Coronavirus

In Future Crises, Let People Make Their Own Decisions

Top-down, one-size-fits-few mandates are recipes for conflict.

|

Anybody who hoped the pandemic would bring Americans together must be sorely disappointed. What was anticipated to be a shared experience—albeit one we all would have happily skipped—has instead been another cause of disagreement for people who need little more reason to dislike one another.

Why has the pandemic further divided us? The culprit is likely the top-down approach favored by politicians who inflicted uniform rules on different communities without concern for the varying risks they faced from COVID-19. We would have been far better off—and probably had more sympathy for one another—if people had been left to make their own choices based on expert advice and not been subject to mandates imposed by force.

That the pandemic posed different challenges to different parts of the country is clear. "Two-thirds of residents of the hardest-hit districts live in urban or dense suburban areas, compared with just 19% of those living in the least hard-hit districts," Pew Research reported this week.

Because the donkey party has become a city taste and the elephant party a country one, "[o]f the 44 hardest-hit congressional districts—the top 10% in terms of deaths—41 are represented by Democrats, while three are represented by Republicans," Pew adds.

"Since March 20, New York state, Connecticut and New Jersey have accounted for about 50% of all U.S. cases," NPR noted on May 27. "As of April 9, nearly 60% of all deaths from COVID-19 have been in these three states."

Even in those states, the pandemic has been a largely urban phenomenon—sparsely populated counties in upstate New York haven't been hit nearly as hard as the New York City area.

"Beyond perception, beyond ideology, there are starkly different realities for red and blue America right now," The New York Times acknowledges. "Democrats are far more likely to live in counties where the virus has ravaged the community, while Republicans are more likely to live in counties that have been relatively unscathed by the illness, though they are paying an economic price."

Economic price, indeed—another 2.1 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, for a total of over 40 million since the pandemic began.

That economic price comes in part, and most visibly, because pandemic responses have been imposed mostly at the state level, on people with very different pandemic experiences. Those responses include lockdown orders that shuttered businesses, restricted travel, and mandated occupancy limits, mask use, and social distancing even as the threat begins to fade. Michigan's Upper Peninsula suffered the same restrictions as Detroit, New York's finger lakes region was hit with the same closures as Manhattan, and California's Central Valley experienced the same rules as San Francisco.

For different kinds of communities already at odds over politics, the pandemic has become yet another source of friction.

"About six in ten Republicans (61%) believe their state's governor should allow non-essential businesses to be open, while more than two-thirds of Democrats (69%) think such businesses should be closed until the spread of the virus is contained," according to a recent POLITICO-Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health survey.

Even face masks have turned into badges of partisan affiliation.

"The decision to wear a mask in public is becoming a political statement—a moment to pick sides in a brewing culture war over containing the coronavirus," the AP reports. "Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say they're wearing a mask when leaving home, 76% to 59%."

It didn't have to be this way. Left to their own devices and advised by those in the know, people are perfectly capable of taking action to protect themselves and their neighbors.

"Data suggests that behavioral changes were largely driven by people making a voluntary choice to stay home rather than being forced to do so by a state-sanctioned stay-at-home order," FiveThirtyEight reported earlier this month. In six southeastern states, "about 90 percent of the total change between early March and mid-April had occurred in the week before the stay-at-home orders were passed in each state."

The authors of the article argue that social distancing shouldn't be a partisan issue—a point undercut by the fact that partisans have chosen to make it an issue. But they provide strong evidence that government lockdown orders followed on the heels of private decision-making; people were already avoiding crowds and public places in order to avoid infection.

Just as Americans didn't have to be told to start social-distancing, they also didn't wait for permission to stop. By the end of April, cellphone data shows that they were increasingly moving around without regard to the desires of the political class.

"Coloradans acted independently and in advance of the state's orders during the past two months, distancing themselves before the statewide stay-at-home order and then partially easing back toward normal behavior prior to the state's relaxation of the order on April 27," according to Denver's 9News in an observation that could be made about the whole country.

Of course, if Americans chose to social distance, that means that some economic carnage was unavoidable. In the absence of orders, restaurants would still have emptied, businesses would have closed, and jobs would have been lost. But economic harm as a result of people's freely made choices isn't the same cause for resentment and partisan bickering as damage caused by restrictions imposed from above to combat a health threat that's serious in some places and theoretical in others. That's especially true when orders are issued by politicians who—like Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer—behave as if the rules they make are only for the little people and don't apply to themselves.

Free to make their own decisions relative to local conditions and personal preferences and without risking fines or arrest, Americans would still have suffered, but they would have had less reason to resent one another. They may have even been inclined to sympathize with the plight of those living differently than themselves and forced to make hard choices.

The next time a crisis comes along, we'll be well-advised to cut government officials out of the decision-making process. That will allow us to make the choices we think right for ourselves, and to respect the contrasting decisions made by others.

NEXT: The U.S. Should Immediately Grant Visas to Hong Kong Residents Who Want Out

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. I picked up some take-out the other day and left the money on the seat so the taker-outer employee wouldn’t have to get near me, in case that was her choice. She looked at the “State of Jefferson XX” magnetic door sign, pulled down her face mask, said “Neither one of really cares about that bullshit”, and we had a good laugh.

    1. How can libertarians laugh about public health restrictions? Maybe they really are just sociopaths who don’t care about the common good. We need to protect human life by having mandatory government edicts to wear face masks and practice social distancing until this medical emergency has passed. #SaveLives

      1. To be completely honest …. we weren’t laughing about public health restrictions so much as about how stupid they are and about how we were just playing the game, like motorists who hit the brakes, light up their brake lights, and nose dive, just because some damned cop is on the side of the freeway writing a ticket.

        I am sure her boss felt the same, but everybody’s worried about some Karen tattling and giving the police and government press agents something to do.

        1. I Make Money At H0me.Let’s start work offered by Google!!Yes,this is definitely the most financially rewarding Job I’ve had .VDs Last Monday I bought a great Lotus Elan after I been earning $9534 this-last/5 weeks and-a little over, $10k last month . . WAs I started this four months/ago and immediately started to bring home minimum $97 per/hr

          Heres what I do……………… See More here

      2. mandatory government edicts to wear face masks and practice social distancing

        You forgot the self-flagellation

        1. We only have to wear facemasks until the dems figure out that causes the facial recognition software problems.

          1. Who needs facial recognition software when your Android cellphone works even better? Google knows not to cross the Democrats if they want more contracts with the NSA, FBI, etc. What are the Republicans going to do? Advocate for more competition?

            1. I am making a good MONEY (500$ to 700$ / hr )online on my Ipad .Last month my pay check of nearly 30 k$.This online work is like draw straight-arrow and earn money. Do not go to office.I do not claim to be others,I just work. You will call yourself after doing this JOB,It’s a REAL job.Will be very lucky to refer to this WEBSITE.

              I hope,you can find something………..► ScolloconGress

            2. What is a cellphone?

      3. Until a 100%-effective vaccine is found, facial-mask edicts must be enforced by the threat of confinement in overcrowded labor camps alongside murderers and rapists where everyone wears a mask while breaking rocks under the hot sun.

        Who’s laughing?

        1. Close but in the camps there are no masks and the chain gang is lined up shoulder to shoulder.

      4. Because they are BS.

  2. “Top-down, one-size-fits-few mandates are recipes for conflict.”

    How barely libertarian.

    Try

    “Mandates are recipes for conflict.”

    1. Just so you’re aware, the link in your handle is dead.

    2. How barely grammarian. The adjectives always apply to government mandates, libertarians know it, but not all readers on this site are libertarians.

  3. Of course, if Americans chose to social distance, that means that some economic carnage was unavoidable.

    Funny what happens when you deliberately foment panic and hysteria by trumpeting worst-case scenarios propped up by wildly unrealistic models and tortured statistics.

    1. I read on CNN and the r/coronavirus subreddit that a young and healthy 27 year old grocery clerk dies of COVID-19. This is NOT the regular flu. This disease is serious and the government needs to act accordingly. With a second or third wave of COVID-19 possible, we need to lock down society until a vaccine is created. Naturally, many Republic yokels will refuse vaccination so we need laws in place ordering mandatory vaccination. As Spock stated in Star Trek, “Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

      1. Young people die of the flu every year. The last few years we’ve averaged between 150 and 200 deaths in children every year. What’s your point?

        1. What if that was your child! Social distancing and mandatory quarantine is scientifically proven to reduce deaths from COVID-19. We should follow Dr. Fauci and the science, not what some petulant, spray-tanned Boomer posts on Twitter.

          1. C’mon Rabbi. Say it. You know you want to.

            Here. I’ll start you off.

            “If it saves just…”

            1. “He who saves the life of one man saves the entire world.”
              – Oskar Schindler

              1. Facepalm

          2. I know you’re a troll or sock puppet, but I’ll ask you a question anyway. So what happens when we come out of quarantine and are around people?

      2. There ya go reading on cnn again. Fuck that 27 year old for dying at a time like this.

      3. Spock said that? I thought it was Hitler.

  4. Well when the news media and government are influenced by DC, LA and NYC assholes this is what happens. Some of those lefties tired of their own messes are moving into areas that are more conservative and clashes are likely. Because the Karen’s can’t stand not being in control. Boise is a great example with their new far left mayor. The strong arm of government ends up standing on your neck.

    1. Sophisticated urban intellectuals, like myself, call that progress. Too bad most rural retards only contribute to the economy by purchasing illegal weapons of war (e.g. AK-15 assault rifles) and Hustler magazines.

      1. Your troll act is too obvious, but things like this are funny

        1. He’s been pretty on today.
          I assume I can say he, whereas if it were OBL it would have to be “they/them” or “it”.
          I always try to be as polite as possible

          1. OBL has the same initials as Osama bin Laden. Coincidence??

        2. Definitely more entertaining than OBL. “Rural retards” just rolls off the tongue so well.

        3. I’ll take anything besides OBL’s tired schtick. Dude needs something new. Although there’s a really high chance it’s the same guy.

          1. Ol Birty Lastard

  5. I saw this on a livestream, and had to snap it.

    “When our turn comes we will make no excuses for the terror.”

    Karl Marx. There’s more than a few of his fans about, I think. It would not be ridiculous to assume that people previously given to direct action for ther sake of destroying the existing order wouldn’t show up at these events and lend a helping hand, would it? People on reddit and twitter think there are neo-Nazis in the riots, trying to start something, but you know, I’m looking at the guys who have a lot of practice with the whole “break things because you’re all fascists” pasttimes.

    A housing development under construction was burned. It was supposed to supply below-market-rate housing: ah well. No matter. It is better that people suffer today if it brings about the necessary future. Every one and every physical thing is expendable.

    They won’t win, but they can sow the despair that grows again next season. The weeds wil be inedible, and the people who starve will ask for bread. They will be told to steal it, as this is now the moral thing to do.

    It’s always odd how the people who preach destruction are assumed to have skills in constructing the replacement, as if the fervent desire to tear things down is just one element of an endlessly kaleidoscopic intellect that apprehends what is to be done, and precisely how to do it.

    But the bread runs out. What then? Ah, look over there: another remant of the old, cursed order. Burn it, and we will be free. Not from want, not from the rule of others, but at least free from the old ways and the whispering voice of one’s conscience. There is a new, louder voice in your ear now, and it approves of all that you do.

    Until, of course, it doesn’t.

    http://lileks.com/bleats/archive/20/0520/052920.html

    1. Brah – the riots were infiltrated by cops. Cops caused the riots.

      1. Source? Cites? Evidence?

  6. >>Anybody who hoped the pandemic would bring Americans together

    hasn’t been around for 60 years

  7. No.
    People do not have a right to willingly spread a dangerous virus. If we take that approach the next pandemic could be even worse. The true nature of the virus does not become clear at first. This never should have been a partisan issue and it is those dip shits on the right that made it one. That prevented consensus in Congress and state houses that would have lead to more measures to help. We would all have been a lot better off, and our economy would be much better if that happened. Being a “conservative” used to be about being a responsible citizen, not it is all about “fuck everyone else”.

    1. “People do not have a right to willingly spread a dangerous virus.”

      Fuck you with a running, rusty chain-saw.
      You’re scared of the boogyman? Crawl in a hole and stay there until your mommy says it’s OK to come out.
      And fuck off.

    2. HA HA . Good stuff.

      1. Beyond
        Parody

    3. >>Being a “conservative”

      has never been definable

    4. So, we all march arm and arm together into the red dawn…

      1. We need to social distance you sociopathic grandma killer!

    5. So you have the right to force everyone inside and shut down all of society that you so that you don’t get a virus? What’s the limit on that? Is it only COVID-19 or is it going to be true for all colds? All flus? They kill a lot of people too. If I’m being honest, it seems like you’re the one is is forcing people to behave the way you want them to and saying “fuck everybody else.”

  8. “In Future Crises, Let People Make Their Own Decisions”

    Fucking slavers JFree, MollyGodiva, Hihn hardest hit!

  9. Left to their own devices and advised by those in the know, people are perfectly capable of taking action to protect themselves and their neighbors.

    CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE!!

    /prog

  10. What was anticipated to be a shared experience—albeit one we all would have happily skipped—has instead been another cause of disagreement for people who need little more reason to dislike one another.

    Whoever started the We’re All In This Together™ stuff is partly to blame.

    Anyone know who it is?

    1. Pretty sure it was some ‘celeb’ living off royalties and getting haircuts from the traveling barber.

  11. Anybody who hoped the pandemic would bring Americans together must be sorely disappointed unbelievably stupid.

    FTFY

  12. In Future Crises, Let People Make Their Own Decisions

    But “those people” won’t make the right decisions!

    /prog.

  13. I live in the northern third of California. There are 1.2 million people in an area about the size of Virginia. The rules we live under were designed for LA. There is a bad drought in the state, something you might hear about later, but the northern part is at about 80% of normal. That won’t stop the state from imposing fines for watering the lawns no one waters anyway. The only way for someone here to conserve is to flush less often. Still, if all the Democrats in the cities suffer, we should too, maybe especially if it doesn’t help in any way.

  14. In Future Crises, Let People Make Their Own Decisions

    How about, IN ALL CASES let people make their decisions? That’s better.

  15. I agree with the recommendations, I doubt that avoiding top down mandates would have reduced partisan conflict. The statists would still have demanded those top down mandates, from politicians to media types to your Facebook friends, and we’d have fought about it in the other direction. Don’t you recall, e.g., Rachel Maddow’s recurring lists of states which hadn’t imposed such lockdowns, as if those states were doing absolutely nothing, and every state just had to handle it the same authoritarian way?

  16. So just remember all this in November – – – – – – – –

  17. The hopeless malcontents who seethe at stop signs, red lights, and center lines seem to as intensely attracted to this site as they are dismissed by nearly everyone else.

    1. You lost, asshole bigot. Grow up.

  18. Coloradans acted independently and in advance of the state’s orders during the past two months, distancing themselves before the statewide stay-at-home order and then partially easing back toward normal behavior prior to the state’s relaxation of the order on April 27,

    That’s not really true and it’s even reported within the story. That news source has chosen a specific CO action – the statewide ‘stay-at-home’ lockdown mandate – on Mar 26 and is saying that anything before then is ‘independent’. Just horseshit. A state of emergency was declared on Mar 10 (with 17 confirmed cases and zero deaths). Many college campuses closed on the 13th. The legislature went into recess on the 14th. Ski resorts were closed on the 14th. Bars/restaurants/gyms were closed in Denver County on Mar 16th. That was expanded statewide on the the 17th. On the 18th, all schools were closed and all gatherings of more than 10 people were banned. And the actual closure on the 26th was then pre-announced on the 19th.

    Argue about the wisdom/stupidity of any/all of those. But you can’t remotely deny that they OCCURRED. That they were KNOWN. That they affected behavior. That they were INTENDED to affect behavior. And hence that there is nothing ‘independent’ about the changes in behavior that did result.

    The only timeframe that is useful for measuring independent behavior is what occurred before March 10. Not what occurred before Mar 25. And yes – hoarding of toilet paper and sanitizer was well underway by then (I noticed that by late Feb – even though there were not even any confirmed cases in the state until early March – though the shelves didn’t empty until mid March) — and that’s IT.

  19. Ebola, Swine Flu, H1N1, Zika, Bird Flu, SARS MERS, “seasnal” flu were all supposed to “kill millions” and be plaguing us for years to come. Vaccines exist for most of these, but still many did die from them.

    And yet.. NO government mandated lockdown, shutting the economy, stupid and useless and insulting mandates for our daily lilves were imposed from the Grand PoohBahs who consider themselves our betters.
    And we weathered all of those “storms’ in fine shape.. except for those that DID die and their survivors, in some of the above instances numbering far above what this ChinaVirus brought with it. People were not massing in public wearing mug nappies, looking smugly down upon we who decilned to baaaaa and follow along mindlessly. There was no “padding” of death numbers, no arrests for “violating” laws that are not law at all, as NONE were enacted by their respective state LEGISLATURES, the ONLY government entity that CAN make law.
    When a friend, family memeber, or other loved one passed into eternity as a result of any of the above diseases, the survivors were never prohibited gathering togethe r to remember, support, cry, rejoice, over the time they did have with the one now gone. Grieving IS a human NEED, and to deny even that is criminal.

    With rate of infection and rate of death of those actually infected, this Chinavirus is very close to the seasonal flu that has been coming round for years now, with no particular kerfuffle over it.
    All the above, when taken together, is proof beyond any question that there are those manipulating behind the scenes, and worldwide, to make this a means of control and subjugation. And the saddest part is WE HAVE BOUGHT IT, in the main. Let us, to a man, decide it is time to SELL this wretched burden and move on ahead again.

  20. Nice Article

    <a href="https://newsmenia.in/"Highest paying jobs for graduate

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.