind of person they are and also to their sense of being a particular, distinctive person. As other survey respondents wrote: “terrible grief and mourning for my lost ‘life’”; “grief over the future life that is no longer likely to be available”; “I feel a great sense of loss over things which have given me pleasure and confirmed my sense of self throughout my life. They’re absent now and may not return soon, if at all (singing in choirs, performing, rehearsing)”. A full appreciation of the costs of lockdowns needs to somehow factor in and evaluate the cost of depriving people of their social identities in this manner, inhibiting their ability to be who they are and pursue possibilities central to their lives.

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