Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Day 73: COVID-19 Reframing Freedom

 

The numbers in the US continue to climb. The numbers in Italy hint of a possible peak but there will need to be several days to confirm. If the peak is confirmed then we will get some hint as to a possible peak in this country. The 91-DIVOC website compares countries by the metric “days since reaching the 1 case/million population”. (This is useful because the US recorded a case back on January 20 but did not start recording a substantial number of cases until early March.) Italy is on day 39 since reaching that metric; the US is on day 25. Does this mean we will reach a peak of our epidemic 14 days after Italy?

Regardless of when we reach our peak, we undoubtedly will do so. Sooner or later the epidemic will slow due to a combination of factors. And we will emerge into a very different world than we occupied on January 1, 2020. What kind of world will that be?

I’ve selected a title to this post of “Reframing Freedom” because the world into which we will emerge will be influenced by our experience as a society. A rapid but voluntary shift in perspective is referred to in the psychological literature as “reframing.” It is also seen as a positive step in dealing with life problems as a means of identifying new pathways and strategies that move an individual away from destructive behaviors. But I would submit that “reframing” can also be involuntary and negative, in that our perspective is altered by an intense and bad experience. Emerging from the epidemic with no job, dead relatives or friends, debt or substantially diminished savings or investments, can shake our societal confidence. It can make us feel that a society based on individual liberty is inadequate to meet the demands of the world into which we are going.

During the epidemic we are being asked to sacrifice our individual preferences in order to protect the herd. For truly our society is a herd. We are social creatures and whether we tuck into the center or prefer the edge, herd creatures we remain. And like wildebeest traversing a plain filled with predators we learn quickly that going on your own is the easiest way to find yourself becoming a meal. Or consider the Emperor Penguins surviving an arctic winter by pressing close and changing positions in the waddle to give each the necessary warmth to sustain their existence.

The gift of Western Civilization is to embrace a philosophy by which humans can achieve better ends through the path of cooperation born of self-interest combined with moral rectitude than that of a collective under authoritarian control. And yet too many of our fellow citizens do not have confidence in that system and support leadership that promises safety and security in exchange for a loss of personal liberty. And every shock that we undergo strengthens the collectivists and weakens the individualists.

Our constitution is supposed to protect the individual against collective impulses that ripple through society. But in emergencies, those rights are suspended. Andrew McCarthy addressed this phenomena in Law and Liberty in an Emergency as did Powerline recently in Hayek on Emergency Powers of Government. Governments that seize emergency powers too often are loathed to release them, or at least release them entirely. In that way power reserved to the people ceases to be.

I have been trying to get a sense of what the new world may be. The other day I posted video from Matt Galat that documents his return to China and the ways in which he is trading liberty for security. Today, I want to reference another video; this one by American expatriates living in Chongqing — the Garcia family. I found it very interesting. Whether it is a sincere feeling or not, the Garcias are commending the Chinese government for the steps they took and see the remaining restrictions that they describe as necessary. And the video is useful as well to see what life is like in one part of China after the lifting of the lockdown. Neither Matt, the Garcias, or “Steevo” a third non-Chinese person who is documenting life after lockdown, live in Wuhan. Matt is in Ningbo, a coastal city south of Shanghai, and Steevo is in Jiangsu Province just north of Shanghai. Following all three is like hearing from someone in NYC, San Francisco and Chicago.

And just to keep you in tune with things I am looking at, here is short documentary of the epidemic in China posted to YouTube by Deutsche Welle.

When the epidemic is over we will have to do the hard work of restoring freedom.

[Note: Links to all my CoVID-19 posts can be found here.]

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  1. Dr. Bastiat Member

    Superb.

    Please don’t stop.

    • #1
    • April 2, 2020, at 5:07 PM PDT
    • 11 likes
  2. OldPhil Coolidge

    The gift of Western Civilization is to embrace a philosophy by which humans can achieve better ends through the path of cooperation born of self-interest combined with moral rectitude than that of a collective under authoritarian control. And yet too many of our fellow citizens do not have confidence in that system and support leadership that promises safety and security in exchange for personal liberty. And every shock that we undergo strengthens the collectivists and weakens the individualists.

    This needs to be inscribed somewhere.

    • #2
    • April 2, 2020, at 5:15 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  3. Hoyacon Member

    The data is somewhat higher last I checked (understandable) indicating about 55,000 new cases counting only yesterday and today. I’m wondering how this informs previous discussions about the exponential nature of the curve?

    • #3
    • April 2, 2020, at 5:25 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  4. The Reticulator Member

    Rodin: When the epidemic is over we will have to do the hard work of restoring freedom.

    We can start already now with our grumbling and whining. At least that’s my contribution.

    • #4
    • April 2, 2020, at 6:02 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  5. MarciN Member

    Maybe something positive will happen: Lots of people who are usually too busy to do so are currently watching their state and local government agencies in action. They are at home right now, and they are able to follow local events better than they usually do.

    If we’re really lucky, perhaps when this crisis is over, we will see a surge of people bringing their private-sector executive skills and talents into their local and state government operations–either by running for office or sitting on advisory committees.

    This reform-minded group will bring a customer-centric attitude to government. State and local government agencies are very often run by inexperienced people who take their union-guaranteed jobs very much for granted as well as the tax dollars that pay their salaries. They get some sort of high off of the governing side of their jobs rather than the serving side. They are the ones exuberantly and unnecessarily closing local beaches this week.

    It is really easy for people to influence local and state government agencies. Perhaps that’s how this story will end. Our local conservation committee enacted some insanely restrictive regulations on landowners who live near but not on our local marshes. It made the landowners pretty angry so they got themselves elected and/or appointed to those regulatory boards. :-)

    • #5
    • April 2, 2020, at 6:54 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  6. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    Frederic Bastiat, a French economist and member of the French National Assembly, lived from 1801 to 1850.

    He had great admiration for our country, except for our two faults — slavery and tariffs.

    He said: “Look at the United States. There is no country in the world where the law is kept more within its proper domain: the protection of every person’s liberty and property.”

    If Bastiat were alive today, he would not have that same level of admiration.

    The U.S. has become what he fought against for most of his short life.

    http://walterewilliams.com/plunder-an-american-way-of-life/

     

    • #6
    • April 2, 2020, at 7:30 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  7. EHerring Coolidge

    I hope many, having seen the ugly underbelly of state and federal governments, will push back against it with great energy and restore liberty. If several states want to push us further into totalitarian tyranny, then I am all for sending them packing before they poison the rest of the states. My biggest hope is they would choose to moderate after seeing we have had enough of their nonsense and would prefer fewer stars on the flag and less liberty.

    • #7
    • April 2, 2020, at 7:43 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  8. The Reticulator Member

    Proposed new rule: State governors who declare martial law or the equivalent thereof need to step down from public office at the next election, retire from public life, and accept the thanks of a grateful citizenry. This will encourage them not to declare emergencies except in the utmost emergency situations. 

    • #8
    • April 2, 2020, at 8:22 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  9. Hammer, The Member

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    Frederic Bastiat, a French economist and member of the French National Assembly, lived from 1801 to 1850.

    He had great admiration for our country, except for our two faults — slavery and tariffs.

    He said: “Look at the United States. There is no country in the world where the law is kept more within its proper domain: the protection of every person’s liberty and property.”

    If Bastiat were alive today, he would not have that same level of admiration.

    The U.S. has become what he fought against for most of his short life.

    http://walterewilliams.com/plunder-an-american-way-of-life/

     

    I have a book about Bastiat that is one of the best books I’ve read. “A man Alone,” I believe.

    • #9
    • April 2, 2020, at 9:09 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    Hammer, The (View Comment):

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    Frederic Bastiat, a French economist and member of the French National Assembly, lived from 1801 to 1850.

    He had great admiration for our country, except for our two faults — slavery and tariffs.

    He said: “Look at the United States. There is no country in the world where the law is kept more within its proper domain: the protection of every person’s liberty and property.”

    If Bastiat were alive today, he would not have that same level of admiration.

    The U.S. has become what he fought against for most of his short life.

    http://walterewilliams.com/plunder-an-american-way-of-life/

     

    I have a book about Bastiat that is one of the best books I’ve read. “A man Alone,” I believe.

    Even better is to read his book, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Law_(Bastiat_book)

     

     

    • #10
    • April 3, 2020, at 2:53 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  11. MarciN Member

    All over the Yahoo! news feed this morning and last night, I’ve been seeing headlines touting the intelligence of the Chinese and Italian governments in how they handled the epidemic within their countries. I think they are taking credit for something that was not of their doing. I say that because I’ve been watching the weather in Wuhan and Lombardy. The fact is that the temperatures are the same right now for both places–mid-sixties to low seventies. Clearly, the Chinese people who settled in Lombardy liked the weather there because it was so similar to the weather in the Hubei province. :-) It’s really not a random coincidence that these two areas became hot spots for this virus. The virus traveled with the Wuhan workers who were working in that part of Italy.

    At any rate, viruses are extremely sensitive to temperature. That’s a good thing for the animal kingdom. :-) Their nature is parasitic in that viruses cannot survive long outside a host.

    What that means is that the virus’s life on surfaces is short now, and we–like Wuhan and Lombardy–are close to containing it simply because of the warming weather. It can still be spread human being to human being by close contact. So the N5 masks and shields for medical personnel are still critical to contain this virus in medical care settings. And it will take some time for that source of the spread of this infection to calm down and burn out. But the chances of people getting sick from exposure to the virus from touching a subway car railing are going down rapidly. The rising spring temperature will help us quickly now reach the burnout phase of this virus. The lower the incidence in the general public, the lower the rate of infection for everyone. The healthy-herd immunity effect will kick in.

    I hope the CDC is watching this phenomenon–the dramatic decrease in new cases with the warming weather. The message the CDC should be getting from watching this happen is that masks are vital to keeping cough-born upper-respiratory infections from spreading. That is true because a mask, just as is true of coughing into your sleeve-covered elbow, keeps an infected person who coughs from leaving landmine virus-laden secretion droplets on surfaces.

    The CDC really dropped the ball on this mask issue two months ago. The United States would have had a bad year with this virus, but it would not have reached the infection numbers we are seeing today.

    This is old-fashioned advice (see the people wearing masks in this slide show on the Spanish flu on IBM’s weather website). The CDC was probably focused on how individuals could protect themselves from getting the disease, and that could be accomplished only with expensive N5 masks. That objective blurred their judgment about the efficacy of a simple hand-made bleachable and washable mask.

    • #11
    • April 3, 2020, at 8:26 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  12. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge

    It seems to me that the American people (and maybe people in general) have a remarkable facility for forgetting painful experiences. This can be either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the circumstances.

    Some things changed after 9/11, but more stayed the same than changed. We had a bit of reorganization in the federal government, and we had some new military engagements overseas, and as a society we were more aware of dangers that had been there all along. But day-to-day life for most people didn’t take very long to go right back to what it had been before, and the new aspects of life (like the ongoing wars, dealing with the TSA, and so forth) just became part of the backdrop.

    My guess is that, as with 9/11, we’ll come out of this with a sharpened awareness of a danger we all knew was there, but hadn’t taken seriously. There will be changes to government funding for public health and efforts made to prepare better for the next pandemic. There will be ongoing wrangling about how to help the economy recover, and how to pay for that. But this will all be happening in the background, and most people will just want to move on and get back to living their normal lives.

    I doubt very many people’s fundamental political attitudes will change; if anything, from what I’ve seen, people’s reactions to this crisis have generally been to double down on whatever their political inclination already was. Whatever people believe politically, I think they’ll just find confirmation for those beliefs in this experience.

    • #12
    • April 3, 2020, at 9:09 AM PDT
    • 3 likes