I have been paying attention to recent news stories about police confronting and arresting people who are disobeying the lock down orders. I presume that I do not know the full story, that there may be more that may change my impression if I knew them. As a result, I’m only considering my impressions about the basic story.
One story is of a police raid with weapons drawn to disperse customers of a declared non-essential business that re-opened in defiance of the lock down orders. I see government employees who have paying jobs (with job security) ordering a business owner to keep his business closed, and his source of income shut off.
Another story is of a business owner opening in defiance of a shut down order and immediately confronted by reporters who have paying jobs that the government deems essential, the reporters ridiculing and shaming the owner for being selfish for wanting the same thing they have: doing a job that is essential for that person. Later that same owner gets confronted by police doing their paid jobs by coercing the owner to not do his. Later that same owner gets summoned to court to be reprimanded by a judge, another government employee with a paid essential job, where the judge insists on an apology for disobeying an order to stay shut down. Even later, that same owner gets sent to jail with a waiting fine where the jailers are still more government employees with paid essential jobs. All for the crime of wanting to a job that the government thinks is not as essential as the government worker’s jobs.
Yet another story is of people reporting their neighbors and local businesses to the police. The reporting neighbors have comfortable incomes, perhaps working from home, or perhaps living on pensions or welfare. The police doing their essential and paid jobs arrive to issue a citation to the reported business demanding that that business cease its non-essential operations that happen to be that person’s ability to make a living independently of government.
Yet another story is of someone being confronted at their home by paid essential workers wearing badges to be told that they must keep their children from visiting neighbors and to not allow the neighbors’ children to visit them.
In several of these stories, the paid essential government workers are confronting working-age people who have families and who have employees with their own families. The paid essential government workers are insisting that circumstances dictate that all these families are not permitted to pursue an income of their own.
Meanwhile, the government is compensating with cash payments for what the government considers a minor inconvenience of forcing people to not work. The insult of being denied the option of working is compounded with the indignity of having to rely on someone else. The people making these new compensation packages have paid essential government jobs, and they just happen to give themselves a raise. All of this is added to debt that will require future taxes to service.
Initially, it made sense to designate some activities as more essential than others. I didn’t imagine that would so rapidly devolve where essential-jobs people obsess over some mission to make all non-essential jobs disappear entirely from the economic landscape.
Even more frightening are reports of polls showing super-majority support for keeping non-essential businesses closed forever, even when the different types of businesses are listed individually: hair-cutters, specialty retail stores, bars and restaurants, personal trainers in gyms, etc.
It reminds me of recent government shutdowns due to the government’s failure to pass a budget. The government workers were segregated into essential and non-essential and somehow the essential workers would continue to have paying jobs even though there was no budget. In the middle of the shutdown, parts of the electorate began to take the word non-essential more literally: if these workers are non-essential then they should not need to come back. Even within the government, there is strict enforcement that prevents the non-essential workers from working even if they wanted to, and even when they knew their skills were actually needed.
The words essential and non-essential clearly have power. The essential are emboldened to be sure that the non-essential stay that way.
When government shutdowns end, the furloughed workers get paid for doing their jobs of obediently not doing their jobs. The impact is mild.
When this lock down order ends, there will be lasting damage. Many of those forced not to work will not be compensated for the lost earnings. They will have additional expenses such as from lost inventory (spoilage or no longer being salable), and additional debt burdens. On top of that, they will have the resentment of knowing how their community punished them when they tried to find ways to get back to work.
I believe that in the future when there are no more restrictions, many of the once viable businesses will never be able to recover their original streams. They will lose their original clients who have grown accustomed to giving money to large corporations that arrange home delivery, or who now will forever be shy about doing any business in person.
In economic terms, the losses of those forced into bankruptcy never to be able to run a business again might be offset by new businesses funded by other people who can invest in that effort. I don’t see that happening. Now that the government has proven it can abruptly shutdown any business on some arbitrary definition of non-essential, very few people will risk their capital or incurring of debt to start a business that the government may determine to be non-essential in the future.
The definition of non-essential may change in the future. Some future crisis could determine that health care is non-essential.
The government’s identification of non-essential businesses and activities will end up making many of those non-essentials disappear forever. Along with the disappearance of the businesses, there will be the disappearance of large part of the middle and working class. Most of these people will end up in a lower status of living then they have before the government determined they were non-essential. Many of these will end in the bottom class of people who are fully dependent on the government, or who can only work rare and short gigs.
The stories described above imply an impact on the individuals and their families. A lot of them are young people who once had promising futures with their careers or their lives. The government’s shutting down of their businesses (or their employer’s businesses) will destroy those prospects.
I’m convinced we will lose a lot more from the government’s lock-down orders. Many young or middle-age people’s lives will be forever ruined. Short term, they may end up losing their lives from substance abuse, suicide, violence, or degraded health from less healthy lifestyles. Longer term, they will not start families, or they will not provide the quality of parenting they otherwise would. There will be a future generation coming from dysfunctional and broken families, or from a more impoverished condition that will limit their future opportunities.
As I described in recent posts, the lock down is a substitute solution for our not having any effective vaccine for an RNA virus. Keeping people in isolation is another strategy to keep the virus from spreading. Keeping people in isolation will also limit people’s opportunities for the future. In particular, it is postponing people’s social lives that could end up with marriages and families.
This may seem to be an overstatement given that the worst case duration of lock down being only a couple years. From my own experience, it does not take much time to permanently close out any prospects of forming a family. I suspect there is very little bonding occurring right now where people are self-isolating and even in public are viewing everyone else with suspicion from six foot minimum distance and hiding behind masks. After things get more normal, people will be much more focused on looking for work, and on working to make up for lost time, lost income, or added debts. Their opportunities will not be as lucrative as before so they will either work more or live more frugally. The result is that they will be less likely to find partners. They will be less attractive due to their economic status.
Perhaps more damaging impact is the learned loss of confidence by having one’s aspirations and free pursuits are border-line illegal activities: made so by being so easily declared to be non-essential in the eyes of society and government.
The lock down and associated social-distancing policies are having a huge impact on our younger generation right now, and that impact gets larger as the age group gets younger. Future generations not yet born will be much smaller and raised in more impoverished conditions with less confident or hopeful parents. Those who are born may not make it to adulthood due to the conditions they will face, or if they do make it to adulthood they will not be prepared to lead an economically productive live.
In a few short months, we have greatly reduced the diversity of options for economically viable livelihoods. The only rational careers to pursue will be those in areas that the government has declared essential: health care, food and drug supply chains, order fulfillment in Internet stores, and anything in government. Most of these are low skilled positions with lots of competition. The wages will be low for a much large number of people than we had before we declared so many professions to be non-essential.
The government’s policies for the past couple months were fundamentally flawed. I mentioned very early on that we should have focused on isolating the vulnerable while liberating the younger generation to take over without any impediments of social-distancing or isolation. We chose to do the opposite, a policy that priorities the preservation of the status of the vulnerable by inconveniencing the robust younger generation.
It appears that the reasoning is that if we had a vaccine, we could vaccinate everyone and everything would go on as normal, especially for the more vulnerable segments of society. The vaccine does not exist, so the next best thing is to designate virtually everything available to young people as non-essential and force them into isolation and social-distancing. Consequently, the lives of the vulnerable are minimally inconvenienced, especially if they are blessed with essential status, and even more especially they are in government.
We are selling off our future in exchange for extending the past for a little longer. More specifically we are burdening our younger generations with fewer development and economic prospects while adding to the debts that they will have to pay off. In addition, we are eliminating many opportunities they otherwise would have had because those opportunities are very prone to being declared non-essential.
The conditions the younger generation are now facing will make them less capable of starting families. The families that are started will not be able to provide good upbringing to prepare that generation to have productive independent lives, if they in fact make it to adulthood.
Our solution to the virus epidemic is to focus on sterilizing our environment. Hand cleaning, frequent surface cleaning, use of gloves and masks, and staying far apart all have the effect of keeping things sterile around the vulnerable.
This approach to our surrounding is also sterilization in the reproductive sense. We are to some degree sterilizing the younger population that otherwise could produce the next generation. We are denying them opportunity to start families that end successfully with economically independent future adults.
All of this is a substitution while we wait for a vaccine for a class of viruses (mRNA viruses) that we never yet have found an effective vaccine. The currently promising vaccines are based on injecting bare RNA and using some additive that coaxes the cells to take in that RNA so that the cell will produce proteins similar to what the virus uses with the goal of generating an immune response to that foreign protein. This approach is very similar to the virus activity itself except that the human cell is tricked into doing virus-like things.
Due to the government’s induced fear and panic in the population, this vaccine is being rushed out with time for very short-term assessment of any safety issues. There is not enough time to assess whether this treatment will cause degenerative diseases. In particular, my concern is that the vaccine will trigger an auto-immune response that will show up years later. That auto-immune response may attack the reproductive system or prevent the development of a working reproductive system.
Also, due to the government’s standard of not wanting the vulnerable to die, the vaccine will have to be administered to the entire population except the vulnerable. The vulnerable may not be able handle the vaccine, or their immune systems may not be able to respond effectively. We have already accepted the fact that we can inconvenience the young for the sake of the vulnerable, so it is obvious we will expect that same group to accept their duty to take the vaccine to make it impossible for the vulnerable to contract the virus from them. This must be done as soon as we determine the vaccine does not cause any short-term problems.
It is easy to imagine that in a couple years, all of the world’s governments will mandate that their entire non-vulnerable population take this vaccine. We already accept that vaccines are permitted to be “unavoidably unsafe” so we will accept that this vaccination will cause its own casualties.
These losses are for the greater good of extending the lives of the vulnerable. This greater good calculation involves a comparison of value of life that includes life accomplishments that disadvantage the young. The current lock-down policies have already set this precedence that it is worth imposing future-limiting hardships on hundreds of young people to save a single older person’s life. A similar ratio may be expected for the vaccine.
There is a non-trivial risk that the universal vaccination (including of young children or babies) will end up sterilization a large number of people with auto-immune reactions. We will record the consequences as declining birth rates instead of deaths of births that could have happened without the RNA vaccine. Thus, this is an acceptable trade off to save the vulnerable.
Our panicked government locked down non-essential opportunities that most benefit the younger populations. The same government already has decided on a similar trade for a future vaccination program that will primarily impact the younger population and may not even apply to the older population. We are frighteningly close to risking sterilizing our next generation to get this vaccine out. We may have already made that decision with the first imposition of the lock-downs.