Coronavirus and Big Government

When the current health crisis heated up, I wrote a column on “Government, Coronavirus, and Libertarianism” and made four simple points.

  1. Libertarians believe government should protect life, liberty, and property
  2. Libertarians correctly warn that a big sprawling federal government means it is less capable of handling the few things it should be doing
  3. Other government-run health systems have not done a good job
  4. The federal government has hindered an effective response to the coronavirus.

Today, I want to elaborate on point #4 by highlighting an avalanche of reports on how bureaucracy and red tape have been endangering our health.

Readers are welcome to click on some or all of the stories and tweets to learn more about how we’re at risk because of clumsy and inefficient government. Though if you’re pressed for time, this first story is the one to read.

And here are many more reports that confirm how government has largely been the source of problems rather than a solution.

“Where other nations are expediting these deliveries, trusting proven suppliers in their claims that they simply want to get their goods to those who need it… the FDA has resorted to its favorite fetish: bureaucratic lethargy.” https://t.co/kdiy9Rssub

— Tom Rogan (@TomRtweets) March 20, 2020

This is sad, but all too predictable. “Stockpiles of masks, hand sanitizer, and other supplies,” @TomRtweets reports, “are sitting in warehouses waiting for FDA inspectors to get around to them.”https://t.co/pELgHvUSzw

— Philip Wegmann (@PhilipWegmann) March 20, 2020

Shitshow USA: “CDC botched its own test development. It sent testing kits to state public-health labs with a nonfunctioning ingredient. And by then, the virus was already spreading. It was already spreading as the [FDA] held up independent labs that had made their own tests…” https://t.co/ZLO2hysWxL

— Amy Alkon (@amyalkon) March 21, 2020

It’s been maddening to watch coronavirus testing get strangled in red tape from the FDA & CDC pic.twitter.com/ZGhfD8ki2E

— Alec 🌐 (@AlecStapp) March 14, 2020

The risk calculus part is important. Up until this point, the cost of biomedical delay was invisible and deniable.

But what FDA’s CDRH division did in terms of delaying EUAs for lab tests has now very publicly cost us trillions of dollars and likely many American lives.

— Balaji S. Srinivasan (@balajis) March 15, 2020

For what it’s worth, the stories I shared above are just a small sampling. I could have shared dozens of additional reports.

But rather than beat a dead horse, let’s focus on the key takeaway from this tragedy. David Harsanyi of National Review nicely summarizes the lessons we should be learning.

…the coronavirus crisis has only strengthened my belief in limited-government conservatism — classical liberalism, libertarianism, whatever you want to call it. Years of government spending and expanding regulation have done nothing to make us safer during this emergency; in fact, our profligate spending during years of prosperity has probably constrained our ability to borrow now. …government does far too much of what it shouldn’t, and is far too incompetent at doing what it should. The CDC, an agency specifically created to prevent the spread of dangerous communicable diseases, has failed. Almost everyone would agree that its core mission should be under the bailiwick of government. Yet, for the past 40 years, its mission kept expanding as it spent billions of dollars and tons of manpower worrying about how much salt you put on your steaks and imploring you to do more jumping jacks. …The CDC — and other federal agencies such as the FDA — haven’t just moved too slowly in tapping the expertise of our academic and private sectors to fight COVID-19; they’ve actively impeded such private efforts. …The CDC didn’t merely botch the creation of a COVID-19 test, it failed to turn to private companies that could have created a test faster and better. …I’d simply like government to do much less much better.

David’s final sentence about a government that does less and does it better deserves to be emphasized. Observers ranging from Mark Steyn to Robert Samuelson have pointed out that the federal government is more likely to do a good job if it focuses on core responsibilities. And there’s plenty of academic evidence in support of this position, though this anecdote from Belgium may be even more persuasive.

Source: International Libery

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