Organization Trends

Public-Health Powers Abused Must Be Powers Forfeit

The world is leaving behind the age of lockdowns and mask mandates. Five million swarmed Argentina’s capital to celebrate their World Cup victory, and even New York Mayor Eric Adams (D) appears to realize that masks might encourage antisocial behavior. Many are now questioning whether all the lockdowns, school closures, mask mandates, and tracking schemes and vaccination passports were worth it.

Scientific evidence has been consistently disappointing. In just the past month or so, a major Cochrane review has rejected the efficacy of community masking to control respiratory viruses like influenza and COVID. A study published in The Lancet affirmed the efficacy of infection-acquired “natural immunity” as equivalently protective against future COVID-19 infection or complication to two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, which most U.S. vaccination passport regimes rejected.

As a result of the failure of these and other “non-pharmaceutical interventions” (NPIs) to control COVID-19 and the consequences of government overreach for Americans’ sacred liberties, numerous states and municipalities are cracking down on the plenary powers of governors and mayors to declare emergencies and the power of public health bureaucrats to decree NPIs. Yet to the Washington Post, legislatures “opposing with manly firmness . . . invasions on the rights of the people” is a problem.

Curse the Provincials

The Post warns its readers in the Imperial City:

Conservative and libertarian forces have defanged much of the nation’s public health system through legislation and litigation as the world staggers into the fourth year of covid.

At least 30 states, nearly all led by Republican legislatures, have passed laws since 2020 that limit public health authority, according to a Washington Post analysis of laws collected by Kaiser Health News and the Associated Press as well as the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and the Center for Public Health Law Research at Temple University.

That’s a shame. But only insofar as another 20 mostly blue states have apparently not acted to curtail the abuses that their public health bureaucracies inflicted on the people. To the Post, the evil forces were conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation and American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which had the unbridled audacity to “make it very clear to society and to the courts that certain things are to be protected, such as individual and constitutional liberties” (quoting an ALEC representative) as early as mid-2020.

On the contrary, those groups deserve medals.

What Did the Post Expect?

Recall some analysis from a previous CRC examination of the Commonwealth Fund Commission on a National Public Health System’s federal-control approach to modernizing public health:

The public health profession as it exists has an implicit code of values that holds physical health constrained by left-progressive politics to be the Highest Good. . . . But the public, who are the ultimate fount of sovereignty in the American republic, have different values.

The public saw public health officials, who had demanded the harshest confinements of American civilians in the modern era, sign a letter encouraging lifting the confinements to serve the needs of leftist protestors. The public saw the World Health Organization’s waffling on behalf of the People’s Republic of China in the early outbreak period. The public saw the teachers unions fighting to extend lockdowns of school buildings. The public saw “two weeks to slow the spread” metastasize into a near-permanent state of exception. The public saw that Florida’s economy prospered as California’s struggled. The public saw the “lab leak” hypothesis of COVID origins go from forbidden, censored conspiracy theory to the official position of two U.S. government agencies.

Of course the conservative groups like Heritage and ALEC sought to end lockdowns and other NPIs and prevent them in the future. Public health officials showed that conservative values and concerns would have no hearing in the halls of their power. The casinos would open, and the churches would close; so let Science be written, so let Science be done.

But it wasn’t Science; it was politics. The British are in a state of scandal furor over the “Lockdown Files,” text messages leaked to the (right-leaning) Daily Telegraph by journalist Isabel Oakeshott. Among the trove of messages from former Health Secretary Matt Hancock (who resigned from Cabinet after having an affair with an aide and breaching the U.K.’s COVID social distancing rules) was one that saw Hancock following public opinion (which favored keeping lockdown rules at the time) and other messages with him and aides wondering when they might “deploy” news of a new COVID variant to scare the public into following lockdown rules.

Let Politics Be Done

One doubts that American politicians and public health officials aligned with the Post writers’ views were more scrupulous than the Brits. So the conservative groups like Heritage and ALEC that encouraged and developed policies to end NPIs and prevent their reissuance and the politicians who took advantage of those think-tank resources were just doing politics no differently than their lockdown-ist counterparts backed by Big Philanthropy, Big Government, Big Labor, and Big Tech.

The Post and the public health scholars angered by the loss of the powers that the public and their elected representatives have seen abused cannot honestly object to their rivals playing politics: Their side has played politics for three years. Like many left-wing institutions, they are angered that their politics now face opposition.

May they face more.


Michael Watson

Michael is Research Director for Capital Research Center and serves as the managing editor for InfluenceWatch. A graduate of the College of William and Mary, he previously worked for a…
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