Opinion: Lockdowns are fine if you’re privileged

by Peter Heck · Nov 14th, 2020 11:19 am

Last Updated Nov 16th, 2020 at 3:14 pm

Not that it was any great secret before Election Day, but it only took a week for one of Joe Biden's hand-selected coronavirus advisers to propose a strict and comprehensive lockdown of the entire country for a four to six-week period. Warning of a "Covid Hell," Dr. Michael Osterholm pointed to New Zealand as an example of what we could do.

New Zealand is an island. New Zealand has a population of 4.8 million. Even after "eliminating" the virus from its shores, the moment it began to loosen restrictions this summer, cases spiked. In other words, the actual lesson New Zealand seems to offer us is that a virus is going to do what all viruses do regardless of our mitigation efforts.

Unless we are willing (we're not) and able (we're not) to commit to an indefinite lockdown and strict isolation from one another, there will be no stopping the eventual spread of this virus.

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If you and I know that (we do), there is no chance that an infectious disease expert doesn't. Which means Osterholm's public counsel is either driven by a desire to consolidate power or, perhaps more likely, is a demonstration of the privileged bubble that academic and political elites inhabit.

Commentator Allie Beth Stuckey addressed this very point just days ago, reasoning that these government-imposed lockdowns are, "only endurable for the privileged."

Ordinary citizens need to work. Not just because they need a paycheck to provide for themselves and their family, though that's true. But more broadly, because work creates a sense of purpose and self-worth that is critical for an individual's mental health. The famous French economist Frédéric Bastiat understood this truth almost 200 years ago:

"To tamper with man's freedom is not only to injure him, to degrade him; it is to change his nature, to render him, insofar as such oppression is exercised, incapable of improvement; it is to strip him of his resemblance to the Creator, to stifle within him the noble breath of life with which he was endowed at his creation."

The implications of doing that are vastly more enduring and threatening than a virus that we now know is, with the exception of young people, more dangerous than the flu, but far from the equivalent of something like airborne Ebola.

Infectious disease experts know their field and have a job to do, no question. But other medical professionals do as well, including those who were warning about America's unfolding mental health crisis years before China lost containment of this novel coronavirus. And those struggling with psychological issues – from anxiety and depression to far more serious conditions – need community; they need people.

Working in a public high school for two decades I have a bit of expertise myself. And I can attest to the fact that Zoom learning isn't working and it isn't learning. Besides that, it is having tremendously debilitating effects on the psychological health of children, particularly those with special needs.

In a culture obsessed with indicting others on charges of "privilege," it shouldn't escape notice that it's only those with secure (government) paychecks, with good health, with comfortable surroundings who can afford to publicly lobby for draconian, government-imposed lockdowns.

Confining healthy people to their homes, policing family gatherings, forbidding weddings, preventing funerals, closing schools and the services they provide to communities, stifling food distribution – all of that may seem both reasonable and workable to the elite.

But to everyone else, the hubris of those calling to sacrifice the health, security, and well-being of people all in the name of the health, security, and well-being of people is maddening.


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