Politicians are such sycophants. Take the Governor in my own state of Delaware. He’s not special in this regard. I’m noting him because I happen to live in Delaware, a small but beautiful state on the sea. In Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”, or in Orwell’s “1984”, Delaware’s Governor would be a minor villain.
Yesterday he yammered on about how he wants people exercising and going outside during the crisis. “Oh, thank you Governor. I wasn’t going to exercise, but since my Governor wants me to exercise and go out, I will do so.” Thank goodness I have a bright, caring Governor who will tell me what to do.
But then, he’s now complaining, too many people went to the beach yesterday. It was a brilliant, warm day yesterday. That’s what people do, even when all the businesses are shut down. So now he might close down the beaches too. But not the state parks. Because you can exercise there, and he wants you to exercise. Some of the state parks are on the beach. So what then?
Then again, he might not do anything. So is this a threat? Is he just thinking out loud? Is he testing the waters? Does it all come down to how he thinks he looks to others? That’s how career politicians act in every other situation. So why not this one too?
I’m sure rational people in California have even more stories to tell.
There are rumors about “lockdown” in my state. Being a Democrat, Governor Carney will probably want to follow the lead of California’s fascist Democrat, who locked down his state in the same arbitrary, open-ended way. It appears exceptions are granted when the Governor feels they’re warranted. I suppose when he feels otherwise, you could be thrown in jail.
So it seems inevitable we will get lockdown in Delaware. Dr. Fauci is making noises about a national lockdown. He dreams of one, from his perch in the Imperial City where he has lived comfortably for decades, and where you can better believe his lifestyle will not be interrupted for coronavirus.
I can’t schedule people in my office who want psychological help in the coming week, because the Governor might or might not shut things down, based on his feelings. And it might or might not happen Monday, Wednesday, five minutes from now, or maybe ever. My problems are far less dire than other small business owners. I fear for them more, because I can largely work online or by phone. Many of these small businesses will perish, even if this crisis only lasts a few more weeks.
Ayn Rand wrote about all this in “Atlas Shrugged”. It’s starting to feel like the final chapters of that novel. The context was different. Years and years of arbitrary government regulations, manipulation and subsidies brought civilization to an end in that book. In a way, it’s the same thing now. The years and years of dysfunctional and corrupt intervention in the economy, and the relentless thwarting of liberty by statist, lecturing, power-hungry politicians, have cumulatively made us overly vulnerable to a single crisis. Like a house of cards, more ready to collapse than it ever seemed at the time.
Coronavirus, according to the evidence our own government officials give us, seems somewhat less serious than the Spanish flu of 1918-20 (which civilization survived even without our modern medicine), and somewhat more serious than the regular flu. It’s a concern. It’s not a candidate for being the end of our economy and the initiation of a totalitarian state, as happened in “Atlas Shrugged”, “1984”, “It Can’t Happen Here” and other similar books of fiction. But here we are.
In Delaware, this is the same Governor who shut down restaurants a few days ago. Initially, it was just bars. Then he abruptly shut all restaurants down, after sending some signals he wouldn’t. Then he abruptly allowed alcohol carry out, in a partial reversal. What will come tomorrow, or an hour from now? You get the image of him looking to see what everyone else is doing and making decisions from there. But it’s not just him. They are ALL like this — all the career politicians. They are all frightened and clueless. Yet we allow them to be in charge of absolutely everything and hope for the best. Seriously?
Small business owners have no clue as what to do. They are struggling, and even two-week or three-week closures will shut them down for good. It’s one thing to go through a crisis over a defined period of time. A small business has a chance of surviving if it can rationally plan. But the closures are all open-ended, capricious and arbitrary. It’s because they are being decided by people who honestly have no idea what they’re doing. It transcends party lines. Ohio’s Republican Governor is truly a despot, who refuses to listen to court decisions. Businesses will be reopened when the Governor feels like it. Maybe in a week. Or a month. Or six months. Never. Who knows?
You might say, “Well, how is any Governor to know how long the crisis will last?” American leaders didn’t know how long WW II would last. My response is, “If he’s to be given life or death authority over people’s long-term livelihood and economic survival, maybe he should have a clue as to how long the crisis will last. And if he sincerely has NO clue, then maybe he shouldn’t be making these decisions.” World War II had an objective endpoint. When Hitler’s regime and the Japanese regime were defeated and crushed — as, happily, they were — we’d know it was over. In the current context, there is no such defined outcome. It’s only when this or that Governor says it’s over. And as for the federal level — well, it seems to be when Dr. Fauci says it’s over.
Look at what’s happening. The Governors start out by saying, “The number of coronavirus cases are growing. That justifies closing more places down”. The implicit premise? Shutting down businesses will slow or stop the spread of coronavirus. But that’s not what’s happening. Coronavirus is growing. We shut things down, and the virus still spreads. Delaware’s Governor blames the citizens! He says they’re going outside too much … after he ordered them to go outside and exercise. The sheep will take it — but only, I hope, to a point. Resistance will come, and it may already be starting in small passive-aggressive forms, which makes these petty tyrants so angry. They don’t care about people. They care about their reputations, and about mattering. The way they get to experience mattering is by seeing people follow their arbitrary and contradictory orders.
The good news is that people still seem to be recovering from coronavirus, in most cases. It’s particularly true in America. We don’t know why, and we should learn as much as we can and as quickly as we can. Coronavirus is still spreading. So did SARS and so did H1N1 a few years back. They were a concern, and they should have been a concern; but civilization did not shut down.
What’s so different now? No answer is given. I think most of us know the answer. He’s sitting in the White House. A landslide victory for this President to show the dishonest media and their hacks throughout the government would be a deeply satisfying thing. I am disappointed by the President listening to Dr. Fauci too much and caving to the Democrats so quickly on the need for tax cuts and regulation relief in an economic crisis. But I know we’d have a much bigger calamity on our hands with Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton sitting in his seat. President Trump does have a remarkable ability for self-correction, and I am counting on that now.
President Trump is going up in the polls — even the biased ABC polls — for his handling of the crisis. He richly deserves it, despite his errors. However, a victory in the far-off fall is not going to undo the economic and social-psychological damage already done in the span of this one week alone.
It’s very, very sad. We have to hope it doesn’t morph into a tragedy.
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