24 March 2020

Destroying Society Is No Way To Save Society

In just under three months, the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, aka COVID-19, aka the CCPVirus, has completely remade the world in which we live.

We have gone from marveling at the seeming unwisdom of the Federal Reserve's rampant money printing and obsessive interventionism to wondering if their interventions will be enough. Where before the talk of China revolved around Hong Kong protests and trade wars, now we are coming to terms with China's shocking crime against humanity in creating and releasing COVID-19.

Millions of Americans are under "lockdown"--their businesses closed, their jobs in limbo (if not outright destroyed), their ability to recreate and gather publicly greatly restricted. Millions more likely will experience similar fates in the very near future.

The whole of Italy is under quarantine, replicating China's draconian attempt at disease containment.

The financial markets are imploding, and the world economy is following close behind.

All this, and the month of March in the Year of Our Lord 2020 is not quite yet finished.

Regardless of what happens next, because of COVID-19 we have already dramatically reshaped our world, with little thought to any consequence beyond possibly containing this disease.

This heedlessness of consequence will be our undoing.

Repeating Failure In Hopes Of Success

We want COVID-19 contained. It is a disease which has killed many thousands in just a few months, and which has the potential to kill many thousands more. As a rule, we prefer human death to be the result of our own violent acts, for even as we mourn those felled by disease, we celebrate the deaths of those felled by our own hand. It is quite reasonable we should take steps to halt COVID-19's progress.

What is not reasonable is to doggedly take the same steps over and over when we see no evidence those steps even work. 

The lockdown strategy as implemented in China can only be described as abysmal failure. 99.4 percent of COVID-19 cases in Hubei province were recorded after the lockdowns were announced. Had lockdown succeeded the disease would have abated in no more than three weeks, and that did not happen. Arguably, it has not happened yet, as word continues to emerge of new cases within Wuhan.

Even the Italian quarantines have yet to show clear efficacy as a containment measure. The one clear known aspect of the Italian COVID-19 epidemic is that it has claimed an unusually large number of Italian lives, relative to the rest of the world, a fact which does not augur well for any presumptive claim the quarantines worked.

Yet despite this clear lack of evidence that lockdown strategies are at all useful, country after country is dutifully following the diktats of disease "experts"--the same "experts" who previously dismissed lockdowns as ineffective--and placing their people under restrictive quarantine.

Even the World Health Organization concedes that lockdowns do not work, yet we persist in this folly.

Why are we doing this to ourselves? Why are we surrendering basic physical freedom with nary a whimper of protest?

Quarantines Come With A Cost

It goes without saying these lockdowns are going to carry a cost--a huge cost. Have we truly considered that cost?

No. We have not. And those costs are mounting even as we accept more lockdowns and more restrictions.
  • The Wall Street Journal estimates as many as 5 million jobs will be lost.
  • North Carolina has seen unemployment claims jump from an average of 3,000 to over 40,000.
  • Californians are experiencing a jump in the need for food assistance, while unemployment applications have jumped from 2,000 per day to as many as 80,000.
  • New York hotels and casinos have already lost some 20,000 jobs, and expect to lose more.
  • Nationwide, first-time unemployment claims have jumped 33%. As many as 23 million other jobs are in jeopardy.
  • The National Restaurant Association is forecasting losses of as much as $225 billion by its members, with 7 million jobs lost.
  • The stock markets have tanked at a rate not seen since 1987, and to a degree not seen since the Great Depression, and even trillions of Federal Reserve monetary stimulus has failed to arrest the slide.
These are not small numbers. These are not small costs. These are costs we are inflicting upon ourselves, not just in the United States, but everywhere.

We are choosing to destroy not just the economy of the United States, but of the entire world, in order to possibly slow the spread of this disease--not end it, not stop it, just delay it by the smallest fraction of time. With anodyne phrases such as "social distancing" and "flattening the curve", we are blithely ignoring how much harm we are inflicting on our livelihoods with these strategies.

Why are we doing this to ourselves? Why are we sacrificing our present and future prosperity with nary a thought, question, or hesitation?

Abandoning Our Civil Liberties

In our fear of disease, it seems we have forgotten the clear test of the First Amendment to the Constitution.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
It is not the place of government, any government, to tell us where we may go, where we may gather, or how we will recreate ourselves. Not only does the Constitution not grant such power to government, in the text of the First Amendment it clearly denies the government that power.

Yet the CDC is calling for government to impose restrictions, banning gatherings of more than 50 people.

By what right does government tell us not to gather together in this or that place? By what right does the government supersede the First Amendment?

Attorney General Bill Barr has a simple solution to the challenge of people hording medical supplies and masks: what government needs, it will simply take.
"We’re not talking about consumers or businesses stockpiling supplies for their own operations; we’re talking about people hoarding these goods and materials on an industrial scale for the purpose of manipulating the market and ultimately driving windfall profits," Barr said.  "If you have a big supply of toilet paper in your house, this is not something you have to worry about, but if you are sitting on a warehouse with masks, surgical masks, you will be hearing a knock on your door."
While such words may sound reassuring at a time when there are legitimate needs of hospitals for vital supplies as a result of the CCPVirus pandemic, such words are unequivocally the rhetoric of the statist, the Stalinist, the fascist, the dictator. The assertion that government will decide what it needs--and then take it--goes rather far beyond what the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment envisions:
nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
What government bureaucrat is endowed with the Constitutional authority to decide what constitutes "hoarding"? Where in the Constitution is such authority granted to either the Congress or the President? There is no text within the Constitution granting such authority.

Nor can the seizures of stores of medical goods be deemed "for public use." Most hospitals in the US--and thus most hospitals that would be receiving these seized items--are privately owned and operated. Such seizures, no matter how well intentioned, are nothing more than the government deciding who is allowed to own what, who is allowed to buy and to sell, and at what price transactions shall be consummated.

There is no comfort to be had when government contemplates exceeding the powers given to it by the people, not even when done for the good of the people. There is no reassurance in reading about the military's plans to exert "extra-Constitutional authority" in the event of a major crisis incapacitating the bulk of the nation's elected officials.
According to new documents and interviews with military experts, the various plans – codenamed Octagon, Freejack and Zodiac – are the underground laws to ensure government continuity. They are so secret that under these extraordinary plans, "devolution" could circumvent the normal Constitutional provisions for government succession, and military commanders could be placed in control around America.
"Underground law"? "Devolution"? Circumventing "normal" Constitutional provisions?

There is no text within the Constitution that allows for its mandates to be set aside under any circumstances. There certainly is no text within the Constitution that envisions military leaders superseding duly elected civil authorities.

Further, why are such laws kept secret? Why are they hidden away from public scrutiny? Calamity and happenstance can disrupt normal government infrastructures--so why should there not be robust public debate over these matters? Even if public interest is not where some wish it would be, that is a poor justification for not making such proposals available to the public, and engaging in as much public debate over their merits and demerits as can be had.

These secret plans are a planned military coup d'etat in the event large numbers of the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch are incapacitated by disease. They are illegal. They are unethical. They are in violation of the oath every member of the armed forces takes when they first don the uniform--to protect the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Congressman Thomas Massie's warnings about those who would use this pandemic as cover to greatly expand government power are all too true and all too timely. We should listen, and we should heed.

If we are not heedful of such cautions, we will find ourselves a free people no more, but slaves within a fascist police state, complete with internal passports, internal travel restrictions, and unlimited government authority. Worse, we will have invited that doom ourselves, we will have put the chains around our own necks.

Abandoning Our Humanity

Confronting pandemic disease is frightening. That is always true. Yet we are defined as much by how we respond to such fears as we are by our vulnerabilities to diseases.

Some of the responses we have had to this pandemic are not encouraging.

Is it truly a sign of a healthy society to declare unilaterally and arbitrarily that people over the age of 60 will no longer receive care, as Italy has done? Can we plausibly presume to know the value of one life over another? Will we look back on such decisions with pride or with shame?

What shall we say to the family members of those in Spanish nursing homes abandoned and left to die?

What manner of culture are we building for ourselves when we emphasize "social distancing" above all else? What manner of society are we creating when the virtue signallers and influencers on social media tweet out such "guidelines" as these:
An end to social get togethers. An end to "play dates" for children. Don't walk where there are people. Minimize trips to the store. How is this any way to live, disease or no disease? To say such a life "sucks" is a marvel of understatement.

Man is a social animal. We are made to exist in groups, not singly. For this reason we are called to care for one another. For this reason we come together, first in families, then in communities, finally into nations and societies. To wall ourselves off from each other, to isolate ourselves from sick and healthy alike--is this really the best we can do? Is this truly the best option we have for dealing with disease, even one as potentially deadly as the CCPVirus?

This Too Shall Pass

Like the rest of humanity, I do not know much about the CCPVirus, but, like the rest of humanity, I do know this one thing: it will pass. In a day, or a week, or a month, or a year, this disease will have run its course and then it will fade away. Eventually, it will join the other great plagues of history.

We will still be here when it has gone. We will still have families, we will still seek to build communities, nations, and societies. This is the order of things. This has always been the order of things.

While we must confront this challenge, like all challenges, in the here and now, with such tools as we have currently in hand, we must not lose sight of the fact that there will be a tomorrow. 

The CCPVirus can take lives--it will take lives. Yet the one thing it cannot take, the one thing no disease can ever take, is our future. That we have always. That we will have, always.

Let us be rational and wise, and choose our present actions with care, so that we may yet have the future we desire.

There is no rationale, no wisdom, that recommends destroying our society in order to save it. Too much of what we are being pressured to do amounts to exactly that: destroying society in order to save it.

We are better than that. We need better options than that.

Destroying society is no way to save society, not even from CCPVirus.

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