Finally we come to the biggest problem of all. What kind of society do we want to live in and build? Is it based on the presumption that freedom belongs to all and is the best path for progress and good lives? Or do we want the rights of the people always to defer to the mandarins in the walled-off bureaucracies who give orders and expect only compliance and no challenge to their rule?
Over those first several weeks, fear had taken hold of the public. Media commentators and even policy experts, many of whom had no expertise on health care, were filling the airwaves and opinion pages with naive and incorrect predictions. This misinformation was going unchecked, and was indeed repeatedly endorsed and sensationalized.
It’s probable that the mountain of legislation produced over the last two years never fulfilled democratic norms of accountability and transparency. For science in a pandemic to be harnessed to serve the public interest, the institutions that set those terms of reference must be guided by principles that protect health.
Very few people really want to live in a world in which the administrative state exercises the sort of unmitigated power that the CDC, the DOJ, and the Biden administration are now advocating as a continuation of how we’ve done public affairs for the better part of two years. That system has led to disaster. To continue it will lead to more disasters still.
While contact tracing and isolation may be important for some infectious diseases, it is futile and counterproductive for common infections such as influenza and Covid-19. A case is only a case if a person is sick. Mass testing asymptomatic and non-vulnerable individuals is harmful to public health, useless and expensive.
What lockdowns and mandates have done to society is a painful truth, and one that we will be dealing with for many years. As much as we all just want it to go away, and as much as we all have great cause to celebrate this day, as much as the real of the mask mandate represents a symbolic end, no one should lose sight of the deeper problem: all of this happened to us, and not only to us but to billions of people the world over.
We can see the long arm of history reaching from the times of the Black Death to modern epidemics, where coercion and state control are accepted by a terrified public and conveniently deemed by a power-hungry elite to be the only acceptable way to combat natural disasters, even at the risk of tremendous and unnecessary collateral damage.