It was the Clinton operation in 1992 that brought us the permanent campaign. Then the financial crisis of 2008 provided the all-purpose excuse for more expansion of federal power. It was during this time that Rahm Emmanuel famously said never allow a crisis go to waste. Now the sentiment among the nation’s control freaks, otherwise known as progressives, seems to be never let a pandemic go to waste. For instance, Bloomberg Magazine, a kind of bible for Nanny Staters, recently published an article by Andreas Kluth entitled “We Must Start Planning For a Permanent Pandemic”. It is a reaction more than vaguely reminiscent of HL Mencken’s observation that Puritans were haunted by the fear that somebody, somewhere, might be happy.
And so the rise the Dead Enders proceeds apace. Consider, a little over a year ago in January of 2020, Dr. Anthony Fauci was busy reassuring Americans that there was no need to wear masks. Now he recommends wearing double masks for what seems to be the foreseeable future, vaccination progress notwithstanding. And speaking of vaccinations, back in April of 2020 Dr. Fauci said the earliest the U.S. would get a vaccine would be 12 to 18 months. Other “experts” noted that it typically would take up to 10 years to get the FDA to approve a vaccine.
As of today, 11 months later, about 90 million U.S. citizens have received vaccination shots. The U.S. is third in line behind Israel and the U.K. for shots-in-arms per capita. As a result, we could be on the cusp of herd immunity. We will almost certainly achieve herd immunity over the summer months.
Europe, on the other hand, is a mess. Its vaccination programs are stalled; Italy is locked down once again, and Germany and Spain, along with Italy, are facing another wave of infections. In the meantime, Sweden, which faced intense mainstream criticism for its relatively laissez-faire policy for dealing with the virus, has fared relatively well. More about later.
There has been considerable controversy among scholars about the effectiveness of lockdowns for protecting public health. You could be forgiven for being unaware of this by relying exclusively on the mainstream press. They have proceeded under the assumption that lockdowns are not only effective, but crucial to public health, irrespective of circumstances and implementation.
Empirical questions remain however. For example, how has Sweden fared relative to other countries? Data collected by the EU statistics agency Eurostat suggests that, comparatively speaking, Sweden has done rather well. In an article published by the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), John Miltimore uses these data to take a hard look at the costs benefits at lockdowns.
“Preliminary data from EU statistics agency Eurostat compiled by Reuters showed Sweden had 7.7% more deaths in 2020 than its average for the preceding four years. Countries that opted for several periods of strict lockdowns, such as Spain and Belgium, had so-called excess mortality of 18.1% and 16.2% respectively.
Twenty-one of the 30 countries with available statistics had higher excess mortality than Sweden. However, Sweden did much worse than its Nordic neighbours, with Denmark registering just 1.5% excess mortality and Finland 1.0%. Norway had no excess mortality at all in 2020.”
However, in a separate article published by FEE, Miltimore demonstrates that, for most of the pandemic, Finland and Norway adopted policies that were even less restrictive than Sweden’s.
John Carlson, Director of Sweden’s Public Health Agency sums up. “Some believed that it was possible to eliminate disease transmission by shutting down society. We did not believe that and we have been proven right.” (See the entire article here.)
It is true that U.S. cases have recently experienced an uptick after almost 3 months of rapid decline. Whether the uptick is lasting, or the result of loosening restrictions remains to be seen. So far, a causal link between restrictions and infections has been difficult to pin down.
For example, New York and New Jersey have had some of the most stringent restrictions while Florida has been far less so, earning it lots of Bronx cheers from…New York. But look at the outcomes. New Jersey has had 274 deaths per 100K. Excluding New York City, New York State has had 169 per 100K. New York City, the epicenter of infection for a good part of 2020, had a staggering 369 deaths per 100K. The wide variation between New York City and the rest of the state strongly suggests that statewide mandates are not particularly useful.
Then there is Florida. Statewide, Florida had 154 deaths per 100K. That’s 44% less than NJ and 58% less than New York City.
At the very least these data suggest that the severely restrictive policies many governments have adopted have not been very effective if the goal is to protect public health. Add to that the policy induced economic crash, the shutdown of schools, the rise in suicides and the deepening sense of isolation felt by many, and the policy response is now starting to look catastrophic.
So why, given their obvious and material harms, have general lockdowns persisted as a prime policy tool despite a lack of evidence proving their efficacy?
In fact, the entire progressive project is about control. The goal is control over the everyday lives of citizens through the centralization of power and the tools of command-and-control. Hence the assault on free speech, the hysteria over school choice and the rules, regulations and guidelines about masking, business hours, family gatherings, having people over for dinner and all the rest of it.
The idea of a virtuous and educated citizenry is tossed out the window like so many campaign promises. So shut up and eat you spinach. Your betters are here to take control.
Never let a pandemic go to waste.