The coerced economic "shutdowns"—enforced with fines, arrests, and revoked business licenses—are not the natural outgrowth of a pandemic. They are the result of policy decisions taken by politicians who have suspended constitutional institutions and legal recognition of basic human rights. These politicians have instead imposed a new form of central planning based on an unproven, theoretical set of ideas about police-enforced "social distancing."
Suspending the rule of law and civil rights will have enormous consequences in terms of human life counted in suicides, drug overdoses, and other grave health problems resulting from unemployment, denial of "elective" medical care, and social isolation.
None of that is being considered, however, since it is now fashionable to have governments determine whether or not people may open their businesses or leave their homes. So far, the strategy for dealing with the resulting economic collapse is no more sophisticated than record-breaking deficit spending, followed by debt monetization via money printing. In short, politicians, bureaucrats, and their supporters have insisted a single policy goal—ending the spread of a disease—be allowed to destroy all other values and considerations in society.
Has it even worked? Mounting evidence says no.
In The Lancet, Swedish infectious disease clinician (and World Health Organization (WHO) advisor) Johan Giesecke concluded:
At best, lockdowns push cases into the future, they do not lower total deaths. Gieseck continues:
As a public policy measure, the lack of evidence that lockdowns work must be balanced with the fact that we have already observed that economic destruction is costly in terms of human life.
Yet in the public debate, lockdown enthusiasts insist that any deviation from the lockdown will result in total deaths far exceeding those places where there are lockdowns. So far, there is no evidence of this.
In a new study titled "Full Lockdown Policies in Western Europe Countries Have No Evident Impacts on the COVID-19 Epidemic," author Thomas Meunier writes, "total deaths numbers using pre-lockdown trends suggest that no lives were saved by this strategy, in comparison with pre-lockdown, less restrictive, social distancing policies." That is, the "full lockdown policies of France, Italy, Spain and United Kingdom haven't had the expected effects in the evolution of the COVID-19 epidemic."1
The premise here is not that voluntary "social distancing" has no effect. Rather, the question is to whether "police-enforced home containment" works to limit the spread of disease. Meunier concludes it does not.
Meanwhile a study by polititical scientist Wilfred Reilly compared lockdown policies and COVID-19 fatalities among US states. Reilly writes:
Another study on lockdowns—again, we're talking about forced business closures and stay-at-home orders here—is this study by researcher Lyman Stone at the American Enterprise Institute. Stone notes that areas where lockdowns were imposed either had already experienced a downward trend in deaths before the lockdown could have possibly shown effects or showed the same trend as the year prior. In other words, lockdown advocates have been taking credit for trends that had already been observed before lockdowns were forced on the population.
Experience increasingly suggests that a more targeted approach is better for those who actually want to limit the spread of disease among the most vulnerable. The overwhelming majority—nearly 75 percent—of deaths from COVID-19 occur in patients over sixty-five years of age. Of those, approximately 90 percent have other underlying conditions. Thus, limiting the spread of COVID-19 is most critical among those who are already engaged with the healthcare system and are elderly. In the US and Europe, more than half of COVID-19 deaths are occuring in nursing homes and similar institutions.
This is why Matt Ridley at The Spectator quite reasonably observes that testing, not lockdowns, appears to be the key factor in limiting deaths from COVID-19. Those areas where testing is widespread have performed better:
We could contrast this with the policies of Governor Andrew Cuomo in New York, who mandated that nursing homes accept new residents without testing. This method nearly ensures that the disease will spread quickly among those who are most likely to die from it.
Meanwhile, Governor Cuomo saw fit to impose police-enforced lockdowns on the entire population of New York, ensuring economic ruin and ruined health for many non-COVID patients who were then cut off from vital treatments. Yet, disturbingly, lockdown fetishists like Cuomo are hailed as wise statesmen who "acted decisively" to prevent the spread of disease.
But this is the sort of regime we now live under. In the minds of many, it is better to abolish human rights and consign millions to destitution in the name of pursuing trendy unproven policies. The prolockdown party has even turned basic fundamentals of policy debate upside down. As Stone notes:
With economic output crashing worldwide and unemployment soaring to Great Depression levels, governments are already looking for a way out. Don't expect to hear any mea culpas from politicians, but we can already see how governments are quickly moving toward a voluntary social-distancing, nonlockdown strategy. This comes even after politicians and disease "experts" have been insisting that lockdowns must be imposed indefinitely until there's a vaccine.
The longer the lockdown-created economic destruction continues, the greater will be the threat of social unrest and even economic free fall. The political reality is thst the current situation cannot be sustained without threatening the regimes in power themselves. In an article for Foreign Policy titled "Sweden’s Coronavirus Strategy Will Soon Be the World’s," authors Nils Karlson, Charlotta Stern, and Daniel B. Klein suggest that regimes will be forced to retreat to a Swedish model:
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