Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Posts Tagged ‘public policy’

What needs to happen now

Posted by M. C. on February 24, 2023

Five crucial scientific and public policy measures we can take to keep the insanity of the last three years from ever happening again

Alex Berenson

I had coffee yesterday with someone who’s been a behind-the-scenes Team Reality advocate since 2020 – a doctor who figured out early on that Covid’s risks were far overblown. No, not Jay Bhattacharya , though as it happened we also talked yesterday and the conversation confirmed this one.

We should be optimistic, this doctor said. People get it now, no one’s taking the vaccines, it’s over. (He’s a surgeon, not an epidemiologist, thus his sunny demeanor. It takes a special kind of confidence to cut your fellow humans open. Plus surgery, unlike public health, actually works most of the time.)

And you know what? He’s right. Half-right, anyway. The Covid jabs are dead. All over the world people are voting with their arms. Fewer than 1 in 100 Americans will get an mRNA jab this month.

But the threat that Covid exposed is not over. Not the threat of the virus, which had an average age of death of maybe 82 or 83. Not even the threat of government orders like school closures and lockdowns. Those are awful, but they’re reversible and we seem to have rejected them resoundingly, at least in the United States.

No, I mean the scientific threats that the pandemic has exposed. Covid has revealed how out of control the public health establishment and its handmaiden virologists and immunologists have become. Drug companies too, although their corruption of medicine is less of a surprise.

So, without further ado, here are five scientific and/or public policy proposals that can help bring us back on track. Three are directed directly at the mRNA jabs, while the other two are larger. All face an uphill battle, but none are impossible, especially with public uneasiness about the jabs continuing to rise.

They’re presented in order of approvability – which, unfortunately, roughly corresponds to reverse order of importance – with a short explanation of each. Feel free to add your own…


  1. An IgG4 registry.Even mRNA advocates acknowledge they did not expect the fact that many people have a Covid immune response centered around less potent IgG4 antibodies after multiple mRNA shots and infections. We need to prospectively track a large group of those people, 20,000 or more, to see what their health outcomes are over the next few years.

See the rest here

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Covid Lockdowns Signal the Rise of Public Policy by Ransom | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on September 21, 2021

For example, in a recent cabinet meeting of Israeli ministers, health minister Nitzan Horowitz was caught on tape (prior to the meeting) explaining to his fellow ministers that although certain public movement restrictions lacked any good epidemiological or public health basis, they would nonetheless assist in incentivizing people to get vaccinated in order to alleviate public restrictions

Ben O’Neill

Public commentator Amanda Marcotte is “incandescent with rage”—her words—with those who refuse to be vaccinated against covid-19.1 She wants to get back to her spin class, and the unvaccinated are ruining it for her. Lockdowns and other restrictions on gymnasiums have either closed them or required masking during training sessions, and the result is that Marcotte is unable to enjoy her spin class at the gym, so she has had to cancel and exercise at home. In attributing where the blame for this predicament lies, she is unequivocal: “[B]y refusing to do the right thing, the unvaccinated are stripping freedom and choice from every other American who got vaccinated. We stand by helplessly watching restrictions pile back on and our freedoms dissipate, all to protect those who won’t protect themselves.”

This statement is indicative of a relatively new phenomenon in public commentary, which is a general support for the rise of what I call “public policy by ransom.” Public policy by ransom occurs when a government imposes a behavioral requirement on individuals and enforces this by punishing the general public in aggregate until a stipulated level of compliance is attained. The method relies on members of the public and public commentators—like Marcotte—who will attribute blame for these negative consequences to recalcitrant citizens who fail to adopt the preferred behaviors of the governing class. In the weltanschauung that underpins this type of governance, government reactions to public behaviors are “metaphysically given” and are treated as a mere epiphenomenon of the actions of individual members of the public who dare to behave in ways disliked by public authorities.

It is important to note that the phenomenon of public policy by ransom should not be confused with the mere occurrence of bona fide conditional public actions undertaken by government. There is nothing inherently wrong with governments forming their policies conditional on the behavior of the public, and changing policies when public behavior changes. Indeed, public policies on pandemics and vaccination clearly should be informed by public behavior relating to those issues—governments must make choices about proposed pandemic restrictions and these choices should be informed by relevant factors.2 While there is scope for legitimate argument over reactive restrictions on the unvaccinated or maskless, what has emerged as an ominous mode of thinking in this atmosphere is the reflexive attribution of blame to recalcitrant members of the public for any subsequent negative consequences imposed on the public by government policies. If the government chooses to impose a negative consequence on the public—even conditionally on the behavior of the public—that consequence is a chosen policy of the government and must be viewed as a policy choice.

There are two main diagnostic signs that indicate when the mode of governance has gone beyond legitimate conditional policy formulation and has entered the domain of public policy by ransom. The first sign is when there is evidence that policy formulation is motivated by a desire to punish noncompliance with behavioral prescriptions for its own sake, rather than optimizing the response to the problem at issue. For example, in a recent cabinet meeting of Israeli ministers, health minister Nitzan Horowitz was caught on tape (prior to the meeting) explaining to his fellow ministers that although certain public movement restrictions lacked any good epidemiological or public health basis, they would nonetheless assist in incentivizing people to get vaccinated in order to alleviate public restrictions.3 The second sign is when governments (and related public commentators) encourage the public to view their own policy responses to behaviors as immutable, and to therefore view individual members of the public as causally responsible for negative impacts from government policies. Such ominous thinking is on display among many public commentators, who view restrictions imposed by governments as an unavoidable consequence of public behavior. Journalist Celia Wexler claims that covid vaccine sceptics are “ruining the return to normal,” and her emotional reaction is somewhat similar to that of Marcotte. She says that “[e]xperts recommend using soft skills of listening and empathizing to persuade holdouts to get vaccinated. But instead our hearts are hardening. Every day, more of us are supporting mandates and penalties.”4 (Observe here the attitude of some commentators who present themselves as models of tolerance: to such people, listening and empathizing are desirable, but only as a means to manipulate behavior; similarly, mandates and penalties are undesirable, but must be the ultimate result if people do not conform to desired behavior by choice—thus do people self-indulge as models of tolerance and charity even while advocating odium and mandates against those they seek to coerce.)

Of course, some readers may take the view that, while it sounds a bit nasty, a little bit of public policy by ransom is a necessary expedient to deal with a major public health problem, even if it means trampling on some of the norms and niceties of governance under ideal conditions. If one accepts public policy by ransom under this expedient view, then it is worth observing that if this general method of governance is accepted, in principle, it allows governments to impose any behavioral mandate they desire on the public and attribute any negative consequence to noncompliant members of the public. Since governments control the imposed consequence of noncompliance, they have unlimited capacity to soften or strengthen negative consequences imposed on the general public. For such reasons, this mode of governance can be viewed as an ideal way to begin installing a government-mandated “social credit system.” A number of articles have highlighted the use of the covid-19 pandemic response to strengthen the existing social credit system in China,5 but others have also noted that such a system is rapidly emerging in the Western world.6

One interesting political and juridical aspect of public policy by ransom is that it degenerates the rule-of-law and bypasses the ordinary legal requirement to mandate or prohibit public behaviors explicitly by legislation or regulation (with the various attendant safeguards of this process). Under the approach of public policy by ransom, to impose their preferred mandates governments need only use (existing) broad regulatory powers to open or shut parts of society on an ad hoc basis, according to their own assessment of behavioral compliance; irate public commentators and social media demagogues then do the rest, and a form of de facto mandatory public behavior is born. Under this mode of governance, the press briefing becomes the new legislature, the words of ministers and their public relations spokesmen become the new laws of the land, and the Twittersphere and media join the police as adjuncts of the new constabulary.

A secondary aspect of public policy by ransom that is noteworthy is that it has remarkable parallels to certain well-known modes of justification for domestic violence. “See what you made me do!” becomes the explanatory approach of public officials quizzed on public policy choices, as citizens are left cowering in the corner with bruises. Perhaps the most striking similarity between these two phenomena is that they both involve the attribution of causal responsibility to initial behavior that causes those in power to respond with coercion, and so blame for negative outcomes lies not with those who impose those outcomes, but those who caused them to do so. “If you don’t have dinner on the table when I come home, I’ll go crazy on you and the kids, and it’ll be your fault!”

Critics of this analysis will presumably respond that the parallels I am highlighting here are not analogous to present circumstances, since the negative consequences imposed by lockdowns, mask mandates, etc., are all genuine epidemiological and public health requirements to deal with the consequences of public behavior. But of course, that is precisely the question at issue, and it is precisely here that one identifies clear examples of public policy by ransom. As discussed above, in Israel, the health minister has more or less admitted to his colleagues that various aspects of the government’s imposed “green card” system are not justifiable on epidemiological grounds, but are useful as a means of social control and “incentivization” of the unvaccinated. This is the nature of public policy by ransom—the imposition of negative outcomes on society for its own sake, as a means of social control.

All of these aspects of public policy by ransom are ominous developments in the thinking of the commentariat. It is likely that some have not fully thought out the implications of this mode of governance, and the unlimited power of coercion it entails to advance any behavioral agenda preferred by the government of the day. As a thought experiment, it is instructive to consider how some of these public commentators might react to the following circumstance. Suppose that a religious conservative government, lamenting the loss of nationalist and religious cultural norms in their country, decided to impose their behavioral preference that all students and workers in the country should start their day by saluting the flag (of whatever country they are in) and swearing homage to God at their morning meeting/assembly. To encourage this behavioral push, they simultaneously impose a policy to ban the functioning of public restaurants, bars, and theatres, until they can verify 80 percent compliance with their behavioral preference. One can easily imagine the kind of fig leaf of political justification that would attend this policy connection—e.g., that the continued operation of public social spaces represents a danger to society unless citizens hold good public morals for strengthening the nation. How might our high-minded public commentators react in such a case? Would they lament that their “hearts are hardening” for those who refuse to comply? Would they be “incandescent with rage” at those who are “refusing to do the right thing”? Would they complain of those unruly ne’er-do-wells who refuse to make the required nationalist/religious invocations and thereby ruin society for the rest of us? Of course, to ask these questions is to answer them—they wouldn’t, because theirs is a purely mercenary approach, and they don’t share the behavioral goals in this hypothetical case.

Like pandemics before it, one hopes that the covid-19 pandemic will subside, whether this be through vaccination, natural herd immunity, or some exogenous good fortune. What will our society look like when that happens? Will we be “back to normal”? Will our public and commentariat preserve any residual instinct for respecting the autonomy of the individual? Will our mode of governance have degenerated so far that it has become acceptable for public authorities to hold the public to ransom? Only time—and the actions of individuals who respect personal liberties—will tell.


Contact Ben O’Neill

Dr. Ben O’Neill is a statistician and economist.

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It’s Time to Roll Back the Mask Mandates, Not Ramp Them Up Ridiculously – American Thinker

Posted by M. C. on August 18, 2020

Most importantly, even if masks work, mask-wearing will not achieve the appropriate public policy goal.

In the end, Tom Woods concedes, as I or any other rational person should, that “these examples don’t in themselves prove that masks are useless, but they absolutely do suggest that simple mask-wearing doesn’t have the miraculous results that some people think they do.”

By William Sullivan

Joe Biden recently made an effort to turn the mask hysteria up to 11, saying, “Every single American should be wearing a mask when they are outside for the next three months at a minimum.  Every governor should mandate mask wearing.”

Why should America broadly expand masking now?  The proverbial “curve” could hardly be flatter in most places in America, and those states that experienced a summer surge, like Texas, Florida, and California, all appear to already be on the other side of their respective “curves.”

Joe Biden, socially distanced outside, demonstrates a useless approach to masking

YouTube screen grab (cropped)

Here are three reasons why it’s time to roll back the mask mandates, rather than ramp them up to ridiculous new levels like Biden suggests.

There’s still just not a lot of evidence that the masks do much to help in slowing or stopping viral spread in the real world.

I know, I know. Every time it becomes clear that someone is going to argue against the supposedly obvious efficacy of the universal masking of a population, healthy and unhealthy alike, that person is invariably met with some variation of the following by a masks-for-all advocate:

“Oh yeah?  You think you know better than all the scientists who just overturned decades of scientific consensus by saying that wearing masks stops viral spread, huh?  Well, tell me this, smart guy.  If you cough or sneeze into a mask, how could it not catch some of the droplets of moisture that could be carrying the virus?”

First of all, even in a laboratory setting, the science is hardly settled in favor of “masks work.”  Actually, the strength of the argument that cloth masks work lies more in a lack of evidence proving that they’re ineffective than the strength of evidence suggesting that they’re effective, which is a terrible basis for setting public policy in a way that impedes upon Americans’ lives. 

But, hey, I’m easy.  I’ll just go along with the notion that wearing a bandana or something snugly around your face, covering your nose and mouth, is an effective means to stop or slow COVID-19 spread.

If that’s true, and if human beings were predictable and reliable in thoughts, actions, and purpose, that mask mandate you’re advocating might work outside of a laboratory.  But human beings aren’t.

As an example of how these variables tend to play out in real life, consider a story I heard recently from a friend about a child taking his SpongeBob mask to his first day of school, only to return home with a Batman mask. He’d traded with a friend because each thought the other mask was cooler, you see.

The CDC also currently says that for a mask to be safe and effective, you’re always supposed to wash your hands before putting it on (like you never see anyone do), you’re never supposed to touch the mask or put it around your neck (like you always see people do), and the masks are supposed to be “washed after each use.”  How often do you wash yours?

This is an example of the human element in any free society — chaotic, unpredictable, and often noncompliant — that social engineers loathe as a pesky obstacle to progress, and scientists can’t even begin to replicate in the lab.

Some places without masks fared far better than places with strict mask requirements.

Lockdown advocates and mask-mavens are scratching their heads about Hawaii these days.  The state is a bunch of islands that are isolated in the middle of a giant ocean, and the state locked down immediately, complete with mask mandates and a shutdown of tourism.  If lockdowns and masks work, few places would give the world a better example of the strategies’ effectiveness.

And yet, “coronavirus is spreading at a faster rate in Hawaii than anywhere in the US,” including the 18 states run by Republicans which have not issued mask mandates.

Or, how about we look further west in the Pacific.  Few countries in the world have more notoriously strict or harshly enforced masking laws than the Philippines.  And yet, they’re currently experiencing a spike in cases and deaths right now, despite all that strictly enforced mask-wearing.

Meanwhile, in Sweden, where public masking has been all but nonexistent, cases are declining, and daily deaths are approaching zero.

None of this can be explained by the logic that mask mandates work in practice.  But that doesn’t stop people from trying.

Historian Tom Woods asked a genuine question to his audience as to how heavily masked countries like the Philippines could be experiencing such poor results today, and a friend “did his best” to explain it.  The spread there must be “happening when people had their masks off (as when eating),” his friend says.

This is far-fetched and kind of ridiculous, certainly, but confirmation bias is a powerful thing.  For his friend, the masks absolutely work because science says so, and the only possible reason the masks aren’t working in the Philippines is because of irresponsible people who take the mask off to do irresponsible things like eating food.

This still does nothing to explain, though, why the absence of masks isn’t decimating Sweden right now.

Most importantly, even if masks work, mask-wearing will not achieve the appropriate public policy goal.

In the end, Tom Woods concedes, as I or any other rational person should, that “these examples don’t in themselves prove that masks are useless, but they absolutely do suggest that simple mask-wearing doesn’t have the miraculous results that some people think they do.”

So sure, maybe the masks might do some good, at some level.  We should still be rolling back mask mandates.

Dr. Scott Atlas, who has thankfully been tapped by President Trump as an adviser, suggests that the “goal of stopping COVID-19 cases is not the appropriate goal.”  Rather, “the goal is simply twofold, to protect the people who are going to have a serious problem and die, that’s the high-risk population, and to stop hospital overcrowding.  There should never be and there is no goal to stop college students from getting an infection they have no problem with.”

Incidentally, this is the same approach that Dr. David Katz recommended in the New York Times on March 20, suggesting “a pivot right now from trying to protect all people to focusing on the most vulnerable.”

This is the strategy that American policymakers should adopt in order to get us through this pandemic quickly and with as few deaths, and as little strain on our hospitals, as possible.  It would allow most Americans to get back to their lives with a semblance of normalcy, increase their happiness, and rebuild the economy.  And it seems clear that this is what President Trump wants for Americans.

And while masks may be a part of that strategy in some way, more draconian mask orders for all Americans, at all times, and in all public places, as Joe Biden recommends, should certainly not be.

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