Sixteen months ago, the World Health Organization announced a ‘Mysterious Coronavirus-Related Pneumonia in Wuhan, China.’ We all know what happened next. And by that I mean chaos, confusion, conflicting information, tendentious reporting (in multiple directions), accusations, denials… in other words, politics.

Meanwhile, people started dying all over the world, and a massive mobilization of expertise, industry, technology, and government commenced in response. Mistakes and bad decisions happened, with the inevitable chaos, confusion, conflicting information, tendentious reporting (in multiple directions), accusations, denials… but (yes), I repeat myself.

Today, with the pandemic yielding in remarkably short time to human ingenuity (seriously, if you don’t see how amazing it is that 1.3 billion doses of vaccine have been already administered, you’re destroying your soul with anger or rage or cynicism), we are pondering how and when (and, sadly, if) our life routines return to their pre-COVID state. In some parts of America, this has already happened. In others, it feels a long way off (and, indeed, may never happen). We are witnessing debates about COVID passports, about being required to show proof of vaccination to board airplanes, to attend concerts, and to participate in other public gatherings.

Unsurprisingly, the battle lines that have been established fall along traditional political divides, and they are highlighting not only the reflexive contrarianism that has become the primary means of forming political opinions, but the wave of authoritarianism that has infected the Left (to the point where I see a substantial gap between liberals and progressives/leftists), and the reactionary rejectionism that has been embraced by the Right. Yes, lots of -isms, but this is a political blog, dontchaknow.

While some would have us believe that COVID is a forever world-changer, the realities of human progress tell us that, considered rationally, it will be just another thing we have to deal with in our otherwise-normal lives (it is an eternal truth that Mother Nature wants to kill us). Already, vaccine supply is outstripping demand in some parts of the nation (in New York, where Governor Cuomo recklessly and almost criminally impugned the vaccine-development process simply because Trump was President, the government is now spending money on public-relations advertising urging New Yorkers to get their shots). Already, Big Pharma is working on the next generation of vaccines, which could be administered as pills or nasal sprays, rather than as injections. I expect that, even if or as new variants of the bug emerge, they will be mitigated before we get to anything resembling another pandemic-level rate of infection or mortality. Moreso, we’ve learned that the heavy-hand responses to the pandemic weren’t any more effective at mitigation than the lighter-touch versions.

Consider another angle in all this: that of personal choice, and for reference, consider smoking.

We all know smoking is bad for you. The negative health effects are myriad and substantial, and you’d have to have grown up in utter isolation on a tobacco farm not to have heard them.

Yet, people still smoke, even though smoking kills half a million a year in the US alone.

People also eat things that are bad for them, and allow themselves to get and stay fat, even though obesity kills three hundred thousand a year in the US. They elect not to get flu shots, even though influenza kills tens of thousands in the US every year.

In all these matters, we witness the personal choices that are part of living in a free society. Now that we have available to us a means of “proofing” ourselves against the ravages of COVID, the communicability aspect of the disease – the chief “legitimizer” of government restrictions on liberties – fades from relevance.

There are countless other things that we do in our lives that put our health at some degree of risk, from consuming alcohol to driving to sports to our daily jobs (the list of most dangerous jobs might surprise you), and while we take steps to mitigate our risk, we do not lock society down in perpetuity against them, nor do we go to permanent extremes. We could save tens of thousands of lives a year by mandating that vehicles cannot exceed 25 MPH, but we don’t.

And for good reason. Everything in life is about tradeoffs, and at some point, people need to be trusted with their own well-being.

A COVID vaccination reduces your chances of getting the disease more than twenty-fold. It also reduces your chances of succumbing to the disease to near-zero. By any rational measure, once the vaccine is available to everyone (we’re just about there), and with this information being widely available, the justification for lockdowns, mask mandates, social-distancing requirements, and business impositions disappears. Individuals can still choose to mask, to distance, and to require what they wish in their businesses, but government decrees should go away.

Alas, some people have a “zero-deaths” fantasy about COVID, and will accuse you of “wanting people to die” if you argue that lockdowns should end. That these people are generally of a certain political leaning is no surprise, given the authoritarian trending I mentioned earlier. This crowd is either best pals with or unwitting pawns of the “don’t let a crisis go to waste” politicians who see a golden opportunity to establish greater control over our lives, permanently, while they bathe themselves in self-proclaimed glory for their boldness in telling us what we must and must not do (even if they don’t practice what they preach).

The now-notorious Dr. Fauci, in his noblesse oblige, is offering us a chance of returning to semi-normalcy a year from now, while warning us that it remains possible that we will continue to need to wear masks even then.

Now, to make this crystal-clear: if someone chooses to wear a mask to the end of his or her days, in public, in private, alone in a car, while digging a bunker in Prepperville, USA, or wherever, I don’t care. And, if a business chooses to require masks, or chooses to maintain plexiglass shields and various social distancing procedures, I’ve no issue.

The problem lies in continued mandates, once everyone has had the opportunity to choose to get vaccinated. The politicians (and I’d say Fauci has crossed into that world) who drool over pandemic-porn, who see either the opportunity to personal glory for having the ‘courage’ to continue to infringe on our liberties and lives or the means of expanding their power and control (because that’s in their nature), are the biggest impediment to our return to normalcy, and to our liberties in general.

Finally, a footnote. The side of the political divide that has most favored lockdowns, mandates, and perpetual liberty infringements is, ironically, the side that’s freaking out over the overhyped possibility that the Supreme Court’s recently-minted conservative tilt will lead to the overturning of Roe v Wade, and a presumed banning of abortion in America (see: overhyped). Their mantra is “My Body, My Choice,” but the only “choice” they actually support is in regard to abortion, and they are willing to preemptively eviscerate the Court’s independence before there’s even a whiff that it would consider such a precedent-toppled. When it comes to other personal choices, including but not limited to smoking menthol cigarettes they are the first to regulate, restrict, and ban. The pandemic has made that clearer than ever.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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