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Lockdown Tyranny Did Little to Stop Covid
An Autopsy of an Atrocious Public Policy
“In reading the history of nations…We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first.” - Charles Mackay [Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, Preface to the 1852 Edition.]
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With little fanfare, the Institute of Economic Affairs has released a book-length study by prominent economist Steve Hanke and co-authors Jonas Herby and Lars Honung which provides a meta analysis of studies on the efficacy of covid lockdowns. The results are devastating to the people who did this to us. The authors find that lockdowns had a minimal impact on covid mortality- for example, “shelter-in-place” orders [something previously used for things like earthquakes] only led to a reduction of mortality between 1.4-4% in the spring of 2020. The lockdown skeptics were correct, and these egregiously oppressive and damaging policies failed to achieve even their primary objective. Once you start factoring increased deaths from things like cancer screenings, unattended heart attacks, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, and domestic violence, these policies caused a net increase of deaths on a massive scale. In the introduction the authors write,
“For those who value liberty, our findings will be sobering, if not depressing. Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic gave rise to widespread lockdowns and some of the greatest infringements on personal liberties under peacetime conditions in history. In the final analysis, these infringements generated negligible public health benefits while imposing a set of massive costs on society. As we interpret the available evidence, a cost–benefit analysis of the lockdowns applied suggests that the policy of lockdowns represents a global policy failure of gigantic proportions.” [19-20]1
Don’t let anyone tell you “hindsight is 20/20” about lockdowns. Plenty of us, myself included, saw the gravity of the error from the start. We are left to try and figure out why these horrendous policies were put in place and how they spread across the world. Sadly, it was probably just a combination of greed, incompetence, hubris, and hatred of freedom at the highest levels. Political leaders went along because of international pressure, a bias for action, and the fact that at any time in any republic there is some problem amongst the people that can be suppressed by locking them in their houses- if you can get away with it. In a just world we would be seeing a great reckoning, but instead the messaging is that lockdowns didn’t happen or that we should “just get over it.”
It was rapidly apparent that lockdowns did not achieve their stated goal, but a narrative was pushed that people were monsters for caring about freedom and the economy. It was taken for granted that lockdowns worked. How many times were you accused of being a “Grandma killer”? They then pretended that the economy only impacts the wealthy, when the reality is the wealthy will be fine no matter what and it is the poor who are harmed by a bad economy. However, we live in a society where myopia is seen as a virtue, and the lockdowners wanted us to believe no matter the other costs this had to be done to save lives. Yet, for all of that, they had little genuine sympathy for those who were ill:
They wanted you to believe that your liberty was inconsequential, ignoring that for a policy this oppressive to be justified it would have to do an enormous amount of good. They weren’t basing their belief in lockdowns on anything but computer models from alarmists who are always wrong- the lunatics at Imperial College London tried to claim lockdowns would save 2 million lives in the US while this study shows they prevented 4,000 deaths- 1/550th what the models claimed . The idea that lockdowns would work seems intuitively true as you have to be near someone to catch a virus, but it was not based on any science- it was the largest scale social experiment in human history. In fact, at the beginning of the policy, the World Health Organization rated the quality of evidence in favor of lockdowns as “Very Low” in every relevant category . Meanwhile, the Great Barrington Declaration, which was based on what is known about epidemiology and protecting the vulnerable instead of imprisoning the general public, was called, among other things “an ethical nightmare.” [Apparently things such as preventing people from visiting dying relatives and banning religious services do not have ethical problems.] It was maddening for those of us who remained sane on the issue. Never let them lie to you about how bad it was:
As this was going on everyone was constantly looking at covid numbers, but no matter what happened it was always a justification for more stringent measures- if cases went up we needed to lock down harder, if cases went down we had to keep locking down harder to eliminate the virus. It became apparent to me early on that people caught up in the mania were “immune to data” and though they said “trust the science” their version of “the science” was a slow motion, zoomed in video of water particles blowing through a mask, which is a Middle School science fair project level of science. In fact, “social distancing” was invented as a science fair project. Meanwhile, empirical data was ignored when it showed lockdown stringency had no impact on covid deaths. Further, an idea developed that it was somehow metaphysically bad to test positive for covid regardless of if you were ill. The balance between liberty and safety which should inform every policy was ignored. South Dakota having a comparable death rate to New York was said to show the futility of not locking down, when the obvious message was that lockdowns had not had a meaningful impact. When Florida and Georgia re-opened we were subject to insane propaganda about how they were open-air death camps and Republicans were a death cult [yes, the people living their lives are a death cult, not the people who have a religious obsession with a specific form of death.] Don’t forget how crazy and nasty these people were:
This study thoroughly proves that we were right all along. The authors identified 19,646 potentially applicable studies through a database search of Google Scholar. From there, they found 146 studies which were judged to merit close inspection, and ultimately found 32 appropriate studies, 22 of which could be sufficiently standardized to use in a meta analysis of the impacts of lockdowns on mortality [31-32]. The interpretations in this study are based “solely on the empirical findings in data [we] reviewed” . It needs to be noted that study results varied wildly, due in part to the complexity of human society, the rapid adaptability of respiratory viruses, and good, old-fashioned, free will. This was always the problem with the “agent-based” models produced on supercomputers: they treat society like an enormous game of Sim City where the “scientist” is the god and we are all NPCs. As Murray Rothbard once wrote,
“If men were like ants, there would be no interest in human freedom. If individual men, like ants, were uniform, interchangeable, devoid of specific personality traits of their own, then who would care whether they were free or not? Who indeed would care if they lived or died?” [Freedom, Inequality, Primativism, and the Division of Labor, I.]
One key takeaway from all of this is that even if you do try to manage humans like ants with absolutely no concern for human liberty you still can’t achieve a narrow primary goal if it goes against nature, much less achieve it thoroughly enough to justify external costs. Another challenge in studying this topic is the shortage of control groups, since few states did not go along with the covid insanity and many individuals voluntarily changed their actions due to media coverage and the virus panic [50-51].
Due to the length of the study it is best for our purposes to use findings highlighted by the Institute of Economic Affairs in their summary. The overall conclusion is,
“Voluntary changes in behaviour, such as social distancing, played a significant role in mitigating the pandemic – but harsher restrictions, like stay-at-home rules and school closures, generated very high costs but produced only negligible health benefits”
Specifically, it was found that strict lockdowns, compared to policies like those of Sweden, which limited the largest gatherings but did little else, decreased mortality by 3.2%. Lockdowns prevented 1,700 deaths in England and Wales, 6,000 deaths in Europe, and 4,000 deaths in the United States. They compare this to the average flu season, where the United States would typically experiences 38,000 deaths. Yet again, at the time, we were told “if it saves one life,” but people were missing cancer screenings and even chemotherapy appointments due to policies and the climate of fear. Along with the harshest “shelter-in-place” orders only resulting in a 1.4-4.1% decrease in mortality, business closures reduced mortality by 7.5%, and school closures resulted in between a 2.5% and 6.2% mortality reduction. Alternately, gathering limits increased covid mortality 5.9%. The authors believe the reason gathering limits increased mortality is that instead of doing normal, safe, outdoor activities where you would only have passing contact, people spent more time in intimate indoor settings which increased transmission .
One “bright spot” in the study is mask mandates, which perhaps reduced mortality by 18.7%. However, that is the use of masks, and one study found that a non-coercive mask recommendation was equally effective as a mandate [further, this does not answer the question of if it was the people wearing the masks who were protected or those around them] [102-103]. Of course, they discouraged mask use in the early period of the “pandemic” which these studies cover  and by the time the “public health officials” reversed course, segments of the population already had overwhelming hostility to all mitigation strategies due to the oppressive policies we had experienced. Speaking for myself, though I always opposed coercive disease control policies, for the first couple of weeks while trying to understand the situation I did use hand sanitizer before and after the grocery store and avoided some social interactions. By the time masks were recommended I was washing my hands less than pre-”pandemic” as a mitigation strategy against our collective immune systems collapsing due to overuse of sanitizers and lack of interactions. Suffice to say, nothing could have made me wear a mask at that point, but I might have for a while at the very beginning before the government had launched a kamikaze attack against a cold. However, by the time they started using messaging of “cooperate voluntarily so we can avoid coercive measures” they had already gleefully implemented what amounted to the house arrest of the general public. On top of all of that, it is still difficult to control for other variables, such as people not going places because they don’t want to wear a mask.
Overall, the authors found that the combination of measures may have reduced covid mortality in Europe and the United States by 10.7% in the spring of 2020. This is, in the abstract, still a lot of humans, though the messaging was that it would be apocalyptic to not lock down. Their claim was that lockdowns would save over 2 million lives. They wanted us to believe that over .5% of the population could die within a couple of months, which would be sad but is not apocalyptic the way they described, especially concentrated among the most death-prone people who generally do not have jobs. The goalposts were constantly moved and we heard absurdities like comparing it to the deaths on 9/11, as if jumping from the 80th floor on fire at age 30 is equal to dying of pneumonia at 80. As of June 9, Worldometers shows US deaths at 1,166,431, or roughly .33% of the population. This is over the course of three years, and the vast majority of those people did not have 3 years of remaining life expectancy in March of 2020. In reality, this has in no way been a pandemic:
We were told as this was unfolding that political leaders should be exclusively following the advice of “public health officials.” Ignoring the fact that these “public health officials” were drastically wrong about their specialty, it was always idiotic to give such “experts” control over vast swathes of society. For example, from where did the CDC get the authority to implement an eviction ban? [They never had it, of course, hence it being struck down by the courts.] The fact is that the art of statesmanship- or leadership generally- is to speak to multiple people with different areas of expertise and try to make a balanced and wise decision. The “public health officials” don’t know about governing a country or managing an economy or the balance between liberty and restraint that defines free government. Their role would be to provide different options and explain the likely death rates [which, once again, they were drastically wrong about.] Though there was criticism of listening to anyone outside of public health, economists are the ones who study the costs of government action. Economists also shouldn’t be the sole source of advice as they don’t study things such as what the public will agree to or which policies are legal, but the costs of such policies is their specialty. The authors write,
“When economists are faced with the choice of selecting the proper policy,
their judgement is based on an analysis of both the benefits and costs.
As far as we know, lockdowns have been adopted worldwide without the
use of any explicit cost–benefit analysis. The same conclusion is found
in Allen (2021), who state that ‘no government has provided any formal
cost/benefit analysis of their actions.’
Epidemiologists have pushed for lockdowns with little consideration of the
costs of their proposals to society.” .
Some argue that you cannot put a price on a human life, but that is nonsense, and in fact every corporation and government agency has set amounts they will pay for wrongful deaths before going to court. Every government regulation should weigh safety against economic and other costs. In 2019 it was the case that everyone understood that the lives of the young and healthy should be prioritized over the lives of the elderly and frail. As I have said this whole time, “The Greeks said, ‘A civilization grows when old men plant trees in whose shade they will never sit.’ The covid response has been the elderly cutting down trees their descendants would rely on because they feared getting a chill.” The follies of obsessing over one kind of death and not understanding tradeoffs should be obvious to any adult, but it was not. I shared this comedy sketch explaining the issue countless times:
I remember in June 2020 or so someone made the claim that by the November election no one would be defending lockdowns. Of course, we were locked down again, Biden ran the campaign hiding in his basement, and people were still saying this failed policy was necessary. As is the nature of human affairs, timing is hard to predict. We have now reached a point where few defend lockdowns. Unfortunately, they just find ways to shift blame and we are not seeing any accountability. Anthony Fauci’s claim that it is not his fault people followed his advice has become the norm. Ron DeSantis has been a rare person willing to admit locking down was wrong. Meanwhile, Trump and his supporters are using the Fauci excuse as well, maddeningly blaming DeSantis for following Trump’s advice. Trump went as far as to say that “send them to nursing homes” Governor Cuomo did better than DeSantis at covid, continuing the same obsession with the belief that coercive public policy can control a virus. The reality is that Trump was the President, and as Truman famously said, “The buck stops here.” Without taking an enormous amount of blame himself, which Trump won’t do, there is no one else he can credibly spread the blame to. The United Kingdom is at least having some sort of inquiry about the response, but I’m sure no one will be punished.
This leaves us with the question “Why did this happen?” Remember that every five years or so there has been some diseases they wanted us to panic about. For example, when I was in college Swine Flu broke out badly enough that The New York Times published multiple articles about my rural university. Though early in the “pandemic” people tried to claim if young people were threatened, not the elderly, our parents and grandparents would do everything to keep us safe, I remember Swine Flu, which was the most dangerous to college-aged people. We were told to avoid going to the doctor to save medical resources and the only university policy change was not requiring doctor’s notes to receive an excused absence. Our only behavioral change was switching to using water instead of beer in beer pong cups [a change which stuck, sadly.] But the same public health lunatics such as Imperial College’s Neil Ferguson had wanted to take crazy and repressive actions politicians just didn’t do it. The idea that covid was different because of its severity is a lie.
Now that we know the extreme failure of lockdowns, it is time to find out how this atrocious policy spread around the world; everyone should search for answers. It is clear that corporations saw huge profits and governments saw a chance to increase their power. The class of people who are over-educated and useless and believe in nothing but “science” were certainly a major problem. It is clear the global financial system was used to strong-arm smaller states. Malicious actors surely saw this as Trump’s Achilles’ Heel as he is an elderly, overweight, germophobe with the extreme hubris required to believe his management skills can eradicate an infectious respiratory disease. To damage Trump and his supporters was one factor in the United States. In other countries a lot of protests or other inconveniences were shut down by covid restrictions. I’m sure plenty of politicians went along because they are cowards and everyone else was doing it, so it seemed that there was no risk imposing lockdowns while they feared that if they didn’t lockdown a covid outbreak would destroy their careers.
Wanting to get rid of Trump, China punking us, knowing it was from a lab, or anything else do not by themselves explain this folly spreading across world. Overall, my wife is surely correct that it was inevitable that the various stupid things within society would eventually converge into a giant shitstorm. This was perhaps the largest social mania in history.
With this study, Herby, Jonung, and Hanke have definitively shown that lockdowns were never “the science.” Instead, it was a disastrous policy which shows the core of political progressivism taken to its destructive extreme: the idea that a combination of “science” and coercive government can solve mankind’s eternal problems that can only be managed. There are always costs, and in this instance it was obvious they would be enormous- perhaps 14 trillion dollars in the United States in financial costs alone. In and of itself covid wouldn’t have cost more than some routine healthcare spending and absenteeism due to illness. Instead, we were all tortured over what was at most an “uncommon cold.” A large segment of society found some sort of meaning in it, which says depressing things about how pointless their lives were. Perhaps most just went along with it because we had been so exhausted by years of a crisis culture and people accepted the break from their lives. It seems as if many of the most covid fanatical believed it was a sort of plague visited on us for the sin of electing Trump- and these people are ostensibly secular. The big question now is will anything come of this study? I doubt it. No one powerful is ever held accountable except as a result of power struggles among the elites. Perhaps, though, the government at least won’t use this awful tool again because of how badly it failed. We can take some comfort in being proven right, but we knew we were right over three years ago, and we know that the covid maniacs cannot be reasoned with and that our rulers are not accountable.
I will leave you with an Edmund Burke quote I find myself using a lot, though I am sure everyone who could be turned against lockdowns already was years ago. The remaining will say lockdowns failed because we didn’t lockdown soon enough  or hard enough :
“Nothing seems a surer antidote to the poison of fraud than its detection. It is true, the fraud may be swallowed after this discovery, and perhaps even swallowed the more greedily for being a detected fraud. Men sometimes make a point of honor not to be disabused; and they had rather fall into an hundred errors than confess one. But, after all, when neither our principles nor our dispositions, nor, perhaps, our talents, enable us to encounter delusion with delusion, we must use our best reason to those that ought to be reasonable creatures, and to take our chance for the event. We cannot act on these anomalies in the minds of men. I do not conceive that the persons who have contrived these things can be made much the better or the worse for anything which can be said to them. They are reason-proof. Here and there, some men, who were at first carried away by wild, good intentions, may be led, when their first fervors are abated, to join in a sober survey of the schemes into which they had been deluded. To those only (and I am sorry to say they are not likely to make a large description) we apply with any hope.” [Letter to a Member of the National Assembly]
Thank you for reading! The Wayward Rabbler is written by Brad Pearce. If you enjoyed this content please subscribe and share. My main articles will always be free but paid subscriptions help me a huge amount [payment in diverted covid relief funds preferred.] I have a tip jar at Ko-Fi where generous patrons can donate in $5 increments. Join my Telegram channel The Wayward Rabbler. My Facebook page is The Wayward Rabbler. You can see my shitposting and serious commentary on Twitter @WaywardRabbler.
All in-text citations refer to “Did Lockdowns Work: The Verdict on Covid Restrictions” by Jonas Harby, Lars Jonung, and Steve H Hanke.