A hundred years ago in response to the horror of WWI, the great Randolph Bourne famously pronounced the truth that “War is the Health of the State.” Said Bourne,
War is the health of the State.
It automatically sets in motion throughout society those irresistible forces for uniformity, for passionate cooperation with the Government in coercing into obedience the minority groups and individuals which lack the larger herd sense. The machinery of government sets and enforces the drastic penalties, the minorities are either intimidated into silence or brought slowly around by a subtle process of persuasion which may seem to them to really converting them……
Other values such artistic creation, knowledge, reason, beauty, the enhancement of life, are instantly and almost unanimously sacrificed and the significant classes who have constituted themselves the amateur agents of the State are engaged not only in sacrificing these values for themselves but in coercing all other persons into sacrificing them.
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In a nation at war, every citizen identifies himself with the whole, and feels immensely strengthened in that identification. The purpose and desire of the collective community live in each person who throws himself whole-heartedly into the cause of war. The impeding distinction between society and the individual is almost blotted out.
A century later it appears that Randolph Bourne needs an update: Apparently, Sickness is the Health of the State, as well.
During the past 10 weeks, state control of economic and social life in America has erupted like never before. The stay-at-home and lockdown orders decreed by mayors and governors intrude into every nook and cranny of daily life, essentially subjecting tens of millions of Americans to house arrest and/or entombment in six-foot cylinders of social control.
The historic quasi-regimentation and suppression of dissent that occurred domestically during both world wars, for instance, pales by comparison.
The pretext, of course, has been that the coronavirus presents a dire threat to the very life and limb of the American public, and that exigent and invasive controls on individual action and daily commerce are necessary to stop its spread.
But that’s a gargantuan lie. The risk of death to an average healthy person under 60 years of age is no greater than that entailed in commuting 50 miles per day by car to work and back.
And besides, once a highly contagious virus gets loose among the general population – which the coronavirus had done long before Lockdown Nation was launched on March 13 – its spread cannot be stopped, anyway.
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In fact, it shouldn’t be stopped. When the virus is already out the barn-door and is relatively benign among 95% of the population which contracts it, the right course of action is to let freedom reign. That is, enable its natural spread among the healthy population and thereby foster the herd immunities that the human organism and social community have been deploying to combat such diseases for millennia.
Stated differently, the very high threshold of across-the-board threat to the health and life of the citizenry that would be required to suspend their liberties and pursuit of economic livelihood has not been remotely reached by the Covid. So what has and is still happening in Lockdown Nation is a case of grotesque and malign disproportion.
That’s evident enough in any random sample of the social controls and “nonessential business lockdowns” that have been hastily stood up coast to coast. But these excerpts from the lawsuit of an Illinois businessman capture the intrusive absurdity being foisted on the public as well as any:
I won’t get COVID if I get an abortion but I will get COVID if I get a colonoscopy.
Selling pot is essential but selling goods and services at a family- owned business is not. Pot wasn’t even legal and pot dispensaries didn’t even exist in this state until five months ago and, in that five months, they have become essential but a family-owned business in existence for five generations is not.
A family of six can pile in their car and drive to Carlyle Lake without contracting COVID but, if they all get in the same boat, they will.
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We are told that kids rarely contract the virus and sunlight kills it, but summer youth programs, sports programs are canceled.
Four people can drive to the golf course and not get COVID but, if they play in a foursome, they will.
If I go to Walmart, I won’t get COVID but, if I go to church, I will.
Murderers are released from custody while small business owners are threatened with arrest if they have the audacity to attempt to feed their families.
These are just a few examples of rules, regulations and consequences that are arbitrary, capricious and completely devoid of anything even remotely approaching common sense. But this kind of arbitrary state invasion of economic and personal life is what happens when officialdom and politicians are green-lighted by an overpowering Big Lie.
In the case of Illinois, the state has its own bully-boy, Donald Trump wanna-be master of the universe in the state house. Governor J. B. Pritzker is the entitled scion of a brass knuckled family of Chicago business speculators who is used to getting his way, and has decided that it is his job to quash the coronavirus – the rights of the state’s citizens and needs of the economy be damned.
But it is worth noting that the WITH Covid mortality rate in Illinois as of May 27 was just 40 per 100,000, which is only slightly above the US average and far below the level in hard hit states, where the apparent mortality rates are far higher.
It’s also about the same as Sweden, which hasn’t closed its schools, businesses and places of social congregation; and it is well above a variety of other US states and countries including Japan and South Korea, which have not employed anything remotely resembling the sweeping Lockdowns imposed by the state of Illinois:
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WITH Covid Mortality Rates Per 100,000 (as of May 28)
- New York: 153;
- New Jersey: 128;
- Connecticut: 107;
- Massachusetts: 95;
- Rhode Island: 64;
- Sweden: 42;
- Illinois: 40;
- Georgia: 18;
- Florida: 11;
- Germany: 10;
- Texas: 6;
- Switzerland: 4;
- Russia: 3;
- Belarus: 2;
- Japan: 0.7;
- South Korea: 0.5
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Indeed, the sweeping range of mortality rates among these jurisdictions tell you that intrusive lockdowns designed to stop the virus’ spread don’t have much to do at all with actual outcomes. Public health measures in Georgia, Florida, Texas, Japan, Belarus and South Korea, for example, were not a fraction as intrusive and comprehensive as those in the state of Illinois.
Even then, fully 50% of the WITH Covid deaths in Illinois have been in nursing and other long-term care facilities – places outside the reach of the general public lockdowns, anyway.
So if you set aside the long-term care deaths, the general population mortality rate in Illinois is actually about 20 Covid deaths per 100,000. That’s only slightly higher than the year-in and year-out suicide rate of 15 per 100,000 and not even 3% of Illinois’ annual mortality rate from all causes of about 875 per 100,000.
So you have the worst of both worlds: The Illinois lockdowns do not account for its moderate mortality rates because if plenary lockdowns were efficacious, the mortality figures for New York and New Jersey would be drastically lower.
At the same time, destroying an economy and personal liberties and livelihoods on account of a 3% share of the state’s normal mortality rate gives the idea of overkill and disproportion an altogether new meaning.
To take another example, the WITH Covid mortality rate of 15.7 per 100,000 in Virginia is only a tad above its annual suicide rate of 13.9 per 100,000.
But that hasn’t stopped its power-grabbing governor, Ralph Northam, from imposing a sweeping lockdown on the state’s residents, including an edict that after Friday all Virginians over 10 years of age will wear the Mask pretty much everywhere. As one acerbic critic rightly noted,
Or else! Gesundheitsfuhrers – health police – will do the enforcing, handing out misdemeanor fines and presumably Hut! Hut! Huts! to the non-compliant.
Needless to say, even as the state balloons with its puffed up health police, the private sector has literally imploded. With today’s weekly report on initial unemployment claims, we have now reached a milestone which was not attained even during the darkest moments of the Great Depression.
To wit, during the past ten weeks 40.7 million workers have filed for state unemployment benefits, a figure which is nine times greater than the worst 10 months of the Great Recession; and when you add in the 4.5 million workers newly eligible under PUA (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance), the total is close to 45 million.
The total employed work force on the eve of Lockdown Nation in February 2020, however, was just 158.7 million.
So, actually, 28.3% of employed workers in what was alleged to be the Greatest Economy Ever have now received pink slips, and in a ten-week flash of the eye.
Still, this needless calamity gets us to another avenue by which sickness have become the Health of the State.
After the Donald’s camarilla of malpracticing doctors green-lighted the Governors and Mayors to lockdown their economies in Mid-March and conducted daily coronavirus task force briefings which became the fodder for the MSM to generate hysteria among the general public, the Washington politicians experienced their own version of fear contagion. That is, they passed sight unseen a $3 trillion Everything Bailout which has literally eviscerated the public finances of the nation.
Consequently, and unlike even the worst period of the Great Recession, lockdown starved US Treasury receipts of $3 trillion in FY 2020 will amount to only 40% of Bailout bloated outlays, which will exceed $7 trillion. That’s not even worthy of banana republic style finance.
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Needless to say, the Covid-fighters on Capitol Hill held no hearings, took no expert testimony, had the benefit of no professional analysis or even a cursory reading of the bills.
So they apparently didn’t bother to find out, for instance, that there were 71 million American workers last year whose paychecks averaged less than the new combined Federal/state benefit of $1,000 per week; and that there were 17 million workers in the hospitality and leisure sector as of February 2020, who averaged less than 25 hours per week on the clock and got paychecks of less than $350.
So now the state’s Virus Patrols are confronted with a new variety of ailment that may be afflicting millions of workers. To wit, the discovery that it pays big time to get furloughed.
As one widely circulated commentary on the social media put it: Thank Heavens for the Covid!
Before COVID I was miserable.
I had a job working $14.75/hr and hated waking up most days. I’ve since been laid off (obviously) but am one of those who is making much more by NOT working.
I used to make $550-600 per week depending on my hours but since COVID began, I’m clearing just over $1000/week. My gf is in the same situation and she’s also clearing just over $1000.
Today we plan to do some hiking since it’s going to be so nice out and I’ll be using my new grill to cook up some steak tonight. The gf is kind of a wine snob so she likes to splurge on really nice reds (which I’ll definitely be having later as well).
I really don’t understand people who say they’re more stressed or are fighting with their gf/wife more than before. It makes absolutely no sense to me. These have been the best 2 months I’ve had in a while. I can’t imagine going back to my old life and way of doing things. NOT HAPPENING!
The only thing that isn’t ideal right now is not being able to travel normally but I only vacationed once or twice a year before due to work/money issues. Now I’m able to save $800-1000/month with COVID stimulus and bonus so we’ll definitely be taking a nice vacation at some point this summer.
So the question recurs: Why the Lockdowns?
House arrest and the 6-foot cylinder of social control that have been stood up to thwart the spread of the virus are inherently unmatched to the task, which is illicit in the first place. But they will inherently clobber the economy and the livelihoods of millions – notwithstanding a lot of brave talk about the “new normal”.
As the Wall Street Journal detailed in a story about the travails of the restaurant industry, the so-called reopening will only be a short bridge to oblivion for large segments of the industry:
Across the U.S., dining rooms are reopening and some customers are returning, industry data shows. But restaurants say they expect months of sales losses ahead due to capacity constraints imposed to contain the new coronavirus. They are also buying plexiglass walls to separate tables, hiring cleaning staff and turning fewer tables to give booths deeper scrub downs between customers, expenses that draw on a shallower pool of revenue.
Of the 30 states that have allowed restaurants statewide to resume serving customers indoors, 15 have limited capacity to 25% or 50%, according to market-research firm Gordon Haskett. The rest are mandating social distancing that have the effect of reducing capacity, or have yet to release guidance. Restaurant executives expect the limits to last at least through the summer.
Independent restaurants face even greater challenges than sit-down chains because they tend to have less room to cordon off customers and fewer seats to remove. A survey of 250 Colorado restaurant operators earlier this month found that nearly half expected to permanently close in less than three months at the 50% capacity cap that the state set on Wednesday. A study of 483 New York City venues found that 61% couldn’t make it with occupancy limits below 70%.
For a typical 75-seat sit-down restaurant in New York, an occupancy cap of 50% would allow for just 20 diners after accounting for employees, said James Mallios, a New York City restaurateur and attorney.
He said the number drops to around five diners at a 25% capacity limit. New York City hasn’t yet eased stay-at-home orders or set final capacity guidelines for restaurants.
Then again, there are 275 million Americans 64 years and under who face virtually no risk of death or serious illness. As of May 16, the CDC’s own data show that the WITH-Covid mortality rate for this massive share of the population was just 4.9 per 100,000 – about in line with the annual toll of traffic and other accidents.
By contrasts, the serious illnesses and deaths are occurring mainly where the Lockdowns aren’t. Persons 65 and older account for 16% of the population but 81% of the WITH-Covid deaths; and 32% of deaths have been among those 85 and older, which account for just 2.0% of the population – most of whom are in long-term care homes, and do not frequent restaurants.
The reason for high mortality and low public socializing, of course, is that the 22,543 persons 85 and older who died WITH Covid were pretty sick already. To wit, among them were –
- 8,267 cases of influenza and pneumonia;
- 11,250 cases of chronic lower respiratory and other pulmonary illnesses;
- 4,075 cases of high blood pressure;
- 4,000 cases of cardiac arrest and arterial arrhythmia;
- 5,800 cases of other circulatory diseases;
- 1,870 cases of diabetes and obesity;
- 3,650 cases of dementia;
- 1,700 cases of sepis and cancer;
- 1,025 cases of Alzheimer;
- 1,175 cases of renal failure; and
- 8,000 cases of other serious ailments including accidents and poisonings.
In all, the deceased over the age of 84 years had 50,800 of cases of classifiable diseases, most of them life-threatening. That’s an average of 2.25 each.
Needless to day, sickness is a condition of life – especially of advanced age; and it needs to be fought with medical care and personal health practices, not society-wide social engineering.
But when it becomes the Health of the State, as during the current Covid Hysteria, it is now apparent that the State becomes a greater mortal threat to liberty and prosperity than even during times of military war.
And we are quite sure that Randolph Bourne would heartily agree.
Reprinted with permission from David Stockman’s Contra Corner.
Former Congressman David A. Stockman was Reagan's OMB director, which he wrote about in his best-selling book, The Triumph of Politics. His latest books are The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America and Peak Trump: The Undrainable Swamp And The Fantasy Of MAGA. He's the editor and publisher of the new David Stockman's Contra Corner. He was an original partner in the Blackstone Group, and reads LRC the first thing every morning.
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