Coronavirus

For Better Health, Find a Cure for Government

In a time of health crisis, government has proven to be a crippling underlying condition.

|

If the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated anything, it is that there is no situation so severe that government can't make it worse. Government's recent crimes are legion: standing in the way of testing; complicating efforts to acquire protective equipment; imposing authoritarian and uniform lockdown rules across very different populations; and enforcing those rules in dangerous and ill-considered ways.

If you can assess the conduct of government officials through the pandemic and conclude that what we really need is more of that, then we're probably going to cure the novel coronavirus long before we find a treatment for whatever it is that ails you.

The societies over which governments exert their power are made up of myriad individuals, businesses, churches, and organizations interacting with one another for purposes of their own. The people in a society may inhabit dense urban areas or sparsely settled countryside. They may have deep pockets or meager resources. They may have high tolerances for risk or shy away from danger. Often, they have little in common except goods, services, and ideas to exchange for mutual benefit. Forcing them to walk in lockstep makes little sense.

"Americans are being told they must still play by New York rules—with all the hardships they entail—despite having neither New York's living conditions nor New York's health outcomes," Bret Stephens pointed out in The New York Times last weekend.

Other than a few basic rules like "don't murder" and "don't steal," there is very little you can impose from the top-down on a diverse society that can help and please one group without hurting and offending another. But that's exactly what government does—inflicting one-size-fits-all-mandates that don't fit many people at all and are usually poorly considered, at that. And during this pandemic, the government has exercised its taste for incompetence and draconian rules with a vengeance.

Famously, the federal government produced a dumpster fire of a COVID-19 test rather than adopt proven tests developed elsewhere. It also prevented universities, researchers, and private laboratories from developing their own tests, throwing bureaucratic hurdles in their way for weeks and allowing the disease to spread.

When it became obvious that available stocks of personal protective equipment were insufficient, federal regulators told aspiring new mask producers that getting approval for their efforts could take anywhere from 45 to 90 days.

Distilleries that tried to shift to producing much-sought hand sanitizer discovered they would be required to pollute their production lines with "denaturant" meant to make the product unpalatable—and therefore complicating the return to producing beverages after the crisis passed.

When hospitals and state officials do find supplies, they have to worry that they'll be flat-out stolen by federal agencies who think they would be better used by somebody else.

Rules closing businesses, limiting gatherings, and even restricting outdoor excursions were supposed to "flatten the curve" to slow the spread of COVID-19 so that hospitals didn't get overwhelmed. But the virus didn't hit the same way everywhere. Instead, New York City and a few other hot spots got slammed. Elsewhere, most medical facilities found themselves tending empty beds, pondering the fate of patients whose "elective" cancer, heart, and back surgeries are deferred to some uncertain date in the future, and watching cash reserves dwindle for lack of patients to treat.

"Mayo Clinic is furloughing or reducing the hours of about 42 percent of its 70,000 employees across all of its campuses in an attempt to mitigate the financial losses from the COVID-19 pandemic," reports the Rochester Post-Bulletin of the famed medical system. "About 60 percent of Mayo Clinic's business comes from elective procedures of the kind that are now on hold."

Furloughs and pay cuts are "a function of clumsy, if well-intentioned, federal and state directives to halt all non-emergency procedures," writes Rick Jackson of Jackson Healthcare, a medical staffing company. He wants the government to get out of the way so doctors and patients can decide for themselves.

Idled doctors and untreated patients are the consequences of rules intended to help the healthcare system. Stay-at-home orders take an even bigger toll on people and industries that are collateral damage.

With 26.5 million jobs lost since governments started ordering businesses closed, the unemployment rate is estimated to have topped 20 percent and could be headed north of 30 percent. Some of those jobs aren't coming back—at least not in the short term—because the businesses that offered them are themselves on the brink of extinction.

A few sectors—such as department stores—were already on the ropes and lockdowns are the final straw. Others are small businesses that can't suspend operations indefinitely and expect to pick up where they left off. They'll eventually be replaced, but only after bankruptcies, impoverishment, and a period of rebuilding inflicted by government decree. Those are costs rarely considered by those who insist, under penalty of law, that we focus on one set of risks and disregard others.

Governments have brought the same lack of judgment behind the formulation of their stay-at-home orders to their enforcement. Violators have been tossed into crowded jail cells, chased through the lonely ocean for daring to venture outside, fined for attending church services while isolated in their cars, and arrested for playing with their children in public.

Inevitably—if to the surprise of those who reflexively defer to government officials—people push back.

This past weekend saw thousands gather to protest in Madison, Wisconsin, echoing demonstrations elsewhere. Some attendees see rules tailored to help densely settled cities "driving resentment among people who live in areas with many fewer cases of the virus and are being subject to the same economic restrictions," according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

True, individuals can exercise poor judgment, gathering too closely in a time of contagion. But their choices are relatively limited in their impact, putting at risk mostly others who choose to gather with them. By contrast, government amplifies the effect of every decision, imposing rules—good or bad—favored by the loudest and most influential across the population. When the decisionmakers are foolish, or panic-stricken, or corrupt, or just idiots, they get to spread the damage they do far and wide.

As we've seen, there is lots of foolishness, panic, corruption, and idiocy to go around in government. That's why it's not enough to say that better people would give us better rules and rule-enforcement. Yes, the president seems utterly clueless when he weighs in on the pandemic. And yes, the governors who are often in conflict with the president appear alternately power-hungry and eager to punish political enemies. But these are the actual officials our system produces, not the philosopher kings some election of the future is supposed to produce once the current officeholders are swept away.

Besides, the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials who screwed up testing and hamper companies trying to respond to the crisis are precisely the sort of experts to whom we're supposed to defer. They're no better with coercive power than anybody else.

And because government and one-size-fits-all rulemaking are involved, the lockdowns and protests are yet more stress for an already politically fractured country. A new working paper by economists from Stanford, Harvard, and New York University finds "substantial gaps between Republicans and Democrats in beliefs about the severity of COVID-19 and the importance of social distancing."

Pandemic politics are certain to make coming elections and factional battles of the future even nastier than they were going to be.

The common problem here is government itself. In a time of health crisis, government has proven to be a crippling underlying condition that weakens society, slows our ability to battle a dangerous disease, and turns us against one another. Fighting COVID-19 is an important short-term goal but eradicating or at least mitigating the plague of government would be an even greater victory for health.

NEXT: Deaths Spike in New York City and Around the World

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

    1. Good article but the the writer seems to have misplaced his concluding statement.

      “because government and one-size-fits-all rule-making are involved”
      … is exactly caused by a FEDERAL …
      “Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control”
      … of which …
      both are communist agencies that were enacted UN-Constitutionally.

    2. HOW GOVERNMENT OPERATES:
      1. Government inserts itself into a problem of which it has no business being involved in.
      2. It comes up with a solution to the problem that doesn’t work.
      3. After it discovers the solution doesn’t work; it does more of it.

  1. If you can assess the conduct of government officials through the pandemic and conclude that what we really need is more of that, then we’re probably going to cure the novel coronavirus long before we find a treatment for whatever it is that ails you you’re obviously using a validated scientific model.

    FTFY

  2. [ USA ONLY] last month i was earned $6 k over in am month.Its really change my life.If you want change your life….check my payout….. Read More

  3. [ USA ONLY]
    last month i was earned $6 k over in am month.Its really change my life.If you want change your life……….check my payout…………… Read More

  4. And, of course, the obvious; we have not flattened the curve, we just pushed it to the right on the time line.
    When the people come to their senses and start ignoring the senseless edicts of the fascists, not enough will have immunity to prevent the first wave (called the second wave) of mass infections.

    1. When the people come to their senses and start ignoring the senseless edicts of the fascists, not enough will have immunity to prevent the first wave (called the second wave) of mass infections.

      This, unfortunately is probably exactly what will happen once some of the restrictions start to get lifted. And of course, the asshats who make these decisions will conclude that they didn’t “authoritarian hard enough” the first time around and re-impose the lockdowns only with even more sever restrictions and more draconian punishments for anyone who dares disrespect their AUTHORITAH.

      The sad thing is this so completely predictable to anyone who isn’t an ignoramus, yet watch how many people will be totally shocked and blind sided by it. On the plus side, I guess we’ll get a really good estimate of just how many ignoramuses there are based on the numbers of people who are surprised.

      1. I’m guessing somewhere upward of 95% ignorami.

        1. Is that enough for herd immunity?

    2. we have not flattened the curve, we just pushed it to the right on the time line

      Assuming that the area under the curve is more or less fixed, isn’t that the same as flattening the curve? Maybe that’s not a good assumption.

      1. Either way you look at it, the point is that we can only delay the accelerated deaths, not stop them from happening.

  5. Tar and Feathers
    Woodchippers
    Guillotines…

    1. And gas soaked tires for the undercover cops…

  6. Eradicating the plague of government is simple, prohibit it from initiating force. I suggest a 28th amendment, “Government shall not initiate force.” You’re welcome.

    1. Government = Force

      1. Exactly liberals excuse for not starting a liberal corporation to do X, Y, Z or solve problems X, Y, Z but instead insists it’s ‘FORCES'(Gov) job.. The underlying desired factor in making everything GOV’s problem is that of authoritarian dictatorship of ‘those’ people. The ability to re-enact slavery.

      2. Yes RETALIATORY force.

  7. Immunity to government, earned with blood during the Revolution, had expired by 1787. A damned shame.

    1. inject bleach loser

    2. 1780 George Washington led the armed forces of the United States into Appalachia on behalf of Christian prohibitionists.

      We didn’t even make it to the ratification of the Constitution.

  8. W*********r?

  9. If you want to be safe just get in the cattle car. Don’t ask questions. Snitch on non-compliers.

  10. Gasoline Vaseline
    Benzene Amphetamine
    All the chemicals in between
    There ain’t no cure for suicide government.

    1. Seven seconds after I dissolve into the fiery gates of hell !!!

    2. Yes there is, prohibit it from initiating force.

  11. Any anti-government cranks who figure the pandemic is going to make most Americans more sympathetic to their anti-social, backward cause — either despite or because of the mishandled federal response under current management — are even less socially competent than I thought.

    1. Keep on clingin’, gecko.

    2. That must be why there are protests in Michigan.

  12. The government is only as good as the people voting for it. The first thing we need to do is get a fucking lobotomy for all these people who think its suddenly a good idea to mix up a Lysol cocktail or shine a UV lamp down their throat because Dear Leader said it might be a good idea. Then– maybe– the government might get better.

    1. This statement is a perfect encapsulation of the violence and stupidity of socialism.

    2. Pay your mortgage.

    3. Skipped over the re-education camps and went straight to lobotomies. Nice.

    4. Or just prohibit it from initiating force. The dummies can off themselves and the rest of us can get on with it.

  13. I did not know that Australia and New Zealand were libertarian paradises and that their remarkable success in combating this thing were due to a total lack of government interference.

    Look outside our own borders, folks. We don’t have the only government in the world.

  14. We are in this mess because free market zealots thought the taxes supporting pandemic preparedness were just too much. We are in this mess because libertarian extremists believe that the free market will step in for any needed function. There are allegedly no public goods . The administration’s response illustrates the utter systemic failure that results from libertarianism thoughtlessly applied. What hubris and ignorance it must take to publish this article.

    1. Fuck off slaver.

      1. Tell us your position on abortion, slaver. I kind of use that as a benchmark to decide if someone is a GOP bullshitter.

        1. The idea that any national government (post Civil War) may think it has a say in how I live my life is abhorrent.

          Our founding document makes the divine right of kings obsolete, but it does so with rights granted us by our creator; as I read it, human rights.

          That makes the issue a question as to who is human and who is not. Personally, I think Dred Scott was heinous.

          I can understand both sides of the issue and think the power of the decision should remain with the individual states or the local communities.

          I want to live in a place where I can hire an immigrant, gay couple to guard my pot ranch with M4s. That scenario never made me consider the idea of abortion. Pregnancy just isn’t really relevant there…

    2. We’re in this mess because an evil totalitarian government let it happen to save face. I doubt more totalitarianism is the solution. There is ONE public good and that is the defense of liberty.

    3. Holy crap! Are YOU ever on the wrong website! Five sentences without a kernel of Reason.

  15. Mayo Clinic is furloughing or reducing the hours of about 42 percent of its 70,000 employees across all of its campuses in an attempt to mitigate the financial losses from the COVID-19 pandemic,” reports the Rochester Post-Bulletin of the famed medical system. “About 60 percent of Mayo Clinic’s business comes from elective procedures of the kind that are now on hold.

    Mayo is the best tertiary care system – the specialists who the specialists call on for the toughest cases – in this country. But this really should make people think about how distorted our medical system has become. Those elective procedures are massively expensive. And much more expensive since they are always covered by insurance – spreading the bill around everywhere. These aren’t the ‘oil changes driving insurance costs higher’. They are the quadruple bypasses – that turn out to be ‘elective’. Where the purchase decision is made solely by the patient but paid for by everyone else. And because that cost is spread around as the same flat cost for everyone, it has the secondary effect of eliminating non-elective medical care for that part of the population that, basically, earns less than the medical profession. For those who earn more, that insurance is merely a funding/installment mechanism.

    No surprise, there’s nothing in this article – and there will never be anything on this site – that addresses actual health care reform. Just the irrelevancies of:
    elective=tummy tuck therefore no cost spreading is needed or
    let the poor die if they can’t ante up the $8k/person/year

    1. I think the article did a fine job.

      The primary problem with American health care is American politicians distorting the market since the 1940s.

      1. We pay close to double the % of our income what anyone else pays. You seriously asserting the US is the only non-‘libertarian’ country in the world?

        1. Our country is unique in that it has incentivized 70% of the country to live on an All You Can Eat Buffet.

          There are plenty of studies that show even if you have insurance, if you make the individual MORE price sensitive, the price of health care will go down.

          Remove the Corporate Tax break on health insurance, and reinstitute high deductible health care, and you will see reductions in the cost of health care in the US.

          1. there is no such thing as ‘reinstitute’ high-deductible health care. The notion that people actually WANT an insurance plan that covers absolutely nothing until you are broke is a CONSEQUENCE of higher health insurance costs. Not a CAUSE. They did not even exist in significant numbers until 2004.

            Just as there is no such thing as ‘reinstituting’ non-doc licensing. Because apparently there’s some huge untapped market out there of people who don’t want to ‘go to the doc’. Rather what they really want is to go to the nurse – or to the vet – or to the auto mechanic or butcher moonlighting as a surgeon.

            You clowns find all sorts of reasons why what people who don’t drive spending actually WANT is what causes higher health insurance costs overall.

            1. If any of that ramble has a single pinch of legitimate point to be had – THAT point could be made by starting a free-choice business!!!!!!!!

              You have to subsidize stupid – the rest just takes care of itself.

              1. ^^^^DAAAAAaaaammmmmmnnnnnn!^^^^^

      2. The primary problem with American health care is American politicians distorting the market since the 1940s.

        Every single national government on the planet has “distorted the market” for health care, most for decades. That doesn’t explain why some countries have systems that work better than does ours – in some cases, far better.

        1. We should be more like Italy!

          1. You do realize that the one part of the Italian medical system that most resembles the US is – Lombardy.

            That’s not why covid19 struck Lombardy harder than elsewhere in Italy. That was pure chance. But it actually does explain why Lombardy was less capable of dealing with covid than the poorer parts of Italy.

        2. GO MOVE THERE THEN!!!! The USA was founded on the principles of individual liberty… If you don’t appreciate that – MOVE!!!

          1. So let me get this straight. To you ‘individual liberty’ means that you get complete veto power over everything that happens in the US. And everyone who doesn’t kowtow to what you want must leave?

            Seems more like the typical DeRp crap. The only liberty that matters is holding complete power over others

            1. It’s not JUST what “I want” – It’s the SUPREME LAW OF THE LAND… It’s what defines this country. If anyone wants to conquer that definition (by calling it a Democracy and pretending it isn’t a Republic) – they deserve to be treated like the treasonous traders they are…..

              The U.S. Constitution ISN’T a debate! Unless it’s being ratified.

        3. You mean like Norway which is the 7th largest natural gas producer and ranks 119 in terms of population? Well sure.

  16. we’re better apart together.

  17. Best way to improve all governments. Reduce their size by 80%

    1. Prohibit them from initiating force.

  18. Under normal circumstances about 19% trust government. During this crisis 62% believe in the government. Which makes no sense. They are the same crooked, thieving, INEPT government they were 6 months ago. But NOW they are honest, capable, and care about you? The same government who a month ago said don’t worry about it, we have it under control!! Give me a break sheeple!

  19. “The measure of the state’s success is that the word anarchy frightens people, while the word state does not.” – Joseph Sobran
    “Anarchists did not try to carry out genocide against the Armenians in Turkey; they did not deliberately starve millions of Ukrainians; they did not create a system of death camps to kill Jews, gypsies, and Slavs in Europe; they did not fire-bomb scores of large German and Japanese cities and drop nuclear bombs on two of them; they did not carry out a Great Leap Forward that killed scores of millions of Chinese; they did not attempt to kill everybody with any appreciable education in Cambodia; they did not launch one aggressive war after another; they did not implement trade sanctions that killed perhaps 500,000 Iraqi children. In debates between anarchists and statists, the burden of proof clearly should rest on those who place their trust in the state. Anarchy’s mayhem is wholly conjectural; the state’s mayhem is undeniably, factually horrendous.” ~Robert Higgs

    1. Well said — The USA didn’t have a revolutionary war to decide which all-encompassing authoritative dictated Gov Program “worked the best”

      INDEPENDENCE WAS FOUGHT FOR INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM & JUSTICE!!!

  20. Thank you, another good article. Response at Twitlonger agrees:

    https://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1sr7kbj?new_post=true

  21. Nice work 2Chill. You and Stossel are the reason I still read reason.

  22. “Pandemic politics are certain to make coming elections and factional battles of the future even nastier than they were going to be.”
    Struggling to imagine how current and politics from the last decade could possibly sink lower but what the heck, I like a good train wreck as much as the next guy.

  23. [ USA ONLY] last month i was earned $6 k over in am month.Its really change my life.If you want change your life….check my payout….. Read More

  24. I am now making more than 350 dollars per day by working online from home without investing any money.Join this link posting job now and start earning without investing or selling anything.Follow Instructions Here…….. Read More

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.