Reports from Mardi Gras, New Orleans, Louisiana, March 1, 2022, are that lockdowns and mandates are done. It was madness on the streets, more than ever. Forget “social distancing” restrictions. This was nothing but mayhem on steroids…or something much stronger.
Anthony Fauci would not approve.
As for the vaccine passports formally in effect in New Orleans, they are all but ignored. The party was canceled and banned last year but the revelry seemed twice as big as two years ago.
The backlash has finally arrived, and rightly so. But here’s what’s interesting. Nationwide, both cases and deaths attributed to Covid are higher now than they were in lockdown from the summer of two years and one year ago.
Hence, there is no “scientific” reason why Mardi Gras this year happened, complete with astonishing piles of trash on the streets today, and not last year. The difference is the realization that we’ve been trolled and very hard. What took place is the reaction to the action.
So too nationwide. States and localities are unwinding Covid restrictions as fast as politically possible.
It seemed for a time like vaccine mandates were going to spread from city to city, that masking would be permanent, that capacity restrictions would rule the day, that travel would be permission only.
The longer this nonsense went on, the more powerless we all felt to do anything about it.
There were always pockets of resistance, however, and they seemed to thrive as counterexamples. In the US, South Dakota never shut down and seemed all the better for it. Georgia opened against the president’s wishes and no disaster befell the state. Florida opened completely, then Texas, then many others.
The entire time, Sweden, once hated and now admired, was an imperfect but still meritorious example that not everyone had to go along.
Those examples were the anomalies that raised profound questions about the prevailing orthodoxy (to use Thomas Kuhn’s language). And this is precisely why the major media mostly ignored them.
But citizens did not: the conflict between locked down and open states led to a huge migration from the former to the latter. Now it’s rather obvious. Those jurisdictions that eschewed “expert” advice and sought another opinion are thriving.
And therein lies a hint as to what needs to happen in the future: people must choose freedom over tyranny else we are doomed. Certainly there is nothing about prevailing ruling-class ideology that has changed. They claim, as an excuse to cover their perfidy, that the science has changed. In reality, it hasn’t. It’s been known for two years.
What drove the reopening was not a change of mind by the “expert” class who did this to us but rather a dramatic shift in public opinion.
The Failure and the Threat
How confident can we be that this whole disaster will not repeat itself, whether in the name of stopping infectious disease or some other issues on the horizon? Sadly, we cannot be. There is a point to the Internet slogan: “It was never about a virus.” No question that there has been more going on and that the impositions on our lives that occurred in these two years had a larger purpose, at least for some people.
After all, it was Anthony Fauci who wrote in August 2020, five months after the lockdowns began, that:
Living in greater harmony with nature will require changes in human behavior as well as other radical changes that may take decades to achieve: rebuilding the infrastructures of human existence, from cities to homes to workplaces, to water and sewer systems, to recreational and gatherings venues. In such a transformation we will need to prioritize changes in those human behaviors that constitute risks for the emergence of infectious diseases. Chief among them are reducing crowding at home, work, and in public places as well as minimizing environmental perturbations such as deforestation, intense urbanization, and intensive animal farming. Equally important are ending global poverty, improving sanitation and hygiene, and reducing unsafe exposure to animals, so that humans and potential human pathogens have limited opportunities for contact.
Let’s just say that he is no fan of Mardi Gras!
This article is enough to reveal that there were bigger plans in place, such that aspects of lockdown would be retained and tweaked into permanency. And yet, for now, our existence won’t be rebuilt. We can still attend crowded house parties. We can live in cities. We can still grow and cut down trees. Also, it looks like Fauci is not coming for your pets.
What deserves credit for having blocked an even greater reset? Again, the answer is public opinion. The truckers, the protests, the polls, the anger evidenced in conversations with friends and colleagues, the online protests, the lawsuits, the people who picked up and left the lockdown states for open states, and every other metric that turned against the entire regime. This was also assisted by a swelling of wholly justifiable public fury that the pseudo-scientific nostrums foisted on the globe two years ago accomplished nothing and destroyed so many lives.
Somehow all of this prevailed, despite pervasive censorship, media shaming, and every effort on the part of the ruling regime, which routinely demonized dissent. All this represents a massive change from that which allowed pandemic policies to go into effect in the first place.
It was that initial fear that allowed for widespread acquiescence to dictates that hardly anyone would have thought possible only a few months earlier. We had rights and liberties and we assumed that there was some kind of structure in place that would prevent them from being taken away on the orders of government officials. Then one day, that structure failed. And it was because of fear.
The courts stopped working due to fear. The schools closed due to fear. Even the churches shut as they evidently failed to adhere to the advice of “Be not afraid.” And much of this fear was sown not only by Fauci and his friends but by the echo-chamber media minions who know better than to broadcast any fundamental questions.
What unraveled the restrictions and impositions was not success in crushing Covid, which is seasonal and was destined from the start to reach endemicity due mostly to exposure and resulting immunity, same as every similar virus in the history of humanity. What undid it was the force of mass resistance stemming from a seachange in public opinion that eventually adapted to the realities that were there from the very beginning.
It’s deeply tragic that it took nearly two years.
And yet, here is the terrifying reality. The emerging narrative we are hearing is that the controls can be allowed to go away due only to vaccines and milder variants. And this is why all the regulations, powers, and laws that allowed this to happen must still exist.
Indeed, nothing fundamental about that power has changed. The emergency powers at the federal and state level – and all over the world – still exist. And the presumption that public officials can grab total power in the event of a crisis of their own declaration is still very much alive.
You might have wondered what kind of law or regulation or legislation enabled lockdowns and mandates to begin with? It’s a complicated question with deep roots.
Saunter over to the CDC website and you find this page on the quarantine power. Here we find a long cruft of regulations, all stemming from the Public Health Service Act of 1944, amended many times through the decades. But if you consider the broadness of language even in the original legislation, you can see that they are ripe for abuse under the right conditions.
The surgeon general, with the approval of the Secretary [HHS], is authorized to make and enforce such regulations as in his judgment are necessary to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the States or possessions, or from one State or possession into any other State or possession. For purposes of carrying out and enforcing such regulations, the Surgeon General may provide for such inspection, fumigation, disinfection, sanitation, pest extermination, destruction of animals or articles found to be so infected or contaminated as to be sources of dangerous infection to human beings, and other measures, as in his judgment may be necessary.
That might seem reasonable at first glance because it seems to pertain to international trade and doesn’t apply to people. But keep reading.
Regulations prescribed under this section shall not provide for the apprehension, detention, or conditional release of individuals except for the purpose of preventing the introduction, transmission, or spread of such communicable diseases as may be specified from time to time in Executive orders of the President upon the recommendation of the Secretary, in consultation with the Surgeon General.
And here we have the qualifying case:
Regulations prescribed under this section may provide for the apprehension and examination of any individual reasonably believed to be infected with a communicable disease in a qualifying stage and (A) to be moving or about to move from a State to another State; or (B) to be a probable source of infection to individuals who, while infected with such disease in a qualifying stage, will be moving from a State to another State. Such regulations may provide that if upon examination any such individual is found to be infected, he may be detained for such time and in such manner as may be reasonably necessary.
That language has existed in law since 1944. So far as I know, the Public Health Service Act of 1944 has not been invoked in defense of lockdowns or federal powers; instead those were justified on generalized emergency powers. Still, Harvard law professor Jeannie Suk Gersen has written that:
The fact that Congress specifically authorized detaining the infected may be read to implicitly disallow the wider (yet less restrictive) measure of ordering even the healthy to only leave their homes for essential purposes. But because the statute allows the executive branch to issue regulations that are “necessary to prevent” the spread of contagious disease across state lines, the statute is arguably broad enough to include a federal stay-at-home order.
Sure, that would likely be struck down by courts – same as vaccine mandates and other features of lockdown – but courts take time to speak and act. We’ve seen how this works. It took as much as a full year before courts started striking down federal and state impositions on freedom.
It should not be this way.
Further, there are many documents floating around the bureaucracies right now (we need a full audit of them all) that go much further and essentially presume that locking down is a power that government possesses and can be invoked any time an elected leader desires it to be so.
Consider the plan hammered out in 2005 to deal with the Avian bird flu that never made the leap from animals to people. Good thing too: this plan was utterly egregious, however widely ignored. Here is the plan in PDF.
Here we find that a “pandemic requires the leveraging of all instruments of national power, and coordinated action by all segments of government and society.” It allows “governmental authorities to limit non-essential movement of people, goods and services into and out of areas where an outbreak occurs.” It insists that “social distancing measures, limitations on gatherings, or quarantine authority may be an appropriate public health intervention.” This “may include limitation of attendance at public gatherings and nonessential travel for several days or weeks.”
Keep in mind that all of this existed in the CDC’s administrative documents for the last 17 years!
And consider this: this entire plan is still part of the powers that the CDC claims for itself right now. Nothing has changed. It’s right here on the CDC website, exactly as it existed 17 years ago. If there is a web page that constitutes civilization’s ticking time bomb, this is it.
We won’t be fully safe until the powers and all existing lockdown plans are completely taken away from public-health authorities. The efforts at reform should start with this 2005 document, which, so far as I know, was never voted in as part of law by any legislative body. Then in light of our experience in the last two years, the powers granted under the 1944 Public Health Service Act need to be gutted as well.
Lockdowns and mandates are melting not because of any fundamental rethinking by public authority but because the people finally stood up to the outrageous bullying, the egregious attacks on normal social and market functioning, the threats made to people’s livelihoods and professions, and the incredible wreckage that resulted from a seemingly simple presumption that the best way to control disease spread is with controlling people rather than relying on long public-health experience.
Consider that the powers and plans to do this still exist. They can do it again. Mardi Gras can be canceled again. You can be locked in your home. Your church, business, gym, and favorite watering hole can be closed.
They have promised as much. This is what needs to change. If the experience of the last two years doesn’t inspire a fundamental rethinking of the relationship between freedom and public health, nothing will. For anyone who cares about the future of freedom and civilization, this has to be a priority.
Originally posted at The Brownstone Institute
About the author: Jeffrey A. Tucker is Founder and President of the Brownstone Institute and the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press and ten books in 5 languages, most recently Liberty or Lockdown. He is also the editor of The Best of Mises. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture. firstname.lastname@example.org