– September 18, 2020

The gigantic mess of 2020 called lockdown began with an email thread called Red Dawn, based on the old movie about a Russian invasion of the US. The idea, I suppose, was that the virus was the invader. The public health lockdowners and fanatics on the list who urged the overthrow of American life as we knew it imagined themselves to be the saviors. 

(You can read many, but not all, of the emails here. They were enormously influential in generating the necessary panic to kick their sadistic social experiment into high gear.) 

What actually happened was a different kind of invasion. It was the saviors who invaded our schools, churches, sports, commercial lives, and even our homes. They took total control, issuing random edicts by the day concerning what we could and could not do. They enforced these edicts at the point of a gun, thus wrecking countless businesses, driving millions into depression, violating all human rights, and shattering the lives of countless millions not only in the US but all over the world. 

All they needed to do to accomplish this was to tap into a premodern and unscientific (and essentially childish) penchant to believe that the right way to deal with a virus is to run and hide from it, as if human beings didn’t evolve with viruses in a complicated dance for a million years. Forget everything we’ve learned from science over the 20th century; instead, we should behave like Prince Prospero in Edgar Allen Poe’s short story Masque of the Red Death (yes, the use of the word masque here is word play).

To this end, left-liberalism gave up all its ideals: concern for the poor, high regard for civil liberties, opposition to biases against The Other, its celebration of the arts, and even its attachment to public schools and personal privacy. The people among the right and the libertarians who went along, through whatever kind of twisted thinking, found themselves trapped too: limited government, the Constitution, and human rights all had to bow to the great agenda of virus control. 

The victims of this invasion – mainly the people not in a position to pretend to live life fully digitally at home – were so shocked at what was happening that they couldn’t marshal the nerve to stand up to the lockdowners. Those who dared protest were jeered mercilessly by a pro-lockdown mainstream media machine. 

Many people thought: Surely this must be a terrible and ghastly emergency. Otherwise they never would have done this. But as the months have rolled on, we are discovering an even more horrible truth: this is a normal virus that behaves like every widespread respiratory virus that science has encountered in the past, best dealt with not via state coercion but with medical therapeutics and immunological adaptation. 

We’ll see in a few years what really happened to us through two pieces of data: excess deaths over a five-year period, which will not reveal much that is unusual (and this fact will confuse future generations), and the GDP data, which will reveal astonishing economic devastation never seen before in the modern world, not even in depression or war. The great suppression has wrecked not only whole sectors of industry and art but has fundamentally shaken public confidence in core expectations concerning law, liberty, and the protection of property against invasion. 

We are nowhere near coming to terms with what has happened to our world. Attorney General William Barr, in a question and answer session at Hillsdale College, rightly decried the Covid lockdowns as a grotesque intervention in people’s lives. 

“You know, putting a national lockdown, stay-at-home orders, is like house arrest. It’s — you know, other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history.” 

“The person in the white coat is not the ‘grand seer’ who can come up with a right decision for society. A free people makes its decision through its elected representative.”

Where was the ACLU? Where was the civil-liberties defending left? Why did the courts wait so long in most states finally to act? For that matter, how did this happen at all in a country that prides itself on the rule of law and freedom for the individual? 

These are questions we will be asking for a long time. The sheer evil that has transpired over these six months is mind-boggling. And one of the major political parties has made it a campaign issue that we should have lockdowned even more! 

“It would have been great if we had a national lockdown, so that people’s lives would be saved and our children would be going on with their lives today as they should be.” ~ House Minority Whip Jim Clyburn.

I just spent a bit of time watching the arguments in the Kentucky Supreme Court, during which one side says the governor cannot legally exercise dictatorial power on a whim, and the other side keeps saying “But there is a virus,” as if the presence of a pathogen is unprecedented and thereby justifies throwing out all human rights and freedoms. 

It’s astonishing that we are, at this late date, debating fundamental issues of freedom itself, and that in the United States, of all places, we have major sectors of public opinion pushing for autocratic absolutism as a recommended theory of law. 

This was indeed Red Dawn. The invader was not the virus but rather governments who imagined that with enough edicts and guns they could intimidate the virus into going away. They tried to scare the disease away with rhetoric and violence but in the end, governments have only one ability: the capacity to control people. The sooner we recognize the real enemy is government overreach, the sooner we can get on with making sure nothing like this ever happens again. 

Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey A. Tucker is Editorial Director for the American Institute for Economic Research. He is the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press and nine books in 5 languages, most recently Liberty or Lockdown. He is also the editor of The Best of Mises. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture. Jeffrey is available for speaking and interviews via his emailTw | FB | LinkedIn

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