Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Drop the “It’s Guided by the Science” Pretext

By Don Boudreaux

Humanity is repeatedly assured that the lockdowns and other restrictions imposed in the name of fighting Covid-19 are justified by “the science.” This tale from the start – that is, even back in March – has struck me as dubious, as politicians are politicians and not scientists. Today this tale strikes me as being so utterly absurd as to be criminally reckless.

In the areas that I know best – trade, minimum wage, and antitrust – politicians and their hirelings almost never give evidence of being able to grasp even the simplest scientific tenets. To listen to politicians pronounce on economic topics is to hear mostly nonsense. The recognition of scarcity and the resulting need to make trade-offs is routinely ignored. Politicians left and right often describe the goodies they promise to arrange for their constituents as being either free or as paid for by “the rich” who, demonized in cartoonish ways, deserve to have their pockets picked.

That such people as Gavin Newsom, Andrew Cuomo, Mike DeWine, Larry Hogan, Bill de Blasio, Muriel Bowser, and Joe Biden care about, and are guided by, science is simply ridiculous. They care about, and are guided by, their and their parties’ electoral prospects. (Forget here that the question of whether or not to lockdown – and, if so, how harshly – is not one that can be answered by science.)

Nevertheless, in the new hysteria that arrived in March, I can kind of, sort of, just barely understand why people panicked and, thus, negligently put trust in the ‘scientific’ judgment of politicians.

But what’s the excuse today, nine months into this tyranny? How can anyone this side of dementia believe, say, that Gavin Newsom is guided by “the science” when his policies prevent private restaurant owners from doing exactly what his policies allow movie producers to do? (See the poignant, now-viral video available here.) How can any sane person suppose that Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear is acting “on the science” when he orders a halt to in-person instruction in K-12 schools – including private ones – while permitting not only pre-schools and universities, but also the likes of theaters, bowling alleys, and gambling parlors, to remain open?

The Covid restrictions aren’t based in science, and anyone who today continues to treat them as such reveals his or her own rejection of science and rationality. These restrictions are a deranged response to the hysteria stirred by news media that thrive on frightening their audiences – audiences who then, conveniently for the kinds of persons who do what it takes to win high political office, tolerate politicians exercising with little or no restraint that which these politicians most desire to exercise: power.

The above originally appeared at Cafe Hayek.


  1. The integrity of science used to be something that could be relied upon. But just like free speech, things have certainly changed.

    Something seems to have been lost even during the schooling process, but the biggest impacts come by the hand of government and their interventions with big dollar research funding. If your research results are contrary to the common narrative, it becomes a challenge to get funded or published.

    Science is NEVER settled, and any scientist or engineer that says otherwise should be considered disingenuous. Science is rather the useful persuasive tool when only one side gets to speak.

  2. Maybe what these people mean is that this whole thing is a scientific experiment. “How to enslave a people”.