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Fear: The Fuel of Government Power—Coronavirus Panic
Wednesday, March 18, 2020

In response to 400 known cases and 5 deaths from coronavirus in the San Francisco Bay Area, on March 16th Bay Area city and county governments panicked and overreacted by ordering a "Shelter in Place" mandate that compels work from home, restricts free assembly, and imposes rules on residents and communities in which only "essential businesses" can operate. The order was proclaimed after private events were already and voluntarily being canceled, prudent telework arrangements were becoming common, and proper health precautions were being widely adopted.

The original order extends until April 7th and involves San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Marin, Contra Costa and Alameda counties—a combined population of more than 6.7 million. Since then a total of 16 counties have joined in the edict, and California Governor Gavin Newsom has warned of declaring martial law.

[3/19/20 Update: "Progressive" Gov. Newsom has extended the edict to all Californians statewide affecting 40 million people, and he claims the right to announce more drastic measures as he sees fit.]

In this event, Graham H. Walker (Executive Director) and Mary L. G. Theroux (Senior Vice President) at the Independent Institute examine the folly and hypocrisy for this edict, which falls just short of a full lockdown. As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, "The orders call for county and city sheriffs and police chiefs to 'ensure compliance,' and local authorities said they would not 'rush to enforce' the directives as residents adjusted to understand what activities are no longer allowed. Violation of the orders is considered a misdemeanor punishable by a fine or jail time."

Meanwhile, the strict monopoly control by the CDC (federal government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) over coronavirus test kits, as an example of the failure of "single-payer healthcare," produced faulty kits, bureaucracy and massive shortages. In contrast, private firms in South Korea and Taiwan have been free to innovate and make effective kits widely available, and cases of coronavirus are declining there.

This edict along with the threat of extensive, new federal and state government restrictions, spending and debt have already sent the U.S. economy into a recession, which will only deepen if continued and create social and enormous hardships far greater than the epidemic itself.

Graham H. Walker
Graham H. Walker is Executive Director and Assistant Editor for The Independent Review: A Journal of Political Economy at the Independent Institute. He received his Ph.D. in public law and government from the University of Notre Dame. Dr. Walker has served as Associate Professor of Politics at Catholic University of America, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, Visiting Scholar in Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton, NJ), Senior Research Scholar at the Witherspoon Institute, Headmaster at Oaks Christian School, Vice President for Academic Affairs at Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Visiting Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, President at Patrick Henry College, Legislative Aide to former Congressman David Stockman, and Fellow at the Presidio Institute.
Mary L. G. Theroux
Mary L. G. Theroux is Senior Vice President of the Independent Institute. Having received her A.B. in economics from Stanford University, Ms. Theroux is Managing Director of Lightning Ventures, L.P., and Vice President of the C.S. Lewis Society of California. She is former Chairman of the Advisory Board for the Alameda County Salvation Army; former Chairman and current member of the San Francisco Salvation Army Advisory Board, and also serves on the National Advisory Board of The Salvation Army. Ms. Theroux was also Chairman of Garvey International, Inc., and Co-Founder, President, and CEO of San Francisco Grocery Express, Ltd. Articles on Ms. Theroux have appeared in Business Week, Forbes, Savvy, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and other publications.

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