- AMERICAN INSTITUTE FOR ECONOMIC RESEARCH - MAY 23, 2021 - John Tamny -
People didn’t need government, or entities created by government. They also didn’t require force to protect themselves. Let’s never forget this. Better yet, let’s make this truth clear over and over again.
Ok, what truth? The truth that the American people along with people around the world adjusted to the spreading coronavirus much more quickly than did their self-appointed political minders.
As I point out in my new book When Politicians Panicked, New York City mayor de Blasio was encouraging increasingly cautious New Yorkers to go see movies at a time when more and more of them were staying home, plus he was riding the city’s subways to encourage ridership that was on decline as a consequence of fear about the virus.
In the U.S.’s allegedly science-denying red states, as in the states that locked down last, citizens had become more than cautious well before the wholly superfluous and destructive lockdowns reared their ugly heads. They were dining out less, washing their hands more, avoiding crowds more. It’s funny how fear of potential hospitalization or death focuses the mind on avoiding either outcome.
Notable about this very human desire to cheat illness, it wasn’t just an American thing. Holman Jenkins pointed out last summer that masks and hand sanitizer were scarce in Germany at a time when Angela Merkel was still downplaying the virus.
The people are a market. Repeat this truth too, over and over again. While processing limited information, they began to take precautions. Government force in 2020 was wholly unnecessary.
Which raises a basic question about Anthony Fauci, Robert Redfield, USIAID and the CDC. What if the two political bureaucrats lacked their well-funded taxpayer-funded perches? Would Americans have dropped dead in high numbers? The question itself insults the American people, along with human nature.
Up front, people respond to incentives. They respond to reality. If the virus had been an indiscriminate killer, the lengths Americans would have gone to in order to avoid infection would have well exceeded what any politician or government drone could have ever imagined. At the same time, it’s worth pointing out that if the virus had been a rabid life ender, we would have known it well in advance of it reaching the U.S. Think the internet. Think the smartphone. China is dense with them. If its people had been dying en masse, there’s no way this could have been hidden.
After which, it’s useful to point out the obvious; that Redfield and Fauci didn’t invent communications, the internet or smartphones, so without the two functionaries word about a spreading virus would have just as easily reached the American people. Some will point out how contradictory Fauci has been over the last 14 months about the virus, masks and other things related, but that’s shooting fish in a barrel.
The better answer is that Fauci, Redfield, USIAID and the CDC weren’t needed in the first place. No doubt such a statement would cause the heads of lefties like David Brooks to explode, but Brooks’s feelings don’t alter reality. In Brooks’s case, “national plans” excite him endlessly, which means national government organizations excite him, but it perhaps hasn’t occurred to Brooks to consider a world without Fauci et al. Better yet, Brooks might ask himself if dead Americans would be piled up on city streets around the country absent Fauci et al. Probably not. Actually, definitely not.
That’s the case because the same profit motive that continues to bring us closer to cancer cures (along with advances that make it possible to live with cancer) also ensures that capitalism would have produced all manner of virus-mitigating strategies. Ludwig von Mises described profits in Human Action as being a consequence of the motivated removing “unease” from our lives, so does anyone seriously think the wealth-focused would punt on creating information about and solutions for a situation like the one that was presented to us in 2020 when a globally spreading pathogen had red and blue state Americans alike on edge, along with the rest of the world? The question answers itself.
What form would a private version of the USIAID or CDC take? There’s no way of knowing, and that’s the point. Government is constrained by a static known, while the desire for profits always and everywhere results in the unexpected. All anyone really need say is that a capitalist system capable of producing Amazon, or Apple and its iPhones, could put together myriad innovative ways to deal with a virus.
Which brings us to the tragedy that was and is Fauci, Redfield, USIAID and the CDC. Not constrained by market signals, or profits, Fauci and Redfield quite simply “felt things.” Emotion guided them. So did fear. In possession of swagger that was not their own, they created fear all the while pushing the easily gulled (think politicians) toward panic. In other words, government creates the very crises it aims to avoid by trying to avoid them. Please think about this.
The virus had been in the news for months, and had been spreading for months. During this time American stock markets reached all-time highs as the virus spread. Free people don’t cause crises. Crises are born of panicky politicians “doing something” that always and everywhere involves replacing the marketplace that is the people with the narrow knowledge of the very few. It’s called central planning, and its imposition always creates a crisis.
So it did. Scared of their own shadow politicians let experts like Fauci and Redfield terrify them into a command-and-control stance. The rest is tragic history as jobs and businesses vanished in a climate of fear created by politicians and bureaucrats who would never miss a paycheck or a meal. So what would the world and life have been like sans Fauci et al? Your answer can be found in February of 2020 before expert-reverent politicians panicked.
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