Approximately 38,000 people die each year from auto accidents in the U.S. If the maximum speed limit were reduced to 20 MPH, perhaps two-thirds or more of those lives could be saved. If we banned the use of most sugar, perhaps the prevalence of diabetes could also be reduced by two-thirds or more. Why have the government authorities not taken the necessary actions to greatly reduce automobile accidents and diabetes?
Quite simply, because there would be a revolt. There is great utility in getting from point to point faster – time is valuable – and many people get pleasure from speeding (legally) along the highways. People also like their “sweets” even though they know too much sugar is bad for them.
Many athletic events are dangerous – including most forms of racing and contact sports. I went to a rodeo last week and, like the other fans, greatly enjoyed watching the bull riding contests – even though we all knew that getting thrown off a bucking bull is not good for the human body. How about mountain climbing and wingsuit flying? Many petty tyrants would seek to ban almost any dangerous sport and other activities. But for most people, both participants and spectators, the collective adrenalin rush outweighs the danger, which is part of what makes life worth living.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the face-mask Nazis. Most people do not like wearing masks, but those with a tyrannical bent like Dr. Anthony Fauci and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seem to gain great pleasure from making millions of others miserable for no good reason. Do the flimsy cotton masks that most of us own and wear when forced to save lives? The overwhelming evidence (both empirical and theoretical) is no. It is nothing more than an attempt by people with power in government to get the herd (us) to obey them.
A sophisticated mask (such as medical personnel wear) can reduce the spread of influenza and pneumonia. Still, masks of all sorts tend to reduce the amount of oxygen and increase the amount of CO2 we breathe, thus making them more dangerous for those with heart and respiratory diseases. There is also evidence that masks do more harm than good for children. If the folks at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and other government agencies who are trying to control our lives really cared, they would provide detailed cost-benefit studies for people of different ages and health conditions as to who and when should wear a mask, if ever, – but the fact they have failed to do so is telling.
Back on April 1, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told the world that fully vaccinated people cannot spread the virus. Up to the past week, Dr. Fauci and President Joe Biden said the same thing numerous times – that there was no need for the vaccinated to wear a mask indoors or out. We were also told the vaccines worked very well against the Delta variant. And now we are told that vaccinated people who get infected with the variant can spread the virus as easily as unvaccinated people – but if you are vaccinated, you are unlikely to get the variant. Huh?
Anyone who has paid any attention to what is going on can see the endless contradictions in the statements of government officials. If the vaccines work, then there is no sense in wearing a mask because you are unlikely to infect anyone or be infected. The evidence seems overwhelming that the vaccines do work, and even though a few people have adverse reactions (which is true with any vaccine), it isn’t very reasonable for older adults not to get the vaccine.
It also appears to be true that the virus is not very dangerous for almost all young people. The death rate for children from it is extremely low (even though very few will die), which may justify children not getting the vaccine. Certainly, there is no reasonable justification for them having to wear a mask. (Note the government has provided no valid study about the costs and benefits – physical and psychological – of requiring children to wear a mask.)
Yes, there are unknowns about COVID-19 and every other viral and bacterial threat. Still, without overwhelming evidence that any restriction or requirement greatly outweighs limits on freedom, it should not be imposed. The government default position is most often control and coercion – whereas, in a free society, the default position should always be freedom – both for young and old.
Government scientists and elected officials have the responsibility to provide the best information they have in a very clear and understandable fashion to the people about any public health risk, without politicizing it, and then let individuals decide how to act on it. Every fall, we are urged to get flu shots – which some of us do, and others do not by choice. For people under 60, COVID-19 is no more dangerous than the flu.
If a person has either an emotional or idiotic reason for wearing a mask, they have that right even if vaccinated. But equally, those of us who choose not to wear a mask because we have been vaccinated, are otherwise immune by having had the virus, or are just risk-takers should also have that right.
• Richard W. Rahn is chairman of the Institute for Global Economic Growth and MCon LLC.