In the rush to stop the CCP virus dead in its tracks, much of the world has admirably rallied to follow the best medical advice available, including “social distancing,” the closure of public spaces and events, the shuttering of many businesses, and the quarantining of those most susceptible to COVID-19, including senior citizens and those with underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease.
Possibly as a result, the virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, has yet to inflict the kind of apocalyptic damage that was once feared, nor even to come close to the worldwide death toll of the Hong Kong flu of 1968 (1 million to 4 million dead), or the Swine flu of 2009 (up to half a million deaths), not to mention the devastating Spanish flu of 1918 (50 million dead around the world).
So far, worldwide, the CCP virus has killed just under 29,000 people, and only 622 in the United States, most of them coming in just five states.
But, hey, if it saves just one life …
Not so fast. While the United States and, to an even greater extent, Europe, has gone into unprecedented lockdown, few have raised the question of whether all this prevention is worth the economic, social, legal, and civilizational price we are already paying. For a disease that so far has extracted a relatively small death toll, and from which a quarter of those infected have already recovered, why are we reacting as if COVID-19 is the second coming of the Black Death?
In short, what is the cost/benefit analysis of deliberately damaging the world economy?
This sounds cruel in an age of sentimentality, easily hurt feelings, manic obsessions with non-existent problems like “climate change,” and microaggressions, but it’s really the only rational way to approach it. Already, President Donald Trump is considering getting the country back to work in a matter of weeks—perhaps as early as Easter (April 12)—and, as he correctly pointed out recently, “we can’t have the cure be worse than the problem.”
So far, the “cure” has involved a considerable loss of civil liberties as state governors, acting without involvement from their legislatures, have unilaterally shut down economic and social activities in their states, largely to the plaudits of a petty-tyrant media.
Sunbathers are ordered off beaches, churches have closed, concerts canceled, movie theaters are moribund, and citizens ordered peremptorily to “shelter in place” or be subject to fines and arrests. Airlines have been crushed, the travel industry beaten to a pulp, hotels and restaurants are, at least temporarily, out of business.
Even if the panic subsides quickly, putting Humpty Dumpty back together again is going to be an enormous undertaking.
At the national level, both parties have competing budget-shattering trillion-dollar aid packages that immediately became larded up with the usual pet pork projects and bound with red tape: for the Democrats, such crackpot nostrums as the “Green New Deal,” solar credits, and carbon offsets.
Meanwhile, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell couldn’t wait to involve the IRS in his bill instead of simply getting on with it and mailing every American a check, regardless of “need” or its parsing of your 2018 tax returns.
There’s even talk on the left of conducting the 2020 election strictly by mail: a formula for chicanery if there ever was one. Even in extremis, it seems, our solons can’t resist going about business as usual—which is jockeying for political advantage.
“We’re all in this together,” goes the refrain, if only that were true. By the time both houses of Congress reconcile their emergency legislation, and get much-needed aid to the country, the cause of the crisis will have long passed. And if there’s one thing we’ve learned from other “temporary” measures, there’s nothing harder to kill than an expansion of government authority; in many ways, great and small, the United States is still paying the costs of the vast increase in the size and scope of the federal government during World War II and the Cold War.
Once having tasted essentially dictatorial powers, will state governors such as New York’s Andrew Cuomo and California’s Gavin Newsom willingly give them up? After all, when then-President Barack Obama found himself frustrated by Congress, he simply used his “pen and a phone” to rule by executive order in such matters as immigration—and nobody could stop him.
Sometimes, desperate times demand desperate measures. During the Roman Republic, in times of trouble, the Senate would temporarily suspend the authority of the co-consuls and appoint a dictator for six months or until the crisis was over. Most dictators, such as Cincinnatus, willingly gave up their authority. Julius Caesar, however, didn’t, ruling as dictator for five years before being named “dictator for life”—the event that precipitated his assassination in 44 B.C.
America is not ancient Rome, of course, but the U.S. constitution was expressly written to avoid the consolidation of power in the hands of just a few—or even one—and summarily subordinating it to the wishes of epidemiologists, especially in this instance, seems extremely unwise.
This doesn’t make enduring the loss of a loved one, especially a parent, any easier. But a great nation simply can’t trash its founding documents and go out of business without sober, unemotional reflection, lest those who survive have nothing left to come back to, or live for.
Let’s keep our heads, bury and mourn our dead, learn the appropriate medical lessons—and let life go on.
Michael Walsh is the author of “The Devil’s Pleasure Palace” and “The Fiery Angel,” both published by Encounter Books. His latest book, “Last Stands,” a cultural study of military history, will be published later this year by St. Martin’s Press. Follow him on Twitter @dkahanerules.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.