You’ll Have To Be a Little Crazy To Return to Normalcy

“I cant wait to get back to normal. I’m tired of this social distancing.”

Who among us hasn’t expressed some thought like this in the past month? We all want to get back to eating at restaurants, strolling about in crowded cities, mingling with the opposite sex, and giving strong handshakes to colleagues.

There’s just one problem: the virus isn’t just going to go away one day.

We’ll reduce infection and death rates. We’ll build herd immunity. We’ll boost hospital capacity. We’ll develop treatments. But until you get a vaccine (which may take over a year, assuming it’s any good) you probably won’t ever be able to feel 100% secure against the risk of infection.

And no one is going to come on TV and (reliably) tell us: “Hey everyone! Everything is OK now!”

So what?

Normalcy is never a safe bet at any time. Even when there’s not a WHO-designated pandemic, there’s always the risk that the next hands we shake will carry the virus or bacteria that will kill us. There’s always the risk that we’ll get infected, injured, insulted, exposed, defrauded, or abandoned whenever we interact with our fellow human beings.

It’s a wonder we ever were as physically close as we once were. Our “normal” was only normal because we either 1) ignored the risks or 2) knew the risks and shook the hand/hugged the friend anyway.

Call it courage, call it foolishness, but we’ll need it if we ever want to get back to normal. The boldest/stupidest of us will have to be the first to go back to sitting in the movie theatres, dining at restaurants, and flying on airplanes. It will be our job to do these things and survive, so the rest of the world finds its own boldness/stupidity in their good time.

Then we’ll have normalcy again. But we’ll have to be a little crazy to get it.

(P.S. This isn’t medical advice, dumbass. Consider your health risk factors, take cautious steps to normalcy, and don’t expose vulnerable people if you decide to mix and mingle.)

Originally published at JamesWalpole.com.

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Whither the Precautionary Principle?

The precautionary principle, per Wikipedia, is “a strategy for approaching issues of potential harm when extensive scientific knowledge on the matter is lacking. It emphasizes caution, pausing and review before leaping into new innovations that may prove disastrous.”

Over the last half century or so, regulators and activists have regularly invoked the precautionary principle versus industrial and commercial concerns: Will this new car wash ruin the nesting grounds of the Great Purple-Crested Bandersnatch? Could construction of that pipeline conceivably pollute a river? Might the noise from a proposed refinery disturb the sleep of some nearby Mrs. Nimby?

Then came COVID-19, and all of a sudden many of the same voices who’d have followed the precautionary principle to hell and back to stop construction of a nuclear power plant or delay the logging of a plot of old growth forest completely abandoned it.

For THIS situation, panicking and screaming “SCIENCE!” at the top of one’s lungs suddenly and inexplicably became satisfactory substitutes for “caution, pausing and review” before radically transforming the lives of more than 300 million surprised human lab rats.

I’m pretty sure that placing millions of Americans under de facto house arrest and shutting down significant portions of the US economy constitute “new innovations that may prove disastrous.” And every day it becomes clearer that “extensive scientific knowledge on the matter was lacking” when it came to the rationales for doing so.

Over the course of the last month, projections of US COVID-19 deaths from supposed “experts,” based on their super duper magic … er, “scientific” … models, have fallen from a high of 1.7 million, to a likelihood of between 100,000 and 240,000, to perhaps 60,000.

None of those numbers are numbers we want to hear when we’re talking about dead people, of course, but the fall from 1.7 million to 1/28th that number is a strong indicator that the overall process was based on something resembling wild, panicked guesses (and in some cases raw political opportunism) more than realistic modeling based on smart assumptions and fed with good data.

Don’t take my word for it. Ask Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: “I’ve looked at all the models. I’ve spent a lot of time on the models. They don’t tell you anything. You can’t really rely upon models.”

But those models were what federal bureaucrats, state-level politicians, and local health officials DID rely on, and point to, as the basis and justification for a cascade of crazed policy decisions that have already resulted in what will likely turn out to be the worst US economic collapse since the Great Depression.

Don’t let the government’s COVID-19 Catastrophe Caucus fool you into believing they saved America or humankind. Before this is all said and done, we will have gotten off very easily if their mistakes haven’t killed more people than COVID-19 would have killed if left to rage completely unchecked.

It’s time to start interpreting the precautionary principle as a strong presumption against trusting the state with any power whatsoever.

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It’s the Wild West Out There!

Nobody asked but …

Pandemic is just a medical journal word, code for “you’re on your own.”  Other similar words are drought, war, famine, death, recession, panic of [yyyy], and so forth.

It’s always the Wild West out there.  If you paint yourself into a corner, you are painted into a corner — it is what it is.  People who insist on obeying the government no matter what are mining in a thin seam.  Is anyone in government in possession of sufficient medical knowledge to navigate the pandemic for you?  Short and sweet — no.  Are politically appointed medicos likely to be your shepherds?  Their metrics are vastly different from yours — heard “flattening the curve” much lately?  You are only a data point on that curve.  Do you rely on the unpolitical medical establishment to save you?  They are only unpolitical to political junkies.  They have their own, different criteria.

Your well-being is your responsibility.  Making sure that you are not aggressing on somebody else is also your responsibility.

— Kilgore Forelle

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“China Lied, People Died?” Look Who’s Talking!

“The costs of the pandemic keep piling up,” writes Marc Thiessen at the Washington Post. “Somebody has to pay for this unprecedented damage. That somebody should be the government of China.”

And why, pray tell, should China’s government be punished? For “intentionally lying to the world about the danger of the virus, and proactively impeding a global response that might have prevented a worldwide contagion.”

Sounds fair, doesn’t it? If a government lies and people die as a result, that government and its functionaries should be held responsible, right? Good enough for me.

But sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, so if we’re having Peking Duck this week, I’d like to know when Thiessen plans to cough up his share of US government’s tab.

As a speechwriter for US president George W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in the first decade of this century, Thiessen was directly responsible for pushing lies that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Humanity is still paying a steep price for fairy tales about weapons of mass destruction and cries of wolf that “the smoking gun could be a mushroom cloud” — fairy tales and cries of wolf that Thiessen helped draft and craft.

In fact, he’s got a lot of nerve pretending that he’s even on the same moral level as Chinese government actors who may have lied about COVID-19, let alone in a position to lecture them.

Those Chinese actors were, at worst, trying to save face for their regime, and at best trying to keep themselves out of jail (the Chinese Communist Party has a reputation for harsh treatment of people who embarrass it).

Thiessen was shilling for an unprovoked war of aggression in Iraq by his regime, and he could have quit that job any time he chose without fear of being dragged off for “re-education.”

Governments collectively, and the people who comprise them individually, lie. A lot. About all kinds of different things and for all kinds of different reasons. And often, as a result, people die. I’m all for holding them accountable, but accountability starts  at home.

Let’s be honest about what’s going on here: Republican flacks like Thiessen are trying to shift blame away from their party’s own policy failures by re-premising the same old anti-China campaign they’ve been waging for years.

Don’t forget to tip your server, Marc.

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Socialistic Policy Only Worsen Economy

I appreciate those who are making a heroic effort to keep the economy running; putting their health and lives on the line for our benefit.

They are trying to make sure food and supplies are available when needed.

This is important when everything is going well; it is absolutely essential in a crisis.

They are life-savers and deserve our thanks, respect, and support.

They provide a stark contrast to those who are working around the clock to shut down the economy and punish any who dare try to keep life and business running as normally as possible. Those who impose and enforce economy-crushing policies and orders, using the pandemic as an excuse, are making things worse. They may pretend it’s about saving lives, but their actions could cost lives in the long run.

When political officials — and government health officials are more political than medical — talk about the risk of deaths from COVID-19, they sometimes say some of those deaths will be balanced by the lives saved due to fewer traffic accidents and work-related deaths with more people staying home. This is all they consider when they discuss the net death toll of this pandemic. It’s an incomplete picture and hides a big cost.

They ignore the additional deaths an economic depression will cause. They sweep those deaths, which they will be completely responsible for causing, under the rug. These deaths could outnumber the deaths caused by the virus, itself. This is because the economic deaths will occur over several years rather than a few months. Perhaps over the course of a decade or more.

How many people died from the Great Depression? How many more died as a result of Franklin Roosevelt’s misguided socialistic policies, which stretched that depression years beyond its natural span? How many had their health ruined by the years of hardship? How many died of stress-related conditions due to economic disruption, business failures, and losing their life savings or home?

History doesn’t repeat, but similar conditions often have similar effects. If government policies manage to destroy or damage the economy, and then keep it from recovering naturally as quickly as it otherwise would — the way FDR’s programs did — people who would otherwise have prospered as the economy recovered are going to be dying from effects of a coronavirus Depression.

Worse, if the foolish “stimulus” being presented by politicians as a solution finally triggers hyperinflation, the result will be beyond anything you can imagine. Buckle up. It may get bumpy.

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Will We Learn COVID-19’s Most Important Lesson?

On February 29th, US Surgeon General Jerome Adams took to Twitter to admonish Americans:  “Seriously people — STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus …”

A little over a month later, Adams finally got around to asking the Centers for Disease Control if perhaps he’d been talking through his hat when talking through a mask might have been smarter.

City governments from Miami to Los Angeles gave themselves whiplash as mask-wearing went from “officially discouraged” to “mandatory” virtually overnight. Philadelphia’s city bus system adopted the new policy so enthusiastically that masked cops were summoned to violently drag non-masked riders off of buses.

The Parable of Mask Idiocy’s lessons extend, like those of most parables, far beyond the specifics of the story itself.

If general lessons can be drawn from our experience of COVID-19 so far, here are three of them:

First, never expect government to be prepared to respond to a pandemic.

Second, never expect government’s ad hoc responses to a pandemic to be the correct responses.

And third, never expect government to admit its errors.

The sequel to the Parable of Mask Idiocy is the “Saved You From Apocalypse” Claim.

You’ve heard that story in its mocking primitive form before:

Villagers cower in fear as the sun begins to disappear behind a black spot. It’s the end of the world, their witch doctor informs them. Follow my instructions to appease the gods or you will all be consumed! Then the eclipse ends and the witch doctor takes credit. The world WOULD have ended if it hadn’t been for him and his wisdom, see?

At this very moment, herds of government officials and “public health” bureaucrats are stampeding away from their initial predictions of hundreds of thousands, even millions, of American deaths from COVID-19. Latest guesstimate: “Substantially under” 100,000.

They know you won’t forget those early predictions, so their task is to con you into believing that the lower numbers are a function of you having obeyed their orders.

One problem with that is that so far the death tolls seem to be worst in areas where draconian orders were most strictly enforced. And that seems to be true globally, not just in the US (see the responses and outcomes in Italy versus South Korea, for example).

While there are certainly other factors involved — population density being a big one — it’s at least plausible that the authoritarian responses of governors like New York’s Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey’s Phil Murphy increased, rather than decreased, the death tolls in their states.

As with so many other jobs, the state is neither competent nor trustworthy when it comes to protecting us from contagion. Let’s never again forget that.

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