Are you beginning to think the cure could be far more deadly than the disease?
With parents in their mid-80s and a handicapped child, COVID-19 presents a real threat to those I love most. I want more than anything for them to survive this health crisis, for them to get on the other side of this “curve” our leaders are desperately trying to flatten.
But I also want them to survive the economic ash heap that is going to be left after our leaders are done flattening the curve. The economic devastation could be far more lasting than COVID itself.
There is medical health and there is economic health. Without economic health first, we cannot achieve the medical health we desire. We won’t be able to afford it. Thus, the old saying, wealth equals health. It’s why people in poor countries have such miserable life spans.
The Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and other health organizations are entrusted to view the world through medical health eyes, not economic eyes, and God bless them for it. They are doing their jobs and we all should be grateful.
The CDC types are paid to have a purely engineering mind-set. Flatten the curve. Flatten the curve at all costs. To them market realities are an obstacle to overcome, a limitation to push through to a medically healthy outcome. Their expertise is health, not the economics to pay for it.
Think of it this way. The best metal conductor for electricity is gold. If engineers were allowed, unchecked by market reality, they’d build every power transmission line out of gold. It makes the most sense from an engineering point of view. Of course, it is impossible to run golden electrical lines from power plants to your home because it is economically insane.
Shutting down private businesses by government fiat is economically insane, not to mention bordering on martial law.
It will certainly flatten the curve of COVID-19, a very worthy goal, but in the long run it could be curing a sickness via suicide. A person struck by the virus can and likely will survive. Small businesses, especially in hospitality, likely won’t. And the families that depend upon them might not either.
Sadly, government has monopoly control over K-12 education and therefore can shutter our schools. Wrongly, government owns what should be private entertainment venues, sport arenas and the like and can close them down. And maybe it’s wise to do so.
But when, through executive orders, a politician can suspend our right to free assembly and close privately-owned restaurants, bars and gyms, he is forcing unemployment and bankruptcy by decree.
Business owners and employees might be thrown a small lifeline of government cash. This turns the wealth creators who power our nation into wealth takers and part of the dependency class.
And that is what we call a moral hazard.
If you’re like me, you’d feel comfortable going to a restaurant during this crisis, assuming there was enough distance from other customers. I’m denied the simple freedom to choose.
The emergency order from our governor was not to make sure tables in restaurants were at least 6 feet apart. It closed dining rooms altogether. Kitchen staff are still allowed to work in close quarters for pickup and delivery, so opening dining areas to half capacity shouldn’t be any more of a health risk!
A gym built for a maximum of 50 people could let 10 in and still have a safe social distance between them. But they don’t have that option.
Government workers with guaranteed paychecks will enforce these orders to keep private-sector people, who are risking their own limited life savings, out of business.
Progressives claim to hold equality of outcome as their principle. If so, shouldn’t our governor fire state employees just as he is firing those in the hospitality industry? It’s only fair. If only the most crucial government health and safety workers got paid, and the others didn’t, might our governor better feel the reality of his actions?
To be clear I’m not suggesting government do nothing to flatten the COVID curve. But as those who are going to claim those in power should have seen COVID coming, those in power need to see the potentially longer lasting damage of their actions to our livelihoods and our civil liberties.
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.