Perspective: Losing our collective minds over the coronavirus?

by WorldTribune Staff, March 25, 2020

“Panic mixed with shameless pandering is a recipe for a bigger crisis than the coronavirus itself,” Conservative Review senior editor Daniel Horowitz wrote.

“Politicians and the media are telling the public to be prudent and not to panic, but everything they are saying and implementing is sowing panic, and they are now contemplating actions that reflect more of a bubonic plague dynamic,” Horowitz wrote. “Their entire legislative approach is about feeding on panic and using the crisis to immediately implement socialism before we even know the scope of the problem and can more effectively target solutions.”

The Senate on Wednesday passed a $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill. / Public Domain

The White House and Senate on March 25 reached agreement on a $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package.

“Bailing out industries and indiscriminately sending out $1,200 checks to every person in this country (even those fully employed) is way too premature and doesn’t address the problem at hand,” Horowitz wrote. “There is no economy to stimulate until we solve the logistical problem of getting people back to work. That requires using better scientific data to more effectively localize the quarantines to the places and to the people who need to be home and get as many people working as possible.”

While getting the logistics straightened out, Horowitz wrote, “we should be suspending different forms of taxation and offering interest-free loans to incentivize people to work and maintain personal businesses. We already passed paid leave for those who can’t work. And those who are laid off are already eligible for unemployment benefits, which we should work on expediting.”

Sending checks to everyone “makes no sense. For starters, while many are unable to work, a lot of people are still receiving 100 percent of their salary by working from home or through other arrangements. Why should we pay those people? For example, a family of five like mine who relies solely on telecommunicating (which is not shut down) would receive $3,900 in cash. I mean, I’ll gladly take it or donate it to charity, but does it really make any sense? Instead, incentivize more work by slashing taxes,” Horowitz wrote.

“As for those in need, $1,200 per person is both too much and too little. It’s too much in the macro-fiscal sense, because it will bankrupt our nation with crushing interest payments on the debt. But it’s also way too little for most families if government is really warning about months of shutdowns, even up to 18 months. If we go the European route instead of the Korean route in terms of a shutdown, we’ll have to mail out $50,000 checks.”

The legislative response, Horowitz wrote, should “focus on most effectively containing the outbreak while getting people back to work, rather than legislating for a major assumption of indefinite shutdowns that seems to be disproven by data from countries that have already gone through this?”

More than half the cases and over 60 percent of fatalities so far have been in three states: New York, Washington, and California. “And even then, they are very localized. That’s why resources and the balance of quarantine vs. economic activity should be targeted,” Horowitz wrote.

For example, 56 percent of the Washington state cases are in King County, and when the two neighboring counties are factored in, they account for almost all the cases. 85 percent of the deaths were in King County, of which more than half were in one nursing home. Almost all the deaths are in metro Seattle.

As of Tuesday, 56 percent of the New York cases were in New York City, nearly all of them in metro NYC with the exception of a known anomalous outbreak in Westchester County.

In California and other Western states, the numbers are very much driven by the homeless population. Roughly half the cases in San Francisco are among the homeless.

“We need to tailor the quarantine to where it’s needed most, and that will dictate the economic outcomes,” Horowitz wrote.

“Thus, there is no reason Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf should be taking the prudent distancing a step further and shutting all ‘non-life-sustaining’ businesses in the entire state when there has only been one fatality statewide. Most of the counties in the state have no cases reported. So we are going to shut every store in rural Pennsylvania but still have outbound flights from Seattle?”

The decision by California Gov. Gavin Newsom “to essentially put everyone in every county under house arrest is just appalling,” Horowitz wrote.

“Perhaps I’m not taking this serious enough? Well, here’s a rule of thumb: The government should treat the rest of our economy with the same plans to get it restarted again as it is treating refugee resettlement. The State Department announced its intention to bring in refugees again beginning on April 7, while California is contemplating an indefinite house arrest of Americans and the Trump administration is looking to do this nationally. Are you kidding me?”

Meanwhile, Matt Smethurst of the Gospel Coalition recently challenged his readers to consider the words of C.S. Lewis’s 1948 essay titled “On Living in an Atomic Age”. In referring to the following excerpt from Lewis, Smethurst takes the liberty of replacing “coronavirus” where Lewis instead referenced the “atomic bomb” throughout the quote:

“In one way, we think a great deal too much of the coronavirus. ‘How are we to live in a coronavirus age?’ I am tempted to reply: ‘Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.’

“In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the coronavirus was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways … It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

“This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by the coronavirus, let that virus, when it comes, find us doing sensible and human things — praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts — not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about viruses. They may break our bodies (any microbe can do that), but they need not dominate our minds.” — C.S. Lewis, “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948).

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