Echoing President Trump’s recent remarks, Pat Buchanan wonders if the extreme measures being used to fight the coronavirus might not do more harm than good. He writes (abridged):
“We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself,” tweeted the president on Sunday night, adding that, after the current 15-day shutdown, “we will make a decision as to which way we want to go.”
President Trump is said to be privately expressing a deepening concern at the damage the coronavirus shutdown is doing to the U.S. economy and debating whether it can be safely reopened.
Though castigated for his remark, Trump has a point.
The U.S. is rightly using extreme measures to meet the threat and control the virus that threatens the lives of millions of Americans, with the elderly sick foremost among them. And we need to do so without killing the economy upon which scores of millions of other Americans depend.
Clearly, America was unprepared for this pandemic.
Close the businesses where these Americans work and you terminate the paychecks on which they depend to pay the rent and buy the food and medicines they and their families need to shelter and live. And if the salaries and wages on which workers depend are cut off, how are these millions of newly unemployed supposed to live?
The free market system that is the legacy of Hamilton and the Founding Fathers is the world’s best design for the distribution of goods and services and ensuring prosperity. And in a population where life expectancy is decades beyond what it was in the early 20th century, there are government programs to provide the necessities of life for those who can no longer access or afford them.
And if, by government command, America’s free economy is partly shut down as unessential in this medical crisis, the government could be responsible for imposing the conditions that lead to social disorder.
At some point, the country is going to have to open up the supply chains and take the risks to let the market work to provide food — or people will engage in panic buying, hoarding and using any means to get what they need for themselves and their families.
Reports of folks in this heavily armed nation stocking up on guns and ammunition suggest a widespread apprehension of what may be coming.
Lest we forget: In the greatest crisis in this nation’s history, in which the issue was whether the American Union would be severed into two nations, Abraham Lincoln suspended the right of habeas corpus, shut down state legislatures, closed newspapers, jailed journalists and was prepared to arrest the chief justice. And for the dictatorial measures he took, and for waging the bloodiest war in U.S. history, against fellow Americans, Lincoln is now regarded by many as our greatest president.
By Patrick J. Buchanan