Thinking Clearly about the COVID Response

POLITICS & POLICY
Police officers check the COVID vaccination status of shoppers after the Austrian government imposed a lockdown on roughly two million people who are not fully vaccinated in Vienna, Austria, November 16, 2021. (Lisi Niesner/Reuters)

When COVID hit, most political leaders went all in for measures to stop the spread, without considering the collateral damage such measures might cause. Since then, they have only become more eager to use coercion, even though it is evidently not working. That’s what you’d expect from politicians–if they don’t work at first, the solution must be to ratchet up the use of force until they do.

David Cayley, in an essay that’s more than a year old but as pertinent as the day he wrote it, points out the failure of politicians to think through the totality of the public health problem. He regards the COVID reaction as a catastrophe:

Consider just a preliminary sketch of the consequences. There has been widespread and potentially fatal loss of livelihood throughout the world, especially amongst economically marginal groups. Businesses that have taken years to build have been destroyed. Suicide, depression, addiction and domestic violence have all increased. Public debt has swelled to potentially crippling proportions.  The performing arts have been devastated. Precious “third places” that sustain conviviality have closed. Fear has been sown between people. Homelessness has grown to the point where some downtown Toronto parks have begun to resemble the hobo camps of the 1930’s. There have been surges in other diseases that have gone untreated due to COVID preoccupation. Many formerly face-to-face interactions have been virtualized, and this change threatens, in many cases, to become permanent – it seems, for example, that “leading universities” like Harvard and U.C. Berkeley have enthusiastically adopted on-line teaching in the hopes of franchising their expertise in future. The list goes on. Is this a worthwhile price to pay to avert illness amongst healthy people who could for the most part have sustained the illness? The question, by and large, has not even been asked.

When has a government official ever said, “I was wrong. My policy did more harm than good. I’m sorry. I resign”?

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