The next step

Featured image from Joe Burbank of the AP. Follow the link for the original article.

I love Disneyland. It has been shuttered for nearly a year now, and I get news about Disney World on my news feeds. This morning I read a blurb from one of the Disney World feeds that piqued my interest. According to the Associated Press published in the Tampa Bay Times, the Biden administration is considering implementing domestic travel advisories and bans on the state of Florida, citing rising percentages of the new, more contagious UK strain of COVID, as well as other variants from Brazil and South Africa.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, “one White House official” said, “There are active conversations about what could help mitigate spread here, but we have to follow the data and what’s going to work. We did this with South Africa, we did this with Brazil, because we got clear guidance. But we’re having conversations about anything that would help mitigate spread.”

“’This is a war and we’re at battle with the virus. War is messy and unpredictable, and all options are on the table,’ the White House official said.”

There is a lot to unpack in these unprecedented times. I often talk of incentive, and how certain policy procedures make sense when you look at the incentive structure. Florida has been vilified during this pandemic, opting to focus more of its effort on reopening the economy and less on complying with the lockdown pressure from the media and federal agencies, and more recently, the White House. The idea is that people should be going to work in the middle of the pandemic is cause for risk and alarm, and therefore we must focus on health outcomes above all others. In order to do this, we must overlook to use wartime jargon, collateral damage. And since we are looking at this from a wartime perspective, we must also use the term “acceptable losses.” It is a bit of stark utilitarianism that can provide some of this contrast.

So, by this logic, the White House is considering creating a front for this fight against the newest advances of this invisible enemy, and considers Florida to be hostile territory, in which the enemy has gained a foothold. All the incentives are there to press for some sort of travel restriction, because movement into hostile territory “could” allow for enemy movement into friendly territory.

I have a lot of problems with this type of logic and reasoning. Stripping the variables out of a situation will cause problems that we must deal with later. There are people that live in Florida, with lives, families, and worth. There are people all over the world that depend on the great wheel of enterprise to keep turning in order to eat. The UN World Food Programme warned back in June of 2020 that millions could die from the breakdowns of the supply chains. Global Citizen reports that 1.3 million have been pushed into famine-like conditions in southern Madagascar. But we are supposed to focus on “saving lives.”

People are not collateral to be so callously assessed in some zero-sum war exercise. Focusing on a single factor, like health outcomes, ignores the damage done to peoples’ spirits and the sense of hopelessness that grows as this pandemic drags on. The transition from what has happened to what “could” happen in terms of political strategy is a dangerous switch. In implementing policy, particularly as broad as potentially banning travel from one state to another, and having that policy impact the general population rather than individuals with confirmed cases opens the door to many more policies based upon “what-if” scenarios.

I am also suspect of the motivations of the players involved. Biden has said in his Build Back Better rhetoric that we should use the virus as an opportunity for structural change (Per Vox.com) back in 2020. The World economic forum uses similar language, saying that “As we enter a unique window of opportunity to shape the recovery, this initiative will offer insights to help inform all those determining the future state of global relations, the direction of national economies, the priorities of societies, the nature of business models and the management of a global commons.” (Per the World Economic Forum website) It is not unsurprising that the modern Democratic Party has global collectivist beliefs in their camp. Organizations like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club routinely and heavily donate to Democratic candidates.

Sierra Club PAC profile from opensecrets.org
Greenpeace profile summary from opensecrets.org

Florida hasn’t been doing all that badly in the COVID war, and that of course depends entirely which metrics you’re wishing to use. The media focuses nearly entirely on the number of deaths and absolute number of cases when it comes to judging how a state is doing. Per Worldometer, using yesterday’s numbers (2/10/21), Florida ranked third in total number of cases, behind California (first), and Texas (second), and just above New York (fourth). This isn’t all that surprising, considering that the four most populous states are, in order, California, Texas, Florida, and New York. Florida ranks fourth in total deaths (28,208), behind California (45,475), New York (45,466), and Texas (40,391). This is a bit surprising when listening to the media coverage, but unsurprising when, again, you consider that the top four are the four most populous states.

Where the relevant metrics come into play, at least in my opinion, are on a per million basis, since that removes the skewing of absolute cases towards more populated states. Florida ranks 28th in cases per million (84,281), and 26th in deaths per million (1,313), roughly in the middle. This is better than whole countries are doing, like Italy (1,851 Deaths per million), the UK (1,686), and Italy (1,529). Globally, Florida is in the same ballpark as countries like Spain (1,362), and Mexico (1,298). And yet, we’re hearing speculation on shutting down travel to the state. It almost has an Escape from New York ring to it.

My frustration with these unceasing lockdowns is with the premise. We were sold a bill of goods, and given empty promises by politicians who also saw opportunities to capitalize politically and economically. Small businesses are shuttered in may parts of the country, and in many cases those closings have been made permanent. We’ve seen the steady erosion of our civil liberties and rights during the last year, under the guise of “safety” and “protection.” The government cares for you insofar as you are useful, and will quickly and thoroughly stomp on whatever freedoms they need to in order to force you to comply. This streak of authoritarianism has stained the entire fabric, and spreads outwards like the ink on the map in Moana, covering the earth in darkness.

Wake up America, the authoritarians have taken over. They believe they are morally right, regardless of whether they are factually correct, to quote Representative Ocasio-Cortez. And it is this belief in the righteousness of their cause that drives them to ever worsening measures. Conspire to get the proper outcome to an election, attempt to criminalize the majority of America’s gun owners, outsource infringements to tech companies and financial institutions, all of it. It’s not a web, but rather a current, and like a riptide, the more we fight against it, the further out we get pulled.

By Patrick Woodland

I write about the things that have impact on me.

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