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It’s legal to ride a motorcycle, bungee jump, and big wave surf. Quick question: how many of you have done any of the three?

Though we’re free to actively pursue all three risky forms of sport, most of us don’t because we’re fearful, or we’ve deduced that the health risk is greater than the reward. With big wave surfing alone, supposedly the wipeout portion of the act is the equivalent of a lint ball in the proverbial dryer. Terrifying. There are things we just don’t do because we’re reasonable human beings.

This came to mind while reading a news item about citywide lockdowns in Macau. It seems the coronavirus is spreading there, and in response Chinese officials have imposed strict stay-at-home rules in the Asian gambling mecca. Other than grocery stores and businesses providing “essential services,” everything else is shuttered. Oh well, it seems gambling would amount to a pretty essential service for residents of a town built on gambling, but those businesses and those they employ are out of luck. A virus is spreading that causes sickness, don’t you know?

The answer to the above question is Yes, which is the point. Word travels fast, even without government. This is particularly true in the age we’re in now where we carry supercomputers in our pockets. We know things quickly, but even in eras defined by relatively primitive technology (think the mid-19th century), hundreds of thousands from around the world found their way to northern California in search of gold. Again, word travels fast, which is also the point.

A combination of these two points speaks to the impressive absurdity of lockdowns two years and four months ago, and it also speaks to the absurdity of ongoing government hysteria now. As humans it’s our nature to avoid what may bring us harm, and this includes illness. One way we do so is via word of mouth. When a virus is spreading, so is word of the health implications.

Yet governments are still pursuing lockdown as a strategy. Why? Really, who among us needs to be forced to do what’s in our best interest?

Some will nod along to the above question, while responding to themselves that only the 2020 lockdowns were justified. We didn’t know. Actually, the fact that we didn’t know was the best argument of all for doing nothing. Precisely because “we didn’t know,” free people were essential so that we could know. Freedom is its own virtue, plus free people produce information. By approaching what is said to threaten in myriad different ways, free people create crucial information about best practices to avoid a virus, or not, plus their unfettered actions produce essential knowledge about who is most at risk, and who isn’t.

So while the taking of freedom is never, ever justified, in a pure economic sense you could make the argument that “lockdowns” of certain people (think elderly, very sick) in the here and now would in some hideous way be more justified based on much greater knowledge of who is threatened. To be clear about the previous sentence, it’s in no way a call for lockdowns or the taking of freedom. It’s just a simple statement that we know more today than we did, and because we do, we know that really the only demographic facing very minor risk from the virus is old people. Lock them down? No. Never take away freedom and never give it up. Really, who among old people would need to be forced to be more cautious when the coronavirus is rapidly spreading?

About what’s been written so far, the not-so-unreasonable guess is that readers who swing Right would agree with it more than those who swing Left. Who knows why, but it seemed during the height of the lockdowns that Lefties took serious pride in handing over their lives and freedom to “experts” and “politicians.” Should members of the Right be smug?

Yes and no. While conservatives generally didn’t and don’t fall for the hysteria surrounding the virus, and don’t seem to be masking themselves and “boosting” themselves as aggressively as their reliably terrified ideological opponents, they’re presently pursuing their own form of needless intervention through their heated calls for a “tighter” Federal Reserve. In doing so, they’re playing right into the hands of politicians who took their freedom in March of 2020. Think about it.

And in thinking about it, think back to the mass global unemployment that resulted from the lockdowns. The tragic job loss around the world eviscerated untold billions of commercial relationships entered into by millions and millions of businesses over the decades. This remarkable global symmetry logically resulted in prices that fell and fell, and fell. Such is the result of rampant specialization of human and automated “hands” the world over. Then our freedom was taken. That prices are higher today is a loud statement of the obvious. Except that command-and-control’s bitter fruits aren’t inflation. Inflation is devaluation of the currency.

This is useful because conservatives who properly abhorred the lockdowns are now calling on the Fed to “do something” about inflation. A Fed “behind the curve” must get ahead of it with rate hikes. Why?

If we ignore that rising amounts of lending would be the surest sign of a lack of inflation, the better question to ask parallel to the questions about the virus is why the need for government intervention? Assuming the dollar is in decline, lenders don’t need the Fed to do what they would logically already do. If the value of a currency is in decline, those lending it out will logically raise the interest cost of doing so to compensate themselves for the devaluation.

Just as we required no intervention in response to a spreading virus, we similarly require no intervention from central banks now. That lending has nothing to do with inflation isn’t the point. What is the point is that whatever has conservatives up in arms is - if a real threat - something that private actors will take care of. That the theoretically most perilous times require freedom the most is something conservatives rhetorically believe, but reject in their actions. That’s too bad.

John Tamny is editor of RealClearMarkets, Vice President at FreedomWorks, a senior fellow at the Market Institute, and a senior economic adviser to Applied Finance Advisors (www.appliedfinance.com). His most recent book is When Politicians Panicked: The New Coronavirus, Expert Opinion, and a Tragic Lapse of Reason. 

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