Typhoid Mary has loomed over the last year in the form of a suspicion: could SARS-CoV-2 be spread by asymptomatic carriers, like Mary Mallon was for typhoid?

A lot rests on this fear. Most of the lockdown policies, for example. 

Why should healthy people keep a six-foot distance from other healthy people, or wear masks, if there are few or no people spreading the disease while not knowing they are infected?

The whole extreme mitigation craze began a year and a month ago with the “Fifteen Days to Flatten the Curve” ploy. The curve to be flattened was of dire cases necessitating hospitalization. The policy was to prevent hospital over-crowding. That didn’t happen, but the measures were kept. 

And fears of asymptomatic spreading of the virus helped fuel the idea that we — “as a society” — could fend off the worst casualty rates until a “vaccine” could be developed. Now we have a few vaccines, and it has been like pulling teeth to get the CDC to allow the vaccinated some freedom of association.

You probably have heard about studies alleging prevalence of asymptomatic spread of COVID. Most of these studies seem pretty iffy to me, and the best study almost conclusively indicates no such epidemiology — “no positive tests amongst 1,174 close contacts with asymptomatic cases.”

Now, Mary Mallon, the original asymptomatic superspreader, spread typhoid by handling food that she prepared for others. After years of back-and-forth, she was basically imprisoned for 27 years. In America, you might think that a taking of her liberty for the public good would have instituted a system for her compensation. But that was not really done.

Just so, this last year: the liberty taken away from the productive many for the benefit, chiefly, of immune-compromised few, was not handled as a free society would.

Will there be progress?

Not so long as the big issues are ignored. Evaded.

Big issues like just compensation and the actual science of the spread of disease. Were there a case for quarantining people, preventing them from engaging in commerce, the ones who lost incomes from such quarantine should surely be compensated according to the Takings Clause of the Constitution. But almost no one mentions that.

The takings problem is especially interesting in the COVID case because the most at-risk population are retirees who barely lose monetarily, if at all, from “the lockdowns,” while those who lose most — workers and business owners — have the least to gain. This suggests to me that the only halfway reasonable takings/compensation method to manage a quarantine would be to require those who are not monetarily affected by the lockdown orders to compensate those who are monetarily affected in a direct manner. By this I mean the funds to compensate the most negatively impacted should come from those least impacted on a weekly basis, skipping states’ general funds entirely. The least impacted would write checks to a fund that would distribute to those most affected.

Note what this method would do: give immediate incentive to those who benefit most from the lockdowns to oppose the lockdowns when their benefit/cost changes. As it is, in the current lockdown regime, there is not incentive for those who benefit to let up on the request to be benefitted at others’ expense. The state lockdowns compensated for by federal subsidy amounts to an incentive to forever let some benefit at others’ expense. It is the kind of scenario that the Constitution was designed to prevent.

The lockdowns have been just one of many poorly thought-out, irresponsibility-maximizing programs introduced during the panic.

And as for Mary: what should have been done? Well, negotiate with the woman. Pay her off. If her freedom to earn a living was in conflict with others’ health, than the healthy should have paid her off not to work. They would have hired her to “socially distance” — rather than lock her up. Indeed, this kind of policy would not even require a state to manage.

This model should have become the norm. And because it did not, we have lockdowns today that abridge freedoms and benefit some at the uncompensated-for expense of others. Anathema!

And because no one has to pay the direct cost of these policies, the whole pandemic has been one ideological contest sans responsibility. The system actually discourages rational reconsideration of the data. People just choose what they want to believe to fit their situation and their free-floating “values.” A responsibilitarian society would not serve anyone’s free-floating values. Only cost-conscious values would count.

In a free society there would exist strong incentives to look at the effectiveness of masks and other mitigation measures rationally, not in a cultic manner.