Skip to main content

Government at Any Level is Unfit to Run Your Life

In plain English this time. What is the right way to think about the risk of Covid? About three percent of people who get Covid are dying from it. That number drops precipitously for those outside a few well-defined risk groups (namely older adults and those with certain preexisting conditions). People do risky things every day. We all get in cars, some smoke cigarettes, and most of us eat things we know are unhealthy. Here’s a list of the top causes of death in the U.S. since the first confirmed Covid death: Heart disease (340,889), Cancer (299,358), Covid-19 (148,772), Lower respiratory disease (78,443), Stroke (78,350), Alzheimer’s (66,401), Diabetes (49,215), and Influenza/Pneumonia (30,216). In addition, car accidents cause about 38,000 deaths per year in the U.S. To reiterate: we get in cars, smoke cigarettes, and eat things we know are terrible for us. We do these things every day. We do them without thinking about it. 

Some caveats to the Covid numbers: there is reason to think the reported deaths may be higher than the actual deaths. The U.K. health department recently reduced their Covid death count by 11 percent, owing to a recognition that their methodology for counting such deaths was over-inclusive (the new methodology still includes deaths of people who tested positive for Covid in the last 4 weeks, regardless of the actual cause of death). Our own CDC Director is on record admitting that hospitals have a financial incentive to overreport how many lives Covid has claimed. We also don’t know how many people have such mild symptoms that they don’t know they’re sick, meaning that the three percent fatality rate is likely too high, both because there are fewer deaths and more exposures than have been reported. But even assuming the numbers are exactly right, total deaths from Covid in the U.S. are closer to the ninth leading cause of death (Septicemia, with 19,796) than they are to the second. 

So why does Covid inspire so much more fear than those other causes? Likely because it’s new. Fear of the novel isn’t, itself, novel. It’s as old as time. This is not a situation where there is nothing to fear but fear itself. Covid is serious. Some amount of fear is understandable. Certainly some caution is rational, especially for those in high risk categories and their caretakers. But it is not rational to let a disease that is usually mild induce a national panic. It is not rational to let fear of death diminish life as we know it. It is not rational to allow anyone else to override and deride our own individual judgments over how best to run our lives. Self determination, choosing the acceptable balance of risk and reward for ourselves and our families, is a precious freedom, not one to be handed over lightly— especially to those who fancy themselves central planners over every aspect of life. 

We need to weigh the real risks of our decisions against the known costs of the alternatives. And there are real costs to keeping the economy shuttered, only a few of which are financial. Some are emotional. Some are physical. Some are immediate, but others may not be recognized for years, and some may remain invisible. Then there are those that go to the heart of our national character. Are we learning to substitute edicts from on high for our own judgements in matters of our private affairs?    

Socialist central planning of the economy has proven utterly disastrous time and time again. What makes us think we have the ability or the right to dictate to people what health risks they are allowed to take? How can someone working in government who has never met you possibly know what’s best for you? Since no one knows the future, we often can’t be sure of the best choice for ourselves. But given that uncertainty, there is certainly no one qualified to weigh risk and reward for anyone else. There is dignity in choosing our own paths, bearing responsibility, and working through the consequences. A top-down mandate dictating how individuals navigate a temporary epidemic that is killing three percent of those who get it strips us of that dignity. It robs us of the responsibilities inherent to the human condition. It conditions us to accept subservience of our God-given faculties to the judgment of faraway bureaucrats. 

Here’s what lifting mandates - whether full lockdown or “only” mask requirements doesn’t mean: it doesn’t mean that everyone will be ordered to go to a crowded mall and lick the door handles. It doesn’t mean that anyone will be forced to go outside at all. It merely reopens that latter option to anyone who judges risks acceptable. Do you honestly believe that anyone anywhere, much less anyone in government, knows enough about you to override your judgment? 

Mike Davis is a Research Fellow at 1889 Institute. He can be reached at 

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official position of 1889 Institute.

Popular posts from this blog

Dear GT Bynum, Let the Children Play

I live close to a large City of Tulsa park that has a golf course, walking trail, green spaces, and a couple of playgrounds. My (almost) three-year old son loves the playgrounds, and often begs us during walks in our neighborhood to detour to “for-chun” (LaFortune Park). This seemingly innocent request can become a hassle when we don’t really have time, but we indulge him as much as possible. It’s good for kids to play outside, especially with other kids they might not otherwise come into contact with. But sometimes we have to contend with an upset toddler who doesn’t understand why we can’t go to the playground right this minute. I’m not complaining, every parent of young kids deals with similar stuff. But during the COVID lockdown, we’ve had to contend with an altogether different LaFortune Park situation with our son. As part of the mayor’s shelter-in-place overkill, all city-owned playgrounds were closed “ indefinitely .” This wasn’t a guideline or suggestion, the city meant busine

When It Comes to the Cox Center, “What if I Get to Meet a Movie Star?” Isn’t Good Enough

In a recent   post , 1889 Institute expounded on the fiduciary duty of elected officials “to act in the best interest of the people of the state as a whole,” a “high duty, executed as a public trust … wherein one puts the people’s interest above one’s own.” This fiduciary duty must not stop with elected officials. Once an elected body or an elected official – the legislature, a city council, the governor, or a mayor – has taken final action, the faithful implementation of each enacted law, policy, or program falls to an army of bureaucrats. Thus, a fiduciary duty to execute laws and policies with diligence and integrity, tantamount to that of elected officials, must extend to government employees. Recently, I had a few moments to sit down and watch a show with my children. Unsurprisingly, my son picked a series entitled “The Stinky and Dirty Show.” I was naturally skeptical that the show would yield any real value. However, as I watched, I found myself pleasantly surprised. Each episod

COVID Inspires Tyranny for the "Good" of Its Victims

The Christian philosopher, C.S. Lewis, once said, "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies." The moral busybodies C.S Lewis warns of reminds me of those who would have Americans give up their liberty to combat COVID-19.   A recent Oklahoman op-ed compared COVID-19 to World War II, stating that the number of deaths from COVID-19 is approaching the number that died fighting for this country and the freedoms it protects. This comparison is, of course, nonsense. This suggests that a virus with a high survivability rate is an equivalent threat to the Nazi and Japanese regimes that brutally murdered millions. The piece uses wartime rationing of meat and cheese, a sacrifice necessary to ensure men on the front lines had adequate nutrition, to justify Americans accepting counterproductive lockdowns in exchange for additional stimulus c

The High Duty of Elected Officials and Ways They Fall Short

With an election just completed (the alleged voting, anyway), a legislative session coming up, constant talk of spending to offset the impacts of COVID-19, and elected officials trying to mandate our way out of a disease, the duty of elected officials in their official positions is worth considering. The 1889 Institute recently published a booklet for state lawmakers that discusses various issues and possible solutions. Included in that booklet is a short discussion of the central duty of elected officials, which is expanded here. What is the central, over-arching duty of an individual after having been elected to public office? Public oaths of office give a strong hint, and the Oklahoma Constitution is a good place to start. Article XV includes the oath of office, which states that an Oklahoma public official swears to “support, obey, and defend” the constitutions of the nation and the state, that the official will not take bribes, and that the official will discharge duties as best