December 22, 2020 Reading Time: 5 minutes

Art Carden rightly points out that 2020 doesn’t come close to being humanity’s worst year ever. This reality ought never be forgotten. Still, 2020 has nevertheless proven, by modern standards, to be a year especially vile. And by far the vilest aspects of this soon-to-be-done year are the media-fueled unhinged fear of Covid-19 and the resulting tolerance for arbitrary restrictions on human freedom.

Yet bad times bring to the fore heroic individuals. Let’s acknowledge and applaud some of 2020’s finest.

  • Jay Bhattacharya, Sunetra Gupta, and Martin Kulldorff. These co-authors of the Great Barrington Declaration courageously put at stake their high professional reputations by publicly dissenting from a scientific consensus that suddenly emerged this past Spring seemingly out of nowhere. Refusing to run with the herd, these researchers were led by their integrity and understanding of the science to join forces with AIER in an effort not only to calm the disproportionate fear of Covid, but also to propose a much-better alternative to lockdowns – an alternative they call “Focused Protection.”
  • Edward Stringham, Jeffrey Tucker and AIER’s leadership, staff, and other columnists. I’m told that in the earliest days of the pandemic, Professor Stringham gathered his staff and calmly said: We will keep our commitment to freedom and science as we have since 1933, saying what we find to be true, with no partisan bias. That statement unleashed AIER to be a global leader. Jeffrey Tucker was among the earliest and most historically grounded voices warning against what I’ve come to call “Covid Derangement Syndrome,” or “CDS-20.” Although I’m a regular columnist for AIER, I’m not on site and have little personal knowledge of – and I play no role in – any of AIER’s many valiant efforts to do battle against CDS-20. But I know that Jeffrey is a key soldier in these efforts, from arranging for the Great Barrington Declaration to ensuring that AIER’s website daily features top-quality assessments of Covid developments. 
  • Ivor Cummins. His clearly narrated and data-filled videos on Covid are must-watch. I especially appreciate Cummins’s repeated reminders that as recently as October 2019 the World Health Organization explicitly advised against quarantining even exposed individuals even during pandemics. As the WHO put it: “Home quarantine of exposed individuals to reduce transmission is not recommended because there is no obvious rationale for this measure, and there would be considerable difficulties in implementing it.” And yet, only a few months later the world got a home quarantine of everyone – tyrannical lockdowns that are not merely tolerated, but applauded, by nearly everyone in the mainstream media.
  • Michael Levitt and John Ioannidis. Each of these accomplished scholars was among the first to dive into the data deeply. What they learned led each to oppose the lockdowns as they pushed back against Neil Ferguson and other mad modelers who recklessly projected massive numbers of Covid deaths.
  • Holman Jenkins. This Wall Street Journal columnist was from the start one of the mainstream media’s vanishingly few sane voices on Covid. Aptly describing 2020 as “our year of living derangedly,” Jenkins regularly exposes half-truths and outright lies about Covid that are peddled by the powerful and swallowed by the gullible.
  • David Henderson. Calling as early as mid-April for an end to the lockdowns, Henderson has consistently been a crystal-clear source of sanity amidst the Covid madness. Writing principally at his blog, EconLog, but also in the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal and for the Hoover Institution’s Defining Ideas, he is characteristically very generous to those with whom he disagrees while he never refrains from taking a principled and untrimmed – and economically informed – stand against lockdown tyranny.
  • Dan Klein. My colleague in George Mason University’s Department of Economics, Dan – who lives for much of the year in Sweden – co-wrote an important paper (with Joakim Book and Christian Bjørnskov) explaining why Sweden’s unusually high death rate in 2020 is not the result of the Swedish government’s generally much lighter approach to Covid. This paper is, I believe, the source of the term “dry tinder.” Unfortunately, the findings of Dan and his co-authors are simply ignored by those who are intent on keeping humanity infected with CDS-20. In addition, Dan courageously challenges even his close friends when any of them publicly pronounce on Covid in ways that he believes to be mistaken or misleading. And I must also express my appreciation for an important three-part distinction that Dan draws. It’s between persons who support lockdowns, persons who refuse to oppose lockdowns, and persons who actively oppose those of us who oppose lockdowns.
  • Phil Magness. Impressively active on Facebook – in addition to publishing elsewhere – Magness can be counted on to be at the forefront of correcting any of the many errors du jour that emerge from the Covid-hysteria crowd.
  • Matt Ridley. Although in the Spring his fear of Covid prompted him to support lockdowns, Ridley has since used his prominent voice to speak out lucidly against them.
  • Joseph Ladapo. An associate professor of Medicine at UCLA, Ladapo has written for the Wall Street Journal a series of cogent and scientifically informed op-eds protesting the lockdowns and warning against the hysteria that fuels them. Here’s the still-relevant conclusion from a piece he published on September 16th:

    “The point of life is living, and everyone is better off with policies that focus on protecting the most vulnerable populations. That doesn’t take universal rapid testing or never-ending mandates. It requires only abandoning fear, being sensible about who is targeted for testing and protections, expanding treatment capacity and therapies—and choosing to live with the virus, rather than to live for it.”

  • Van Morrison and Eric Clapton. These songwriters-performers stood and delivered, creating powerful music to protest the dictatorial lockdowns.
  • J.P. Sears. Sears’s humorous videos supply much-needed comic relief during 2020’s terrors while, at the same time, making serious and germane points.
  • Lyle Albaugh. This one’s personal. A dear friend of mine for many years, Lyle and his wife, Betsy’s business of 32 years was destroyed by the lockdowns in Washington, DC. I watched helplessly, furious at the insanity and feeling awful for my friends. A silver lining is that Lyle very early on began paying close attention to the data on Covid. He and I speak several times daily about the latest developments. What I’ve learned from him cannot be summarily stated; it is vast. Lyle eventually co-wrote with me several pieces – for AIER and this one in the Washington Post – in opposition to the tyranny of lockdowns. But above all his friendship was key to keeping me, during 2020, on this side of sanity.

My list of 2020’s heroes is not complete. There are other brave and intelligent people of integrity who have resisted Covid Derangement Syndrome and spoken out against the lunacy and oppression of lockdowns. To all of you I offer my apologies if you aren’t explicitly recognized here. But above all, I offer to you my heartfelt thanks, as well as my well-wishes for a more sane and much less tyranny-soaked 2021.

Donald J. Boudreaux

Donald J. Boudreaux

Donald J. Boudreaux is a Associate Senior Research Fellow with the American Institute for Economic Research and affiliated with the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University; a Mercatus Center Board Member; and a professor of economics and former economics-department chair at George Mason University. He is the author of the books The Essential Hayek, Globalization, Hypocrites and Half-Wits, and his articles appear in such publications as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, US News & World Report as well as numerous scholarly journals. He writes a blog called Cafe Hayek and a regular column on economics for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Boudreaux earned a PhD in economics from Auburn University and a law degree from the University of Virginia.

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