While the probable lethality of the Coronavirus is relatively low and its symptoms are mild for a vast majority of those who have it, governments around the world have taken drastic measures to fight it, such as travel bans, school and shop closures and city lockdowns. Even those politicians who were cautious about the management of the epidemic have to change attitude, under the pressure of panicked citizens and overbidding by foreign governments. Instead of focusing their efforts on the groups at risk, notably the elderly, they strive to lock down entire countries.
Governments have cut the budgets for public hospitals and now the latter are unable to cope. For fear of having healthcare systems saturated and being held accountable for it, they leave the population bear the brunt of the effort. Governments follow blindly the recommendations of medical specialists who are only specialists. Their advice should be weighted and combined with other policy goals and constraints: that is the art of policymaking. “Social distancing”, while reminiscent of the procedures used at the time of the Black Death epidemic in the Middle Ages, is a process that is not easy to enforce in our Western societies, and it has implications for the freedom of movement, gathering, work, enterprise and for private property. We repeat with force that whatever their reasons, governments do not have authority to close businesses that do not appertain to them.
While these measures may be ineffective and the virus may recede spontaneously with the coming spring, governments are wreaking havoc in the economy. Virtually every activity that entails or facilitates in-person human interaction seems to be in the midst of a total meltdown. With China and Italy at a standstill, travel restrictions put in place, events cancelled and factories closed, the global supply chains are destabilized and international trade is contracting. The slowdown of the economy has already triggered a fall in oil prices and infighting among oil producers, driving to a probable burst of the shale oil bubble in the US. Loss of turnover is considerable in many sectors. In the first half of March 2020, stock and commodity markets have declined in an abrupt and unprecedented manner.
The Coronavirus crisis illustrates the obsolescence of Government as an instrument for the management of society.
TSCF urges governments to show restraint, to not violate public freedoms and to take into account the economic implications of their actions. Governments should stay cautious in the management of such sanitary crises and respect democracy. TSCF also urges citizens not to indulge into panic, and to live and work as normal, while taking minimal precautions for the elderly.