The Medical Slave State

"I’ll see you on the outside—68 days." "That’s in jail. You still don’t know where you’re at?" "Yeah, where am I at?" "With us, baby, you’re with us. And you gonna stay with us until we let you go."
— Randle McMurphy and Attendant Washington, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975)

This scene from the film adaptation of Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest offered up a cautionary tale nearly five decades ago that has tremendous relevance today. Because in that moment, Randle McMurphy, played by the great Jack Nicholson, realized he was in a situation he hadn’t bargained for and couldn’t control.

Decent Americans have no reason to empathize with Randle McMurphy, a character who was at the very least an incorrigible sociopath and a menace. But Americans today are in a situation they hadn’t bargained for, and they are rapidly losing control of their destiny.

Once whatever challenges Americans face are declared medical emergencies, it now appears they have no constitutional rights. All individual actions can now be controlled by executive fiat. If behavior that runs contrary to the objectives of America’s most powerful establishment institutions can be declared a pathology, the inconvenience of due process can be discarded. They’ll just put you in an asylum and throw away the key. They’ll lock you down. They’ll tell you where you can go, who you can see, what products you can consume, and what content you can watch.

Anyone who doubts this need only consider the events of the past nine months. A two-week “lockdown” to “slow the spread” has turned into a catastrophic shutdown with no end in sight. The entire nation has been turned into a medically supervised asylum as corporate elites mop up what’s left of independent businesses. Whatever chances America ever had of crawling out of debt have been drowned by trillions in new federal borrowing. Life in America may never be the same again.

The scariest thing about this medical usurpation of the constitutional rights of Americans is the precedent it has set. One may argue forever over whether or not the COVID-19 virus required this level of lockdown, but at least it was a virus. At least it was a genuine medical challenge. If this virus didn’t actually merit these measures, perhaps the next one will. But what if any agenda of social control can be medicalized?

The Medical Emergencies of “Systemic Racism” and Climate Change?

Don’t laugh. Already there are doctors willing to declare so-called “systemic racism” a public health emergency. With the lengths to which corporate America, the media, academia, the entertainment industry, and liberal politicians are already willing to go in the name of combating systemic racism, imagine how much further they’ll go once they’ve declared it a medical emergency? “Follow the science,” they will say. “Listen to the scientists.” Or the infantile phrase now used to make whatever statement it precedes beyond debate, “Science says….” And when “the scientists” decide systemic racism is a health emergency, politicians will be empowered to do whatever they want.

In the name of combating the health emergency of systemic racism, for example, forced integration of suburbs will become a matter beyond legal challenge. To be clear: Reasonable people don’t care if people of differing races move into their suburb and become their neighbors. What reasonable people object to is working all their lives to pay for a home in a safe, quiet neighborhood, and then having their taxes used to fund people moving in, becoming their neighbors, and living there for free.

Medicalization of political issues is sort of like the liberal rhetoric of compassion but more potent. It provides a powerful tool for self-aggrandizing opportunists, in an irony that utterly escapes rank and file liberals. For example, low-income multi-family housing, imposed scattershot into neighborhoods that were previously 100 percent single-family homes, offers financial windfalls to tax-subsidized investors. But now the hard-working residents who just want the people they live around to pay the same prices they did, and make the same sacrifices they did, aren’t just personally defamed as racists. Now they’re said to be suffering from a collective pathology. The cure, demanded because this is a health emergency, will undermine if not virtually erase their standing in court to object. Investors get rich. Residents get ruined. Racism is supposedly cured.

The “climate emergency” is also moving swiftly towards being defined as a health emergency, with all the streamlining of process and obliteration of constitutional rights inherent in such a declaration. It isn’t hard to see where this is going: micromanagement of virtually everything people do. To justify this, America’s elites, looking down from lofty heights, see a nation with a pathological need to overindulge in resource consumption. Sustainable options abound to address potential resource scarcity—clean natural gas, nuclear power, biomass conversion, hydropower, indoor agriculture, desalination, and eventually, commercial fusion. And of course, mass immigration is not inevitable, it’s a policy choice. More resources, slower population growth. Problem solved. But these options don’t allow opportunistic special interests to make more profit. They don’t allow America’s establishment elites to amass more power.

Turning environmentalism and the “climate emergency” into a health emergency, on the other hand, admirably fulfills the elitist goals of more profit and power. Cram people into the footprints of existing cities via “smart growth” in order to artificially inflate the value of entitled land. The rich get richer while everyone else no longer can afford rent or their mortgage payment. More and more voters demand subsidies. Artificially scarce, rationed energy and water deliver spectacular profits to the utilities, which collect a regulated percentage profit atop grossly inflated revenues, even while actually delivering less to consumers. High tech manufacturers deliver buggy, internet-enabled appliances that monitor and manage electricity and water consumption, and are obsolete within a few years. The plutocrats prosper. The people suffer. The planet is supposedly saved.

COVID Precedent Points Toward Future Slavery

Everything put in place to combat the COVID pandemic is furthering the creation of a medical slave state. A medical emergency was declared, everyone was told to go on lockdown, and with fitful exceptions, everyone went on lockdown. The population is now desensitized to the term “lockdown.” That a medical emergency can erase constitutional rights is now a fact, not conjecture. And the technology of surveillance and control has taken a giant leap forward with contact tracing, facial recognition, the inevitable tiers of privileges that will be attendant to individual vaccination status, and the fact that the American people, by and large, accept this.

The medical state, usurping constitutional rights, is now a reality poised to mutate and attack whatever realms serve the interests of the rich and powerful.

President Trump, on three critical issues—the pandemic, systemic racism, and climate change—has been a consistent voice of common sense. This fact, that Trump opposes alarmist overreaction to these issues, and without fear or hesitation exposes the hidden agendas behind the overreaction, is the real reason he is bitterly opposed by every establishment institution in America. President Trump is one of America’s last hopes to reverse the permanent medicalization of public policy, bypassing the constitution.

If Trump’s most implacable and powerful opponents had their way, they would lock him up in an asylum like Randle McMurphy. Unlike Kesey’s unforgettable character, however, President Trump is dangerously sane, as are his supporters. Watch out. The doctors, with paid-for diagnoses, are coming for all of you.

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About Edward Ring

Edward Ring is a senior fellow of the Center for American Greatness. He is also the director of water and energy policy for the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. Ring is the author of Fixing California: Abundance, Pragmatism, Optimism (2021) and The Abundance Choice: Our Fight for More Water in California (2022).

Photo: KrizzDaPaul/Getty Images

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