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The Wall Street Journal‘s Editorial Board praises British MP and former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak for “lifting the veil on how Britain went into destructive pandemic lockdowns.” A slice:

“We shouldn’t have empowered the scientists in the way we did. And you have to acknowledge trade-offs from the beginning. If we’d done all of that, we could be in a very different place,” the former Chancellor of the Exchequer said in an interview with Britain’s Spectator magazine published this week.

Mr. Sunak trails Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in the race to lead the Conservative Party and replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister. Lockdown skepticism plays well with the Tory rank-and-file who are casting the votes this month. This may be a Hail Mary to revive his campaign, but it has the virtue of being true.

Evolving knowledge about the novel coronavirus and new data about the harm of lockdowns have triggered renewed debate about the quality of the science that led to school closures, business shutdowns and other unprecedented restrictions on personal liberty. Public-health experts have questions to answer about their failures.

Mr. Sunak is raising a separate and equally important question: How and why did elected politicians seem to delegate their policy judgment to public-health officials? Mr. Sunak says one problem was that the scientists misstated what they knew. He says the U.K. government’s main scientific advisory panel went so far as to edit dissenting opinions out of the official minutes of its meetings.

But the ex-Chancellor also points to a failure of elected politicians to ask probing questions and to understand the scientific models they were being fed. This made it impossible for politicians to assess the larger public good beyond incomplete epidemiological estimates when setting policies that we now know were destructive to education, employment and other public-health concerns.

The brave few kept the flag of personal freedom alive. That really is no exaggeration. And they paid heavily for it. On social media the abuse was intense. You don’t care about lives! they snarled. You’re murderers! they claimed. And in the mainstream, things weren’t much better. You’re a “small, disproportionately influential faction,” moaned a Guardian Leader, that “denies the virulence of the virus”. Thanks for that.

One MP, Neil O’Brien, took it upon himself to publicly discredit any sceptic, declaring “they have a hell of a lot to answer for”. No, you do Mr O’Brien, for stifling free debate, along with certain mainstream news outlets for failing over a two-year period to examine whether lockdown might cause more harm than good.

(Yesterday at Cafe Hayek I posted several passages from the Spectator piece mentioned above.)

Also reacting to Rishi Sunak’s disclosure of the appalling reality behind Britain’s monstrous lockdowns is Telegraph columnist Robert Taylor. A slice:

Hallelujah. Praise the Lord. It’s happened at last. Yes, one of the most senior members of government during that whole lockdown business has finally admitted that the strategy was overdone, badly handled and badly communicated. Take a bow, Rishi Sunak.

I had to do a double take when I saw the reports. For those long lockdown months, nobody in government, let alone the Cabinet, was prepared to say any such thing. It was left to a few courageous journalists and scientists to take on the overwhelming force of the lockdown fanatics, with police fining people for sitting on park benches and neighbours eagerly shopping each other like this was some authoritarian country.

Fraser Nelson, writing in the Telegraph about his interview with Rishi Sunak, says that “[t]he pseudo-scientific sheen is finally being stripped off the decision to shut down Britain.” Two slices:

His speaking out now confirms much of what many suspected. That the culture of fear, seen in the Orwellian advertising campaign that sought to terrify the country, applied inside Government. Questioning lockdown, even in ministerial meetings, was seen as an attack on the Prime Minister’s authority. To ask even basic questions – about how many extra cancer deaths there might be, for example – was to risk being portrayed as one the crackpots, the “Cov-idiots”, people who wanted to “let the virus rip”. Hysteria had taken hold in the heart of Whitehall.


This matters because this point shows how “the science” was, in fact, no such thing. Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance began by advising ministers not to lock down, saying public events were fine, and that face masks were pointless. They were talking about herd immunity as the way out. Then they flipped entirely. But this reveals something crucial: lockdown never was backed by science. It was about models and suppositions, educated guesswork. It was driven by moods, emotion, fear – and, worst of all, politics masquerading as science.

And here’s a report in the Telegraph of how science was misused in Britain to justify lockdowns. Two slices:

“During those early meetings of Spi-B, I often found myself a bit of a lone voice,” said Dr [Gavin] Morgan. “This was in early March 2020, when we were meeting several times a week. With the benefit of hindsight, there may have been a bit of groupthink going on in those early meetings. Things were a fait accompli, it had already been decided that school closures were a good thing.”


Privately, scientists said that from “day one”, the Government’s proclamation that it would do “whatever the science tells us” was problematic.

One insider on Sage, who declined to be named, said: “For many of us working on Sage, Boris saying we will follow the science set alarm bells ringing. He was removing himself from responsibility and putting it on us. That shouldn’t have happened.”

Writing in the Washington Times, Pierre Kory rightly criticizes the D.C. government’s mandate that all students above the age of 12 be vaccinated against covid.

Jay Bhattacharya tweets:

The world needs a serious morbidity & mortality conference about lockdowns & covid response. Unlike the 2020-22 debate, it should include all voices without prejudice, and should explicitly consider the role of propaganda and smearing of dissidents.

David Stockman decries the U.S. government’s fiscal incontinence.

Kimberlee Josephson wisely explains why political interference in big tech is a big mistake.

Samuel Gregg talks with Jim Otteson about Adam Smith’s jurisprudence.

Blogging at EconLog, my intrepid Mercatus Center colleague Veronique de Rugy busts the myth that those of us who oppose industrial policy are guided by a “blind faith in free markets.” Here’s her conclusion:

No offense, but those who truly rely upon blind faith are industrial-policy supporters such as Cass and Griswold who continue to assert that, in the face of lots of evidence to the contrary, government officials can allocate resources better than can the price system. At the very least, unless and until they explain just how politicians and bureaucrats will get and use the knowledge that markets get and use with remarkable success each moment of each day, and how to prevent the fiascos and cronyism produced by past attempts at industrial policy, [Oren] Cass and [Chris] Griswold shouldn’t accuse people other than their fellow supporters of industrial policy of being guided by blind faith.