Book Review: Liberty or Lockdown, by Jeffrey Tucker

What better way to begin a review of what is an excellent book than to say that the book’s author always knew. It’s as simple as that. Jeffrey Tucker knew in March of 2020 that tragic times were ahead.

I remember it vividly. In February of 2020 witless headline writers were trying in vain to tie a falling stock market to a coronavirus that investors had been pricing for many weeks. They revealed their misunderstanding of big market lurches. They’re a consequence of surprise. In February the surprise wasn’t a virus that had been in the news since early January; rather it was the presidential primary success of a since forgotten socialist by the name of Bernie Sanders. Of course, by month’s end Sanders was falling as quickly as he had risen. Stocks soared as a risk-factor to future growth was vanquished. Sanders, as I argue in my upcoming book When Politicians Panicked, was the original “coronavirus.”

So what did the great Tucker know? He knew when the virus had become a problem for the U.S., and by extension the world. Crucial here is that Tucker was far too wise to presume that a virus could fell a nation populated by individuals long on common sense. To Tucker, the second “coronavirus,” or the “second wave” to paraphrase the alarmists of the moment, was the political reaction to a virus that had been traveling around the world for months. The politicians easily gulled by the experts would take over. In the 20th century this was called central planning. Tucker correctly referred to it as central planning in the 21st century.

Tucker wrote with horror in March about Austin Mayor Steve Adler’s shocking decision to cancel South by Southwest, thus robbing Austin’s businesses of a “Black Friday” in the spring. Tucker knew that Austin was just the beginning whereby the expert standard would replace the freedom standard, only for this most essential thinker to sound the alarm. The always prolific Tucker started writing feverishly. He hasn’t stopped, and we’re very lucky for that.

Indeed, it’s pretty scary to contemplate how weak the editorial response to lockdowns and other virus hysteria would be without Jeffrey Tucker. It’s not just that he writes so much. He’s also provided a forum at the American Institute for Economic Research (where he’s editorial director) for an impressive team of economic thinkers to make a case for freedom, and against forced economic desperation as a way to combat what causes illness in some, and in the rarest of circumstances, death.

Liberty or Lockdown

Tucker’s tireless work proved crucial for it providing people around the world with information that put them in the position to comfortably and confidently push back against acceptance of unemployment, starvation, and death as punishment for the spread of a virus that over half infected don’t even know they’re infected with. Without Tucker, the response to tyranny would be much less informed, and quite a bit less confident. We also wouldn’t have the Great Barrington Declaration, which Tucker organized, and that millions around the world have signed. When histories are written about the tragedy foisted on the world by inept politicians, Tucker’s name will loom large as someone who led the shell-shocked back.

Thankfully for those who want a better understanding of just how appallingly the global political class has comported itself, Tucker has recently released Liberty or Lockdown. It’s an essential and very excellent read that will deeply inform its lucky buyers.

Tucker doesn’t pull punches. Instead, his book grabs the reader from the very first sentence: “For most Americans, the Covid-19 lockdown was our first experience in a full denial of freedom.” So true, and so well put. As he goes on to write in sentence two, “Businesses forced closed. Schools, padlocked. Churches, same. Theaters, dead.” From his first two sentences Tucker might agree that a potential silver lining to what is a global tragedy is that what happened, and what’s happening will hopefully wake the world up to how quickly politicians can foist sickening damage on the people whose freedoms they swore to protect. About what’s hoped for, time will tell. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that much of the world is still in shock. With good reason.

Indeed, it’s no reach to say what’s taken place over the last nine months is easily the worst human rights tragedy of the still young 21st century. The numbers back this up. As the New York Times reported last summer, 285 million of the world’s inhabitants are rushing toward starvation. Hundreds of millions more are being reacquainted with the poverty they had worked so diligently to escape. Poverty is easily history’s greatest killer, at which point we have to contemplate the “unseen” deaths related to so much focus on the coronavirus; as in how many will be brought to an early grave by tuberculosis, malaria, diarrhea, and other killers thanks to global health officials paying less attention to some of the worst health challenges in the world after poverty and starvation. What about cancer, heart and other killers like it not caught during an ongoing separation from reason? What about suicides in response to economic devastion, along with simple loneliness? The unseen with the virus promises to be endless, and possibly gruesome.

In Tucker’s words, we’ve been “subjected to a sadistic social experiment in the name of virus mitigation.” So true. And Tucker was merely talking about the U.S. Except that he knows the only closed economy is the world economy. When Americans take a decadent break from reality, or more realistically have their ability to live in reasonable fashion taken from them, the world suffers in ways Americans can’t begin to understand. Sadism foisted on suddenly unemployed and bankrupted Americans amounts to murder around the world. See above.

Basically the U.S. failed the world. When we panic, the world convulses. When our leaders lose any contact with reason and resort to lockdowns in their stupor, they provide cover to despots around the world not remotely constrained by anything resembling the Constitution, and who are only too glad to relieve their people of freedom. At this point it’s probably wise for readers to sit back and contemplate a counterfactual; as in imagine if President Trump had kept his wits only to go on national television (meaning global television) to tell those watching that it would be tragically mindless to fight a virus with economic contraction, and while each U.S. state is an autonomous one, that he as president would hopscotch around the country on Air Force One with a focus on embarrassing governors and mayors so foolish as to fight disease with poverty-inducing lockdowns. Trump’s actions wouldn’t have just saved countless Americans from destitution, they probably would have forced politicians and dictators around the world to rethink what they were about to do.

Furthermore, Trump acting as Republican voters expect Republican politicians to act would have revealed simple common sense. Tucker reminds us why this is so true. Lost in all the hysteria about a virus that traveled around China (and rather reasonably, the world) for months with no discernible death count amid what George Gilder has described as “dithering” (Gilder writes the foreword to Tucker’s book) by Chinese officials, is that there are few ways to fight a virus. Tucker already knew them care of his wise mother, but to be sure he purchased “Molecular and Cell Biology for Dummies just to check if I was crazy.” The book confirmed what Tucker already knew; “that there are only two ways to defeat a virus: natural immunity and vaccines.” Translated, viruses eventually die out because enough people get them only for those infected to develop immunity to them. As Tucker makes plain, as has the essential Holman Jenkins at the Wall Street Journal, no vaccines were ever developed for viruses that spread in 1918, 1957, and 1968. They’re still with us, but society has grown naturally immune by staying together as opposed to pursuing the life-and-nature wrecking path of living apart.

Notable here for those a bit slow on the uptake is that Molecular and Cell Biology for Dummies per Tucker “completely left out the option that almost the entire world embraced in March: destroy businesses, force everyone to hide in their homes, and make sure that no one gets close to anyone else.” As this column has asserted too many times to count, historians will marvel. Politicians can’t disappoint simply because the half-awake know that force always comes up well short against freedom when it comes to quality of outcome. Politicians only know force. Still, in 2020 they actually disappointed. Economic destruction despite the tautology that growth is the greatest foe of sickness and death, combined with a rejection of the pursuit of population immunity (not separating people from one another) that has historically brought viruses to their proverbial knees.

Tucker has a way with words, and the latter very much reveals itself in Liberty or Lockdown. As the world contracted amid broad takings of personal and economic freedom, politicians piled on. It wasn’t just a shutdown of global travel, it was also limits on travel within countries, including the U.S. About this, Tucker reminds us that just as globalization has improved the living standards of every living human, so has it elongated our healthful lives. When we “bump” into each other, we don’t just share ideas; rather we help new avenues of immunity to travel the world. In 2020, politicians tried to arrest this happy development. In vain. As Tucker puts it, a virus “cares nothing about borders, executive orders, and titles.” Naturally tyrannical politicians in countries like Australia and New Zealand tried the approach of forced isolation from the world and reality, but in Tucker’s words, all they did was at best “delay the inevitable.” And, assuming forced isolation proved successful, the near-term win would logically be pyrrhic. Think about it. To isolate is to “make the whole population of your tribe fatally vulnerable to the next bug that comes along.” Immunity and longer life are achieved through exposure. Always.

Of course, common sense means nothing to politicians, and those who enable them. We’re talking about a class of people that believes cheap rent can be decreed, that healthcare cost curves can be “bent downward,” and that expensive credit can be made “easy” via central banks.

And so they proceeded to try and fight the virus with “borders, executive orders, and titles.” It mocked them. Arguably to our betterment. As Tucker explains it, “A virus is a thing to battle one immune system at a time, and our bodies have evolved to be suited to do just that.” Historically this was what families that couldn’t afford to be ridiculous did: when one family member got sick, others were required to not separate from the ill. “Family immunity” is arguably what revealed itself before the better known “population immunity” or “herd immunity.” It turns out there was even such a thing as troop immunity. In Tucker’s words, “George Washington’s troops scraped off the scabs of the smallpox dead to inoculate themselves.” It’s all a long way of saying that while politicians panicked around the world in March of 2020, a virus that doesn’t abide the nail-biting schedules of the elected had been spreading in a globalized world for months before March. Who knows, but some speculate that politicians and experts who are expert at fighting the last war perhaps got to the coronavirus long after its global spread had brought on a fair amount of immunity. Thank goodness always late politicians were late yet again. Imagine how desperate the world would be if the lockdowns had begun in October of 2019 instead of March of 2020.

The shame yet again is that politicians eventually did discover the virus, only to lose their minds in the cruelest of ways. Their hysteria will exist as a forever reminder that emotion in front of the camera combined with force doesn’t correlate with positive outcomes. Tucker knows this intuitively simply because he knows intuitively that central planning logically fails precisely because it suffocates the immense knowledge that is a consequence of a decentralized, free society. Translated yet again for those a bit slow on the uptake, Tucker didn’t need the central-planning tragedies of the 20th century to open his eyes to the certain failure of centralized force. In short the author, who always knew, was certain well ahead of time that troubled times were on the way as politicians panicked in the only way they know how: the taking of freedom.

The above rates mention, or realistically repeat, simply because Tucker is clear about there having been no relationship between lockdowns, transmission of the virus, and death. Or, in Tucker’s words, whether a country locked down or not had “as much predictive power over deaths per million as whether it rains today is related to the color of my socks.” The numbers support this truth. New York locked down early in the U.S., while Florida locked down late and opened early. Yet the death count in New York well exceeds that in Florida. France locked down stringently, but Japan didn’t. Yet deaths in Japan related to the virus were very, very small. Even in crowded Tokyo. Correlation? Who knows? Think back to AIDS. So much that was assumed in the 1980s didn’t age well. The wager here is that the same will reveal itself about the coronavirus.

Which is why Tucker is for freedom first and foremost. Just as free people produce abundance that has always enabled a much more than fair right against death and disease, so does freedom produce abundant health advances precisely because decentralized experimenting and decision-making always trumps one-size-fits-all. Free people produce information. Some in response to a virus will never leave their house. Others will leave while covered by gloves, masks, and other presumed barriers to what’s spreading. Others will continue to go about as they used to while abiding minor precautions, while still others will throw caution fully to the wind; hitting every crowded restaurant and bar they can find, football stadiums too, plus they’ll kiss every person willing to kiss them back. We need them all when fighting an unknown. Through their varied actions we can learn how to live with a virus rather than it telling us how to live.

Same with businesses. The biggest and best known, potentially fearful in the early days of a killer virus (despite clear information from its epicenter – China – that it wasn’t) spreading to its customers, would have likely shut down in total. Small, lesser known businesses, perhaps facing a more a challenging credit environment, might have remained open in total. Some would have limited customers served as a way to bring in customers, some customers of businesses would have altered times of patronage to limit human contact somewhat, and still others would have yet again thrown caution to the wind. You once again need them all. Freedom doesn’t just produce information about virus spread, it also produces crucial information for businesses about how to re-open in a world changed (or maybe not changed at all) by a virus scare. These questions were never adequately answered about how virus spreads and how businesses should respond to spread precisely because politicians indirectly banned information.

And then there’s the question of Why? Politicians can’t act without at least some buy-in from the citizenry? Did Americans buy in, and do they, or did the lockdowns happen so fast that Americans never had a chance to protest? Tucker concludes that we “must reject the wickedness and compulsion of this current moment in American life. It needs to counter the brutalism of the lockdowns.” There’s total agreement here, but do Americans agree? One hopes, but there’s an admitted fear that Americans have somehow changed; that they’re more accepting of having their freedoms taken, particularly if a virus appears threatening. Time will tell. So will elections tell. The next few should be interesting.

For now, it’s useful to conclude about this excellent book that it’s filled to the brim with information about the meek nature of the virus, how ineffective the lockdowns were, how typically feckless government officials were. It’s all well and good, but the much more compelling arguments made by the brilliant Jeffrey Tucker were about freedom itself. That’s ultimately the only answer. It has to be. Much as the numbers about the virus work in our favor, we risk winning the argument while losing the battle. That’s the case because as Tucker acknowledges, this won’t be the last virus to reveal itself. Numerical and lethality arguments are fascinating, but they set the stage for future lockdowns of the “this time is different” variety.

Which is why the author who always knew is most right and most compelling when he calls for the countering of “the brutalism of the lockdowns.” That’s the only answer. No more lockdowns. Never again. Any other argument fails.

Despairing America: The Astonishing Psychological Cost of Lockdown

Recently, a series of special health alerts and reports have come out warning of growing numbers of people and a country at the breaking point. Sadly, little of that information has reached the public.

American people are crying out for help and dying − not from a virus with an “infection fatality rate” of 0.15-0.2% across all age groups, and 0.03 to 0.04% in those under 70 years old. (This means, 99.96% of nearly everyone who gets the virus lives.) No, the desperation and distress are in response to the government’s unprecedented mandates and lockdowns.

Masking, isolation, business closures, shuttered churches, ended normal school classes, seniors confined secluded in nursing homes, people left to die alone in hospitals, sporting events ended, music silenced, jobs and livelihoods destroyed. American life has been cancelled – from Easter to Memorial Day, 4th of July to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and now New Year’s..

Many people have lost everything and now face losing their country. The level of despair is palpable. Growing numbers have lost the ability to cope.

What would happen as a result of these unprecedented government mandates was well known. They cannot say they didn’t know or that it wasn’t anticipated.

Aftermath of Covid-19 “Pandemic” Declaration

Local and state governments acted in lockstep, issuing sweeping mandates in March with predicted devastating impacts on the economy. The 95 million Americans not in the labor force at the start of the year jumped by more than 10 million the first month after the emergency mandates. With the continued lockdowns and emergency orders, joblessness has accelerated, with the greatest impact on women and lower income workers. Over 40% are not expected to regain their jobs. This November, more than 100.6 million Americans were not working, 9.2 million more compared to this time last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Texas has had the second greatest number of business closures in the nation, after California, since March, according to the latest Yelp Local Economic Impact Report. More than 8,900 Texas businesses have closed permanently and another 5,300 are closed temporarily and barely hanging on. Even in Lubbock, for example, which had enjoyed stable low unemployment levels for years, unemployment rates shot up over 350% in April after Mayor Dan Pope’s emergency orders. Still today, the percentage of Lubbock residents without jobs is more than double what it had been the entire year before.

Every month of the economic shutdown has cost the U.S. economy $1.1 trillion, according to leading economists. Not only is this the worst unemployment crisis since the Great Depression, according to Goldman Sachs, but high unemployment and job uncertainty, which peaked at 25% across the country, are expected to continue. Unemployment levels were predicted to persist at around 8% through 2021.

The public is finally coming to realize that even this forecast is optimistic − there is no end in sight in the government’s plans to never allow the country to return to normal. Dr. Anthony Fauci has warned it would last two years, some academics have advocated for mandates to continue years until the virus is completely eradicated, and World Economic Forum stakeholders are saying that normal life (without masking, social distancing and other restrictions) won’t be permitted until after 2022, even after lockdowns are lifted.

“A thriving economy, of the kind that we are now throwing away, is the source of our security and the foundation of our children’s future. We would do well not to sneer at it. Poverty kills too. And when it does not kill, it maims, mentally, physically and socially.” − Lord Sumption

Being without work and job insecurity have long been recognized as risk factors for depression, anxiety, suicide, substance abuse and premature death. Unemployment is associated with an average 60% increase in mortality. There’s also a large body of research showing isolation and loneliness lead to worsening mental and physical health and premature death. Isolation and loss of close social contact raises risks of heart attacks and strokes, and increases death from all causes by 50%. Social isolation itself is increasingly contributing to cruel growing deaths among locked down elderly, by an estimated 20%, who simply don’t want to go on and have lost the will to live. It’s a form of punishment for felons, after all.

As mental health experts wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association, government mandates have created the perfect storm for increased suicides: economic stress from loss of jobs, loss of savings from stock market declines, closed businesses and schools, social isolation and loneliness, loss of community and religious services and activities, unknowns with loss of control over political mandates, and health worries, including people unable to access medical care as mandates restricted care for non-Covid patients.

According to the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care with Well Being Trust, the collective impact of the government’s emergency mandates will be even more devastating. “Massive unemployment, mandated social isolation for months and possible residual isolation for years,” along with the uncertainty and fear being created about a virus, is exacerbating the deaths of despair. Looking at the projected levels of unemployment from 2020 to 2029, they estimated 27,644 additional suicides if the shutdowns ended right away, to 154,037 suicides if the economic recovery is slower.

Public Health Crisis – Suicides

In a study published in Lancet Psychiatry, University of Zurich psychiatrists examined more than a decade of data from 63 countries and found a 9-fold higher number of suicides associated with unemployment.

In August, Kaiser Family Foundation researchers reported stress symptoms had nearly doubled since March, including difficulty sleeping, eating disorders, increased drinking and substance abuse, and worsening of chronic health conditions. Also in August, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s MMWR reported that since the pandemic, representative surveys across the country revealed that over 30% of Americans admitted suffering from anxiety or depression, 13.3% had started or increased use of substances trying to cope with the stress; and more than one in ten had seriously considered suicide in the previous 30 days.

Suicides and drug overdoses have soared across the country. Even children have become collateral damage of the government mandates. Suicides and drug overdoses have far exceeded deaths from Covid-19 among young people, CDC Director Robert Redfield reported this summer.

Cook Children’s hospital in Fort Worth, for example, reported a disturbing spike in suicide attempts among children, with 29 patients in August alone – one child suicide patient a day, more than double typically. By October, 192 kids had been admitted for attempting suicide – this compares to 88 patients in 2015. As children struggle from the isolation, missed social connections and fears, “kids are getting to the point where they’re becoming more hopeless,” said Kia Carter, MD, the hospital’s medical director of psychiatry.

A study by specialists at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston just published in the journal Pediatrics reported the results of more than 9,000 risk screenings done at their pediatric Emergency Department. They found significantly higher rates of suicide ideation and suicide attempts during this pandemic among ages 11-21, as compared to the same period last year.

Significant increases were specifically seen during the months when Covid-related stress and community responses were heightened, they reported. Suicides had already grown to become the second leading cause of death among young people 10-17 years old, with ER visits for suicide attempts among children increasing 92% between 2007-2015.

New Mexico, as an example, has endured some of the most stringent and unrelenting lockdown measures in the country by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. It’s a state that can ill afford the crippling measures. It has long ranked at the bottom of nearly every index from economy, jobs, schools performance, and illicit drugs problems; and highest for crime (more than twice the national average) and violence. It has also long had the highest rates of suicide deaths in the country, twice the national average, according to CDC data.

Yet New Mexico officials have been pretty silent about the consequences of Grisham’s policies on rising drug overdoses and suicides, even among kids. One tragic story was recently leaked to the news of an eleven year old in Hobbs who took his life, leaving a journal describing how he was going mad from stay-at-home orders and wanted to be able to go to school and play with his friends.

Nor have the public schools been outspoken about what’s happening among students. At the October 8 Board of Directors meeting of New Mexico Public Schools Insurance Authority, Julie Garcia, with Poms & Associates, a risk prevention insurance company that’s had NMPSIA’s contract since 1986, said in her loss prevention update that there had been several suicides in the past several months concerning school children. She was asked specifically if anyone had reached out to the Farmington schools about the athlete suicides, lamely replying with an offer of two mental health first aid trainers.

But the growing suicides among New Mexico’s youth were exposed in a December 8, special suicide report from the state’s Legislative Finance Committee. It revealed that suicides are a larger cause of death among 15-24 year olds than any other age group in the state. Suicide rates among these young people more than doubled from 13/100,000 in 2014 to 29.5/100,000 in 2017.

The pandemic lockdowns have exacerbated suicide risks, the analysis said. Already this year, there have been seven suicides in children under 15 years old, compared to five in 2019, along with increased numbers among ages 15-24. The report disclosed that there had been seven suicides among New Mexico’s student athletes this year, as well as two youths from Hobbs and another two in San Miguel County. Worse, it reported that according to the Public Education Department’s budget reporting, the state’s public schools had been allotted an additional $12 million this school year for guidance counselors, counselors and psychologists – money that has been left unspent.

Public Health Alert – Overdoses

This past week, the CDC took the unusual action of issuing an emergency Health Alert Advisory. Its most recent data revealed 81,230 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. during the 12 months ending in May.

“This is the largest number of drug overdoses for a 12-month period ever recorded.”

Since emergency mandates were enacted in March, the CDC stated, drug overdoses have skyrocketed – the largest increase occurring from March to May, “coinciding with the implementation of widespread mitigation measures for the Covid-19 pandemic.” The drug overdose crisis is accelerating with the pandemic declarations, it said. This is after overdoses had declined 4.1% between 2017 and 2018.

The primary driver is synthetic opioids – illicit fentanyl – a deadly street drug. Western states have had large increases in availability of illicit fentanyl in the streets, and had the largest increases in overdose deaths, confirmed in clinical toxicology drug tests, the CDC stated. Ten Western states have had a 98% increase in illicit drug overdoses, but all 38 jurisdictions with data have recorded significant surges in deaths since the government Covid-19 pandemic mandates.

The Overdose Mapping and Application Program, High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area initiative that collects data from ambulance teams, hospitals and law enforcement, sounded the alarm in May. It reported that overdoses had increased 20% between January and April compared to last year, with the greatest spike occurring in March.

The Washington Post reported that compared to last year, overdoses had jumped 18% in March and were continuing to increase: 29% in April and 42% in May. Calling it “Cries for Help,” they wrote that “as the pandemic has pushed massive doses of fear, uncertainty, anxiety and depression into people’s lives, it has cut off the human connections that help ease those burdens” of isolation, hopelessness, and distress.

A December 9 Issue Brief from the American Medical Association chronicled disturbing reports of drug overdoses across the country – with more than 40 states reporting increased drug deaths. By September, Cortland County in Texas, for example, had recorded a 200% increase in overdose deaths in less than two years. Drug trafficking gangs are increasing profit margins by cutting expensive heroin with cheaper synthetic substances like fentanyl or brorphine, said law enforcement officers, who are seeing growing evidence of illicit drugs.

Overdose deaths far exceed deaths to Covid-19 in cities across the country. A reported 173 deaths associated with Covid-19 have been reported in the San Francisco area this year. In contrast, a record 621 have died of drug overdoses, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. In November alone, 58 died in their streets, sidewalks, alleyways and parks – two a day. Officials at the city’s Drug Overdose Prevention and Education Project believe that these numbers are still a major undercount since they are self-reported.

In nearly every report of skyrocketing suicides and drug overdoses seen with the government’s pandemic measures, proposals by stakeholders call for more money and more mental health programs…while ignoring the most obvious root of the problem. If leaders really cared about people, the clearly rational and ethical thing to do would be to fully end the unsupportable government mandates. Continuing pandemic mandates is not just destroying people’s lives and livelihoods. It is killing people.

Sandy Szwarc, BSN, RN is a graduate of U.T. Austin and a researcher and writer on health and science issues for more than 30 years.

What the Lockdown Leviathans Don’t Get: We want to live, yes, but we also want to live lives of meaning, purpose, connection, and contentment

After all, here’s just a starter list of things that were either banned or restricted this holiday season: Christmas family gatheringsChristmas concertsChristmas tree lighting ceremoniesChristmas partiesChristmas worship servicesChristmas sing-alongsChristmas season sporting eventsChristmas shopping trips; and even Christmas visits with Santa. 

More broadly, nearly every conceivable social activity, aside from popping out to a grocery store to stave off starvation (or, possibly, suicide) for another week, was either banned or severely restricted this year for millions of us.about:blank

Don’t like it? Don’t worry, said the experts: If you’re feeling a mite lonely after nine months of house arrest in Papillon-like solitary confinement, just throw a rollicking Christmas “social” event in which you stare, all alone, at a computer screen on a Zoom call, as the most ruthless, repressive, imperialist regime on earth monitors everything you say, and then instantly disables your account if you dare to criticize it. (Soon, no doubt, it won’t only be the Chinese government doing the monitoring and disabling, but our own—supposing it hasn’t merged with the CCP by then).

House arrest for nine months, careers and dreams imploding all around you, relieved only by the odd Zoom call, isn’t exactly my idea of fun—or anyone else’s. Yet you’d never guess that listening to anyone with political power this year (aside from the few remaining non-useless Republicans). 

For months, these strange, power-mad robots have evinced zero indication they have any clue what it might feel like to be an actual human (with mouths to feed) suddenly placed under house arrest, forbidden from earning a living, stopped from pursuing activities which support his sense of identity, cut off from most (or all) social contact, fed reams of misinformation he knows is misinformation, and severed from a huge source of meaning in human life—namely, culture.

I’m not here arguing against the measures themselves (I will some other time). I am pointing out the inhuman indifference shown by the Lockdown Leviathans to the psychological, emotional, spiritual, and familial costs those measures have imposed, and continue to impose, upon their suffering subjects. 

There is simply no sign they care.

Above, I used the word “subjects.” I used it because although these thugs were all elected, they rule like ancient Asian potentates. No force checks or balances them. Certainly, no one’s heard a single word from any federal law enforcement official about the Incorporation Doctrine, or any federal plan to bring these thugs to heel.

I find that odd. 

Back in the 1950s, when the segregationist governor of Arkansas, Orval Faubus, tried to block black students from schools, President Dwight D. Eisenhower invoked the Insurrection Act and sent in the 101st Airborne. Just like that, Faubus came to heel. Eisenhower secured those students’ fundamental rights.

But now, when New York Governor Andrew Cuomo kills off thousands of American citizens, and California Governor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti deprive millions of American citizens of their most basic liberties, nothing happens. A space alien visiting America for a few weeks this holiday season would never imagine that America had something called a “Constitution,” and that it sets limits on how governments, state or federal, may treat citizens. He’d be shocked to learn otherwise.

But let me get back to culture. It is a vital source of meaning in human life. Cut humans off from culture—including important social/connecting rituals, like all those I mentioned above—and you inevitably begin draining their lives of meaning. Drain enough of that meaning away, and you wind up with despondent, purposeless human beings struggling to feel any sense of context for, or meaning or worth in, their lives. Their bone-deep existential anguish leads them to try to numb it through drugs, alcohol, or suicide.

A child could understand that. But there’s no sign the Lockdown Leviathans understand it, or care—not even when this sensible assumption passes into the realm of rock solid empirical evidence, which it now has done (see herehere, and here). about:blank

And so, you wonder just how many tears, say, Cuomo and his comrades in gubernatorial malfeasance have shed over the souls devastated—or the lives killed off—by their incompetence and control freakery this year. And then, you conclude it’s probably zero—with “probably” being generous. 

Presuming the talk of secession and national divorce subsides; presuming political calm emerges soon; there will be a lot to restore in the coming years. Between the riots and the lockdowns, the hard costs must be in the hundreds of millions. Buildings, businesses, inventories, houses, public monuments, educational careers, savings accounts . . . it’s a lot

But just as important—in some ways, even more important—will be the task of restoring culture, which is to say, restoring all the important sources of meaning for human life arrested or erased this year. Restoring our Christmas rituals will be one important part, but all the other communal rituals must return, too: the shared civic ceremonies and sporting events, the shared sacrifices, the shared stories and songs, the concerts and theatrical performances, the social clubs and worship services and funerals, the big family dinners, the weekly visits to the grandparents, the book club, the group prayers, the symphonies and parades and weekly date night for husbands and wives—all the natural rhythms of life, and all their infusions of transcendent purpose, worth, and meaning into human life. It all must come back. 

And it all must come back, because trying to save lives by demolishing all the things which make our lives feel worth living in the first place, doesn’t really get us ahead. We want to live, yes, but we also want to live lives of meaning, purpose, connection, and contentment. 

Sure, there are risks to that. But so what? There’s no point otherwise. That’s what the Lockdown Leviathans don’t get.

Tal Bachman, America Great

Why Do We Continue to Follow Nonsensical COVID Rules?


Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool

The only demonstrable result of government-imposed COVID-19 lockdowns has been the destruction of national economies, the crippling of domestic and cultural life, the suffering and death of multitudes due to untreated prior medical conditions, and the drastic rise in suicide rates. The lockdowns themselves have seemed to do little to prevent the onset of the disease, hence one lockdown after another has led to no discernible effect—apart from the fact that the virus appears to strike primarily a designated older cohort of the population already suffering from comorbidities. A recent graph charting the effects of repeated lockdowns in the province of Ontario would appear to indicate that the lockdowns themselves are super-spreaders. Texas Tech professor Gilbert Berdine sums up: “After taking the unprecedented economic depression into account, history will likely judge these lockdowns to be the greatest policy error of this generation.”

The same applies, mutatis mutandis, to the mask mandate, somewhat less destructive but equally absurd. After touting home-made, cloth, and sundry other masks for six months, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam have discovered that Canadians should be wearing three-layer masks—a tacit admission that the single- and double-ply masks we have been wearing for all this time are patently inadequate. Apparently, no-ply also works, given that our Minister of Health Patty Hajdu was spotted at Toronto’s Pearson Airport unabashedly maskless and happily smiling, like her American counterparts Anthony Fauci at a baseball game and Governor Newsom of California at his favorite restaurant.

In fact, masks do not screen out (or keep in) viral microns averaging 100 nanometers in size; the weave of all masks, with the partial exception of the medical N-95, is far too large to repel the coronavirus particle, which varies between 60nm and 140nm. Further, masks may cause hypoxia and consequent immune deficiency through the ingestion of one’s own CO2. It gets worse. A 50-state-wide controlled study showed that there is no correlation between mask mandates and fewer cases. On the contrary, there is a reverse correlation: non-masking states and counties did better than their masking counterparts. There is no weeding around the graphic evidence. One wonders if CO-forced immunity depletion had something to do with this.

As for home isolation and travel restrictions, they are not taken seriously by our authorities. According to the Associated Press, Denver’s mayor flew to Mississippi to spend Thanksgiving with his family, after urging others to stay home. A Pennsylvania mayor banned indoor dining, then patronized a restaurant in Maryland. The governor of Rhode Island was photographed at a wine tasting. The mayor of Austin, Texas, flew to Cabo San Lucas on a private jet after hosting a wedding for 20. It’s common knowledge that Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker & family have blatantly violated his own travel ban. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s husband was caught attempting to sidestep her shutdown.null

Similarly, Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, after declaring that anyone who traveled over the Thanksgiving weekend should assume they were infected with COVID-19 and should limit celebrations to “your immediate household,” traveled to her vacation home in Delaware during Thanksgiving, “accompanied by three generations of her family from two households.” These people must know something the rest of us don’t. As IT professional Alexander Scipio writes, the political, social, and economic devastation we are suffering is not caused by a virus “with a survival rate of well over 99%,” but by a political and financial class—international oligarchs—seeking absolute power via “a weaponized virus from China.” But we go along with it, dutifully obeying the mandates, as if we were characters in A Midsummer Night’s Dream bewitched by fairies and spells. “Shall we their fond pageant see? Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

“We as a society are becoming ever less bookish,” writes the great Theodore Dalrymple, which means we are becoming ever less informed, ever less knowledgeable, ever less educated. Indeed, we are on the whole ever more incurious and credulous, which is no doubt the permanent condition and status of the majority of human beings—except that never in the history of mankind has the accessible intellectual horizon broadened, at least potentially, to the extent that it has today: university education on offer for all, books readily available, libraries, museums, theaters, concert halls (pre-lockdown) open to the public, a World Wide Web and computers proliferating as domestic items. And yet studies suggest that genuine IQ is deteriorating, people are as gullible as ever, and mob psychology and identity politics are increasingly replacing the independent thought of the questing individual. One might call it Twitteritis.null

We are content to remain in a low-information twilight zone and, just as bad, to outsource common sense to our political betters, their hired-gun health officials, and so-called “experts” who can’t keep their stories straight. Thus, there is an irresistible tendency, in the face of government decrees with respect to COVID, to behave like lemmings obediently surging toward the cliff, “willing to obey the demands and commands of the world elite,” writes Sucharit Bhakdi, Chair of Medical Microbiology at the University of Mainz. He deplores the complete over-reaction to a virus that could have been handled differently and far more wisely. True, one must acknowledge those brave souls who have marched and demonstrated against government imposition of unconstitutional measures, but they are small in number, regarded as dissidents, troublemakers, and “spreaders” by the surrounding population and disavowed by majority opinion.

And there in a nutshell is the marrow-deep problem we are confronting. We can expect our nominal leaders, with few exceptions, to be incompetent, restrictively educated, partisan zealots, profoundly unintelligent, and visibly hypocritical. The spectacle of our politicians brazenly violating the very rules they have sternly imposed comes as no surprise. That is par for the course. But the public that should be keeping our politicians’ feet to the fire are, at least, equally undistinguished, as well as easily malleable and fundamentally incurious.

I speak to my neighbors, to people I meet in the public square, and to our professionals, medical, legal, and otherwise. When I point out certain obvious facts, I am usually met with glazed incomprehension or outright condescension. When I am informed, for example, that Sweden, which did not lock down, is currently experiencing the same winter spike in COVID infections as lockdown countries, and therefore that not to lock down is a failing strategy, I wonder at the incapacity for logical deduction. If the results are the same, I reply, then why in heaven’s name not keep the kids in school, allow bars, restaurants, and small businesses to stay open, and preserve the economy intact? No response. (Sweden, incidentally, remains one of the few sane countries on the planet.)null

When I point out that pro-pandemic agitator and Director of the World Economic Forum Klaus Schwab of Great Reset fame and a major influence on our Prime Minister has paradoxically confided in his book COVID-19: The Great Reset that COVID is “one of the least deadly pandemics the world has experienced in the last 2000 years,” the reaction is: Who is Klaus Schwab? Should I recommend familiarity with the police-state program called the Great Reset and its partner UN Agenda 2030, again, no interest.

When I suggest that instead of blindly following the government line, or deriving our information from suborned or ignorant journalists churning out a column a day, they might spend a few hours doing their own research and consult eminent virologists and organizations like the Great Barrington Declaration, the Truth Over Fear SummitMedical News Today (MNT), the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), The Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (CEBM), The American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), and even the left-leaning The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—all readily accessible on the Net—people turn away as if I were some sort of crank. And yet spending merely a couple of minutes with a recent AIER assessment would help dispel the “fog of disease mitigation.” Citing a W.H.O. report that asymptomatic spread is “very rare,” the AIER concludes that “everything we’ve done over the months—the mask wearing, the grasshopper dance not to be next to people, the canceling of everything, the wild paranoia and premodern confusions—has been a calamitous and destructive waste of time, energy, and money.”null

When I suggest that it might be worthwhile to crack the spines of a few definitive books like Liberty or Lockdown or Corona False Alarm?, written by world-acclaimed specialists and epidemiologists—my interlocutors hem and haw. They are busy with work and family. They already have the truth—it was on CTV or Global. They prefer to park their confidence in the pronouncements of our Provincial Health Officer, who has already changed her mind three or four times.

I suspect my anecdotal observations could be universally generalized. One recalls Churchill’s famous (alleged) remark: “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” Of course, the same cognitive defect would apply across the board to the citizens of any other political system.

The Surgeon General of the United States Jerome Adams advises, “I hope that people will do their research and do the right thing for themselves and for their communities.” Of course, Adams assumes that people will follow the official guidelines, recommendations, and mandates, the presumable “right thing”—but what if prolonged and meticulously conducted personal research leads to other conclusions? Adams has nothing to say about this outcome. It must be admitted, however, that the odds regarding individual citizens actively pursuing a research program on their own initiative, exercising their curiosity, investigating the validity of government edicts, wishing to learn about what has disrupted their lives, spending a few hours reading a book—is probably statistically insignificant.

I realize I am belaboring the obvious. Still, one works, so to speak, one person at a time. Perhaps we need not wholly despair. Two of my correspondents, employees at the local supermarket who were avid lockdowners and maskers, did in fact follow up, check out my suggestions, and have recently told me they have changed their thinking. They are compelled to wear masks on the job, but discard them as soon as they leave the premises. They recognize that the lockdowns are the height of institutional folly—though they may not suspect the Machiavellian planning behind them.null

Nonetheless, minor victories. At least, something.


David Solway’s most recent book Notes from a Derelict Culture was delisted by Amazon. It is currently available at Barnes & Noble.


The Blinds are Wide Open

The silver lining to this COVID virus is that we are experiencing lockdowns similar to police-state rule. We have lost our freedom to assemble (except to burn and pillage) and our freedom to worship.  We have experienced empty grocery shelves and long lines as seen so often in socialist countries; it is why socialism always fails — one set of rules and outcomes for the peons and others for the leaders who never obey their mandates.  The Great Reset has knocked on our door, and it isn’t pleasant.

In addition to the little tyrants flexing their mini muscles, we are experiencing suppression and manipulation of the truth by meddling technocrats, the moronic blue media, intel traitors, and money-grubbing politicians in bed with the Chinese Communist Party. Globalist all, and proponents of the Great Reset. How many of the goons mentioned above have been bought by communist China? It is time to follow the money.

Some may consider this abbreviated glimpse of the Great Reset (a more palatable name for Global Socialism) as a potent warning. On the other hand, proponents of socialism see the crisis as a catalyst to push their vile ideology.  Is it any wonder why they promote the idea of lockdowns? They are banking on the unsustainable wreckage and destruction of millions and millions of lives to give them the space to waltz in and burn down the whole system and replace it with a socialist Gulag.  And make no mistake, the Great Reset’s end game is to get rid of capitalism. It is of little wonder why the Godfather of globalism, entitled billionaire Bill Gates, wants bars and restaurants closed for the next four to six months.

Constitutionalists have never successfully exposed Americans to the truth that socialism brings economic strangulation and strangulation of our freedoms. Our youth, the future leaders of America, whose minds are infected as early as fifth-grade world history classes with the “flowers of socialism,” have had the most challenging time complying with government control. And why wouldn’t they? Our youth, more than any of us, thrive and grow with social contact.  When this ugly chapter of our history takes a pause, will they understand the conflict between their indoctrinated thoughts and their desire for freedom? Lovers of liberty and freedom can only hope that the anti-Constitutional dictatorial actions imposed on Americans have been an antidote to extreme academic and political indoctrination imposed on Americans.

Alison Nichols, American Thinker

The Blinds are Wide Open

The silver lining to this COVID virus is that we are experiencing lockdowns similar to police-state rule. We have lost our freedom to assemble (except to burn and pillage) and our freedom to worship.  We have experienced empty grocery shelves and long lines as seen so often in socialist countries; it is why socialism always fails — one set of rules and outcomes for the peons and others for the leaders who never obey their mandates.  The Great Reset has knocked on our door, and it isn’t pleasant.

In addition to the little tyrants flexing their mini muscles, we are experiencing suppression and manipulation of the truth by meddling technocrats, the moronic blue media, intel traitors, and money-grubbing politicians in bed with the Chinese Communist Party. Globalist all, and proponents of the Great Reset. How many of the goons mentioned above have been bought by communist China? It is time to follow the money.

Some may consider this abbreviated glimpse of the Great Reset (a more palatable name for Global Socialism) as a potent warning. On the other hand, proponents of socialism see the crisis as a catalyst to push their vile ideology.  Is it any wonder why they promote the idea of lockdowns? They are banking on the unsustainable wreckage and destruction of millions and millions of lives to give them the space to waltz in and burn down the whole system and replace it with a socialist Gulag.  And make no mistake, the Great Reset’s end game is to get rid of capitalism. It is of little wonder why the Godfather of globalism, entitled billionaire Bill Gates, wants bars and restaurants closed for the next four to six months.

Constitutionalists have never successfully exposed Americans to the truth that socialism brings economic strangulation and strangulation of our freedoms. Our youth, the future leaders of America, whose minds are infected as early as fifth-grade world history classes with the “flowers of socialism,” have had the most challenging time complying with government control. And why wouldn’t they? Our youth, more than any of us, thrive and grow with social contact.  When this ugly chapter of our history takes a pause, will they understand the conflict between their indoctrinated thoughts and their desire for freedom? Lovers of liberty and freedom can only hope that the anti-Constitutional dictatorial actions imposed on Americans have been an antidote to extreme academic and political indoctrination imposed on Americans.

Alison Nichols, American Thinker

Your Christmas Present: Our Political Leaders are Killing off New York City

It’s the week before Christmas, traditionally the best week of the year to be in New York City. This is the week when tourists by the thousands flock to town, hundreds of restaurants are full and festive, the theater does peak business, the symphony and opera and ballet put on their most popular shows, concert venues are fully booked, hotel rooms are impossible to find, stores are packed, and beautiful Christmas lights are everywhere.

Not this year. Don’t even think about coming here right now. Almost all of the best things are closed, by order of our political masters. The term “ghost town” is a fair description. Here’s a small roundup:

  • Restaurants. After a few months of graciously allowing restaurants to have outdoor dining plus indoor at 25% capacity, last week — just as fall was about to turn into full winter — Governor Cuomo ordered all restaurants in New York City completely closed for indoor dining until further notice. That’s right, all indoor dining at restaurants is closed in New York City. Outdoor? This is December! For most of the last week, the temperature has been well below 32F (0C); today it finally got back to a little above 40F (5C). In my neighborhood, normally the best restaurant area of the City, nearly all of the restaurants have given up. A handful have built elaborate “outdoor” structures where a few hardy patrons in parkas huddle beneath highly inadequate heat lamps. The evidence that indoor dining at restaurants is a significant source of spread of the coronavirus is non-existent.
  • Broadway theater. All of it is completely closed. Through May 2021!
  • Symphony, opera, ballet, Lincoln Center. Closed, closed and more closed. Lincoln Center is bravely talking about restarting shows some time in “Spring 2021,” but they don’t give any specific date. Carnegie Hall’s most recent proposed reopening date is April 5, 2021. Watch for that to get pushed back again, and then yet again.
  • Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. Yes, it is there. You can even go to see it in person — provided that you are willing to put up with advance registration, a scheduled time, mask-wearing, social distancing, a five-minute time limit for viewing, etc., etc., etc. Or you can just watch their virtual live cam, safely from your home in Peoria — which is what they strongly recommend. After all, you wouldn’t want to get too near an actual live human being this year.
  • Concerts. Everything is canceled as far as I can find, mostly without any announced rescheduling dates at all. Madison Square Garden, which also runs Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theater, says “We are working diligently to reschedule as many of these events as possible for dates in the future.” When in the future? No word.
  • Hotels. I can’t find statistics for the most recent weeks, but according to this report from October, some 200 of New York’s 700 hotels have closed entirely, and the remainder had overall occupancy rates of well under 40%. I’m surprised that it is that high. Typical for this time of year would be 90% or higher. The good news is that prices have plummeted.
  • Streets. The usual festive throngs are nowhere to be seen. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places, but I don’t think so.
  • Subways. Still running! And at close to full schedule, if you can believe that. However, the authorities have done their best to scare away as many riders as possible, leaving the trains almost empty even at peak hours. On my line, trains that used to run irregularly, due to the difficulties of dealing with the crush of customers, now come every four minutes like clockwork. Word is that the MTA is about to get several billion in new “stimulus” funds from the latest Congressional bill, to keep the empty trains going. Thanks, flyover people! Here is a picture of the subway car I came home in this evening — with one other lonely passenger down at the other end. In normal times, this would be standing room only.

Meanwhile our politicians proceed as if the infinite gusher of money will flow forever to fund the progressive program of perfecting the world. Allison Schrager in the City Journal has a collection of new and onerous labor regulation measures going into effect even as other government orders stemming from the virus are already crippling small businesses. Schrager calls her list “Another Stake in the Heart of New York’s Small Businesses.”

[D]on’t underestimate the capacity [of New York’s politicians] to make a bad situation much worse. The same week that Mayor Bill de Blasio threatened to shut down New York City for business [because of the virus], Albany increased the minimum wage across the rest of the state (New York City’s minimum wage is already $15 an hour), City Hall made it harder to fire fast-food workers, and the New York appellate division upheld a decision that Uber drivers could not be hired as contractors—they must get all the benefits of regular employees.

Up in the state legislature, the Democrats have just increased their majority in the state Senate. All the buzz is about a new “millionaire’s tax” of several additional percent for those with annual income exceeding $1 million. And in New York City, Mayor de Blasio on December 18 held a news conference where he blurted out these words:

“I’d like to say very bluntly our mission is to redistribute wealth,” the mayor said. “A lot of people bristle at that phrase. That is, in fact, the phrase we need to use.”

The purpose of the “redistribution of wealth” is supposedly to fix the City’s schools. Those schools currently spend about $28,000 per year per student on K-12 education, which is well more than double the national average. As usual, de Blasio takes no responsibility for the failure of New York City schools to achieve even near-average results for almost triple the cost elsewhere in the country, and just demands more and more and yet more money.

They are doing their very best to kill off our city.

Francis Menton, Manhattan Contrarian

Government, not COVID, is Killing Small Businesses

A video of a confrontation between Ventura County, California health officials and restaurant owner Anton Van Happen has gone viral. The health officials were ordering Mr. Van Happen to close his business because he allegedly violated California’s ban on outdoor dining. Mr. Van Happen asked the health officials if the government will pay his employees and his rent while his business is indefinitely closed.

Mr. Van Happen is hardly the only small business owner worried about how to pay bills during the lockdowns. Many small businesses operate on a narrow profit margin, so being forced to “temporarily” shut down or limit the number of customers they can serve is a virtual death sentence.

The lockdowns have already caused as many as 200,000 small businesses to permanently close. Lockdowns, by shrinking the number of employers, lead to long-term unemployment or lower wages for many workers.

While governments have terrorized small businesses, they have typically deemed the big chain stores “essential businesses” so they can remain open. The lockdowns are thus another government policy that gives big businesses a competitive advantage over their smaller competitors.

The benefits big businesses get from the lockdowns — including fewer competitors, more customers, and a job market with more workers competing for fewer jobs — may explain why many big businesses are not fighting the lockdowns. Instead, most big retail chains are requiring their workers and customers to wear masks. Many big businesses may soon deny service to those who refuse to receive a Covid vaccine.

One would think that progressives who claim to oppose policies that benefit big corporations like WalMart, Target, and Amazon would oppose the lockdowns. Sadly, even many progressives are unquestioningly parroting the Covid propaganda and demonizing those who dissent.

By slowing down the development of herd immunity among the population, the lockdowns could put those truly at risk in greater danger. Lockdowns have also had negative effects such as increases in drug and alcohol abuse and increases in domestic violence. Meanwhile, many schoolchildren are deprived of the opportunity to interact with their teachers and their peers. Instead, these children are subjected to the fraud of “virtual learning.”

Resistance to Covid tyranny is growing as more people figure out that lockdowns and mandates are both unnecessary and harmful. This resistance was largely started by small business owners faced with a choice between obeying the government or making sure they, and their employees, can feed their families. Small business owners have been leaders in recent anti-lockdown protests across America.

Eventually the resistance will grow to the point where the politicians will be forced to either double down on authoritarianism or admit the lockdowns were a mistake. Either way, those of us who know the truth must resist the Covid tyranny until government officials no longer terrorize small businesses for the crime of serving willing consumers.

Ron Paul, Ron Paul Institute