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Lockdowns Discredit Those Who Try Them, Even the CCP


Last week Shanghai Disney was locked down, so was a Foxconn plant producing Apple iPhone 14s, and on and on. Viruses aren’t ideological. They just spread.

Tragic as the lockdown responses have been, there’s arguably a silver lining. The Chinese people are seeing up close just how hapless its government is in the face of a pathogen. Really, stop and contemplate the obnoxious conceit of Xi Jinping et al. for assuming that they, presumably for being the all-powerful CCP, could achieve “Zero-COVID.” Paraphrasing Jeffrey Tucker, did the Chinese leadership really think that mass takings of freedom would stop nature in its tracks?

The State is an abject fool, and the revelation of this truth in bright lights is one of the few positives of the tragic lapse of reason that were and are lockdowns related to the virus. As I argue in my 2021 book When Politicians Panicked, historians will marvel at the shocking stupidity of politicians, experts, and unrestrained authoritarians. They really and truly thought that the suffocation of personal and economic freedom was the virus-mitigation answer. And they still haven’t apologized. Our reward will be history, and history will not be kind to the nail-biters. This includes, but is not limited to Xi and his crowd.

What’s happening in China much more damningly indicts what happened in the United States. That’s the case because we expect a country defined by a lack of freedom to crack up when a virus begins spreading. Conversely, we don’t expect this in the United States. And it’s not just politicians and experts who should hang their heads very publicly in shame.

Does anyone remember the various pundits who were disappointed with China for not alerting us to the virus’s spread? Better yet, does anyone remember why they were? Their explanation was that if the Chinese had just been forthright, then “we” could have acted sooner to contain it. Yes, this was the belief! Paraphrasing Tucker again, just what were experts, politicians and pundits going to do? Shake their fingers at the virus and tell it to sit in the corner? All of which requires a pause.

In pausing, we can ask a basic question: could the Chinese have hid a spreading virus assuming that was their intent? Obviously not. Just as “Zero-COVID” was never a remotely serious strategy, neither is censorship. To censor is to amplify, and this is something self-styled conservative victims of Facebook and Twitter need to keep in mind. Invariably information is going to leak, and it surely would have leaked starting in 2019 from China if a) the virus proved debilitating for the population, and b) if the virus had been notably lethal. Think about it. China is one of the most smartphone-dense countries on earth.

Of course, assuming Xi et al. were so skilled as to lock down all information flows from a population in which the virus was rapidly spreading, they couldn’t lock down the myriad corporations (many of them American) operating within China. Many of them public, they too would have relayed information about a crippling virus well before the authoritarians would have discovered it. And then one assumes there are all sorts of intelligence assets on the ground in China…?

Thinking about all of this, there’s quite simply no way the political and expert class was caught flat-footed by Chinese quietude. Not that it would have mattered. See China once again, and the rapid spread of a virus that its hopelessly conceited leadership is utterly powerless against.

Please keep all of this in mind as political types continue to deflect blame. “If the Chinese had just told us,” the lockdowns wouldn’t have been necessary or so stringent. Utter nonsense. The lockdowns never made sense, and the previous statement was and is made truer the more that that the nailbiters feared an unknown related to the virus. Indeed, assuming the virus was as horrific as the lockdown cheerleaders proclaimed, why the need for lockdowns? The more threatening anything is, logically the more superfluous is political action.

Except that it’s more than that. The act of taking freedom is dangerous simply because expert opinion and political hysteria tends to not age well. In other words, freedom is its own virtue only for it to become critical during periods said to be defined by threat; as in fraught periods require varied actions that freedom presumes so that we can learn what’s true and what isn’t true about the threat. Instead, panicky politicians blinded us to the truth by taking our freedom.

History will say that drunk with power, American politicians acted like Chinese politicians only to get a Chinese result. The Chinese leadership acted Chinese on the way to another horrifying result. And for the pundits who proclaimed the Chinese response in 2020 effective for it being freedom-crushing, just know that the internet is forever.

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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