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Ryan McMaken

Yet Another Study Shows—Yet Again—That Lockdowns Don't Work

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Although advocates for covid-19 lockdowns continue to insist that they save lives, actual experience keeps suggesting otherwise.

On a national level, just eyeballing the data makes this clear. Countries that have implemented harsh lockdowns shouldn’t expect to have comparatively lower numbers of covid-19 deaths per million.

In Italy and the United Kingdom, for example, where lockdowns have been repeatedly imposed, death totals per million remain among the worst in the world. Meanwhile, in the United States, states with with the most harsh lockdown rules—such as New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts are among the states with the worst total deaths.

Lockdown advocates, of course, are likely to argue that if researchers control for a variety of other variables, then we’re sure to see that lockdowns have saved millions of lives. Yet research keeps showing us this simply isn’t the case.
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The Capitol Riot Wasn’t a Coup. It Wasn't Even Close.

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On Wednesday, a mob apparently composed of Trump supporters forced its way past US Capitol security guards and briefly moved unrestrained through much of the Capitol building. They displayed virtually no organization and no clear goals.

The only deaths were on the side of the mob, with one woman—apparently unarmed—shot dead by panicky and trigger-happy Capitol police, with three others suffering nonspecific “medical emergencies.”

Yet, the media response has been to act as if the event constituted a coup d’etat. This was “A Very American Coup” according to a headline at the New Republic. “This Is a Coup” insists a writer at Foreign Policy. The Atlantic presented photos purported to be “Scenes from an American Coup.”

But this wasn't a coup, and what happened on Wednesday is conceptually very different from a coup. Coups nearly always are acts committed by elites against the sitting executive power using the tools of the elites. This isn’t at all what happened on Wednesday.
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Pandemics Are Over When the Public Decides They're Over

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In Colorado, reported cases and hospitalizations of Covid-19 patients are at higher levels than ever before. And yet politicians are worried that if they issue new stay-at-home orders, the public won’t obey them. For instance the Denver Post last week reported Colorado Democrats admitted the public isn’t listening very closely anymore:
[State Senator Steve] Fenberg and many other state leaders are worried … about whether a stay-at-home order would even work this time around. People have grown accustomed to certain freedoms since the spring, and already there are some in the population resistant even to the least oppressive rules, such as wearing masks.

“They don’t want to have restrictive orders that people just entirely ignore,” Fenberg said. “Once you cross that line, that seriously, then it really starts to unravel, when people completely check out from following the orders.”
We’ll ignore the creepy framing of the issue around how citizens have lamentably “grown accustomed to certain freedoms” like being able to leave one’s home. But Fenberg is right to think the public is unlikely to be nearly as compliant this time around.
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Lockdowns in Europe Are Back. Turns Out Early Lockdowns Didn't 'Beat the Virus' after All.

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Back in August, European politicians were threatening lockdowns and calling for "vigilance." But given the economic devastation wrought by full, nationwide lockdowns, politicians have become fearful of going down that road again. For example, in the Czech Republic, where the seven-day average for reported covid deaths has surged from 7 to 66,  the central government has stated it won't make a decision about lockdowns for two more weeks. Meanwhile, Czech citizens are protesting against what restrictions are in place. 

But elsewhere in Europe, restrictions are quickly escalating.

Belgium: all bars, cafes, restaurants must close.

Ireland: people are required to limit movement, stay out of each other's homes.

France: new nighttime curfews.

Spain: people can't leave or enter Madrid for nonessential reasons.

Netherlands: a maximum of three people in your home per day.
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The New Media Has Become like the Old Media—And That Means the Usual Bias

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A sizable majority of American adults say—when polled—that social media organizations “censor” political viewpoints:
A Pew Research Center survey conducted in June finds that roughly three-quarters of US adults say it is very (37%) or somewhat (36%) likely that social media sites intentionally censor political viewpoints that they find objectionable. Just 25% believe this is not likely the case.
At this point, of course, it’s hard to see how this is even debatable. While “censor” is perhaps not the most accurate term to use here—given the word’s connotations of state intervention—it is apparent that social media firms, at the very least, limit discussion and the reach of certain political viewpoints by banning certain users. These firms also openly admit to biasing readers against certain content through the use of “fact checkers.” Anecdotal evidence also strongly suggests that these social media firms also engage in tactics like “shadow banning,” which hides certain posts and content from certain users.

This is no haphazard or “neutral” bias, either. It is clear that the user bans and “fact checking” warnings against certain posts are designed to fall most often on groups that could be described as “conservative,” or “libertarian,” or which advocate in favor of Donald Trump and his allies.

As far as media companies go, this is just par for the course. What is perhaps so unusual in this case is that so many self-identified conservatives and libertarians seem surprised that things turned out this way.
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Military Generals Are Just Another Group of Self-Interested Technocrats

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The United States has always had a love affair with certain generals. George Washington, of course, was immensely popular, and thirteen US presidents were generals before they were president.

But prior to the Second World War, generals as a group were not revered or treated with any particular veneration or respect. In fact, in the nineteenth century, full-time US military officers were often treated with suspicion and contempt. While state militia officers were regarded as indispensable night watchmen who preserved order, the full-time government employees who served in the federal military were often derided as lazy and otherwise unemployable.

But now those days are long gone. In recent decades, active generals and retired generals have grown into a group of politically influential technocrats who can be regularly seen on evening news programs and are habitually feted and promoted as incorruptible patriots. They are fawned over by media organizations while being paid enormous pensions. Moreover, upon retirement they are able to turn their former government employment into lucrative positions on corporate boards and throughout the private sector.
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Governments Will Impose New Lockdowns If they Think they Can Get Away with It

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This year’s stay-at-home orders and lockdowns imposed by governments on their populations represent a watershed moment in the history of the modern state. Before March 2020, it is unlikely that many politicians—let alone many ordinary people—thought it would be feasible or likely for government officials to force hundreds of millions of human beings to “self-isolate.”
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The Evidence Keeps Piling up: Lockdowns Don’t Work

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The toll lockdowns have taken on human life and human rights has been incalculable. Increases in child abuse, suicide, and even heart attacks, all appear to be a feature of mandatory stay-at-home orders issued by politicians who now rule by decree without any legislative or democratic due process. And then, of course, there is the economic toll on employment, which will feed negative impacts into the longer term. The economic burden has fallen the most on the young and on working-class families, whose earners are least able to work from home.
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