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I was at a bit of a quandary as to what graphic to display today. So I decided just to highlight the current IHME COVID-19 death projection for the US. Notice anything? It’s about two-thirds the estimate a week ago. Some in the press want you to pat yourself on the back for being good little citizens and staying home, thus reducing the death rate. Except that the model always assumed we would be good little citizens and stay home. So why the change? Don’t know, other than reality intruding on prediction.
The United States today is under a form of martial law. Actually it is under about 42 state martial laws and six local jurisdiction martial laws — about 95% of the population. Of course, there has been no declaration of martial law. Instead, the restrictions imposed have been health emergency declarations going by some euphemisms like “safer at home” and “shelter in place.” But the net result is that 95% of American citizens are at least temporarily having their civil rights abridged.
What rights are those? Right of assembly — the governments have banned crowds, small groups, and even entertainment of non-resident persons in your home. Freedom of religion — pursuant to the bans on crowds, church congregations are not permitted to…congregate. Right to keep and bear arms — governments are closing gun stores having deemed them “non-essential.” Right of property — orders to close businesses not deemed “essential” by the government is a form of taking from the business owners and the employees. The recent worker relief legislation (to the extent it actually compensates business owners and employees for lost income) is not welfare it is payment of a debt owed. Freedom of travel — governments are restricting movement except for essential activities, e.g., food, medicines, health care.
Are restricting these freedoms justified? Unclear. Most of us want to give the government the benefit of the doubt for a short-term denial of rights in an emergency. Uncertainty about the health threat certainly justifies caution. The highest priority is to assure that local/regional health care systems are not overwhelmed and that traumas and diseases could no longer be treated. While that system is under threat, government control is most justified. But once it becomes clear that the local/regional health care system can manage the health challenges, what is the rationale for continued deprivation of liberty?
There are those that might argue that it’s to save lives. Except that we don’t save any lives. Death is inevitable. The timing of death is variable and it is not within the control of the government to extend life.
Then it must be to protect individuals from bad actors within the community — those that irresponsibly spread disease. Well, OK. In general, I am of a mind that your liberty ends at the tip of my nose. But we all know that isn’t quite true. Government is a poor arbiter over the inconveniences that people impose on one another and functions best only in post facto imposition of punishment as a deterrence to future outrages. And government is not securing maximum health for all of its citizens unless it is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, and omni-beneficent. Governments are never any of these.
How about “national security?” The argument is that to preserve the nation the citizenry must be controlled. Isn’t that kind of like “burning the village to save it?” And yet that seems to be what (Obamacare architect) Zeke Emmanuel is calling for; imposing “social distancing” for 18 months until a coronavirus vaccine is ready. If what Emmanuel has in mind is what Sweden is doing, fine. But if he believes that we should just stay in our homes, out of work, out of business, for the next 18 months, then sorry. That’s just martial law with a smiley face.
[Note: Links to all my CoVID-19 posts can be found here.]Published in