Lockdowns: The Hydroxycholorquine of the Left

Monday, May 11, 2020

Writing at The Hill, Heather Mac Donald argues that we are getting it wrong: The onus of proof in the the public debate over coronavirus lockdowns lies with the proponents:

Image by Sam Korn, via Wikimedia, public domain.
In litigation, allocation of the burden of proof often determines the outcome of a case. If the advocates of continued lockdown had that burden, they would have to answer the following questions, now kept off stage:
  • What have the lockdowns accomplished so far and what will they accomplish in the future?
  • What are the public health consequences of a global depression?
  • Do the benefits of keeping people from working outweigh the costs in lost and stunted lives?
  • How will herd immunity be achieved under lockdown conditions?
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They would have also had to answer the moral question, "By what right does the government indefinitely detain anyone without good cause," as well as the obvious constitutional one.

Mac Donald's analysis echoes a question Ben Bayer of New Ideal raised recently in a post titled, "The Dangerous Thinking Behind Pandemic Partisanship:"
As there is a legitimate scientific debate about how doctors should treat coronavirus, so there is a legitimate debate about government's role in containing it. It is fairly obvious that government can justifiably quarantine individuals with a threatening infectious disease. But statewide mandatory shelter-in-place orders are legally unprecedented. To justify them would require shouldering a heavy burden of proof. So we should expect and welcome criticisms of these orders.

Yet I've now seen advocates of statewide mandatory lockdowns accuse their critics of not caring if people die and of thinking that all social distancing should be abandoned. That's another false choice. One can be concerned about both the destruction of livelihood resulting from the lockdowns and about the sickness and death wrought by the coronavirus. One can oppose widescale mandatory lockdowns and still think people should voluntarily engage in social distancing to the extent they can.

Advocates of the lockdowns who engage in such false-choice arguments should think seriously about why they exhibit the same defensiveness that the hydroxychloroquine boosters do. Do they support the lockdowns because of careful consideration of the evidence? Have they looked at scientific studies that demonstrate the superiority of widescale lockdown measures over campaigns for voluntary social distancing? [bold added]
The parallels even extend to the side-effects of the respective treatments. Hydroxychlorquine can have serious cardiac side-effects and the lockdowns health-threatening side-effects such as those Mac Donald and many others have pointed out.

It is long past time to end the lockdowns and pursue more targeted and appropriate government responses to this pandemic before we kill the patient in the name of curing him.

-- CAV

P.S. An important element of the left's advocacy of lockdowns is an implicit assumption that freedom is dangerous. On that score, it is worth noting that Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight site recently discussed evidence that Americans -- even many of us supposedly backward Southerners -- were already venturing out into public less before all of this nonsense started. Imagine that: Men free to pursue their own self-interest don't need to be told at gunpoint to avoid a contagion!


Dinwar said...

What astonishes me about this is how quickly we went from "flatten the curve" to "If you advocate anything other than universal house arrest you are a murderer". This is made worse by the fact that it eliminates any possibility for discussing potential downsides. What you don't know won't hurt you--it'll kill you. And far too many people are willfully putting blinders on and ignoring the potential consequences of what they consider the best option.

I saw a Facebook post recently stating something like "When states are re-opening it doesn't mean you're safe, it means there's room for you in the ICU." Yes, yes it does. That was the explicitly stated justification for the near-universal house arrest we were put under. This is like saying "Seat belts won't make you drive safer, they'll just stop you from flying out of the car if you crash." In mere weeks people forgot that.

Gus Van Horn said...

It's the same with testing. If we'd had the ability to test for active illness early, contract tracing and the like might have been viable. Now, it's not. And now, it's not clear that everyone who catches this raises or keeps antibodies, much less is immune.

So the whole idea of premising the end of lockdowns on testing is jackassery, too.