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Jeffrey A. Tucker

The Economic Meltdown Has Roots in Lockdown

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American’s capacity for denial is truly a thing to behold. For at least 27 months, it should have been obvious that we were headed for a grave crisis. Not only that: the crisis was already here in March 2020. 

For weird reasons, some people, many people, imagined that governments could just shut down an economy and turn it back on without consequence. And yet here we are. 

Historians of the future, if there are any intelligent ones among them, will surely be aghast at our astounding ignorance. Congress enacted decades of spending in just two years and figured it would be fine. The printing presses at the Fed ran at full tilt. No one cared to do anything about the trade snarls or supply-chain breakages. And here we are. 

Our elites had two years to fix this unfolding disaster. They did nothing. Now we face terrible, grim, grueling, exploitative inflation, at the same time we are plunging into recession again, and people sit around wondering what the heck happened.
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The Origin and Operation of the US Administrative State

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On July 2, 1881, only four months into the first term of President James A. Garfield, an angry attorney from Illinois named Charles J. Guiteau shot Garfield in the torso at a Baltimore, Maryland, train station. Guiteau had a motive. He was furious because he believed, due to his work for the campaign, that Garfield would give him a job in the new administration. But none was forthcoming. It was revenge. Garfield died of the wounds months later. 

It was a shocking thing. Congress immediately got to work figuring out how to prevent the next assassination. They had the theory that they needed to end the system of patronage in government so that way people wouldn’t get mad and shoot the president. Not a very good theory but this is how politics works. The result was the Pendleton Act that created a permanent civil service. The new president, Chester Arthur signed the bill in 1883. It was done: the administrative state was born. 

What Congress did not understand at the time was that they had fundamentally altered the American system of government. The Constitution nowhere provides for a permanent class of administrative overlords to whom Congress could outsource its authority. It nowhere said that there would exist a machine technically under the Executive branch that the president could not control. The Pendleton Act created a new layer of statist imposition that was no longer subject to democratic control.
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Must We Make a Case Against Dictatorship?

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Some federal officials have made startling statements in recent days. Given the times in which we live, we can no longer take for granted that they won’t be convincing. 

Ever since lockdowns, which shattered all our social and political rituals and assumptions about government and public health, it seems like everything is open to either question or adoption. Even settled conventions like the separation of powers and checks and balances are being blithely dismissed as pointless distractions. 

On the table now is the power of an unelected bureaucracy, on its own authority and without any juridical check, to mandate that every citizen keep his or her face covered. The Biden administration and the administrative state that technically falls under its purview seems to believe this power should never be questioned by a court. 

And if that is true, that should also be true in every area of public life. The Department of Labor can make any rule, no matter how cockamamie, as it pertains to paid work. The Department of Agriculture can tell farmers, or even home gardeners, what they can plant and how much. And so too for every other one of the hundreds of government agencies staffed with permanent workers.
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The Unmasking of America

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The polls on coercive Covid responses were never entirely trustworthy, not even from the beginnings of lockdowns. This happens when everyone knows what they are supposed to believe and say. The polled don’t really trust the voice on the other end. After weeks of disease panic and media figures screaming that everyone should stay home, mask up, fire up their laptops, order Amazon, and fork over for a Netflix subscription – because this is the only way to deal with a pandemic – people knew exactly what to say when asked.
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Forget About Covid, They Say

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Earlier this year, a phrase was trending because Bari Weiss used it on a talk show: “I’m done with Covid.” Many people cheered simply because the subject has been the source of vast oppression for billions of people for two years. 

There are two ways to be over Covid. 

One way is to do what the memo from the consultants of the Democratic National Committee suggested: declare the war won and move on. For political reasons. 

Deaths attributed to Covid nationally are higher now than they were in the summer of 2020 when the whole country was locked down. They are also higher now than during the election of November the same year. But today we are just supposed to treat it for what it is: a seasonal virus with a disparate impact on the aged and frail. 

Rationality is back! In that sense, it’s good to forget about Covid if it means living life normally and behaving with clarity about what does and does not work to mitigate a virus. The Democrats decided that the hyper-restrictionist ways were risking political fortunes. Hence, the line and the talking points needed to change.
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They Are Still Defending Lockdowns

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Fifteen years ago, writers schooled in computer science began to imagine various totalitarian schemes for pandemic control. Experienced public health officials in 2006 warned that this would lead to disaster. Donald Henderson, for example, went through the whole list of possible restrictions, shooting them down one by one. 

Still, a decade and a half later, governments all over the world tried lockdowns anyway. And sure enough, since April of 2020, scholars have observed that these lockdown policies haven’t worked. The politicians preached, the cops enforced, citizens shamed each other, and businesses and schools did their best to comply with all the strictures. But the virus kept going with seeming disregard for all these antics. 

Neither oceans of sanitizer, nor towers of plexiglass, nor covered mouths and noses, nor crowd avoidance, nor the seeming magic of six feet of distance, nor even mandated injections, caused the virus to go away or otherwise be suppressed. 

The evidence is in. Restrictions are not associated with any particular set of virus mitigation goals. Forty studies have shown no connection between the policy (egregious violations of human liberty) and the intended outcomes (diminishing the overall disease impact of the pathogen).
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Now is the Time for Mass Resignations from Within the Ruling Class

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If there is a historical precedent for the truckers’ revolt in Canada, and the populist protests in so many other parts of the world, I would like to know what it is. It surely sets the record for convoy size, and it is historic for Canada. But there is much more going on here, something more fundamental. The two-year imposition of bio-fascist rule by diktat seems ever less tenable – the consent of the governed is being withdrawn – but what comes next seems unclear. 

We now have two of the most restrictive “leaders” in the developed world (Justin Trudeau of Canada and Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand) hiding in undisclosed locations, citing the need to quarantine following Covid exposure. Streets globally have filled up with people demanding an end to mandates and lockdowns, calling for accountability, pushing for resignations, denouncing privileged corporations, and crying out for a recognition of basic freedoms and rights. 

Note too that these movements are spontaneous and from “below:” they are populated mostly by the very workers whom governments shoved to face the pathogen two years ago, while the ruling class hid behind their laptops in their living rooms. It was the lockdowns that sharply divided the classes and the mandates that are imposing segregation. Now we are facing a modern allegory to the peasants’ revolt in the Middle Ages.
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Justin Trudeau Ducks the Great Trucker Revolt

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The resistance reveals itself always in unexpected ways. As I type, thousands of truckers (numbers are in flux and are in dispute) are part of a 50-mile-long convoy in Canada, headed to the capital city of Ottawa in protest against an egregious vaccine mandate imposed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. They will be joined upon arrival by vast numbers of protestors who are defying the restrictions, closures, and mandates of the last nearly two years.
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Why Is the Human Being Not Like a Machine?

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In defense of regulatory mandates during oral arguments, the following words were spoken by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor: “Why is a human being not like a machine if it’s spewing a virus?” For her, it is a simple matter: regulatory impositions rule the machine world so why not the human one too? 

The question came across to listeners (millions heard these arguments for the first time) as shocking. How can anyone think this way? Human beings carry pathogens, tens of trillions of them. Yes, we infect each other, and our immune systems adapt as they have evolved to do. Still, we have rights. We have freedom. These have granted us longer and better lives. 

The Bill of Rights doesn’t pertain to machines. Machines don’t comply with Constitutions. Machines have no volition. Machines are things that must be powered by external sources, programmed by humans, and behave exactly as they are managed to behave. If a machine doesn’t do what is expected, it is broken and therefore repaired or replaced. 

All this seems incredibly obvious and undeniable, so much so that one can only stand back in awe that anyone would doubt it, particularly a judge who holds the fate of human liberty in her hands. It seems utterly astonishing that such a person would not quite grasp the difference between the human experience and a mechanized widget.
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They Said They Would Slow the Spread

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It’s been the most astonishing two weeks for American public life, with so many prescient changes, from new censorships, admissions, backtracks, experts speaking out, public outrage, and what strikes me as a progressive unraveling of every orthodoxy imposed nearly two years ago. 

Not even the influential and powerful are in a position to defend what has happened to us. They seem to be gradually pulling away from public life, unable to say things that connect to what everyone knows. 

Above all else, what’s remarkable right now is the undeniable arrival of Covid to a degree to which hardly anyone could have imagined all that time ago, when so many experts set out to deploy their fabulous new system for stopping the spread of a disease.
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