Letter: Response to Metcalfe letter in Jan. 13 Sounder

Wednesday, January 27 2021

Dear Sir,

In the Jan. 13 Sounder, one correspondent raises (yet again) the issue of compulsory mask wearing. I, too, wasn’t going to touch this issue, but your writer tries to look at a bigger picture, which just isn’t there for this issue.

To try for some perspective, below are three quotes, with the exact issue concealed:

1.  “It should be clearly noted that the issue is not whether ___ are good or bad, nor has it ever been. The key point is whether a government bureaucracy has the right to use fiscal blackmail to force mandatory use of ____.”  

2.  “No other ____ is the subject of such government propaganda as is ____.  The stats are manufactured, the science is akin to voodoo...We make prejudicial generalizations about those accused of ____, and that is dangerous, unjust, and unfair.”   

3.  “Most fundamentally, the debate about _____ should center on private property rights. Whether you should be allowed to ____ should be determined by the ____, not by busybody bureaucrats who think they know how to live everyone’s lives for them.”  

While the reader guesses what these quotes refer to, I just want to say most emphatically that the thinly veiled comparison between compulsory mask wearing, and the industrialized genocide of Nazi Germany is not only ridiculous, it is disingenuous. If every public health measure, or any other public measure for that matter, can be dismissed for being on a slippery slope to the Fourth Reich, then there is no role for government or collective action.  Then we all fall victims to the tyranny of individualism and private property ownership, in which the most aggressive, nastiest individuals rise to the top and shape our society and economy to suit their sociopathic needs. The result is horrible oppression and death, every bit as bad as government tyranny, even worse, because the oppression of individualism is less obviously present and the individual authority less centralized.  

In a civil society there is a place for democratic governance to keep individualism under control, and to gain massive efficiencies that stem from economies of scale and collective action. Thus, there is a place for discussion of reasonable and scientifically based public healthcare measures that may be slightly annoying, but nevertheless, will save a lot of lives.  

Libertarians who suppose that rules per se are oppressive, are simply wrong. Laws (rules) prohibiting rape and murder are enormously freeing for practically everyone. It is extremely convenient to have traffic rules, so that I don’t have to constantly get out of my car and negotiate with other drivers. Consumer protection laws are enormously helpful to avoid having to spend our whole lives checking each and every product we use to make sure it is sound. Affirmative action is extremely liberating for millions of people in oppressed groups. Thus, not all rules are stifling.  

Okay, back to the quotes. The first quote above is by a lobbyist for a motorcycle association wailing against compulsory motorcycle helmet laws. The second quote is by a defense attorney ranting against laws that make DUI illegal. The third quote is the opinion of a writer for a right-wing think tank who opposes smoking bans in public places (in the name of freedom). None of the awful predictions of tyranny made by opponents of these laws have come to pass.  

One other thing that is related: I am sick to death of people who are angry about the state of the economy during COVID times, complaining about public health policy. 

If you are mad about the economy, write about the economy. 

Despite intense propaganda from many economists that globalized market economics is best, it isn’t. 

Our economy is colossally inefficient and rigidly unable to adapt to a changing world (i.e., things like increased population, pandemics and global warming) for all kinds of reasons that are structural. 

So let’s talk about that, instead of criticizing public healthcare policy.  

~ Peter Danenhower, Gabriola