My protest concerns the basic ideas that have motivated these policies.
They were clearly enunciated by President Macron in his TV address of March 12th. Here he made three claims that I found most intriguing.
The first one was that his government was going to apply drastic measures to "save lives" because the country was "at war" with the Covid19 virus.
He repeatedly used the phrase "we are at war" (nous sommes en guerre) throughout his talk.
Secondly, he insisted right at the very beginning that it was imperative to heed the advice of "the experts."
Monsieur Macron literally said that we all should have to listen and follow the advice of the people "who know" – meaning who know the problem and who know how best to deal with it.
His third major point was this emergency situation had revealed how important it was to enjoy a state-run system of public healthcare.
How lucky are we to have such a system and to be able to rely on it, now, in the heat of the war against the virus!
Unsurprisingly, the president insinuated that this system would be reinforced in the future.
ane material life down here in earth.
Now, most people do not actually cherish the preservation of their lives, or the extension of their life spans, as the single highest goals.
Smokers, meat eaters, drinkers prefer a shorter, more joyful life, to a longer life of abstinence.
Policemen, soldiers, and many citizens are more than often driven by the love of their country and by a love of justice.
They would rather die than live under slavery or tyranny.
Priests would risk their lives rather than forsake their commitment. A believer in Christ would rather risk death than apostasy.
Sailors risk their own lives to provide for their families. Medical doctors and nurses are willing to risk their lives to help patients with infectious diseases.
Rugby players and race drivers risk their lives, not only for the glory of winning, but also for the excitement and satisfaction that comes with performing well under danger. Many young men and women gladly trade the excitement of dance for the risk of catching Covid19.
All of these people, in one way or another, make material contributions to the livelihood of all others.
Smoker and drinkers ultimately pay for their consumption, not with money (which serves them only as a tool of exchange with others), but with the goods and services that they themselves provide to others.
If they could not indulge in their consumption, their motivation to help others would diminish or vanish altogether.
If policemen, soldiers, sailors, and nurses did not have a relatively low risk-aversion, their services would be provided only at much higher cost, and possibly not at all.
The preferences and activities of all market participants are interdependent.
In the market order, each one helps all other in pursuing their goals, even if these goals may ultimately contradict his own.
The meat eater might be a mechanic who repairs the cars of vegetarians, or an accountant who does the bookkeeping for a vegetarian NGO. The soldier also protects pacifists. Among the pacifists may be farmers who grow the food consumed by soldiers, etc.
It is impossible to disentangle all of these connections, and it is not necessary. The point is that, in a market economy, the factors determining the production of any economic good are not just technicalfactors.
Through exchange, through the division of labour, all production processes are interrelated.
The effectiveness of doctors and nurses and their assistants does not only depend on the people who directly supply them with the materials that they need. Indirectly, it also depends on the activities of all other producers who do not have the slightest thing to do with medical services in hospitals.
Even in an emergency situation, it is therefore necessary to respect the needs and priorities of these others.
Locking them away, locking them down, far from facilitating the operation of hospitals, will eventually come to haunt the latter as well, when supply chains wither and consumer staples start lacking.
Now one might contend that such consequences only obtain in the longer run and that a government confronted with an emergency situation needs to neglect long-run issues and focus on the short-run emergency.
This sounds reasonable, which is why governments have appealed to arguments of this sort with great regularity in other areas, most notably to justify expansionary macroeconomic policies, which also trade off the present against the future.
But the reasoning is flawed in the present case.
The root of the error is to consider that the Covid19 virus is an immediate threat to human lives, whereas the lock-down policies are not.
But this is not the case. How many people have committed suicide because the lockdown measures have driven them to depression and insanity?
How many did not receive life-saving treatments because hospital beds and staff were blocked for Covid19 victims?
How many have become victims at home because of the lockdown-induced aggression of their spouses?
How many have lost their jobs, their companies, their wealth and will be driven to suicide and aggression in the months to come?
How many people in the poorest countries of the world economy are now driven into starvation because households and firms in the developed world have cut back demand for their products because of the lockdown?
The inevitable conclusion is that, even in the short run, lockdown policies are costing the lives of many people who would not otherwise have died.
In the short and in the long-run, the current lockdown policy does not serve to "save lives" but to save the lives of some people at the expense of the lives of others.
The lockdown policies are understandable as a panic reaction of political leaders who want to do the right thing and who have to make decisions with incomplete information.
But upon reflection – and certainly in hindsight – they are not good policy. The lockdowns of the past month have not been conducive to the common good. While they have saved the lives of many people, they have also endangered – and are still endangering – the lives and livelihoods of many others.
They have created a new and dangerous political precedent. They have reinforced the political-regime uncertainty – to use Robert Higgs's felicitous phrase – that bears on the choices of individuals, families, communities, and firms in the years to come.
The right thing to do now is to abandon these policies swiftly and entirely. The citizens of free countries are able to protect themselves.
They can act individually and collectively. They cannot act well when they are locked down. They will greet any honest and competent advice on what they can and should do, upon which they will proceed responsibly, whether alone or in coordination with others.
The greatest danger right now is in the perpetuation of the ill-conceived lockdowns, most notably under the pretext of "managing the transition" or other spurious justifications.
Is it really necessary to walk through the endless list of management failures of government agents? Is it necessary to remind ourselves that people who have no skin in the game are irresponsible in the true sense of the word?
These would-be managers should have stayed out of the picture from the very beginning. Instead, so far, they have managed to get everybody else out of the picture.
If they are allowed to go on, they might very well turn the present calamity – big as it is – into a true disaster.
The historical precedent that comes to mind is the Great Depression of the 1930s. Then, too, the free world was confronted with a painful recession, when the implosion of the stock-market bubble entailed a deflationary meltdown of the financialised economy, along with massive unemployment.
This recession, dire as it was, could have remained short, as had been all the previous recessions in the US and elsewhere.
Instead it was turned into a multi-year depression, thanks to folly of FDR and his government, who had the pretention of managing the recovery with government spending, nationalisations, and price controls.
It is not too late.