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freedom is the answer

Regardless of Virus Origins, Freedom Is the Answer


As seemingly everyone who’s been following the political tragedy that was and is the coronavirus well knows, the Department of Energy now confirms with a low level of confidence that the virus was inadvertently leaked from a lab in China. Unsurprisingly, and perhaps understandably, this conclusion has many gloating.

Figure that Anthony Fauci and other despicable, attention-seeking authoritarians not too long ago dismissed the very notion of a lab leak as the stuff of mouth-breathing conspiracy theorists. Fauci et al deserve our immense scorn, period. At the same time, this focus on the origins of the virus is a total distraction that politicians, scientists and doctors (including Fauci) have to be loving. Please read on. But first let’s travel back in time a bit.

In doing so, let’s not forget that politicians and bureaucrats associated with government were the very people who panicked and demanded that Americans have their freedom and work taken from them in 2020 as a virus-mitigation strategy. Those gloating might keep this in mind as they revel in the Energy Department’s soft conclusion. In other words, who seriously cares what the salary-men and women at the DoE think? What a mistake to embrace the thinking of self-proclaimed experts when their conclusions match what some in the anti-lockdown community think.

From there, the virus’s origins really don’t matter. Lest the crowd that has long been properly anti-lockdown forgets, pathogens are as old as mankind is. Since they are, the accenting of where they come from is to completely miss the point. Instead, the always and everywhere expressed view should be that reality should not be used by the political, expert and medical classes as a pretext for taking our freedom. Freedom is precious, and authoritarians can’t have it regardless of a pathogen’s origin or its presumed lethality.

Indeed, while even the New York Times reported with great consistency in 2020 that the virus in a death sense was most associated with very sick, very old people in nursing homes, the accent on the previous truth by the anti-lockdown crowd similarly missed the point. And it missed the point dangerously. That is so because a focus on statistics or anecdote as a reason for not locking us down is to suggest that if the coronavirus or some future pathogen were truly lethal, politicians would have the right to lock us down.

No thanks, which is once again why this focus on what the New York Times acknowledged way back when, what the CDC routinely acknowledged about those dying with the virus (remember “comorbidities”?) since 2020, and what the DoE softly concludes right now is such a mistaken way to fight the battle. It is because it puts such a low price tag on freedom.  

Almost as bad, it hands the argument to those who have a need to trample on the rights of others. Think about it. As I argued in my 2021 book When Politicians Panicked, the more lethal any virus is the more that political action is wholly superfluous. If a virus is killing indiscriminately who among us seriously needs to be forced to be careful?

Ok, but what if we don’t know the lethality of a spreading virus? Freedom is the answer once again. It’s precisely when fear is greatest and knowledge is least evident that freedom becomes most crucial. Indeed, free people do more than produce the economic resources that scientists and doctors require to come up with cures for what might be harmful or lethal. Equally important, free people produce information.

By making different choices amid a spreading virus, free people teach us what behavior is most associated with sickness, death, or neither. In other words, lockdowns don’t protect us; rather they threaten our health by concealing essential information. 

Please think about this with what happened in 2020 top of mind. By locking us down, politicians and experts didn’t just wreck businesses, jobs, and living as we knew it up until then; they also blinded us to how to best deal with a spreading virus that they claimed was a huge threat to us. In that case, thank goodness the virus wasn’t remotely lethal for the vast majority of us.

Still, the lockdowns were tragic. That they correlated with increased depression, alcoholism, job loss, business failure, and reduced classroom learning is a known and horrid quantity. Worse, and as logic would dictate, all this force logically didn’t improve our well-being or save lives. The taking of freedom never does.

In which case, let’s not compound the errors of the past by focusing on the origin of the virus leak. Once again, viruses are a part of life, thus making origin irrelevant. Much worse, this focus on what’s irrelevant is exactly what the politicians and experts want us to do. If we waste time worrying about the where, we forget what the political and expert class did to us not too long ago.

In short, the lockdowns were the true tragedy of 2020 and beyond, not something that is old as mankind. Let’s please not change the subject from what really mattered then, and matters now.  

Republished from RealClearMarkets

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  • John Tamny

    John Tamny, Senior Scholar at Brownstone Institute, is an economist and author. He is the editor of RealClearMarkets and Vice President at FreedomWorks.

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