by Bob Barr
Next month will mark effectively one-year suffering under the COVID-19 virus. Here is the good, bad, and ugly about what we have learned about ourselves, and our country, when the chips are down.
The Good: Free Markets. With the exception of the genuinely unforeseeable panic-buying of paper supplies and disinfectants during COVID’s initial days, the free market did an outstanding job rising to meet spikes in demand. A flurry of new products hit the market, helping to fix product shortages of crucial items. Even breweries and distilleries, crippled by government-mandated closures, stepped up to make hand sanitizer at a time when supplies were strained. Most astoundingly, thanks to advancements in internet broadband technology (the result of keeping government out of the way by Republicans fighting odious regulatory measures like “Net Neutrality”), tens of millions of Americans were able to instantly pivot to “remote” work, saving the economy from certain collapse as government attempted to shut down virtually all in-person business.
However, the crowning achieve of the private sector during COVID was its development of COVID vaccines at historic speed, thanks to both technological developments and a demand by the Trump Administration that bureaucrats step out of the way as much as possible. Additionally, the private sector is developing not just vaccines at record speeds, but advanced treatment methods like synthetic monoclonal antibodies as well, which will potentially address new COVID variants far quicker than developing new vaccines – saving countless lives over the years.
None of these things would have been possible even a few years ago but are today only through private sector innovation and a push to rollback regulatory red tape.
The Bad: Bureaucratic Incompetence. There is perhaps no greater example of bureaucratic incompetence than the egregiously mismanaged distribution of lifesaving COVID vaccines. One would think that with nearly a year to prepare, health officials from local, state, and federal levels would have coordinated to make distribution quick and seamless. This could not be further from the truth. To be sure, health officials had their hands full with COVID in its initial phases, but their continued strategic and tactical decisions have been nothing short of disastrous – conjuring inexplicable and arbitrary guidelines about which businesses could stay open and which forced to close, lurching from “masks don’t work” to “double mask,” and generally shaming anyone who dared to question the human and economic damage behind “following the science.” However, one would think that the end game – vaccines – would have been given every resource needed to ensure smooth distribution. Instead, navigating the process for getting a vaccine appointment is like wandering blindfolded through a maze, and finding an open slot is more akin to playing the lottery than what is to be expected in a matter of life-and-death. Ironically, the vaccine process appears to be worst among states where government officials were most sanctimonious in their finger-wagging at citizens during COVID’s peak, like New York.
The Good: Return of Self-Reliance. The threats of COVID to disrupt both food supplies, as well as strain medical services to their limits placed a renewed focus on the importance of self-reliance. This was especially true as in the midst of the COVID pandemic, America also suffered through a frightening period of social unrest, where in many large cities citizens were left to fend for themselves as police resources were stretched impossibly thin, sometimes by government officials purposefully. While all of these critical systems bent to nearly their breaking points, we were lucky that they did not fully break. Nevertheless, there may come a time when we are not so lucky, but at least now citizens are more prepared for this contingency.
The Ugly: Disastrous Political Manipulation. From using the education of our children as a political weapon, to hiding the deaths of elderly citizens in New York nursing homes, COVID has brought out the very worst in Leftist political opportunism; and the consequences of this gamesmanship have been catastrophic for the most vulnerable among us. The Nation Education Association flexed its muscles ahead of the 2020 elections by intentionally making in-person schooling a partisan football. According to widely accepted medical and scientific data, in-person schooling was safe, even as other research revealed that students suffered greatly both academically and emotionally by being forced into “remote” schooling. Still, the NEA and its teacher members continue to refuse to go back to work. Given the monopoly Big Ed. has on the education of our children, keeping private alternatives away as a matter of law, their political manipulation of the education system is unconscionable.
One of the key questions moving forward, is whether these lessons will be not only learned but remembered and institutionalized. It also means holding those who deliberately failed in their duties, like New York Gov. Cuomo, accountable — a task likely to be far more difficult than developing a vaccine.