Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

The governor of Michigan wins my prize for the stupidest pandemic regulation. She shut down landscapers and prohibited the sale of garden supplies. Her actions are truly symptomatic of our failure to take a rational approach to the COVID-19 problem.

I’ll start with a few random observations.

The stated purpose of the shutdowns was to “flatten the curve” to allow hospitals to gear up for the influx of those seriously impacted by the virus. The curve has been flattened. Most of the hospitals are mostly empty and going broke in the process.

The virus is here to stay. Due to the Chinese cover-up, containment is no longer possible, short of a totalitarian level of social and economic control, and the complete closure of our borders. Mitigation is all we got until a vaccine arrives. The Ebola vaccine took five years. We still don’t have an HIV vaccine. It could be awhile. If we keep the economy shut down until a vaccine arrives, we won’t have any economy to reopen.

Our national hot spot is greater New York City. Because of the concentration of media in NYC and Cuomo’s daily performances, their situation tends to drive policy decisions for the entire country, most of which is in an entirely different situation. Modoc County, California (population 9,000) does not have a single known case, much less a serious case or fatality. It should not be operating on the NYC model.

All of the pundits calling for continuing quarantine are people who can make a living sitting in front of their laptops at home. Most of them lament the suffering of the working class, but they are prepared to watch its members be progressively impoverished. Government checks can help in the very short term, but the only solution is long term employment.

Sweden has not done a lock-down. Its mortality rate is higher than some, but lower than most. The government has confined itself to communicating facts about the spread of the disease. The populace has taken actions to protect itself of its own volition.

I’ll end by proposing a framework for decision making.

In a democratic society, every person should be free to live in whatever fashion he/she chooses and make whatever mistakes they choose to make (aka Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness). There are two caveats. Those who make bad choices should have to live with the consequences, and behavior by any citizen that does harm to other citizens must be sanctioned if we are to insure freedom for all.

If that is the decision making framework, those who wish to reopen a business should be allowed to do so. Those who wish to shop in a store or eat in a restaurant should be allowed to do so. Businesses that wish to operate should be made to require masks, gloves, and distancing, and they should provide hand cleaning stations, in order to minimize the spread of the virus. Those who have health conditions that exacerbate the danger of contracting the virus should be encouraged to shelter.

Government should focus on putting out accurate information and supporting research into palliatives and vaccines. Other than that, let my people mow.