The Corner

Politics & Policy

Weighing the Costs of COVID Versus the Costs of Lockdowns

A man walks in downtown Lisbon on the first day of the second national lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic in Portugal, January 15, 2021. (Pedro Nunes/Reuters)

Writing for AIER, Professor Don Boudreaux looks at the enormous discrepancy between the costs of COVID and the costs of the politically mandated response to the disease, namely lockdowns.

Boudreaux writes:

Yet there was no such careful calculation for the lockdowns imposed in haste to combat Covid-19. Lockdowns were simply assumed not only to be effective at significantly slowing the spread of SARS-CoV-2, but also to impose only costs that are acceptable. Regrettably, given the novelty of the lockdowns, and the enormous magnitude of their likely downsides, this bizarrely sanguine attitude toward lockdowns was – and remains – wholly unjustified. And the unjustness of this reaction is further highlighted by the fact that, in a free society, the burden of proof is on those who would restrict freedom and not on those who resist such restrictions.

His analysis is sound. As a matter of science, policy-makers should be just as interested in the costs of the problem as in the costs of any proposed solution to it. But that has been far from the case. Those who question the “solution” that politicians immediately settled upon have been subjected to nasty ad hominem attacks and had their works censored. Despite mounting evidence that mandatory lockdowns are a very poor, high-cost response, I’m aware of no politician or “progressive” writer who has said, “I think I was mistaken in concluding that the lockdown policy was right.”

That’s par for the course, though. There are lots of questions where clear-minded analysis throws statist policies into question. For instance, there’s an abundance of evidence that the harm done by minimum-wage laws is far greater than the benefit, but have you heard of any politician who supported increasing the minimum wage later admit that doing so was detrimental and that he regretted it?

Statists never admit error or apologize. They just demand more power.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.


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