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Compared to Lockdowns

Here’s a note to EconLog commenter “Steve”:


In opposition to the Focused Protection advocated in the Great Barrington Declaration – and, presumably, endorsed also by David Hendersonyou again insist that “We did not know then [October 2020] and largely still don’t know how to protect older people, the immunocompromised, etc.”

And so I again remind you that the Declaration’s three eminent co-authors – Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford, Sunetra Gupta of Oxford, and Martin Kulldorff of Harvard – did indeed offer details on what Focused Protection would look like. The fact that these measures would not have worked perfectly and with 100 percent certainty is true. It’s also irrelevant because no measures to achieve any desirable outcome work perfectly and with 100 percent certainty.

But allow me to offer my own proposal – one that I believe would work quite well – for how we might carry out Focused Protection: Give all vulnerable people hazmat suits to wear, and require negative Covid tests of any and all persons who might come near vulnerable people during those times when the hazmat suits aren’t being worn.

“Outlandish! Ridiculous! Absurd!” you’ll cry. “That’s not only impractical; it’s also dehumanizing!”

Really? Compared to what? Compared to lockdowns and school closures – compared to the terrible consequences of indefinitely severing countless, complex webs of commercial, familial, and social relationships – my hazmat-suit proposal is downright mundane and highly doable.

The relevant comparison for any Focused Protection measures (including my hazmat-suit proposal) is not to life as it was up through 2019. Instead, it’s to a world indefinitely locked down or under the threat of lockdown; it’s to a bizarro world filled with deep distress, depressing isolation, unprecedented uncertainty, and terrible tyranny. I submit that by this comparison, Focused Protection (again, even including a measure as extreme and disagreeable as my hypothetical hazmat-suit proposal) is far more practical and acceptable – and far more humane – than are the cruel measures, as ludicrous as they are odious, that most of humanity has suffered since early 2020.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030