Lockdowners Speak with Privilege, and Contempt for the Poor and Working Class

Lockdowners Speak with Privilege, and Contempt for the Poor and Working Class by Jenin Younes for American Institute for Economic Research

The Great Barrington Declaration, signed last weekend, has unleashed a torrent of criticism. This was to be expected, since it conflicts with the public health prescription that has attained a religious-like status in many circles: lockdowns and social distancing must be enforced in order to stop or slow transmission of the coronavirus.

The authors of the Declaration, three of the world’s most renowned epidemiologists, urge an entirely different approach. Those not vulnerable to severe illness and death from the virus – especially children and younger adults – should live as they did pre-March 2020. Doing so will, within a couple of months, generate herd immunity, allowing communities to return to relative normalcy.

The overwhelming majority of condemnation that the Declaration has received does not bear on the substance of its recommendations. Instead, critics accuse the primary signatories of having a subversive, right-wing economic agenda, particularly since the Declaration was created and signed at the American Institute for Economic Research, a think-tank that pushes evidence-based economics and functioning markets.

As someone who was present for the weekend and made a small contribution to this effort, I can attest to right-wing ideology having played no part in formulation of the treatise or the scientists’ motivations for participating. The disastrous economic effects of the lockdowns, and the inherent violations of human rights that they entail, have brought together people from different ends of the political spectrum.

I am a left-leaning New York City public defender who voted for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primaries and Hillary Clinton in the general election. I have never voted for a Republican candidate. I chose my career because I wanted to help those most defenseless in our society: indigent people accused and convicted of crimes and facing the awesome power of the state.

Until I saw the catastrophic effects that the lockdowns were having on the very people I sought to help, I had never been associated or affiliated with any free-market or right-wing institutions. I am not alone in this. Having spoken with the three scientists — Jay Bhattacharya, Sunetra Gupta, and Martin Kulldorff — on numerous occasions over the course of the weekend, I can say with certainty that neither politics nor free-market ideology had anything to do with their decision to write the Declaration. They are motivated solely by a concern for public health and distress at what lockdowns and various other social distancing policies are doing to human beings. In my experience over the past few months, that, and nothing else, is the common thread uniting anti-lockdowners.

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