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Reblogged:Clarity: The Forgotten Friend of Freedom and Health

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A recurring theme in pro-liberty commentary about the pandemic and the role of government in fighting it has been the importance of clarity on the part of government officials. The below, from "A Pro-Freedom Approach to Infectious Disease," is a good example:

The absence of a mask here is neither a "statement" nor anyone's business. (Image by Joshua Rondeau, via Unsplash, license.)
More importantly, our governments must acknowledge that government-controlled healthcare means rationed healthcare. When production, prices and profits are not the principles directing people's actions, something else must be. That something else is the decisions made by government bureaucrats. Our governments must discard the fantasy that government-controlled healthcare is free -- that, somehow, healthcare doesn't have to be produced by anyone. It is our governments' responsibility to explain clearly how healthcare will be rationed in a pandemic. Doing this will allow us as individuals to make better-informed, rational decisions.

If elderly individuals and their loved ones knew, for instance, that they would go to the back of the line for a ventilator or an ICU bed, they would have more reason to socially distance and to isolate at home. Or if young people knew they would be the lowest priority for being admitted to the ICU, more young people would consider the need to socially distance. [bold added]
This morning, I ran across an amusing characterization of some of what we got instead, specifically regarding the asinine outdoor mask mandates in some locales:
Julia Marcus, an epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, spoke with several male mask skeptics last year for a piece in The Atlantic. When she explained that masking wasn't as important outdoors, the men became more amenable to wearing them indoors. By connecting rules to reasons, she got them to see the value of covering their nose and mouth when it actually mattered. Last week, Marcus told me that she's baffled by the notion that the best way to get people to wear masks inside is to mandate that everybody wear one when they're alone outside. "We don't recommend condom use when people are enjoying themselves alone to get them to wear condoms with their sexual partners," she said ...

[W]e ... need to build a sensible path to the post-pandemic world. A lot of people seem to have embraced an omni-neurotic approach to COVID-19 safety: "Don't go to the beach, don't take a walk with friends, don't go to the park, don't travel." I prefer a more targeted-neurotic approach that just tells the truth. And the truth is that COVID-19 is basically an indoor/talking disease: If you're indoors, or talking with people outside your household, or both, you should be cautious -- mask and socially distance. Otherwise, the risk is much smaller, even if it's rarely zero. So go outside; get vaccinated; and get your life back. [my emphasis]
The condom example is memorable, amusing, and good, the last because it is much easier to see the issue at stake. Blanket mandates for masks, particularly the ones that memorably saw people being arrested for things like surfing alone, insulted everyone's intelligence. At the same time, they justifiably made some concerned about what governments were really trying to accomplish, while at the same time failing to give the public what it most needed: The kind of information it needed to make rational risk assessments and decisions.

An unpredictable side-effect has been a strange polarization in the debate, in which many people end up pro-freedom -- but against masks as such; or pro-masks -- and yet in favor of mask mandates, lockdowns, and all kinds of other improper government incursions in stated response to the pandemic. Our wrong-headed and heavy-handed governments have thus not only: (1) failed to inform the public about the purpose of masks; it has also led to (2) entrenchment of ignorance about them as pro-liberty people have (wrongly) grasped at straws to explain why they are a bad idea, and (3) ignorance about the proper purpose of government among those who did see their purpose -- and concluded that the government needed to make everyone wear them.

Worse of all, this eroded American individualism as some started relying on government guidance for things they could easily understand with some effort, and those who would remain independent were made to look foolish -- either by their bad anti-mask/proxy anti-mandate arguments or by association with the same.

Indeed, I find that I have to "explain myself" to people who fall on either side of this strange divide. I am pro-mask, anti-mask mandate. How odd! The next thing he's going to do is claim that personal freedom and economic freedom go hand-in-hand...

-- CAV

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