Are the mitigation measures for COVID-19 worth sacrificing freedom and the economy?

I don’t believe so. But a word of caution: “the economy” sounds antiseptic. People hear that and they echo Greta Thunberg, ALL YOU CAN TALK ABOUT IS MONEY!!! But that is a not very bright way of looking at it. 

What we call “the economy” is the nexus of our production and trades (but I repeat myself). We live by participating in “the economy.” Our clothing, homes, heat, food, light, and nearly everything else we engage in is “our economy.” This isn’t about “the money,” or lowly, non-human things, this is about what keeps us alive.

Shutting down “the economy” forces us to live on savings. And since we live in a society nurtured by a welfare state and have been thoroughly, ceaselessly programed by inflationism — the policy of increasing the money supply for a variety of goals, yielding a general decline in the value of money — about half the population has no savings to speak of: no money in the bank, no cash on hand, no investments, not even much food in the cupboard. Forcing these people to live on savings that they do not possess means forcing them to beg or suffer.

And it’s worse than that. Not producing means the supply lines, warehouses, and store shelves cannot be replenished. No produce. Goods do not magically appear for us to buy and allow us to live our lives, they are produced by people going to work, whatever that work may be. What the shutdowns accomplish is a huge hit to our wealth. Which we live by. Which allows us, by the way, to be healthy.

Here is where you can separate the fools from the common sense folks: if someone says the answer to the predicaments caused by the shut-downs is to have the government give out checks to compensate for our losses — and they have been tremendous — then that person is a fool. Sans production, you could have a million dollars in the bank and still have nothing to buy.

Money is not wealth. Read David Hume and Adam Smith** on this.

A free society would have people trying to protect the weakest, most jeopardized, during a time of a new contagion. The shut-downs are the opposite: quarantine everybody, on the rationale that we do not know who is infected. There is a certain plausibility to this, but it was a bad idea, especially since it is such a narrow view of the problem. The cost of the shut-down is the lost productivity. And that cost is . . . almost everything.

Those folks talking about many more months — even 18 months! — of the whole-populace quarantine are, well, fools of outrageous proportions, or just downright evil. I would not wish the resulting destruction even on my enemies.

The worldwide response(s) to the coronavirus may be the biggest con job in history. But it may not be a conspiracy. The trick of politics and governance is often the same as in stage magic: misdirection. But we can do it to ourselves, by focusing on the wrong things, just as practicing magicians can fool themselves by looking away at the crucial moment, simply by looking away.*** The citizens of the modern world are the product, largely, of public schools, which have, somehow, neglected to introduce basic concepts that would allow people to think through mental traps like the ones we now routinely face.

Mainly, though, it helps that many people, schooled by government checks and retirement funds and money machines and debit cards and much else, forget that money is not wealth, and that “the economy” can just be put on hold without consequences dire.

Capitalism may have taken the biggest hit since Communism, and we have largely done it to ourselves. The enormity of this astounds me.

The “lockdown quarantines” must end. As soon as possible.

And when someone asks why, keep in stock a ready answer: IT’S THE PRODUCTIVITY, STUPID.

* I wrote this answer to the question above on Quora, but, for the first time ever, I could not post it. Three times and I stopped trying. I assume that I am not allowed to write about this on Quora. I could be wrong, though. It could have been a fluke. Quora could be innocent as doves. But I doubt it.

**  I wrote an introduction to the Laissez Faire Books ebook edition of two relevant essays by David Hume on this subject. The ebooks in this series are no longer up on Amazon, but are on Apple’s platform — just search for my name, David Hume, and “Money and Interest.” The image is at the top of the page.

***  James Littleton Gill informs me of this problem, common lore among stage magicians. I know nothing more about it.