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On Moving Beyond Covid

In my latest column for AIER I make a point with which many of you will perhaps disagree – namely, there should be no attempts to impose criminal or civil liability on lockdowners for their calamitous policy decisions.

For wise and helpful feedback on an earlier draft, I thank Doug Allen, Scott Atlas, and Martin Kulldorff. They, of course, are not responsible for any errors of reasoning or judgment that might continue to mar my column. Here’s a slice:

From the start I vigorously opposed COVID lockdowns and protested the hysteria that lures people to tolerate such tyranny. Although I wasn’t the most eloquent of lockdowns’ critics, I – like Scott Atlas, David Henderson, Phil Magness, Toby Young and the team at the Daily Skeptic, and the heroic authors of the great Great Barrington Declaration never wavered from this opposition. Not for a nanosecond did I as much as toy with the idea that lockdowns might be worthwhile. Every impulse within me, from my marrow to my mind, confidently informed me that lockdowns were destined to unleash Orwellian oppression, the terrible precedential consequences of which will plague (pun intended) humanity for decades.

Given all that we’ve learned since early 2020, I’m sad to say that my – and the relative handful of others’ – opposition to lockdowns and other COVID diktats was fully justified.

My blood still boils at the thought of lockdowns, and my anger at those persons who imposed them is as intense a sensation as I have ever experienced. It continues to be so.

I relate my early, unequivocal, and unending opposition to lockdowns not to applaud myself. I do so, instead, to put into context the case that I’m about to make in opposition to any and all calls for attempts to impose formal liability or sanctions on those individuals who inflicted lockdowns on humanity, or who were prominently positioned to encourage their use. I believe that attempts to hold lockdowners personally accountable by imposing on them formal punishments would create yet another terrible precedent, one that would only compound the troubles that we’re destined to suffer from the precedent that was set in March 2020.

Before explaining my opposition to attempts at imposing formal punishments on lockdowners, I note that my argument isn’t about forgiveness. While a case can be made to forgive lockdowners, that’s not the case that I’ll make here. Forgiveness, being personal, is beyond my capacity to recommend or to oppose. To forgive or not is exclusively your call. My argument here is simply a plea to my fellow anti-lockdowners not to call for, or even to wish for, the imposition of state-imposed sanctions on prominent lockdowners.

Nor do I oppose formal hearings that aim to expose the truth about the COVID-era actions of government officials. While I worry that such hearings will, like COVID policies themselves, be infected with excessive politics and misunderstanding of science, as long as such hearings threaten no formal punishments or sanctions on officials found to have acted wrongly, the likelihood that such hearings will unearth and publicize important truths is high enough to warrant their occurrence.

No Formal Penalties

Perhaps ironically, one reality that leads me to oppose formal efforts to sanction lockdowners for their infliction of harm is a reality that plays a prominent role in my opposition to the lockdowns themselves – namely, political action is inherently untrustworthy. Summoning government today to penalize officials who imposed lockdowns is to call for action by the very same political institution, if not the same flesh-and-blood officials, that imposed the lockdowns. The danger is too great that a government agency or commission empowered to sit in judgment of individuals who were in office during the two years starting in March 2020 will abuse its power. The risk is too high that the pursuit of justice will descend into a hunt for revenge. No such agency or commission will act with the requisite objectivity to make its decisions just. To suppose that any such formal inquiry into personal guilt or liability would be adequately apolitical is as fanciful as supposing that lockdown-happy officials in 2020 were adequately apolitical.

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