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The Real Pandemic Is Unchecked Government Power

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:


David Henderson and Charley Hooper eloquently explain why, as their essay’s title testifies, “Coercion Made the Pandemic Worse” (Dec. 28). They do an especially nice job debunking the lazy assertion that lockdowns, vaccine mandates, and other Covid restrictions are required to avoid what economists call “negative externalities” – unjust inflictions of harm on third parties.

As Messrs. Henderson and Hooper note, those who attempt to justify Covid restrictions by crying “externalities!” consistently fail to consider that the individuals best positioned to take precautions against Covid are not necessarily everyone in the general population but, instead, those relatively few persons who are most vulnerable to the disease or who are especially frightened of it.

But there is one very real externality on the loose today, and it’s one that the pro-lockdown and pro-vaccine-mandate crowd utterly ignore. It’s the unprecedented expansion of discretionary power in the hands of government officials. No negative externality – not even the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus – is as insidious and as inescapable as is the power that so many government officials have recently grasped to unilaterally and indefinitely disrupt familial, social, educational, and commercial interactions.

The real pandemic now is one of unchecked power. Unfortunately, no vaccine is available to control this monster.

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