‘Wait and See’ Doesn’t Excuse Sitting Out the 2020 Lockdowns

The worst arguments against the lockdowns inspired by the coronavirus were medical and statistical. To see why, it’s worth remembering that as humans we’ve evolved to protect ourselves from death and disease. The taking of freedom to protect us is always and everywhere excess. 

The above statement of the obvious requires mention as free-thinkers and free-thinking organizations continue to either ignore how they sat out the lockdowns, or worse, excuse their inaction amid a massive bludgeoning of freedom back in 2020. Let’s start with those trying to excuse their inaction.

The not-infrequently offered excuse is that since most organizations and individuals in the libertarian space either weren’t staffed by medical doctors or weren’t medical doctors themselves, how could they have made credible cases against the lockdowns? Instead, and rather than take a stand, they adopted “wait and see” approaches so that medical verdicts could be rendered. About those verdicts, some libertarian types are now saying that those who were publicly against the lockdowns back in 2020 were correct, but they made their cases obnoxiously and blindly given their lack of medical knowledge. The only response to this kind of dissembling is nonsense, utter nonsense. See this write-up’s introductory paragraph to see why.

Just as the worst arguments against the lockdowns were medical and statistical, the medical and statistical arguments made in favor of lockdowns were, if possible, even worse. As stated above, no one requires force to avoid sickness or death. About this point, more on it in a bit. For now, it should just be said that even if the medical consensus had been correct, that millions and millions of Americans would die absent being forced out of work and into their homes, then any lockdown orders foisted on us by nailbiting politicians would have read as tame relative to the precautions taken by free people. The more threatening anything is, the more superfluous is any kind of policy reaction to the threat.

The simple, overwhelming truth is that people should never have their individual freedom to protect themselves taken from them, period. End of story.

Applying the previous assertion to organizations like Cato, Students for Liberty, and others that seemingly took a “wait and see” approach to the lockdowns, their stances were wrongheaded. Lest they or readers forget, the organizations mentioned were founded on the notion of individual freedom as the foremost ideal. In which case a “wait and see what the science or medical establishment says” is dangerously wrong. It is simply because as Brownstone Institute founder Jeffrey Tucker has pointed out, politicians at the local, state and national levels did not take a “wait and see” approach. That they didn’t calls into serious question organizations and individuals sitting on their hands. How could they? Since we know government will never wait and see on anything, what an odd excuse or piece of internal reasoning to explain away a lack of action. It implies that freedom should always be the loser in times of uncertainty, or when politicians are feeling particularly hysterical. 

At which point it should be said that freedom is easily the best way to turn the unknowns and uncertainty into true knowledge. So, while libertarian groups and individuals who sat out the lockdowns should reflexively defend freedom every time government is in the process of taking it, it’s useful to add that free people crucially produce information.

Which brings us back to the earlier assertion in this write-up that people don’t need to be forced to avoid sickness or death. Some no doubt responded as they read the latter that some people would in fact have lived, worked, and run their businesses without regard to a spreading virus. To which the answer here can only be precisely. Precisely because free people will respond in all manner of ways (including disdain) to fears driven by unknowns, we need them to be free. Without millions of different responses, or realistically hundreds of millions of different responses in the U.S., people (including “experts”) will be blinded to the truth about whatever it is that threatens us, or not. Since free people once again produce information, the only answer to uncertainty about what we don’t know is freedom. 

It’s just something to keep in mind in the here and now. Four years ago this month, over 40 million Americans lost their jobs, and hundreds of millions around the world found themselves hurtling toward starvation amid a global panic among politicians. Shamefully and tragically, some of the foremost organizations and individuals devoted to liberty sat out the tragedy and seemingly defend their inaction to this day by hiding behind medicine, science, and a lack of information. The excuses and internal justifications are wholly insufficient. Freedom is its own always and everywhere virtue, period.

Republished from RealClear Markets


  • John Tamny

    John Tamny is a popular speaker and author in the U.S. and around the world. His speech topics include "Government Barriers to Economic Growth," "Why Washington and Wall Street are Better Off Living Apart," and more.

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