The left should be interested in protecting working class and marginalised people and shielding them from economic hardship and exploitation, first and foremost. However, by many reasonable projections, these lockdown policies are delivering us into the worst economic depression in world history, and this will certainly negatively affect working class and marginalised people more than anyone else. Small businesses are being swallowed up by the thousands by large multinational corporations like Amazon (very much like a novel virus, sweeping through our populations and killing off the weakest among us), and automation has now taken on a whole new impetus for these companies. There will be few jobs left to return to for those furloughed by this lockdown, and there will be no resources to invest in worthy left-wing causes such as better public healthcare and vaccines, renewable energy systems, public transport, universal basic income, upskilling of the workforce, etc. We have developed complete tunnel vision on one cause of death, and forgotten or relegated all of the other causes of human death and suffering. We are now casually discussing the possibility of new famines in Africa and India and of economic bailouts three times the size of the 2008 economic crash, after just one month of lockdown. These outcomes are by no means guaranteed by the appearance of Covid-19 itself. This is the shocking result of lockdown policy, and a stark reminder of how disastrous public policy can be in the wrong hands. The economy is not just some toy for the ultra-rich (although aspects of it can be, e.g. stock markets), it is also crucial to the continued prosperity and flourishing of average working families. Therefore, the flippant dismissal of economic concerns by some on the left is a massive mistake, the consequences of which will be suffered for generations, and the weight of which will fall particularly on the shoulders of young people like myself. This has never been about life versus money, it has always been about life versus life.
In our current media climate it is not often mentioned that national and international lockdowns in response to a virus outbreak are completely unprecedented in world history, and that this is for good reason. Not even in war time did Western governments impose such severe restrictions on citizens’ personal liberties (churches and schools largely stayed open in the United Kingdom during World War II). And it is not just our liberty that we are losing, but our livelihoods and our young people’s futures. It will be young people and struggling working-class families who will bear the burden of the economic aftermath of this policy and who will have to pay back these forced Covid-19 subsidy loans that are being thrust upon us after being forced out of work by government fiat, through economic depression and inevitable austerity over many years. Multi-billion dollar socialism for mismanaged corporations and banks will certainly continue unabated, and ordinary people will be made to foot the bill once again, just as we did in 2008. If we continue with varying levels of lockdown until the end of the summer (and perhaps beyond), we are guaranteed to have destroyed generations of human potential. We on the left should have seen this coming months ago, and we should actively be resisting the lockdowns which caused it.
Given that national lockdowns have never before been attempted and are so extreme in nature, the onus falls upon governments implementing them to provide overwhelming and inarguable evidence and data to justify this policy and to prove its efficacy beyond any reasonable doubt. However, it is clear that governments and public health officials have completely failed us in this regard. You just have to take a look at the Worldometers data for Covid-19 that anyone can access in order to make comparisons between different countries to see how our governments and public health officials have failed. However, there are other scientists and scholars presenting this with more sophisticated statistical analyses which I highly recommend reading, such as Wilfred Reilly’s recent articles on the topic. For example, Sweden had 2,763 infections per million, and 343 deaths per million as of 12th May 2020. These statistics are quite similar to my own country, the Republic of Ireland, with a much higher 4,739 infections per million and a similar 303 deaths per million, also as of 12th May; yet Ireland has been in full lockdown for some seven weeks at this point – a fellow European country with a similar population, similarly dense cities, similar age profiles in the population and similar sizes and densities of nursing homes. Sweden never introduced a national lockdown, but rather maintained strong recommended (rather than government-mandated) social distancing measures while attempting to shield the most vulnerable. Sweden kept its economy open and kept its populace as calm and rationally-informed as possible in the face of this crisis, and has recently been praised by the World Health Organisation for their efforts in tackling the crisis in a long-term sustainable fashion. Sweden also has a much lower death rate than Belgium, Spain, Italy, UK, etc. Those who like to point out that other Scandinavian countries have lower deaths per million seem to forget that Sweden is simply further along the infection curve than these neighbouring countries, and thus that they have not saved any lives but rather delayed the death sentences of those vulnerable people in their populations by a mere few weeks or months – a delaying strategy which could be considered to be socially destructive in itself. And all the while, detractors conveniently forget all those European countries that have fared the same or much worse than Sweden according to the numbers.
This is replicated virtually everywhere when you compare countries or US states in lockdown to those non-lockdown, social-distancing countries or US states such as South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Nebraska, Wyoming, etc. Therefore, social distancing appears to be doing almost all of the work for us in terms of controlling the spread of the virus. These are live experiments that we are witnessing before our eyes which show us that lockdown is not even working well in terms of our public health, and for some bizarre reason governments and their health advisors are completely ignoring them and not learning any lessons from them. Every week of lockdown that goes by is digging us further into a deep hole of economic turmoil which will take us years to get out of. The evidence for the efficacy of lockdowns is simply not forthcoming, and therefore the policy is utterly unjustified – however much we may imagine it to be. Lockdowns were first instituted when we had no hard evidence to hand, only models (which have since turned out to be wildly out of sync with reality), and the policy has not been re-evaluated in any serious scientific way since this time.
Covid-19 is not by any means the only thing that kills people. Many people are now too scared to go to hospitals to get important treatments, tests and surgeries that are certainly losing us lives to undiagnosed cancers, heart issues, etc. Where our healthcare systems cannot cope with Covid-19, we should immediately have funded and expanded our capacity (e.g. with temporary hospitals) rather than locking down society. Our mental health problems, stress, addiction and abuse levels are increasing. Furthermore, it is a well-known sociological phenomenon that suicides – particularly amongst men – increase when a recession puts them out of work for extended periods of time. And our immune systems are weakening. We are a social primate, and our immune systems evolved over millennia to be kept strong by continual exposure to microbes via social contact and being outdoors, thus developing in us an immunity from many different diseases. Therefore, being inside our homes for weeks or months, away from other people and dousing every surface with bleach and sanitiser is almost certainly detrimental in the long term for our immune systems. There are guaranteed to be many novel microbes and diseases other than Covid-19 to which we need to develop an immunity as a species through continued social contact. When lockdowns are finally released, we may see a surge of new infections of various kinds due to this weakening of our immune systems. Recently we have seen that 66% of new Covid-19 cases in New York are of people who have been locked down for weeks, according to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. This indicates that either the virus is much more widespread in New York than was previously thought, and/or that the weeks of lockdown have significantly weakened locked-down New Yorkers’ immune systems, making them much more vulnerable to the virus – and other illnesses. Furthermore, if the economic collapse continues, we may expect new famines in Africa and India that could threaten many tens to hundreds of thousands of lives, if not more. And this is not to mention the fact that we are losing vast sums of tax money and borrowing power every day by paying large proportions of our national populaces to stay home.
We are now being primed by our governments, media and public health officials to behave like misanthropic, obsessive-compulsive hypochondriacs who are to regard any other person as a potential viral infestation to be avoided at all costs. Just picture the viral force-field that surrounds people in public health infographics on social distancing. The most basic activities of a social primate like us are now considered to be forms of contagion-ridden, death-spreading evil. I must point out that no such moralising inanity around viruses is entertained when it comes to influenza, which spreads through social contact and kills many tens of thousands worldwide every year. This is because contagion is usually understood to be an inescapable part of life as a social primate and not something one can feasibly control beyond a reasonable degree, such as by staying at home (and/or wearing a mask) when one feels sick, and by maintaining basic hygiene. Things other than life itself are indeed valuable to us – including social contact – and we often take minor risks with our lives for this very reason. Living one’s life is simply inherently risky.
The Left-Wing Case Against Lockdowns
Wed, 2020-05-20 17:43#1
The Left-Wing Case Against Lockdowns