I haven’t written much long-form stuff since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Yes, I was pretty skeptical of the claims at first. That’s what happens when you’ve survived about two-dozen previous claims of WORST VIRUS EVAH! It’s looking like this will be worse than the others, but well short of the Black Death.
Most of my concern has been over our response. That includes the near-shutdown of the greatest economic engine ever seen in human history, AND the unmitigated glee some have shown as they report their fellow citizens to thefor jogging by themselves on a beach—or participating in a drive-in Easter Service—or playing catch with their little girl in the park. It takes a concerted effort to undo several years of economic progress in a couple of weeks while cultivating a climate of snitching. Fear is still an unchallenged #1 as the greatest human motivator.
I have unpopularly said several times that I do not think the reaction is commensurate with the threat. Those living in hyperbolic chambers until this blows over have been indignant. “How DARE you! PROVE IT!”
It is impossible to prove or disprove. Despite any model you may have seen there is no way we will ever know for sure if this global social distancing has made a great difference. Oh I’m sure it has made SOME difference. But has it been enough to justify the trillions of dollars in additional spending our children will have to pay for? Is it worth the new powers that government has exercised?
My favorite counter-arguments have revolved around the canard that “If it saves just ONE life, it’s worth it!” Well, not really. That is a callous thing for me to say, of course. But we make value judgements like that every day. It’s true.
Despite the high regard we all have for human life (especially our own) we consistently do things that could shorten or end them. For some it’s eating way too much of the wrong things. For others it’s tempting the ghost of Wile E. Coyote by crossing train tracks. We do it by it hurtling through the air at several thousand miles per hours in a pressurized tube…or by zooming at 75 mph down an Interstate in a two-ton machine.
Why do we do such things? Simple. We value their benefits more than we fear the potential risks. There would NEVER be another fatal plane crash if we outlawed aviation. But our economy and our very way of life would suffer. So we have made the decision that flying is worth the risk.
How would you respond to someone who claims that because you believe in flying you WANT people to die fiery deaths. You would ignore them, laugh at them or give them a fat lip for such nonsense. Why, then, do we let people get away with arguing in favor of ANY government restriction in a pandemic with the defense that “it might save someone’s life!”?
Safety is an important thing, but it is not the ONLY thing. If our standard is “no reasonable risk of harm,” then there is very little human activity you cannot disqualify. And let’s face it—all of the really FUN things contain an element of risk. Drinking, smoking, eating red eat, driving fast, having a second dessert, sneaking into the drive-in, splitting Kings at the blackjack table.
In a perfect world governments wuld enact only policies that are driven by science and common sense, that are proportionate to the risks, and that do not last any longer than is absolutely necessary.
In my lifetime, we have averaged about one pandemic scare every three-to-four years. I am worried that our (mostly) passive acceptance of restrictions in this instance will make Government more willing to institute similar policies during the next one—even if the threat is markedly smaller. After all…”If it saves just one life!”
We MUST make sure that we don’t allow this unique period in our history to make us receptive to the idea that Government can take drastic measures under most any pretense.