Regarding government intervention in the economy, the 19th century free-market economist Frederic Bastiat spoke of “the seen and unseen.”
When government does something that impacts the economy – levies a tax, enacts a regulation, places the nation under house arrest – the initial effects are the most visible. They’re the “seen.” The long-term damage that often follows is “unseen,” but nonetheless real.
Thanks to Democrats squawking into microphones (including the governors of New York, Michigan, New Jersey and Virginia) bolstered by those nightly briefings, the public is scared senseless and focused almost exclusively on what’s said to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
There are daily reports on the number of diagnosed cases and deaths (now about a quarter of the original low-side estimate). Then there are the human-interest stories of restaurants donating meals to first responders and families separated by stay-at-home orders, not to mention those mind-numbing we’re-all-in-this-together PSAs.
What’s unseen is the devastation of shutting down the economy since late March – lost jobs which will never come back (paycheck protection notwithstanding), an increase of depression and suicide, and owners who spent years (in some cases decades) building a business, only to see their hard work and sacrifice wiped out overnight.
In an April 21st Reuters-Ipsos poll, 72% said quarantine measures should remain in effect until “doctors and public health officials say it is safe.”
One gets the impression that if it were up to Dr. Anthony Fauci, that would be as long as journalists keep coming to COVID-19 briefings. In the meantime, grass will grow up through the sidewalks of America’s cities and unemployment could reach Great Depression levels.
Like Democrats and the media, the doctors and public health officials who appear on television nightly have a vested interest in making the crisis (the Great Panic of 2020) last as long as possible. Scientists who were obscure figures just weeks ago, are now media superstars.
Two months ago, no one outside his bureaucratic sinecure had heard his name. Today, an online petition at Change.org calls for People Magazine to name Fauci the “Sexiest Man Alive.” It speaks of his “comforting and intelligent demeanor” which “has helped to lessen our national anxiety.” The head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was last seen walking on water, while carrying two stone tablets.
Daily episodes of The Dr. Fauci Show are great visuals, as are IV-drips and citizens in face masks.
You will look in vain for interviews with those waiting in line to apply for unemployment. The media will, from time to time, interview demonstrators holding signs calling for an end to the lockdown – usually to mock them. The media also want the shutdown to continue indefinitely. Panic builds an audience. Now that the primaries are over, what else is there to report – Clueless Joe mixing up Memorial Day and Labor Day?
In the first 5 weeks of stagnate-in-place, 26 million made jobless claims – more than all of the jobs added since the 2010 recession. The unemployment rate, which had fallen to the lowest level in 50 years, is expected to climb into the double-digits. A Gallup poll showed a quarter of Americans expect to lose their jobs in the next year.
Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute says officeholders should be asking: “1. What will your state’s economy look like after another month of enforced stasis? 2. How many workers will have lost their jobs? 3. How many businesses will have closed for good? and 4. How many of your state’s young residents, seeking employment for the first time, will be unable to find it?”
When New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he was extending his state’s shutdown through May 15, he probably didn’t give a passing thought to any of the foregoing.
For politicians, the unseen is often what they choose not to see.
Confronting protestors outside the State Capitol in Albany, who said they were running out of money and desperate for work, His Smugness King Andrew (the first of his name), told them to “take a job as an essential worker.” That those are jobs most of the unemployed are unqualified for, or have no interest in (how many CPAs want to empty bed pans?) is irrelevant to statists like Cuomo, who — in reality — are telling them: We’re not interested in bringing back the job you had (which we deem to be lacking in social utility), but putting you in a position we consider useful.
No wonder Democratic leaders would love to have Dumbo on their national ticket.
It’s not that the unseen is shrouded in mystery. It’s more that most politicians lack the imagination, or the honesty, to see what’s staring them in the face.
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