Even a whisper of new lockdowns, mask mandates, or vaccines is enough to make you realize we’re all trauma victims suppressing a horrible memory: the three years of the Covid crisis. I can’t imagine there are too many people at this late date who hear talk of a current uptick in cases and react primarily by fearing a resurgence of the disease itself rather than by fearing all the bureaucracy and rules that may go with it.
Even if you believe the official stats and don’t think at all about how enfeebled most of the worst-hit victims were before they got Covid, it appears (per the World Health Organization) that over the course of three years the pandemic killed only about seven million people on a planet of about eight billion—fewer than one person in a thousand despite the apocalyptic rhetoric surrounding the whole thing, about .1 percent of the population. South Park rightly mocked scarier odds than that two decades ago when SARS was the great fear of the day: Only 99 percent of us will survive this, etc. These aren’t imaginary diseases, but they’re politicized diseases, and it’s best we move on.
Alternatively, we can submit to a whole new round of nonsense, if you really want to go there. Biden entering a recent press conference and saying of his mask, “Don’t tell them I didn’t have it on when I walked in” offers us the perfect battle cry for the current approach to public health planning, a mix of theatre and lies.
The pigheadedness of the DeSenters (to coin a term), for all its imprecision, looks more and more like an approach to life preferable to the paranoia and fanatical shaming in the liberal big cities. DeSantis will have given a boost to America’s rebellious spirit—not a libertarian philosophy lesson but at least the encouragement of some non-ideological disobedient people—even if he continues to wane in the presidential polls and Nikki Haley ends up the blandly Reaganite bearer of the GOP mantle, which wouldn’t be the most insane possible outcome these days.
Compared to the lockdowns and surveillance that were justified by pointing to the threat of Covid, even presidential candidate RFK starts to look good, though as is usually the case with populists, he embraces sweeping, impulsive ideas that could easily yield their own sort of authoritarianism. I understand the fondness some of my fellow libertarians have for him (and certainly understand the fondness Curb Your Enthusiasm fans have for his wife Cheryl Hines), but when he starts talking about banning pharma ads, one ought to pause and recall how often populists have been just as eager to crack down on innocent free-market activity—such as “usury” in loan-making—as they have been to crack down on run-amok government institutions such as the Federal Reserve.
If the establishment wants to avoid some strange rebellion arising from the next round of controls, the establishment might want to consider preemptively shuttering, if not the Federal Reserve, at least, say, the Centers for Disease Control in light of the awful experiences of the past three years. A report this summer suggests FDA and CDC hid data on a Covid spike among vaccinated people—by no means a sign that everything government says about disease is false, but maybe a sign we should take it from here without government.
Politics destroys objectivity, after all, and even more so politics fueled by fear of contagion and loss of control. It’s present not just in our recent plague spats but in the way people talk about immigration—so badly warping people’s ability to use logic that many right-wing populists have lately insisted they do not see any parallels between the U.S.’s southern border wall and the old Berlin Wall, a chunk of which Mexico has placed near the border as a reminder of what not to do.
The former, goes the argument, merely keeps people—filthy, unwelcome people, we are to assume—out, whereas the latter kept people in. Since when, though, do free individuals care whether they’re being penned in on one side or the other if they’re trying to move of their own accord between parcels of private property where people are willing to welcome them? The populists and East German communists should spend some time in each other’s prisons (if East Germany still existed, that is). They might learn how little difference it makes in practice which philosophy jailed you. (The fascistic magazine Compact has lately even tried blending right-populist and left-communist thinking, and it’s unlikely anything good will come of it.)
The advocates of jailing migrants don’t care about any of that, though. Their skin crawls at the thought of unwanted invasive organisms creeping close, and that’s as much thinking as they’re inclined to do on the subject.
As I lamented in my column two weeks ago, there are disturbing signs that both right and left, despite feigning opposition, think anti-plague measures should be punitive and think immigration is a curse to inflict on your political opponents, whether or not you’re officially committed to the cause of the migrants. Ostensibly immigration-loving New York City’s Mayor Adams says the city has no more room for housing migrants—even as the city government simultaneously regulates short-term room rental systems such as Airbnb out of existence. Why, it’s almost as if the City doesn’t really want newcomers to be here—only for them to be in Texas or California, making headaches for strangers, where they belong.
The uproar over the southern states’ “inhumane” stunt of simply placing immigrants on buses to places in the North such as Martha’s Vineyard may in some sense have been a pro-migrant reaction, but it was laughably hypocritical. So many people ostensibly want progress but want it to happen in someone else’s back yard. The right-populists laugh at the hypocrisy but draw the wrong conclusion, thinking no one does or should like immigrants. But plenty of individuals and businesses do, and the market should sort out where they end up, as it sorts out everything else when not regulated to death.
Biden may now be the most ridiculous embodiment of the pro-but-secretly-anti-immigration attitude, planning to force migrants to remain in Texas, with ankle monitors to ensure they stay put. Apparently, the mainstream liberal view isn’t so much that immigration is good but that lousy Texas, not the North, deserves a bunch of Mexicans. I honestly wouldn’t have predicted that liberals, terrible though they are, were capable of cynicism this brazen. Here I thought they genuinely wanted an end to borders, but apparently they just want Texas to be on the opposite side of the border from the rest of the U.S.
Whether it’s germs or people, we should be hesitant to cater to the overlords who want to stop them moving around by weighing us all down.