“By staying home, we’re saving lives.” How often have you heard that logic during the last several months? Let’s take a closer look at it.
￼. If you know or even suspect that you have a highly infectious and potentially deadly disease, then of course, you should stay home; if you’re out and about, you’re putting others at risk. But what if there’s no reason to suspect that you’re infected with the disease? What if 99% of the people who do catch the disease survive it—in most cases, without serious symptoms? In that case, when a productive citizen stays home, there’s a cost to society—a cost that can ultimately be measured in lives. In The Price of Panic, three authors—Douglas Axe, William Brigg, and Jay Richards—try to put the Covid epidemic in perspective. The authors do not downplay the dangers of Covid. They simply weigh those dangers against the undoubted costs of the draconian measures with which public officials have responded. They contend:
This virus triggered panic long before it compared to any other global catastrophe… Never before had scores of countries around the world chosen to perform such economic harikari in unison. That is a bold appraisal: one virtually guaranteed to ensure that The Price of Panic is not reviewed—not even mentioned—by mainstream media outlets. Since the lockdowns began in March, the media outlets have competed with each other to run the most sensational headlines about the rise in case counts, the most frightening stories about potential fatalities, the most exaggerated accounts of hospital overcrowding. Bad news sells, and Covid has provided editors with a bonanza of bad news. It’s clickbait. It’s panic-porn. It’s obsessive.
The social-media giants, Facebook and Twitter and YouTube, have done their part to fan the flames, suppressing questions about the alarmist narrative. This has been done, the gatekeepers of the internet inform us, because it is responsible to suppress dissent in this case, because by stressing the urgency of the situation, they are saving lives. So we’re back to the statement with which I began this column: We’re doing these things to save lives.
But are we? That question could mean either of two things: Are we motivated by the desire to save lives? Are we actually saving lives? The Price of Panic pursues both questions. Are public officials, when they order ever-stricter lockdown measures, motivated entirely by the desire to save lives? A reasonably prudent observer should notice that the lockdowns concentrate power in the hands of a few officials. The governor decides when an emergency exists; the governor decides what you should do during an emergency; the governor decides when (if ever) the emergency has ended. The governor, in short, has an awful lot of power as long as the epidemic rages. And how many people, having tasted power, want to renounce it? For that matter, how many politicians, having ordered drastic public policies, want to admit that they have failed?
The lockdown policies have been ordered by governors and mayors on the basis of suggestions from public-health officials. Can we reasonably expect those public-health officials, and/or those elected politicians, to admit that they chose wrongly?
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