Brownstone » Brownstone Journal » Economics » It’s Liberty or Lockdown. We Have to Choose.

It’s Liberty or Lockdown. We Have to Choose.


By late April 2020, with reports of plummeting death rates from all causes, the Covid-19 crisis was already essentially over. Signs mounted that this “viral new mania,” as I called it, was far less severe than previous flus in 1918, 1958, and 1968 that occasioned no lockdowns or business closures despite millions of deaths from each around the globe. With the average age of Covid-19 deaths reported to be as high as 85 in Massachusetts where I reside and look on in wild surmise, the real mortality numbers for Covid-19 sunk into the statistical noise. 

Hey, but why am I telling you this, when now we have this stirring and authoritative work by the eminent Jeffrey Tucker who has mastered all the data and transcended it with a redemptive call to sanity and real science? 

With deaths from Covid-19 coming at an age higher than the age of normal deaths and the crisis evidently defunct, a new pandemic of doom erupted as a panic of pols. In rising astonishment, we contemplate a comedy of mash-minded med admins and stooges, covering their ifs, ands, and butts with ever more morbid and distorted statistics. 

By September, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) acknowledged that only six percent of US deaths came from Covid-19 alone. The average number of comorbidities such as diabetes or cancer was 2.6. Thus definitive Covid-19 deaths (caused by the coronavirus alone) had only reached a US total of some 10,000 by the end of the summer, less than ordinary flu which takes many more young people.

As deaths plummeted, governors seized ever more extreme emergency powers. Testing their citizens prodigally, they obsessively counted positives as “cases.” As Tucker understands, the positives are increasingly statistical “false positives” since the vast majority of the test takers are free of the disease. Accompanied by no symptoms, this became a disease so fearful in its effects that you could not tell that you had it.

The country broke into two, with mostly “slave states” in the North and Far West fraught with masks and lockdowns, and free states in the South, such as Georgia, Florida, and Texas where Governors refused to take a “hammer and sickle” to their economies.

The crisis chiefly hit the politicians and the political Doctor Fauci who had gullibly accepted and trumpeted what statistician William Briggs called “the most colossal and costly blown forecast of all time.”

An egregious statistical horror story of millions of projected deaths, suffused with incense and lugubrious accents from Imperial College of London to Harvard School of Public Health, prompted the pols to impose a vandalistic lockdown on the economy. It would have been an outrage even if the assumptions were not wildly astronomically wrong.

Flattening the curve was always a fool’s errand that widened the damage.

Already in April, a global study published in Israel by Professor Isaac Ben-Israel, chairman of the Israeli Space Agency and Council on Research and Development, showed that “the spread of the coronavirus declines to almost zero after 70 days—no matter where it strikes, and no matter what measures governments impose to try to thwart it.”

This study’s conclusions were repeatedly confirmed in the months that followed, as Jeffrey Tucker documents in this profound and incendiary book. He covers the onset of the lockdowns, the outrageous political response, the psychological and medical toll, the immense economic costs, the history of 20th century viruses and the political response, and so much more, including and especially the irresponsible media coverage that helped fuel and cover up the political panic. 

As Tucker shows, this virus like all previous viral flus will give way only to herd immunity and to the natural immunity of most human beings to the worst effects. Whether through natural propagation of an extremely infectious pathogen, or through the success of one of the hundreds of vaccine projects, or through the mutation of the virus to ubiquitous predictability like the common cold, the virus will become a trivial event.

In the meantime, no evidence indicates that this virus was exceptionally dangerous except in nursing homes and prisons densely populated with already vulnerable people. On March 20, 2020, the French published a major controlled study that shows no excess mortality at all from coronavirus compared to other flus. SARS and Mers were both much more lethal and did not occasion the destruction of the economy, the arts, and normal life. 

We now know that the crisis was a comedy of errors. The Chinese evidently let it get going in the raw bat markets of Wuhan. But together with the Koreans, the Chinese dithered and demurred and allowed six weeks of rampant propagation to create herd immunity before they began locking everyone up. Therefore, the Chinese and Koreans were among the first to recover.

The Italians scared everybody with their haphazard health system and smoking fogies. Crammed together in subways and tenements, the New Yorkers registered a brief blip of extreme cases. Intubations and ventilators pushed down people’s throats turned out not to help (80 percent died). This sowed fear and frustration among medical personnel slow to see that the problem was impaired hemoglobin in the blood rather than lung damage.

The New York media piled on with panic, with bogus reports of rising deaths. “Coronavirus deaths” soared by assuming that people dying with the virus were dying from it and then by ascribing to the coronavirus other deaths among people with symptoms of pulmonary distress, even without being tested.

The death rate rises with further reclassification of pneumonia and other pulmonary deaths. When we reach herd immunity, and nearly everyone has the antigen, nearly all deaths can be chalked up to Covid-19. It can become Quod Erat Demonstrandum for the panic mongers.

In a fascinating open letter to German Prime Minister Angela Merkel, epidemiologist Sucharit Bhakti concludes that with the French study, corroborated by findings from a Stanford antibody seroprevalence study in Santa Clara County, “the case for extreme measures collapses like a house of cards.” Bhakti says that since the virus has already spread widely in the general population, efforts to stop further spread are both futile and destructive.

So let’s stop pretending that our policies have been rational and need to be phased out, as if they once had a purpose. They should have been reversed summarily in March and acknowledged to be a mistake, perpetrated by statisticians with erroneous computer models. Instead we were subject to six months of hell, all beautifully documented by Tucker. 

Another dramatic failure in 2020 traces to the failure of the intellectual classes to speak out. The civil libertarians went quiet. The center-left became full pro-lockdown, mostly likely for political reasons, regardless of the cost. 

Somehow, to be pro-lockdown became an orthodoxy. Dissidents feared for their jobs and reputations. Suddenly in these days, to have favored normal life and freedom of association became a thought crime. 

Which is why Jeffrey Tucker became such a crucial voice. Even in January, before the rest of the world seemed to notice what was occuring in China, he was urging that we respond to this virus through medical and not political means. The world should have listened. With Tucker’s book now available, we have a soaring and searing plea never to do this again. 

It’s liberty or lockdown. We have to choose.

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  • George Gilder

    George Gilder, Senior Scholar at Brownstone Institute, is an economist, author, investor, and co-founder of the Discovery Institute. His 1981 international bestseller, Wealth and Poverty, advanced a case for supply-side economics and capitalism.

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