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Human Beings Are Not To Be Trusted With the Power to Lockdown

Here’s a letter to the Telegraph:


Zoe Strimpel rightly decries New Zealand’s turn to tyranny in its fight against Covid (“Saint Jacinda has made controlling Covid a myopic moral mission, with no end in sight”, Jan. 29). But she errs in insisting that “lockdowns had their place.”

Accumulating evidence reveals lockdowns’ impotence against Covid’s spread and their brawn at inflicting on society enormous collateral damage. It’s unsurprising, then, that until early 2020 the public-health consensus was to deal with pandemics, not with lockdowns, but with what the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration call “Focused Protection.”

But a more fundamental reality is that no government – as the New Zealand experience reveals – is to be trusted with the power to lockdown. By its nature, such power is highly discretionary and, thus, inconsistent with the rule of law. And once this frenzied genie is let out of its bottle, containing it is extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible.

The power to lock us down might be safely entrusted to omniscient angels. Unfortunately, we’re governed, not by such seraphs, but by humans – a species whose hubris-prone members have a long history of lusting for power, seizing it, and then rationalizing its inevitable abuse.

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