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The Travel Bans Achieve Nothing for Public Health


Does anyone remember North Sentinel Island? A few years ago a Christian missionary from the U.S. was riddled with arrows (yes, from bows) when he made his way toward the North Sentinelese, individuals who’ve been on the island 500 miles off of the coast of India for 50,000 years, and who have had little contact with the rest of the world during that time. 

So why did they kill the missionary? They did because his efforts to bring religion to all of them would have realistically killed every single one of them. Having never been exposed to the myriad viruses and diseases that our bodies are now immune to, contact between the North Sentinelese with someone from outside their tiny, hunting and gathering society would amount to a death sentence. 

Take from the above anecdote what you will. Call it extreme too. But at the same time it’s worth considering it as a reminder of how backwards are global governmental efforts to ban travel into and outside their countries. Some would say these efforts are anti-health. Think about it. 

As evidenced by how one missionary would have easily wiped out a 50,000-year old society just by showing up, viruses and diseases never really die. It seems they’re always here, but they don’t routinely fell us either because we’ve attained natural immunity to them, or doctors and scientists have created vaccines that have immunized us to them.

It’s also worth considering in light of the various travel bans. Channeling Brownstone Institute president Jeffrey Tucker, the bans are evidence of massive governmental overreach. With a virus spreading, politicians and dictators the world over have literally ascribed to themselves the power to imprison their subjects in the countries they lead; that, or they’ve arrogated to themselves the power to limit the arrival of others into their respective countries. Their departure too. ADVERTISING

Many countries have economies reliant on tourism, but it seems the businesses created to serve the tourists weren’t asked their opinions about this overreach. It’s worth adding that investment is the driver of all economic progress, but with travel limited, how many interesting concepts have been suffocated by a lack of exposure to the financiers whose allocations would, in normal times, propel them to greater heights? 

The signs have seemingly come down for the most part, but growing up it wasn’t uncommon to enter businesses with signs saying “No Shirts, No Shoes, No Service.” Yes, the right to choose whom to associate with, and whom to serve was long so basic. Sadly, the right to freely associate has been erased, only for government to enter a needlessly created vacuum. This has been particularly evident during the lockdowns. Since they began, politicians have arrogated to themselves decisionmaking power over the businesses we could patronize, how we could patronize them (limits on entry, limits on customers once inside), and perhaps worst of all, power to shutter businesses altogether. This is what you get when political correctness erases free association in favor of government force. 

After which, it was mindless. Human contact was supposedly a death risk, so politicians were going to limit the number of businesses we could all patronize? And then as Illinois state senator Dan McConchie put it, “I can visit Target to buy furniture, Walmart to buy clothing or my grocery store to buy flowers. But I can’t go inside a furniture store, a clothing store or a florist.” 

All of which speaks to the basic truth that freedom is never foolhardy, but the taking of it always is. Always

A virus is spreading, so let’s limit the marketplace’s (humanity) production of knowledge; production that would unearth how a virus spreads, what behavior is most associated with sickness, but also the behavior most associated with healthy outcomes. Instead, politicians chose to blind us. 

Freedom also applies to travel. About it, think back to “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service.” Couldn’t airlines have made provisions for letting on, or not letting on the sick? But wait, they’re asymptomatic sometimes. Well, that should perhaps tell us something about the threat of the virus, but even if we choose to ignore the latter, what’s asymptomatic is going to spread with or without the taking of freedom, so don’t take away freedom. 

Ok, but we want to keep the ill from other countries from bringing the virus here. Sure, but the virus is already here. And it supposedly spreads faster than the flu. Which means travel bans only succeed insofar as they weaken a country’s economy, and worse, empower politicians. 

Yes, but cases in New Zealand are slim to none. Lockdowns! See North Sentinel Island to understand better what happens when people are isolated from reality. 

Except that New Zealand and North Sentinel Island are ultimately distractions, as are the various statistical wars that support an end to all the mindless alarmism. Indeed, “yes, but” responses imply that politicians have a right to take our freedom if something’s truly threatening. No they don’t. Nothing could be dumber than taking away natural rights when something really threatens. See above (information production), but also use common sense: if something’s truly a danger, all political force is logically superfluous. 

What applies locally applies to the planes that move people around the world. If a virus is spreading, it’s unwise to take away a right that many would take from themselves voluntarily. And for those who do fly freely? We can learn from their decisions to do just that. Instead, we’re once again rendered relatively blind. 

So stop taking freedom. Indeed, not asked enough is why every threat (real and perceived) always results in the empowerment of government. Wait, government gains from the crises its politicians proclaim as crises? Hmmm. It’s something to think about the next time you so willingly give up natural rights to those so eager to take them from you.

Reprinted from Forbes

Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
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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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