2020 was not the best year for many, leaving us feeling less hopeful and uneasy about the future. Aside from the health toll of the pandemic, lockdowns left students in the cold, and crushed businesses, leaving people jobless and struggling to survive. The destruction was real, but is our despair about the future objectively merited -- or are we ignoring evidence that suggests hope is a more realistic attitude?
Besides “capitalism,” the two concepts perhaps most reviled by left-leaning intellectuals are “neoliberalism” and “supply-side economics.” These intellectuals harbor an odd antagonism, because each concept is associated with greater freedom, prosperity, and security. As such, one might suspect that the antagonists yearn for something other than these human values.
Think for a moment about Directive 10-289. It was passed via executive edict amidst a collapsing economy. Factories were shutting down. Workers were fleeing their jobs. Production was grinding to a halt. People were starting to panic. Government decided to do something to fix the problem. It ordered everyone to keep doing what they were doing before. It tried to stop history.
The last 14 months elevated a global group of intellectuals and bureaucrats about which most people had previously cared very little. Among them, the ones who believe least in freedom entrenched their power, thanks to a big push by the lavishly funded but largely discredited World Health Organization. The WHO tapped an “independent panel” (the fix was already in: the panel’s head is former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark) to figure out what the world did right and did wrong in response to Covid-19. The final report has all the expected verbiage about the needs for more global coordination and largesse going to public health.
Repeatedly this year we have heard the admonition, from acolytes of Covid-19 lockdowns, to “follow the science.” Many of the admonishers presume that lockdown skeptics are myopic, “anti-science” miscreants infected with a reckless disregard for human health, safety, and life. Yes, some people are so emotional, phobic, religious, or political that they cannot reason right; but can there be no rational, healthy skepticism about the health effects of Covid-19 or the health-wealth effects of lockdowns? Nothing can be farther from the truth – nothing farther from . . . science.
I’m sitting at a bar in Texas, surrounded by maskless people, looking at folks on the streets walking around like life is normal, talking with nice and friendly faces, feeling like things in the world are more-or-less normal. Cases and deaths attributed to Covid are, like everywhere else, falling dramatically. If you pay attention only to the media fear campaigns, you would find this confusing. More than two weeks ago, the governor of Texas completely reversed his devastating lockdown policies and repealed all his emergency powers, along with the egregious attacks on rights and liberties.
A century ago, as the post-war world struggled with recovery from the Spanish Flu pandemic, totalitarian movements rose to power and would go on to shake the very foundations of human civilization. Two ideologies, German National Socialism (Nazism) and Soviet Communism, left behind a legacy of mass death, unparalleled destruction, and soul-shattering poverty.
Back around 2007, investor John Paulsen began to feel skeptical about the viability of mortgage securities. Though demand for them was much greater than supply, Paulsen sensed that lending standards had plummeted so far that loan delinquencies were set to surge. The “third rate” hedge fund manager (that’s what those who covered him at top investment banks felt) proceeded to very inexpensively purchase insurance on mortgages. He was able to because the consensus in the marketplace was that he was very wrong.
What a glorious thing the reopening is! After nearly a year of darkening times, the light has begun to dawn, at least in the US. Given how incredibly political this pandemic has been from the beginning, many people smell a rat. Is it really the case that the reopening of the American economy, particularly in blue states, is so perfectly timed? Do the science and politics really line up so well?
As a naturally optimistic person, it vexes me that the word catastrophe has echoed in my mind since early March 2020. It’s the word the great smallpox eradicator Donald Henderson used in his 2006 prediction of the consequences of lockdown, a word that wasn’t around then. His masterful article addressed the idea of travel restrictions, forced human separation, business and school closings, mask mandates, limits on public gatherings, quarantines, and the entire litany of brutality to which we’ve been subjected for nearly a year, all summed up in the word lockdown.
What better way to begin a review of what is an excellent book than to say that the book’s author always knew. It’s as simple as that. Jeffrey Tucker knew in March of 2020 that tragic times were ahead.I remember it vividly. In February of 2020 witless headline writers were trying in vain to tie a falling stock market to a coronavirus that investors had been pricing for many weeks. They revealed their misunderstanding of big market lurches. They’re a consequence of surprise. In February the surprise wasn’t a virus that had been in the news since early January; rather it was the presidential primary success of a since forgotten socialist by the name of Bernie Sanders. Of course, by month’s end Sanders was falling as quickly as he had risen. Stocks soared as a risk-factor to future growth was vanquished. Sanders, as I argue in my upcoming book When Politicians Panicked, was the original “coronavirus.”
I was born under the flag of the People’s Republic of China, a country that remains under the absolute rule of the Chinese Communist Party to this day. I have very few memories of my early childhood in mainland China, save for a visit to the Forbidden City—a brief tourist stop when my family traveled to the American consulate in Beijing to apply for a visa.