The ‘Pitiless Crowbars of Events’ Are Teaching Us Again

In a long-forgotten episode of “Family Guy,” baby Stewie is sitting at a baseball game with a souvenir ball. The child next to him, holding a souvenir bat, says he wants the ball, and Stewie offers to trade. The trade completed, Stewie bashes the other boy with the bat, reclaims the ball, and says “what have we learned.” Well, what have we learned over the past week, as coronavirus hysteria spread faster than the disease itself could do?

On the one hand, there is some humor in all of this. Many have noted on social media that we are about to discover which meetings could have been emails. The Babylon Bee, a satire site, “reported” that the nation’s parents were horrified to learn that they would have to parent their own children as schools across the nation closed.

Yet even this attempt at humor contains a serious point: To what extent have parents ceded control of the raising of their own children to the state? 

After more than a week of full-blown coronavirus panic, a number of salutary lessons have already been placed before us, if we would notice them. Governors are enacting questionable orders in the face of the panic and on Monday The Hill reported that the Senate is considering yet another economic stimulus package, à la 2008-2009. Because that worked so well the last time. 

The last thing the country needs is more cronyism, corruption, and wasted money.

The Federal Reserve has helpfully shown us what government by expertise means in practice. The Fed last week slashed interest rates in the name of propping up the economy. The result? The markets tanked. So Sunday, the central bank did the same thing. And wouldn’t you know it—we got the same results!

One can only conclude that either the “experts” at the Fed are beings of indescribable stupidity (the kind of people who stick a fork in an electric outlet over and over again), or they are intentionally wrecking the economy for some reason. Either conclusion should be instructive regarding slavish deference to the “expertise” of our supposed “elites,” and that lesson should carry over to other areas.

Various actors outside of our government have revealed themselves as well. Our news media has not exactly covered themselves in glory. The self-appointed guardians of the public interest have taken the threat of an infection which can do serious harm to certain populations but will not decimate the country in the way they suggest and intentionally created mass hysteria. While much of this can be attributed to a crass desire for ratings, it would be foolish to overlook the potential political dimensions of the crisis. 

It is time that we recognized that economic efficiency is not the sole test of the public good.

It is hard to believe that it is mere coincidence that the media began stirring this frenzy in the aftermath of the failure of the Democratic Party’s attempt to remove President Donald Trump by impeachment on the flimsiest of grounds. Couple that with the fact that this was almost the exact moment when the country realized that the Democrats are about to nominate the senile and corrupt Joe Biden for president, an even worse candidate than Hillary Clinton, if such a thing is possible.

It should go without saying that the Chinese Communist government cannot be trusted, and yet here we are. They have lied constantly to the rest of the world about the origins and scope of COVID-19. They have tried to cover up what they were doing in that research facility in Wuhan, and how the coronavirus got loose. Disturbing reports have emerged about the nature of the internal Chinese response.

Descending from personnel to policy, it is hard to avoid the lesson that “free trade,” understood as economic open borders, is a false idol. Over the course of the last several decades, America has allowed its productive capacity to atrophy in the name of lowering the price of goods. America’s lifesaving antibiotics are mostly imported. My own mother, a hospital operations manager in the Midwest, reports that her hospital’s robes and masks are produced in Hubei province, China, whose capital is . . . Wuhan. 

It is time that we recognized that economic efficiency is not the sole test of the public good. Besides creating jobs for American workers, public health and national security alike demand home production, and we need policies that encourage this production.

As we look at the effects of coronavirus on other countries, we ought not to miss the lesson that socialized medicine has produced very dubious outcomes in coping with this public health crisis.

Italy is most instructive in this regard. The Italians clearly lack the equipment, facilities, and personnel to deal with an outbreak, and they have reached the point of deciding not to treat elderly patients, who coincidentally are the most vulnerable to COVID-19. They simply don’t have the resources.

Whatever may be conceded to be the advantages of socialized medicine in terms of point-of-entry access, observers have long noted that, even in quiet times, such nations lack adequate specialist, critical, and advanced care resources. In a crisis situation, these problems become undeniable.

It is almost certain that reality will impart both additional lessons and further reinforcement for these lessons, in the very near future. It is also equally near-certain that we won’t learn them without repeatedly being bludgeoned by what Alexander Solzhenitsyn called “the pitiless crowbar of events.”

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About Kevin Portteus

Kevin Portteus is the Lawrence Fertig Professor of Politics and Director of American Studies at Hillsdale College.

Photo: Peter Summers/Getty Images

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