The lockdown of the economy by government decree should end. The lasting and far-reaching damage caused by this authoritarian precedent far outweigh those caused by the COVID-19 virus. The people—individuals, families, local communities, congregations and businesses—must decide for themselves how and when to reopen and return to their daily lives. Whatever happened to Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights? Whatever happened to freedom of movement? Freedom of conscience? Freedom of religion? Freedom of worship? Is it wise to surrender essential liberties for promised relief from a disease? What can we learn from Singapore, South Korea and Sweden, concerning how they have dealt with the COVID-19 epidemic, without a lockdown undermining the economy and impoverishing millions?
Neither a president nor parliament has the legal authority to shut down daily life without due process. Business closures, restrictions on assembly, church services and movement and quarantines are not constitutionally permissible. These due process requirements may not be suspended. State officials may claim police powers to shut down communities and unilaterally imposing lengthy periods of virtual house arrest, but this is neither wise nor necessary. Indeed it is extremely dangerous to Liberty.
We do not know, and cannot yet know, how many will become sick or die from the virus. We do know that predictions regarding infection and death rates are frequently highly unreliable. Even actual deaths attributable to COVID-19 are not so easy to count, as Italy has discovered. Age, general health, and comorbidity are difficult variables to assess and people may die “with” the virus but not “from” it. It is also very difficult to assess the lethality of the virus relative to previously known types of flu and colds.
In 1850, French economist Frédéric Bastiat helped the world understand the “seen and unseen costs” of state policies. It is simple to see how quarantines and lockdowns may slow the spread of a pandemic. It is critical, but it is not so simple, to see the costs and unintended harm caused by an economic shutdown. Only then can anyone rationally understand the trade-offs involved. “To the Law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isaiah 8:20
To date, COVID-19 deaths are far fewer than deaths in ordinary flu seasons, or from past pandemics such as the H1N1 virus. This understanding is critically important to put the virus, and government response to it, in perspective. Even during past pandemics, depressions and world wars, people still went to work.
How many suffering from other illnesses cannot see a doctor now? How many will lose their jobs, their life savings, their retirement prospects and their incalculable feeling of self-worth? How many will succumb to depression, drug or alcohol abuse and suicide? How many will lose their homes, divorce their spouses, or suffer abuse? How many will never recover in their careers? How many small businesses, including the vital ones of doctors, dentists and veterinarians, will vanish from your community? How many young people will “fail to launch”?
Will grocery stores remain open and remain adequately stocked? Will crime increase? Will the social fabric, already thin from politics, tear apart?
These questions are not rhetorical. Millions will not be able to pay their rent or mortgages. Millions of small businesses will suffer, just as many large employers, airlines and hotels already have. Millions are unemployed already, but many millions more jobs will be lost. The disastrous effects will escalate.
There is no conflict between humanitarian and economic concerns; in fact, they are two sides of the same coin. A poorer country will be a much less healthy country, one more vulnerable to future illness and disease. Technology, modern medicine and market innovators can counteract a virus. Already we see entrepreneurs producing cheaper ventilators and doctors using cheap generic treatments with very promising results.
This local, decentralised, bottom-up approach is the only effective way to confront any crisis. Governments, as we see now and have seen in the past, are generally comically and tragically incapable of competence in times of crisis. Yet, Singapore, South Korea and Sweden have dealt responsibly with the COVID-19 epidemic, without a lockdown undermining the economy and impoverishing millions.
Freedom really is more important than security—or, in this case, an illusion of security. We all demonstrate this in our personal lives taking risks every day, from flying, to driving, to riding bicycles, to climbing mountains. Security has never been the sole or even primary goal for any people.
Governments cannot decide what aspects of our lives are essential or nonessential. Civil servants are not meant to rule our lives, but to serve the citizens and tax payers who elect them and pay their salaries. People cannot simply sit at home and wait for government checks written on funds that government does not have. Irresponsible, power hungry and corrupt politicians are mortgaging the futures of our children and grandchildren. In violation of our constitution and Bill of Rights.
End the Lockdown.
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To view the video of Pandemic, Panic, Propaganda and Priorities, click here.