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All They Can Think Of Is Centralized Control

Here’s a letter to Time:


Historian Philip Zelikow, head of the Covid Crisis Group, writes that the U.S. “lost the war against covid” because we fought it “without an army or a battle plan” (“How America Lost the COVID-19 War,” April 24). But in fact large swathes of America were commanded to lock down for many months; schools in much of the nation were ordered closed; travel restrictions and one-size-fits-all mandates were imposed upon millions of people; and the media were nearly unanimous in parroting Anthony Fauci’s and other public-health generalissimos’ exaggerated warnings of covid’s perils.

Nevertheless, as is evident from his martial reference and the full content of his essay, Mr. Zelikow believes that America’s response was insufficiently authoritarian: no commanders arose to conscript all Americans into all-out, single-minded, sustained war against an existential threat.

Yet there was another way, another “battle plan,” long endorsed by public-health authorities until the Chinese state in early 2020 gave world ‘leaders’ the novel example of draconian, society-wide lockdowns. That other way was Focused Protection, as endorsed by the Great Barrington Declaration. Unfortunately, by the time the GBD was issued, in October 2020, governments worldwide were committed to mimicking Beijing’s tyrannical response, while the public were thoroughly saturated with misinformation that exaggerated both the danger of covid to the general population and the effectiveness of lockdowns at dampening that danger.

With evidence accumulating that lockdowns were largely ineffective even on their own terms, it’s fair to ask what the covid death toll would have been had we practiced Focused Protection from the start. Of course, we’ll never know. But it’s utterly mistaken to assume that the death toll could have been lowered only by resort to earlier, stricter, and longer lockdowns. The ravages of covid are far more likely to have been lowered – and the economic ravages of lockdowns certainly avoided – by the opposite approach, one featuring Focused Protection.

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