The COVID-19 crisis has brought to the foreground two fundamentally different philosophies: One values health and security above all concerns; the other places freedom at the top, even when it may cause death. There has been little public conversation about these values. Consequently, President Donald Trump has been branded as having murdered more than 200,000 Americans by not putting in place totalitarian measures to lock down the country.
Fifteen Days to Flatten the Curve
When the pandemic first struck America and reports of large numbers of fatalities came out of Italy, the models showed that the United States could face millions of deaths unless something drastic were done. The Trump administration recommended a temporary shutdown. The mantra shared by most experts and politicians was 15 days’ lockdown to flatten the curve. Everyone understood that it was too late and too hard to stop the virus spreading altogether, but it was still possible to slow it down to avoid overwhelming hospitals, which had happened in Italy.
One Life Is One Too Many
Then we got good news. The models were wrong by a factor of at least ten. By then, the politicians’ tune, especially in Democratic states, had changed: One life is one too many. In May, Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) said that California would not go back to normal until there is a vaccine, which could potentially be never. Since then, mortality has dropped due to new medications, but many still insist that it is too early to open the economy. Some blame the president for COVID-related deaths. Political pundit Keith Olbermann stated: “Trump should be on trial for 220,000 murders, death penalty for each count.”
Freedom vs. Health
Suddenly, a large portion of the population and most of the left elevated COVID-19 to a security risk that warranted extreme totalitarian measures. They determined that a slight health risk was more important than liberty. The median age of death from COVID-19 is in the vicinity of 80 years, and most of the victims have comorbidities. Thus, the typical coronavirus victim has only a few months or possibly years left to live after enjoying a long life.
The same people who consider the disease the equivalent of the Black Death have no concern for the economic and social costs of isolation, notable for a startling rise in business closures, unemployment, depression, drug abuse, and domestic violence. Thousands of small business owners have found that lockdowns destroyed their generational family business and life work. To the health risk-obsessed, that matters naught. They expect people to sacrifice their income and social life to potentially save strangers to whom they have no relation.
Socialism: Stranger’s Keeper
Fundamentally, fueling the coronavirus lockdown psychology is the same idea that underlies socialism: You are any stranger’s keeper. If a single person on the other side of the globe is starving or suffering from poverty, you don’t deserve to live your life in peace and prosperity. The same idea underlies climate-change worries: You must give up your hard-earned life today to maybe save a polar bear a century from now. It also underlies open borders: Why do you, as an American, have a right to live a good life just because you happened to be born in a rich country? Everyone should be allowed to cross the border to rectify this injustice.
However, the peddlers of COVID-19 totalitarianism are not consistent in their concern for strangers. Around one billion people in the world live in abject poverty, and any downturn in the economy due to lockdowns hampers their ability to feed themselves. The World Health Organization has recently warned against lockdowns precisely for this reason. Millions of people may have already died from their effects. The inconsistency in concern for strangers appears to be a convenient excuse for amassing government power.
Is Liberty a Right?
Most Americans contribute to curbing virus spread through social distancing, mask use, and hand hygiene. However, to the totalitarians, this voluntary mass effort is not enough. They hold people’s liberties hostage by dangling grandma over the edge of the cliff, threatening to plunge her into the abyss unless people give up their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.
One question is never discussed in the media: Do you have a right to liberty, or are you any stranger’s keeper?
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