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The Seen and the Unseen of Covid-19

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[From the 2020 Supporters Summit, presented at the historic Jekyll Island Club Resort on Jekyll Island, Georgia, on October 9, 2020. Read and see the full lecture.] 

This is the intellectual level of the conversation [around covid-19]: You just want people do die. How do you talk to somebody like that? So, in order to do that, I’m going to appeal to the above midwit-level population and I’m going to remind people of the important lesson in Henry Hazlitt’s great book Economics in One Lesson. This is a book that’s sold millions of copies and Hazlitt’s one lesson, as we all know in this room, is that if you’re going to evaluate an economic policy, it’s not enough to evaluate the short-term consequences for one earmarked group. Any blockhead can do that. If you want to know the long-term consequences or the real consequence of it, you look at the long-term effects on everybody, not the short-term effects on an earmarked group.

For example, suppose the government taxes the public to build a stadium. Well, the midwit will simply point to the stadium and say, “Hey, look at this wonderful thing that the government did. It’s a stadium.” And yes, we can all see with our physical eyes that there’s a stadium there, but they think that’s the entirety of the analysis: a stadium has somehow appeared. There’s no thought of costs, opportunity costs, where the money came from, where it would have gone otherwise—none of that is even considered, because those things can’t be seen with your physical eyes. To understand the fullness of the policy, you have to be able to think and see with your mind’s eye.

Likewise, with rent control people think, You impose rent control and people get lower rents, and that’s the entirety of the analysis as far as they’re concerned. There’s nothing further we need to consider. We just take these fat cats and just force them to lower rents, and then everybody gets lower rent and that’s, as far as the midwit is concerned, that’s the end of the discussion, because that’s what he sees with his physical eyes. But, for people capable of seeing with their mind’s eye, they ask other questions like, How many people are going to start building low-cost rental housing if they know that this ceiling has been imposed? There will obviously be far less housing built, which will make the problem of housing people worse. We also know that at these particular rates, you have a million people and surfeit of demand, so if you’re a landlord, you can be a jerk, you don’t have to fix that leaky pipe, you don’t have to do any maintenance, because if somebody’s upset about it, you got 8 million other people who would be very happy to take that person’s place.

So, in other words, if you see with your mind’s eye, you understand that rent control is a lot more complicated than just "Duh, we forced them to lower the rent and it’s low for everybody." And in fact, if, for some reason, you wanted to lower rents through the means of government impositions, you would actually want to do the exact opposite of rent control. You would want to control every single price in the entire economy except rents, because that would make entrepreneurs not want to go into the production of anything other than rental property because everything else would be unprofitable. The one thing they could produce would be rental property, which would lead to a collapse in rental prices, which would be great for everybody. So, literally the opposite of what these people recommend would be the best thing. But the point is, we have to think about all the consequences for everybody.

Well, the same thing goes for public health, because my talk could be called “Public Health in One Lesson.” Because yes, if you simply focus monomaniacally on one virus, you might be able to say, "Look at what we did for this one virus." You might be able to say that. I’m not even sure they can say that, but they might be able to say, "Look what we’ve done for people with this one virus." Then, being midwits, they leave the discussion right there. They don’t bother to investigate the seventeen other aspects of health that have catastrophically collapsed because of that one thing they did. All they say is, "look at what they did in the short run for this targeted group" instead of saying, "look at the long-run consequences for everybody." And because they don’t look at that, it’s not even mentioned.

When was the last time Dr. Fauci, who is viewed superstitiously by everybody, even acknowledged that there are collateral damages from lockdowns, even mentioned them? Nothing. And so they’re, therefore, able to turn around and say, "you just want people to die." Okay, well, let’s play that game. They want to play it, let’s play it. How about this? We know, for example, coming out of the UK, that there will be more likely to be at least as many, if not more, preventable cancer deaths than covid deaths because of the diversion of resources into covid and the panicking of everybody about it. And so we read Richard Sullivan, professor of cancer and global health at King’s College London, director of its Institute for Cancer Policy, saying “The number of deaths due to the disruption of cancer services is likely to outweigh the number of deaths from the coronavirus itself. The cessation and delay of cancer care will cause considerable avoidable suffering. Cancer screening services have stopped, which means we will miss our chance to catch many cancers when they are treatable and curable, such as cervical, bowel and breast. When we do restart normal service delivery after the lockdown is lifted, the backlog of cases will be a huge challenge to the healthcare system.”

We read on October 6 in the Daily Mail coming out of the UK, that health secretary Matt Hancock says, “Cancer patients may only be guaranteed treatment if COVID-19 stays under control.” How about that? This is the Daily Mail, which is much more honest than the American press. “Almost two and a half million people missed out on cancer screening, referrals or treatment at the height of lockdown—even though the NHS was never overwhelmed.” They had the honesty in the UK to say that. “Experts now fear the number of people dying as a result of delays triggered by the treatment of coronavirus patients could even end up being responsible for as many deaths as the pandemic itself.” Now, we won’t see that kind of effect right away. It’s not like a huge number of cancer patients are going to die immediately in 2020, but it does mean that people who might have lived an extra fifteen to twenty years, may live just another three or four, and we’ll see those numbers in the coming years.

Then we heard a United Nations report in April saying that “economic hardship generated by the radical interruptions of commerce could result in hundreds of thousands of additional child deaths in 2020.” UNICEF later increased that number to 1.2 million child deaths, and at Oxford University Professor Sunetra Gupta has reminded us several times, in recent weeks and months, of the UN’s prediction that as many as 130 million people could be at risk of starvation because of the lockdown, because of the possibility of famine in several dozen places around the world. Now who are the ones who don’t care about human life?

But, that’s not all, because in the United States in Oakland, California, we have Benjamin Miller of the Well Being Trust who tells us, as coauthor of a study on deaths of despair—so that’s drug or alcohol abuse or suicide—that an excess—that is to say, above what would normally occur—of 75,000 deaths will occur as a result of all this. Not to mention the CDC itself estimates that in the United States alone, there will be more than 93,000 excess noncovid deaths this year because of what’s been going on, including over 42,000 from cardiovascular conditions, over 10,000 from diabetes, and 3,600 from cancer. A recent UK study just out found that the risk of death was increased because of lockdowns by 53 percent among seniors with dementia and another 123 percent among seniors with severe mental illness. For four decades, India Nobel Peace laureate Kailash Stayarthi rescued thousands of children from slavery and human trafficking and he fears that that’s going to be reversed. He says the biggest threat is that millions of children may fall back into slavery, trafficking, child labor, child marriage. Well, with millions of families being pushed into poverty, they’re being pressured to do something, to put their children to work to make ends meet. So this is being done.

They’re trying these lockdowns even in the developing world, where people live hand to mouth. When you live hand to mouth, it means that every day you earn enough money to feed yourself for that day, and they’re being told to stay home for weeks and months. I think we see where this is going. Now, the people of Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world, when they got wind of their government’s lockdown plans, they rose up and said, "we’re not abiding by this. There will be no lockdown." And so there wasn’t. We could learn from them.

Even The Atlantic had to admit, “When you ask them to stay home, in many cases, you’re asking them to starve.” In the UK, The Telegraph says, “The absurd demand that developing countries adopt economically disastrous lockdowns is driving untold misery.” How often is that mentioned in the US? Ever? Any of our people ever mention that? No, it’s You want to kill people, because you want to live your life. Or because you don’t want two years of your kids’ lives taken away from them. Because now we’re being told, Maybe you can have your life back in the spring of 2022. Not fifteen days to flatten the curve, probably spring of 2022 you can start getting back all these pleasurable things that make life worth living. Okay. So, it seems to me that the crazies who think that public health should mean a monomaniacal fixation on one virus and then pretending that none of the other stuff is happening should have to answer for this a little bit more.

Now, some of this stuff that I’m talking about now appears in—wait for it—the free e-book I wrote on this subject: Your Facebook Friends Are Wrong about the Lockdown. They’re even wronger than you thought—wrong as wrong can be if you value human life and flourishing. So, in the United States, you can get this free book by just texting the word lockdown to the number 33444, and you’ll like it because it smashes these SOBs completely. Or you can get it at wrongaboutlockdown.com. Yes, I bought that domain, I was so happy to nab that one.

Not to mention that of course over the course of this people’s life savings have been depleted, their livelihoods have been destroyed and things that give their lives meaning and fulfillment abruptly removed. So, we’re supposed to believe that all that matters is just biological existence. And this prompts some interesting philosophical questions. If I could live to be 120 and enjoy robust health for all those years, but the price was we would destroy all the architectural treasures of Europe, we would abolish music altogether, and we would restrict social life to 5 percent of its formal level, would I choose that? Who would? Human happiness is not some optional extra. These things, like close, intimate relationships or so-called large gatherings, like concerts, theater, lectures, church, sporting events, the arts in general—if you think these are merely dispensable adjuncts to human life and flourishing, you have no business being in charge of anything. These are life itself, and as I’ve said in a previous talk, for anybody who performs in front of an audience—and particularly think about your children, dancers, musicians, athletes, magicians, comedians, singers, actors, whatever—they’re basically being told, Maybe you can never have this. Maybe you can never ever do what brings your soul happiness. And yeah, maybe we can’t have these until we have a vaccine, said Dr. Zeke Emanuel. “We may have to give up cherished things for a long time,” he says—things like schooling and income and contact with our friends and extended family for at least eighteen months. Maybe this talk could also be called “Get Bent.”

Well, another terrifying statistic came out recently, showing the grim if entirely predictable effects all this inhuman regimentation has been having on the young, particularly those between 18 and 24. Now, the federal government has a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. And they, among other things, look at percentages of people who have considered suicide within the previous twelve months. Now typically, before all these lockdowns occurred, in the 18–25 group, it fluctuates between just under 7 percent and 11 percent of those people have contemplated suicide in the previous 12 months. What we now know is that just in June—not twelve months, just one month—it’s now over 25 percent of them have contemplated suicide in just one month. Now why is that? We’ve taken away everything they love, deprived them of the opportunity to socialize and to experience those irreplaceable moments of youth and demanded they accept this dystopia as the new normal and tell them there’s something wrong with them if they long for normal human life, the kind that is lived by humans. Yeah, that’s selfish, that right there. That’s selfish.

One of my friends has a friend in Melbourne, Australia, which is under a severe lockdown. Here’s what this friend wrote:

It’s been three months since I saw another human face besides [my partner’s].

Seven months since [my partner] and I had a little break together in the form of going and having a coffee down the street.

Over a year since I last sat out in nature. Sitting staring at the wall for two hours, again, unable to move.


Horrible negative emotions virtually all day.

Awake and tired nights, distress.

I can’t think of anything to look forward to because I don’t know when we will be allowed to do anything.

Just go for a drive, go to the forest.

Just go somewhere together, far from all this.

We are not allowed.

The police could enter our homes at any point and arrest us if we say the “wrong” thing online. That has happened.

This doesn’t feel human.

I don’t smile.

I don’t laugh.

I worked out the other day and I felt nothing, no pain.

Nothing would register as pain.

I couldn’t feel anything.

I feel far away from myself.

Sometimes I forget how long the day has been going for.

Does it matter?

You’re not allowed to leave, even if family members are terminally ill. They could die before we are let out of Melbourne. We got told it isn’t a good enough reason to be let out.

You aren’t allowed more than five kilometers from your house.

You aren’t allowed to buy a takeaway coffee and sit under a tree or on the ground anywhere that isn’t your house.

This isn’t human.

This isn’t human.

This isn’t human.

This isn’t human.

There is no empathy here.

No price is too high.

Suicide is not too great a price to pay.

Self-harm is not too great a price to pay.

Structural brain changes in large portions of the population is not too high a price to pay.

Do you know what prolonged social isolation does to the brain?

We are made to feel it does not matter because all we are, are numbers.

We are not people; we are the masses without a say

Without a time period to look forward to when we can hug again

I am sharing my experience because you should know the truth.


A faceless number in Melbourne.

[From the 2020 Supporters Summit, presented at the historic Jekyll Island Club Resort on Jekyll Island, Georgia, on October 9, 2020. Read and see the full lecture.] 


Contact Thomas E. Woods, Jr.

Tom Woods, a senior fellow of the Mises Institute, is the author of a dozen books, most recently Real Dissent: A Libertarian Sets Fire to the Index Card of Allowable Opinion. Tom's articles have appeared in dozens of popular and scholarly periodicals, and his books have been translated into a dozen languages. Tom hosts the Tom Woods Show, a libertarian podcast that releases a new episode every weekday. With Bob Murphy, he co-hosts Contra Krugman, a weekly podcast that refutes Paul Krugman's New York Times column.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
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