Conservative writers and pundits haven’t done too well this past year, and many of them turned out not even to be especially “conservative.” One oft-repeated prediction was that once the Democrats had taken over, COVID-19 would disappear overnight. This was based on the supposition that the panic was created or at least amplified to get Donald Trump out of office. To take just one example, the American Medical Association shortly after the election rescinded its statement against the use of hydroxychloroquine, admitting that the drug could actually be beneficial (just as Trump had claimed all along). The AMA, like the mainstream media and other ultra-Left pressure groups, had been perfectly happy for more people to die as long as it made Trump look bad.
But conservatives who predicted that COVID-19 would end with the Trump Administration were overlooking a central point: The Left’s hatred of Trump is merely a symptom of their guiding philosophy, which is, as “Yes, Minister” put it so concisely back in the 1970s, gradually to exclude people from government. The Left is in favor of any action that will expand the authority of bureaucrats by taking decisions out of the hands of citizens.
With the coronavirus, the Left is beside itself with glee: This is the first crisis since 9/11 broad enough to make possible a fundamental transformation of American society.
Crisis and Opportunity (To Expand Government)
Every great crisis in American history, without exception, has been used to expand government. The greater the crisis, the greater the scope for expansion: 9/11 led to the NSA monitoring the traffic of the entire internet. It also created the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA, with the power to ruin air travel forever and give passengers a taste of how they’d feel being processed into a federal penitentiary. Of course Israel, facing a much more persistent terror threat, manages to keep terrorists off planes without touching their passengers’ privates. America’s security measures—which will never go away—were not a result of what needed doing, but what the government thought they could get away with doing.
In the 1930s, the Great Depression was used as an opportunity to create a welfare state in America and issue every citizen with an identification number, which we call Social Security. The Depression didn’t actually go away until World War II, and, once it did go away, the massive new government programs remained. In the 1860s, the Civil War was also an opportunity to impose an income tax for the first time in American history. The income tax was unconstitutional, so it wasn’t until another great looming crisis—World War I—that the constitution was amended to make the income tax a permanent feature of our lives.
The reason coronavirus so delights today’s Left is that the public response to their power grab has been overwhelmingly docile: The numbers of deaths are vastly below historic health panics, even with generous inflation via guidelines encouraging doctors to record anyone who previously had the virus as having died from it.
Even so, the government was able to lock people in their homes for a “two-week period” that turned out to be roughly a year, destroy much of the hospitality sector of the economy, force people to cover their faces in public as though living under a secular sharia, and, perhaps best of all, they got neighbors to snitch on neighbors and children to report their parents when these edicts weren’t followed.
It has been a bonanza. The everyday American citizen will always remember 2020 as a painful, terrible, soul-crushing year. For the Left, that makes it one of the best years on record. It is one of those great years in which they changed how Americans live.
They need only to cement this victory by making those changes permanent.
On the Road to Tyranny
It is true that, right after the election, we suddenly got the previously withheld news of two effective vaccines. And it’s also true that, as soon as Biden was inaugurated, COVID-19 cases took a nosedive. But the Left wouldn’t want you to think that the danger has lessened. This is why the Biden Administration suggested that social distancing and mask-wearing will continue to be vital, even once the entire population is inoculated. They don’t want the pandemic to go away: A successful Biden Administration is not one in which coronavirus disappears, it is one in which Americans accept wearing masks for the rest of their lives.
Examine the box of masks you recently bought and you’ll probably see a small disclaimer on the side: “Not for medical use.” The masks the government has forced us to wear wouldn’t be acceptable in any hospital. Bring this up to a well-intentioned mask-mandate supporter, and he’ll say that the non-medical masks are still good because they reduce the spread of ‘droplets’ from sneezes and coughs, which will reduce the spread of the virus. What this amounts to is admitting that the entire nation has been compelled to wear masks for a year as an alternative to covering our mouths when we sneeze.
Or maybe we should be forced to up the mask mandate to medical-grade. That is what they’re doing right now in Germany: Medical masks must be worn by all citizens at all times. Meanwhile, in Paris, a curfew has been imposed, which ironically makes the shops and streets more crowded because everyone must be home by 6 p.m. These are incremental steps on the road to tyranny: They don’t necessarily increase public safety—they may harm it. But they do give the government more power, and that is the important thing, the operative goal. Europe is a few steps ahead of America in its gradual dissolution of democracy, but America will follow just as fast as the public is willing to tolerate.
Meanwhile, big corporations play ball because it helps destroy smaller competitors who can’t keep up. For example, spring training is to begin shortly. Even though the Mets will be playing in Florida, which is completely open (and a wonderful slice of normal life it is!) the Mets will limit capacity at these practice games to 20 percent, enforce “pod” seating, and require that fans wear masks for the entire duration of the game despite their being outside and nowhere near anyone else. These ridiculous rules exist because the sport is controlled by Major League Baseball Enterprises, Inc., which can take advantage of this opportunity, among other things, to use a prohibition on ticket resales to crush apps like Stubhub and Ticketmaster that were making professional sports so much more affordable.
Industry leaders across the board invite additional restrictions so they can ride on their capital reserves while smaller companies and independent businesses die off. The motivation is the same as when the tech giants ask the government “please regulate us”: Regulations are an anti-competitive gift to established industry leaders. Big companies get to sound virtuous, asking for additional rules in the name of public safety or consumer protection, with the hidden but real goal of crushing competitors through compliance costs. Look at the most regulated industries, from medicine to aviation, and you’ll invariably find the greatest ossification and the least innovation, combined with the lowest satisfaction. Coronavirus has created a wonderful new competition-killing regulatory opportunity.
Reject the “New Normal”
Americans are big-hearted and generous, with a desire to protect their fellow man. They have sacrificed their livelihoods, their comfort, their happiness. The government and the big political donors are taking advantage of this spirit of generosity.
Americans can fight back not just by supporting small businesses, but by rejecting coronavirus restrictions, and helping businesses reject them. Refuse to wear a mask. If a store owner asks you to put a mask on, tell him it doesn’t bother you if he takes his mask off. The sky won’t fall. Refuse to comply and help your neighbors to refuse to comply. Stores and restaurants fear regulators fining them out of business, and that is where big conservative donors and crowd-funding campaigns must step in. Sponsor small businesses to fight. Not to pay their fines—to fight, in court. Argue disparate impact. Argue lack of equal protection. Argue exceeding constitutional authority. Fight these regulations everywhere.
And reject the “new normal.” It is safe, and for the health of society, it is imperative that we return to the old normal, where you could see your friends whenever you wanted, shake hands, travel to families, see peoples’ faces on the street. We are stronger together—and that means actually together, not the Orwellian version where we are “together” in total isolation. 2020 was the year of government overreach. Make 2021 the year of organized civil disobedience and friendly reunions. The pandemic is over.