Liberty or Lockdown

Liberty or Lockdown by Jeffrey A. Tucker for American Institute for Economic Research

I’m very pleased to announce that my book Liberty or Lockdown is now available at Amazon. It includes a foreword by George Gilder. Below is my introduction.

For most Americans, the Covid-19 lockdown was our first experience in a full denial of freedom. Businesses forced closed. Schools, padlocked. Church, same. Theaters, dead. We were told to stay home, risking fines if we leave and jail if we don’t pay. We couldn’t travel. Separated from loved ones. This job is essential, this one is not. This surgery is cancelled, this one is not. You want a visitor from abroad? Forget it. The neighboring state? Only with a two-week quarantine.

Our world was, in a seeming instant, conspicuously divided between the rule makers and the rule followers, and what those rules would be felt completely arbitrary but strictly enforced. All our civic clichés about freedom, democracy, bravery, and rights were made null and void.

We were forced to spend day after day under effective house arrest, spinning aimlessly in this small and unwelcome world of captivity, wondering about big things previously unconsidered: why has this happened to me, what has gone wrong, why am I here, when will it end, what are my goals, what is the purpose of my life?

It was a transformation for all of us. The darkness came upon us suddenly, even though in the first two weeks of March 2020, we all sensed that something dramatic was happening. The perils of the virus were enough to strike fear but we also knew that in these hyper-political times, a disease would not be regarded as a matter to be addressed between patient and doctor. It would be up to the decisions of the people who happened to be holding power at the time, along with their advisors.

There would be some political response, some test of state powers, though to what extent and what form, we knew not. We could not have imagined in those days that the whole population would come to be subjected to a sadistic social experiment in the name of virus mitigation. We could not have imagined that the whole of the freedoms and rights we had previously taken for granted – choice of leisure, dining, travel, profession, and education – would be taken from us in a matter of days, and only given back slowly over six months (or more).

During those times, we found ourselves controlled by a new social protocol while giving voice to a new and strange language. Forced human separation was given the oxymoronic label “social distancing.” Brutal business closures were called “Targeted Layered Containment” (TLC, which in the American lexicon once meant “tender loving care”). House arrest was rechristened as a “Non-Pharmaceutical Intervention.” We were all made part of an experimental game, encouraged to see ourselves as bit players on bell-shaped curves we needed to help flatten and viral spreads we needed to slow.

We suffered to reduce suffering. We sacrificed to minimize sacrifice. We were banned from gyms for our health, prevented from entering houses of worship for our own edification, stopped from working so that our overlords could do their work on a virus they couldn’t see, and prevented from travelling to stop population movements so that medical professionals could better test, track, and trace us.

What were we allowed to do? Find a new way, without much of what we used to do, such as see friends, hang out downtown, make choices, go here and there. Instead, just watch television. Gorge on old movies since all new releases were stopped. Do video calls. Make quick store runs provided you came right back home. The right to attend a funeral, go to the office, get your teeth cleaned, host a party, go to the beach, buy some shoes, hang a drink at your favorite watering hole, take a trip – it was all suddenly illegal. Our choices were throttled and our lives scripted in the name of public health.

The children, what happened to them? The managerial elite scrapped everything they knew about their lives. All that parents took for granted, all for which they already paid, came to an end. The students, what happened to them? They were locked out of their dorms and told to learn online.

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