In his letter “Making Medicine an ‘Anti-Racist’ Profession” (Aug. 16), Jack Resneck Jr., president of the American Medical Association, claims that “disparities in life expectancy” are evidence of racism. I hope he uses better logic in treating patients. Are all differences in life expectancy attributable to discrimination? In 2020, average life expectancy for U.S. women was more than 5 years greater than the life expectancy for men. Would he interpret this difference as antimale discrimination? Are there no other relevant factors?
Prof. Thomas Grennes
North Carolina State University
My GMU Econ colleague Bryan Caplan reports on survey data that show more and more Republican voters actually coming to oppose
minimum-wage legislation legislation that artificially obstructs low-skilled workers’ abilities to compete for employment.
• A declining sense of fiscal responsibility. In the nation’s first 140 years, the federal government ran 101 annual budget surpluses and only 39 deficits. That changed with the Keynesian revolution of the 1930s, which has only intensified this century. The gross national debt now exceeds yearly gross domestic product—something previously seen only on rare occasions, such as the period immediately following World War II. The last time the U.S. balanced its budget was 21 years ago, in fiscal 2001. Deficits have since risen under Republican and Democratic presidents. Even more ominous are the underfunded liabilities for Social Security and Medicare, which will impose severe burdens on the next generation of Americans. Rather than address this, the Biden administration has added to the fiscal mayhem by pausing or canceling student-loan obligations.
• A decline in respect for free markets and a rising collectivism that erodes investment and entrepreneurship. It’s no accident that the Industrial Revolution and its aftermath occurred because of the ascendance of thinkers such as Adam Smith and John Locke and inventor-entrepreneurs such as James Watt, Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs. Limits imposed by kings and bishops were displaced by market-provided incentives for entrepreneurs. What Deirdre McCloskey aptly termed the “Great Enrichment”—the onset of extraordinary growth in income beginning in the early 1800s—reached its greatest expression in America. Yet today collectivist governmental power and regulation undermine such entrepreneurial initiatives, from fracking to healthcare.
Now contrast that rather dated chapter with one that has aged better: Chapter 10. In it, Ferguson reviews the economic consequences of the pandemic and lockdowns. He notes that the now widely dismissed and flawed model from the Imperial College London on the possible death rates of the COVID virus also ignored the social, economic, and political realities of human life. He notes that the excess death rates of the US and Sweden looked remarkably similar at the time, a fact that became clearer and clearer as time passed. Lockdowns didn’t seem to be helping control deaths, and they certainly made the collateral social and economic damage of the pandemic far worse. His review of the social unrest during the summer of 2020 is more uneven and now looks ready for a rehash, but his point about the partisan nature of the pandemic and response is dead-on, even if his social overview seems dated.
Some time ago, I received a heartbreaking email from a lady called Lisa King, detailing how Peter, her beloved husband of 21 years, had become a tragic casualty of Covid.
The father of two, 62, did not catch coronavirus. He died on October 9, 2020 because he was repeatedly denied a face-to-face GP appointment during the pandemic – only to be told that an urgent operation to remove his gallbladder had been delayed because of spiralling NHS waiting lists.
His sudden death, in agonising pain, was completely avoidable.
As Mrs King told me at the time: “To the decision makers, he is nothing more than ‘collateral damage’, but to me, he is the love of my life.”
When journalists like me heard these stories and warned that the lockdown cure might be worse than the disease, we were accused of being mercenary murderers intent on prioritising the economy ahead of saving lives.
Scientists who dared to question the severity of the restrictions were, as Lord Sumption put it at the time, “persecuted like Galileo”. Falsely branded “Covid deniers” simply for questioning some of the “science” that was slavishly followed, they were subjected to appalling online abuse by a bunch of armchair experts who claimed to know better.
Professor Robert Dingwall faced career “cancellation” for refusing to drink the zero-Covid Kool-Aid, as did the likes of Professor Carl Heneghan, Professor Sunetra Gupta and leading oncologist Professor Karol Sikora.
Yet now we learn that they were right to raise their concerns in the face of pseudo-socialist Sage groupthink.
Official data now suggests that the effects of lockdown may be killing more people than are currently dying of Covid.
The nettle that needs to be grasped is that these figures suggest that the country is facing a growing health crisis that has been caused by our overzealous response to the pandemic – scaremongering policies that kept people indoors, scared them away from hospitals and deprived them of treatment.
These excess deaths may well turn out to be a direct consequence of the decision to lock down the country in order to control a virus that was only ever a serious threat to the old and the vulnerable.
Had a more proportionate approach been taken, akin to Sweden’s, then would we be in this mess right now? Perhaps only a government inquiry will be able definitively to answer that question, but what’s certain now is the debate over the severity of lockdown was never about the economy versus lives – as pro-shutdown fanatics would have it – but over lives versus lives.
The World Health Organisation said at the time that the Great Barrington Declaration “lacked scientific basis”, but nearly three years on from the start of the pandemic there has been precious little analysis of whether the raft of Covid restrictions either served the collective good – or actually saved lives in the round – compared with the lives that are now being lost as a result.
These numbers aren’t just statistics – they are people’s husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, daughters and sons. The appalling truth is that a lot of these people would probably still be here today were it not for the lockdowns; lockdowns which seemingly did little to stop tens of thousands of people dying of Covid in the UK.
The problem wasn’t just the messaging on protective immunity. From pushing damaging and unsustainable lockdowns to contriving a false consensus on masks to massively inflating risks of COVID-19 in children and schools, the CDC’s record has been utterly dismal.
After the reality-mugging of the last two and a half years, I’m sure many people in the CDC and other government agencies would like to quietly move on, much as the rest of the world already has.
But that can’t happen just yet. Some very tough and pointed questions need to be asked about the decisions that led to shutdowns and mandates and who made, influenced, and benefited from those decisions. The pandemic exposed a dysfunctional, politicized and risk-averse health bureaucracy with little incentive to act beyond its own naked self-interests. A bright and continuous spotlight on the systemic failures of government agencies is only the first step to meaningful reform. But it has to happen.
The pandemic has shown that government agencies cannot, in fact, do those things very well at all. Even if they could protect people and provide them with absolute certainty, they wouldn’t be incentivized to do so. Instead, in a crisis government agencies will follow the path of least resistance, in this case providing an illusion of safety, security, and control for politicians and the public. All one had to do was believe the illusion. Because of the absolute terror of the unknown and complete ignorance of the risks of severe disease and death, most people were more than willing to take comfort in CDC recommendations and subsequent government mandates without the slightest hint of skepticism or protest. A pervasive safety-at-all costs culture enabled all of it.
By all means, we need to take a very long and hard look at the leaders and bureaucrats that took the easiest, yet most damaging path of lockdowns and mandates. We need to expose all of their corruption, incompetence, and hypocrisy. It’s going to be a huge task that will take a considerable amount of time, and it has to happen.
Yet ultimately, when looking for someone to blame for the disastrous pandemic response, the most important place we need to look is in the mirror.