May 23, 2021 Reading Time: 6 minutes

News of Texas hitting zero Covid deaths despite its alleged Neanderthalism when it dropped its mandated masking in March is helping to bring down mask mandates, which finally are disappearing left and right. They never made sense and were even illegal, an idea with slim empirical support that only got worse as desperate people argued that adding more masks — essentially multiplying zeroes by zeroes — would amount to something positive. “The” science has been in for over a year but for some reason government policymakers have just now made it clear that if you want to avoid Covid (and for most people there is no need to), the key behavior is to not loiter inside with lots of strangers.

That’s right, the social distancing floor arrows and stand here stickers didn’t really matter and the plexiglass was pretty useless unless it went floor to ceiling and wall to wall. And all that hand sanitizer killed a lot of nasties but didn’t appreciably slow Covid. If Walfart, Tarjay, and other big box stores really cared about their customers, they would have stayed open 24-7, kept all their checkout lanes open all the time, moved essentials from the back to the front, and done everything else in their power to get customers in and out fast while protecting the most vulnerable, along the lines of the Great Barrington Declaration, with special hours or stores.

Instead, Big Retail followed dubious government “science,” restricted its hours, forced everyone to squeeze through the same entrance and exit, and made them linger in the checkout line for far too long. But (almost) everyone thought such modifications were okay because the store required “face coverings” and then masks, mostly cheap plastic things that made some people feel like they were doing “their part.” They certainly were playing a part, that of unwitting dupes who lulled others into one of the most dangerous states of mind imaginable, a false sense of security.

Remnants of the old regime remain, like a school district in Florida where teachers allegedly still pull down their masks to yell at students for drinking water. The last holdouts, besides those with monopoly power like teachers’ unions, are folks suffering from neuroticisms like pathogen disgust and obsessive-compulsive disorder. They cling to mandates the way a wet mask clings to human faces to convince themselves that they can control that which cannot be controlled. It is sad but thankfully they are in the minority now in most states and I hope they can get the help they need and be better for the experience. Queue Nietzsche cliche.

I knew the mask consensus was crumbling when I began to notice masks, even the better ones, showing up in all sorts of places where one rarely sees garbage anymore, much less (allegedly) life-saving medical devices strewn about. Yet there they were, on boardwalks and parking lots, even on fairly remote mountainsides. I began snapping pics of them when convenient, in part just to bring attention to their existence. They are literally polluting the planet as well as people’s minds. According to a recent study, humans across the globe now throw away 3 million face masks per minute

The unedited photographs below (note the occasional shoes and digits) portray over two dozen of those castaways. They expose not just the fact that the wearers valued their masks so little that they carelessly lost or tossed them but also the fact that nobody, myself included, wanted to dispose of these dead masks properly. Some may have feared their presumably Covid-encrusted exteriors while others may have been disgusted that anyone would lose or toss something so valuable. 

I, for one, wanted the discards to strangle baby birds to expose the hypocrisy and hubris of the central planning, authoritarian types “leading” the country straight into yet another steaming pile of unintended consequences. If only people had listened to me and live virus inoculated volunteers starting in March 2020 many human and baby bird lives would have been saved. Instead we suffered a hellish year that we will continue paying for, in myriad ways large and small, long into the future. 

mask on corner
Hanging out on the corner, looking for trouble.
grass mask
This one, like increasing numbers of Americans, likes grass.
brick mask
Pretty brick facade; ugly plastic charade.
white chair mask
That’s not the best chair to hide under.
mask lane
At least this dead mask has stayed in its lane.
gutter mask
This one perished in the gutter and will likely end in the sea.
gutter mask two
Another gutter casualty.
This one found some friends.
black mask
As black as the souls of policymakers who put partisan politics ahead of constitutional principles.
boardwalk mask
♭ On the boardwalk, boardwalk! ♭
boardwalk two
Somebody dropped this mask after the rain, so it was clearly fresh. I kept my distance.
hand sanitizer
This isn’t a mask, it’s an unopened hand sanitizer. And the tip of my sneaker.
gym mask
This was a “public” mask available at a small gym for anyone, and everyone, who forgot their own. #Followthescience
street mask
Reminds me of the poem “Ozymandias.” Just substitute mask for visage and asphalt for sand.
sand mask
Another Ozymandias-looking scene of masked desolation.
This mask died far from home, in the Philadelphia part of the Jersey Shore.
boardwalk mask
Another boardwalk, another dead mask.
bush mask
I interrupted this mask on its way to a rat den.
sidewalk mask
Another baby bird trap awaits its prey!
deck mask
This one is purdy, but it is still a killer.
bush mask
Another critter trap, ready to kill.
discarded mask
A robust cloth mask, soaked with moist breath.
two masks
Can you say twofer?
mask trash
Wrong camouflage!
mask on street
No camouflage.
mask and shoes
Camouflage appropriate for my attire!
Proper camouflage. Almost missed this disgusting fellow.
The shadows grow long on this mask, just like our “civilization.”
shopping cart mask
Stinky old thing. The mask and the supermarket.
dirty mask
Dirty, dirty mask.

According to one study, it will take 450 years for some of these masks to degrade. That’s a lot of dead baby birds and a lot of wasted energy, almost for naught. Great job, Homo personatus!

Robert E. Wright

Robert E. Wright

Robert E. Wright is the (co)author or (co)editor of over two dozen major books, book series, and edited collections, including AIER’s The Best of Thomas Paine (2021) and Financial Exclusion (2019). He has also (co)authored numerous articles for important journals, including the American Economic ReviewBusiness History ReviewIndependent ReviewJournal of Private EnterpriseReview of Finance, and Southern Economic Review. Robert has taught business, economics, and policy courses at Augustana University, NYU’s Stern School of Business, Temple University, the University of Virginia, and elsewhere since taking his Ph.D. in History from SUNY Buffalo in 1997. Robert E. Wright was formerly a Senior Research Faculty at the American Institute for Economic Research.

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