bookmark_borderOn “politicizing” the response to Covid

I often hear the claim that the response to the Covid-19 pandemic is being “politicized.” Almost always, this claim has been made by those who support authoritarian restrictions on people’s freedom to slow the spread of the virus. And now this claim is being made by those who support the authoritarian position of pressuring, requiring, mandating, and/or forcing people to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

According to Dictionary.com, political means “of, relating to, or involving the state or its government.”

Therefore, it seems to me that the question of what policies the government should adopt with regards to the virus (or any topic for that matter) is inherently a political question. Which rights people have, to what extent (if any) freedom should be sacrificed for safety, and what types of restrictions the government has the right to enact, are all political topics. When those who argue (correctly, in my opinion) that restrictions violate individual rights are told to “stop politicizing the virus,” they are essentially being told that the concept of individual rights should be ignored. Authoritarian-leaning people urge governments to adopt whatever policies are likely to produce the best public health outcomes, while ignoring the fact that the decision to prioritize public health outcomes over individual liberty is itself a political judgment. 

Accusing your opponents of politicizing an issue is a form of presuming the truth of what you are trying to prove. To equate caring about liberty and individual rights with “politicizing” an issue is to presume that liberty and individual rights do not matter. This is arrogant and intellectually dishonest, not to mention deeply wrong.

For the government to impose authoritarian measures such as stay-at-home orders, mask mandates, and vaccination requirements is inherently a political act. Given the definition of “political” that I cited above, one could actually argue that the people urging coercive state or governmental actions are those who are truly politicizing the virus. If either side is treating the virus as a non-political issue, it is the side that is advocating for the state to stay out and allow people to make their own decisions.

bookmark_borderThe distinction between action and omission

In the seemingly never-ending debate about Covid-19 and which regulations (if any) are appropriate to combat it, many people make the mistake of erasing the distinction between action and omission. Far too often, I see tweets, comments, and editorials that equate refraining from taking a helpful action with actively taking a harmful action. 

For example, I have seen numerous people equating the decision not to receive a vaccine with “spreading disease,” and derisively characterizing the right not to get a vaccine as “the right to spread germs.” I have read editorials accusing a hypothetical person who gets on a bus while having an asymptomatic case of the virus of “killing” a hypothetical elderly person who subsequently gets on the bus and contracts the virus. I have seen tweets accusing governors of “killing” their states’ residents by lifting restrictions. 

Statements like these are based on a fundamental error in logic. People are not morally obligated to take any action; they are morally obligated only to refrain from harming others. In other words, as long as someone’s actions are not actively and directly harming others, they are doing nothing wrong. Failing to take an action that would benefit others, failing to actively help one’s community, these things are perfectly okay. People have the right to do their own thing and pursue their own goals; they are not required to contribute to the greater good.

Therefore, refraining from getting a vaccine is not the same thing as spreading disease. Nor, for that matter, is refraining from taking other risk-mitigation measures such as staying home or wearing masks. Spreading disease means deliberately infecting others with germs, on purpose. Failing to actively stop the spread is not the same as actively spreading. Diseases spread from person to person. People are not to blame for the transmission of a virus; the virus itself is.

It’s even more ridiculous to accuse leaders of killing people when they lift restrictions. Doing so presumes that restrictions are morally required, which is as far from the truth as it is possible to get. Taking away people’s freedoms for the sake of fighting a virus is morally impermissible, and therefore the restrictions never should have been enacted in the first place. To equate respect for fundamental rights with “killing” is preposterous. 

It’s understandable that proponents of mandatory vaccination, mandatory wearing of masks, and mandatory staying at home would conflate the failure to take these actions with taking a harmful action. It’s a lot easier to argue that a harmful action should be banned than it is to argue that people should be compelled to do something. Banning the spreading of disease and the killing of people sounds a lot more reasonable than banning minding one’s own business. But these attempts to justify totalitarianism are based on faulty logic. They erase the fundamental moral distinction between action and omission.

bookmark_borderJoe Biden, authoritarian dictator

This past week, President Joe Biden published a series of tweets about the Covid-19 vaccine that are despicable and reprehensible for a variety of reasons:

First of all, as anyone who believes in the non-aggression principle knows, people have a fundamental right to make their own decisions about their own bodies. Each person has the right to either get the vaccine or not, and each person has the right to either wear a mask or not, regardless of vaccination status. Biden therefore has absolutely no right to tell people to do what he is telling people to do in these tweets. To provide advice or recommendations is fine. To provide information about the relative safety of various activities is fine. And indeed this is what the CDC did when it issued its recent guidance stating that vaccinated people can safely go mask-less indoors and outdoors, which prompted Biden’s tweets. But Biden is phrasing this guidance as a rule, which is fascist and violates everyone’s rights.

It’s also noteworthy that Biden does not even acknowledge the possibility that a person might choose not to get the vaccine. He uses the word “yet” and uses the word “until” as opposed to “unless,” which presumes that every person will eventually get the vaccine. This demonstrates a complete disregard for people’s right to make their own medical decisions. People have every right to opt not to get the vaccine, and Biden needs to use language that acknowledges this.

Another disturbing thing about these tweets is that Biden is not characterizing masks as a tool that people can use to protect themselves, but instead as a punishment for people who do not get the vaccine. It would be one thing to say something to the effect of, “If you choose not to get the vaccine, we recommend wearing a mask to protect yourself.” But Biden is essentially saying, “If you don’t get the vaccine, you have to wear a mask everywhere you go for the rest of you life as a punishment.” Using a respectful tone would have made a world of difference, but instead of being respectful, Biden chose to be mean-spirited and punitive towards people who are doing absolutely nothing wrong.

Additionally, Biden’s unilaterally announced “rule” not only makes requirements less strict for people who’ve gotten the vaccine but simultaneously makes requirements more strict than they previously were for people who haven’t gotten the vaccine. Before this week’s guidance, the CDC had issued guidance a few weeks earlier stating that people can safely go mask-less while outside by themselves regardless of vaccination status. The CDC also said that a person who hasn’t gotten the vaccine can safely get together mask-less in a small group with people who have. But now Biden is telling vaccine-less people that they are not allowed to do either of these things. He is telling them that they need to wear a mask at all times, which is stricter than the CDC’s recommendations. Again, he is being punitive towards people who have done nothing to deserve punishment. 

And not only is Biden punishing people for opting not to get a medical procedure, he is imposing a punishment that is publicly visible and therefore stigmatizing. He is imposing a punishment that visually differentiates those who have gotten the vaccine from those who haven’t. This reminds me of the red “A” that Hester Prynne had to wear on her dress in “The Scarlet Letter” or the yellow stars that Jews were required to wear in Nazi Germany. 

In conclusion, throughout his campaign and in his inaugural address, Joe Biden has repeatedly characterized himself as embodying decency, civility, and unity. He promised to listen to the voices of those who disagree with him and to be a president for all Americans. Yet he is now using Twitter to bully, coerce, and browbeat people into undergoing a medical procedure and insulting them if they do not. I fully expected Biden to be a terrible president, but these tweets are disappointing. This unprofessional and un-presidential behavior falls short of even my very low expectations. Biden has demonstrated that he is a bully with no decency, no civility, no respect for people who are different from him, and no regard for individual rights, freedom, liberty, or bodily autonomy. I am ashamed to be American and embarrassed to have Biden as my president.

bookmark_borderCovid restrictions getting worse, not better

Like almost everyone in the world, I’ve made adjustments to my daily life and routines because of the Covid pandemic. For the most part, I’m willing to do this. I switched from eating at restaurants a couple of times a week to supporting restaurants through takeout and (weather permitting) outdoor dining. I’m fine with carrying a mask with me and putting it on before I go into a store, business, train station, or bus. Working from home and the cancellation of most social events have actually been huge benefits for me.

But I am concerned by the recent trend of Covid restrictions becoming worse, not better. In November, for example, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker decided to require people to wear masks at all times when out in public (before, people were only required to wear masks when going inside stores or businesses). This week, the CDC implemented a law requiring everyone in the country to wear masks at all times while riding public transportation. This includes trains, buses, train and bus stations, airplanes, airports, taxis, Ubers, Lyfts, and ferries. And not just any kind of mask: the order specifies that people must wear a face covering that attaches to your head with ear loops or ties, making scarves, bandanas, and gaiters (as well as face shields) inadequate. Dr. Anthony Fauci and other experts are even recommending wearing two masks at once

These new restrictions significantly affect my day-to-day life in negative ways. Baker’s rule effectively makes it illegal to eat or drink while out and about, which prevents me from (legally) drinking my coffee while walking back from my daily coffee run. In addition to the fact that the CDC’s implementation of a law completely defies the Constitution, flies in the face of states’ rights and separation of powers, and defeats the purpose of having three branches of government, the public transportation mask rule creates logistical difficulties as well. Since the cold weather arrived, a scarf has been my face covering of choice because it can easily be pulled up when I approach a store, business, or train station, but worn as a normal scarf when I am walking down the street by myself, illicitly drinking my coffee. The new rule requires me to take off my winter hat, secure a mask around my ears, and put my hat back on, all while walking towards the train station. Wearing two masks, as is increasingly being recommended, would be twice as much work to put on and take off and would make it twice as difficult to breathe. 

To complain about such things might sound petty and silly, especially when compared with the suffering of those who have become seriously ill, and even passed away, from Covid. But they add up to significant quality of life issues and represent an encroachment by the government upon my right to use my own judgment about what precautions to take. I’m willing to follow rules if they are fair, reasonable, and make sense. But many Covid restrictions are none of these things. This is even more the case when the restrictions become increasingly strict, burdensome, and difficult to comply with. I don’t mind making adjustments, but what is not okay is when I make adjustments, become used to the new requirements, and then learn that the government added more requirements and I need to make more adjustments. The government should be appreciative of the efforts that people are making to reduce the spread of the virus, but instead, it is telling people that what they are doing is not good enough. Insatiable for control over people’s lives, it is demanding more and more and more. 

The government and public health experts promised that vaccines would bring a return to “normal” life. I do not expect a return to crowded bars, concerts, and packed sports stadiums immediately, but with vaccines rolling out, the restrictions should logically be starting to lift, or at least be staying the same, as opposed to getting worse. The constantly changing restrictions are demoralizing, disturbing, and frustrating and harm the credibility of the government and so-called experts. 

bookmark_borderWho is really being selfish when it comes to Covid?

One of the most common arguments made by people who support Covid restrictions is that those who oppose the restrictions are “selfish.” Proponents of lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, mask mandates, et cetera demand that everyone be willing to make sacrifices for the greater good. How selfish, they argue, to value one’s own freedom more than other people’s health and safety.

Examples of this attitude abound. One article that came out early in the pandemic criticized young people who chose to ride the bus, because if the young person happened to have an asymptomatic case of the virus, they might end up “killing” an old person who got on the bus after them. Someone on Twitter wrote that as a chemotherapy patient, businesses that do not comply with lockdown orders “force me to never leave my house… thanks for being so selfish.” And one of my Facebook friends criticized the Liberty Rally that took place in July on the Boston Common, calling the participants “idiots contaminating each other” and claiming that they should not ride on public transportation because “we have a right to be FREE of your germs.”

But are any of these people really less selfish than the people they are criticizing? The debate about Covid restrictions is a debate about which should be valued more highly: liberty or safety. Those who prioritize liberty are no more selfish than those who prioritize safety. After all, when I argue that I have the right to leave my house as often as I wish, go wherever I wish, and get together with as many or as few people as I wish, I’m not arguing that only I have the right to do these things. I am arguing that everyone does. Not only am I arguing that I have no obligation to sacrifice my quality of life to protect other people; I am also arguing that other people have no obligation to sacrifice their quality of life to protect me. Similarly, lockdown proponents are not altruistically sacrificing their freedoms for the sake of others; they are demanding that others sacrifice their freedoms to keep them safe as well.

In the examples above: Is it really selfish of the hypothetical young person to ride the bus, just because this could possibly result in an old person catching the virus? Why is an old person’s right to ride the bus safely considered more important than a young person’s right to ride the bus at all? I argue that it is more selfish to tell other people to stay off the bus just to make the bus safer for you. Without trying to be insensitive towards how difficult it must be to go through chemo, does the fact that you’re going through chemo really give you the right to demand that businesses close down to make it safer for you to leave your house? If leaving your house is too risky, it is your responsibility to stay home. Claiming that it is other people’s responsibility to curtail their activities to make the world safer for you is truly selfish. And is it really selfish to attend a rally, or is it more selfish to demand that those who have attended a rally stay off of public transportation so that you can be provided with a germ-free environment? You can probably guess what my answer to this question would be.

If you are at higher risk for a severe case of the virus, or are just very concerned about the virus, it is your responsibility to take the proper precautions (or to absorb the risks of not taking the precautions). If an activity or environment is too risky for you, then it’s your responsibility to avoid it. It is not other people’s responsibility to modify their behavior to make activities and environments safer for you. In other words, every person has the right to make decisions based on his or her own risk tolerance. Demanding that the entire society be tailored to your own risk tolerance is truly selfish.

I leave you with the below post which has been making the rounds on Facebook and which makes some excellent points:

I see a whole lot of this: ‘People who don’t wear masks are selfish and putting everyone else in danger.’
Just no. Stop.
Do you know what’s selfish? Passing off responsibility for YOUR health to everyone else around you. It doesn’t work that way.
YOUR health is YOUR responsibility. MY health is MINE.
Trust me, you don’t want ME in charge of your health because I’ll swoop in and toss out all your junk food, processed crap, alcohol, & cigs, fill your fridge with fruits and veggies, force you to drink water, take quality supplements, exercise daily, and get plenty of sleep.
Oh, what’s that? You don’t want to be told what to eat, drink, take, do, etc? Well, Karen, if the way you’re living promotes poor health and a depleted immune system that isn’t functioning at its best, then you don’t get to make a single health decision for me.
Furthermore, if YOUR mask works, which you obviously believe it does since you want to force everyone to wear one, you have nothing to worry about if I choose not to.
My freedoms don’t end where your fear begins. We are all adults that make our own decisions regarding the level of risk we are willing to take in everyday life. As of now, we’re a free country, although that seems to be changing.
If YOU want to wear a mask, bleach everything around you, wear gloves, and never touch anyone or anything… that’s up to you. I do not and cannot accept that life.
Sincerely,
A woman who has never changed her daily routine, worn a mask or gloves, or sanitized the heck out of everything since all this started. And I’m still here and haven’t been sick. Thank God for properly functioning immune systems (which are NO accident, btw)

bookmark_borderRep. Bill Pascrell is an authoritarian bully

Representative Bill Pascrell of New Jersey recently demanded that the 126 members of Congress who joined in Texas’s lawsuit concerning the election results be barred from the capitol building.

In a letter sent to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren of the Committee on House Administration, he calls the lawsuit and others like it “frivolous” and “malignant” and calls it “tragic” that some members of Congress joined to support it. He accuses these members of Congress of attempting to “demolish democracy” and to “make Donald Trump an unelected dictator.” He quotes the Fourteenth Amendment, which states that no one “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the United States is allowed to be a Senator or Representative in Congress or to hold any other office. 

“The courageous Reconstruction Congress implanted into our governing document safeguards to cleanse from our government ranks any traitors and others who would seek to destroy the Union,” he pompously gloats. “Stated simply, men and women who would act to tear the United States government apart cannot serve as Members of the Congress.”

Adding insult to injury, he also accuses the 126 members of violating rules of the House of Representatives that “explicitly forbid Members from committing unbecoming acts that reflect poorly on our chamber.”

Pascrell’s preposterous statements have received largely positive reaction on Twitter, which is a dismaying reflection on the state of America. 

In my opinion, it is Pascrell, and not the offending 126 representatives, who deserves to be kicked out of Congress. It is Pascrell who is committing unbecoming acts that reflect poorly on the chamber. Stated simply, he is acting like a pompous, mean-spirited, stuck-up, patronizing bully.

Far too many people today, nearly all of them on the left-hand side of the political spectrum, employ the rhetoric of “treason” and “insurrection” and “rebellion.” It is assumed that complying with authority is inherently morally good, and fighting back against authority is inherently morally bad. The Union and the United States government must be obeyed, goes this line of thought, regardless of whether its policies are just or unjust. These ideas are the very essence of authoritarianism. They are also completely contrary to the ideals upon which our country was founded. After all, America came into being as a revolution against an overreaching British government. True Americans value dissent, freedom of thought, questioning of authority, and fighting back against oppression. True Americans consider insurrection and rebellion to be good things, not crimes synonymous with treason. The type of rhetoric used by Pascrell has been employed ad nauseam against the Confederate States of America and any remaining symbols and memorials thereof, and now it is being employed against those who have the audacity to support Donald Trump. Ironically, many of these people on the left-hand side of the political spectrum, who hold these ideas that are the very essence of authoritarianism, accuse Trump of being authoritarian. Nothing could be more hypocritical or farther from the truth. 

Get off your high horse, Rep. Pascrell, and stop being such a bully towards people who hold different beliefs than you do. The fact that someone who is supposed to be a leader is acting in such a condescending, patronizing, intolerant manner is what is truly tragic.

bookmark_borderClassless Cuomo ridicules those who disagree with him

In addition to being a bully who does not care about freedom of speech (or any other type of freedom for that matter), New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also apparently enjoys ridiculing those who hold different views than he does. He posted the following meme on Facebook making fun of those who disagree with him on the issue of the government requiring people to wear masks to stop the spread of Covid-19:

This is completely classless. First of all, there is no such thing as “anti-maskers.” I suspect that Cuomo meant “people who don’t wear masks” or “people who disagree with mask mandates.” More importantly, it is unacceptable for any person, let alone a governor, to personally insult and ridicule those with whom they disagree. It is disturbing that someone who is in charge of governing a state would act in such an unprofessional manner. I assume that Cuomo was attempting to show off his cleverness and wit, but all that he is demonstrating is nastiness and contempt towards people who are different from him. There is nothing funny about that. 

Here is my attempt at a meme:

bookmark_borderPlanet Fitness fights back against Mayor Walsh’s restrictions

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is imposing new restrictions on the liberty of individuals and businesses in an effort to slow the spread of Covid-19, but not everyone is unquestioningly accepting these authoritarian policies.

According to Boston.com, the gym chain Planet Fitness is fighting back against the restrictions. “In March, we understood the shutdown,” said Stan DeMartinis, who runs two Planet Fitness gyms in Boston and several more in the surrounding area. “But the fact is that we’re one of the only industries out there that can contact trace our members, because they check in all of the time. Our position is going to remain very firm: Fitness is essential, it’s safe, and we should be able to remain open in our communities because of the benefits we give to the consumer… I run two gyms in that city, and they’ve never contacted me once this whole time. They just want to shut me down. That’s where the frustration comes in… Where we are in the country today, not to get into politics, but half the people want to work out and half don’t. Our members that come in right now are members who have made their assessment of risk. They feel safe in their environment to work out. They feel they have a constitutional right to do that. And that is being taken away from them.”

Exactly. People have a fundamental right to make their own decisions about which activities they are willing to do and how much risk they are willing to incur. Some people do not wish to work out, because they do not think it is worth the risk of catching the coronavirus. That is fine. Others do wish to work out, because they think it is worth the risk of catching the coronavirus. That is also fine. It is unacceptable for the government to take that decision away from people and force everyone to live according to the preferences of the most risk-averse people. And although hitting the gym is not mentioned in the constitution, it is indeed a constitutional right. The Ninth and Tenth Amendments specify that people are allowed to do any activity that the Constitution does not specifically prohibit.

Planet Fitness also has a good argument that the fitness industry is being treated unfairly compared to other industries. Walsh’s restrictions order the shutdown of gyms, museums, historical sites, aquariums, and movie theaters, while sparing restaurants and stores. When Walsh introduced the restrictions, he said: “This is not about targeting specific sectors that cause the virus. This is an effort to reduce overall activity outside the home.” This is a confusing statement, because the restrictions clearly do target specific industries by including them in the list of businesses required to close. But what Walsh seems to be saying is that inclusion in the list was not determined by how risky a particular type of business is. Instead, Walsh is just trying to decrease the total amount of businesses open so that people will have fewer options for activities to do outside their homes. This raises the question: how did Walsh decide which businesses would be forced to close and which would be allowed to remain open? What criteria did he use, if not the level of risk? Given the potentially disastrous economic impact of inclusion on the list, Walsh owes these unlucky business owners an explanation. 

bookmark_borderSupreme Court got it right: public health cannot override religious freedom

The Supreme Court’s Thanksgiving decision overturning New York’s Covid restrictions was truly something to be grateful for. A 5-4 majority ruled that the state government violated the First Amendment by imposing capacity limitations on religious services in an effort to combat the virus. 

The 5-justice majority reasoned that New York’s restrictions discriminated against religious institutions because they were regulated more strictly than secular businesses such as retail stores. But Justices Sotomayor and Kagan, part of the minority of 4, argued in their dissent that church services ought to be treated more strictly than stores because they involve people spending large amounts of time together in an enclosed space, often singing and talking. Retail businesses typically do not feature singing, and customers typically get in and out fairly quickly, making the virus less likely to spread there. “Justices of this court play a deadly game in second guessing the expert judgment of health officials about the environments in which a contagious virus, now infecting a million Americans each week, spreads most easily,” wrote Sotomayor. She argued that the religious restrictions are justified because they help to save lives, and that the ruling overturning them “will only exacerbate the Nation’s suffering.” Professor Jeffrey Sachs made a similar argument in an opinion piece for CNN, criticizing the ruling as “against public-health science” and “scientifically illiterate.” 

These arguments would make sense if saving lives was the sole consideration in determining right and wrong; in other words if a policy’s effectiveness in stopping the virus was the sole consideration in determining whether or not it should be enacted. But this is not the case. The first and foremost consideration in determining whether a policy should be implemented is: does it violate individual rights? If so, then it is not morally permissible, and should not be considered constitutional, regardless of how many lives it would save. This is not “anti-science” or “scientifically illiterate.” It is simply recognizing that science and morality are two separate things. The court was not “second guessing the expert judgment of health officials” about the environments in which the virus spreads most easily. It was simply affirming that these judgments about risk cannot justify taking away fundamental freedoms. Science tells us factual information about the world, including how a virus spreads and what measures would be most effective at containing it. But only philosophy can determine which policies governments ought to enact. Too many people, worshipping at the altar of “science” and “data,” falsely presume that whatever science says is most effective is what should be done. This is to throw morality out the window.

Referencing Pope Francis’s New York Times opinion piece bashing people who stand up for individual rights (I wrote about that here), Sachs claims, “the common good takes precedence over simplistic appeals to ‘personal freedom’ in protests against justified public health measures.” I could not disagree more strongly. First of all, Sachs is presuming the truth of what he is trying to prove. The public health measures against which people have been protesting are not justified. They are unjustified. That is why people are protesting against them. Second, it is offensive and wrong that Sachs chose to derisively put the words “personal freedom” in quotes. The appeals that he refers to are to personal freedom, not “personal freedom.” Additionally, there is nothing “simplistic” about the concept of personal freedom. The non-aggression principle is simple, but that does not make it stupid or incorrect, as Sachs implies. In fact, according to the concept of Occam’s razor, simple ideas are more, not less, likely to be true. Finally, the common good does not take precedence over personal freedom. Individual rights are an absolute and therefore must take precedence over everything else. 

Sachs complains that as a result of the Supreme Court ruling, “public health authorities will feel hamstrung to restrict religious gatherings even when the virus is spreading out of control.” But that is exactly the way it should be. He urges religious, public-health, and political leaders to use “scientific knowledge combined with compassion.” But the policies for which he advocates – taking away individual freedoms in order to combat the spread of the virus – demonstrate a complete lack of compassion. A leader with true compassion would understand that not everyone has the same preferences as he or she does. A leader with true compassion would allow all people to make decisions according to their preferences as opposed to imposing his or her own preferences and risk tolerance on everyone. Therefore, it is the five justices who overturned New York’s restrictions, including the Court’s newest member, Amy Coney Barrett, who demonstrate true compassion. 

bookmark_borderEpidemiologist “aghast” that tiny shreds of liberty still allowed to exist

When Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker implemented new restrictions in response to the Covid pandemic, I was appalled. He and governors across the country had already thoroughly trampled on their citizens’ rights in the name of fighting the virus, so the fact that he would introduce even harsher measures was horrible. But now, unbelievably, according to the Boston Globe, numerous people are voicing their displeasure with the fact that Baker’s restrictions do not go far enough. They are demanding that he implement even stricter measures, something that did not even occur to me as a possibility.

For example, Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, tweeted the following: “Over past 6 weeks, I’ve gone from uncomfortable to aghast at lack of action. Its incomprehensible. They must see different data because no rational explanation for lack of action.”

I can think of a rational explanation for lack of action: the fact that the actions in question – shutting down businesses, banning people from gathering, telling people to leave their homes as little as possible, etc. – would violate everyone’s rights. Rights are something that many epidemiologists do not seem to care about. Too many people presume that health and safety should be the sole considerations in determining which policies should be enacted. Liberty and freedom are completely disregarded. Jha is essentially saying that is uncomfortable with the fact that the government is only violating people’s rights a large amount, as opposed to a huge amount. He is aghast, and finds it incomprehensible, that a few tiny remnants of liberty are still allowed to exist. 

Making this statement even more bizarre is the fact that Jha was quoted in an article in the very same newspaper the previous day as saying, “Our job is to help people understand what the trade-offs are, but not necessarily to tell people what to do.” But his recent tweet expresses the exact opposite of this sentiment. If he does not think his job is to tell people what to do, why is he demanding that the government enact policies doing precisely that? In the article, Jha mentions receiving “scathing” letters from members of the public who disagree with his ideas. “Where are we as a country when that’s how people react to science?” he is quoted as asking.

If Jha truly refrained from telling people what to do, and simply explained what the trade-offs are when it comes to virus risk, then he would have a good point. There is no reason for people to be angry at an epidemiologist who is simply educating them about risks. But the sentiment that Jha expressed on Twitter demonstrates that he actually does believe people should be told what to do. Therefore, the scathing letters are completely justified. No one has the right to advocate for authoritarian policies and then to complain when he or she is criticized. Any person who expresses disrespect for liberty and individual rights deserves all the criticism that he or she gets.