With all due respect to Professor Glenn Reynolds – who may have done more than any single person to launch this blog, a third of a lifetime ago – I was observing that three of the biggest killers of the Covid plague, density, transit, bureaucracy and censorship, well over a month back.
But they all deserve repeating.
The coronavirus has been much more deadly in places like New York City or Boston than in rural settings. As demographer Joel Kotkin notes, Los Angeles has done much better than other big cities, because it’s less dense. “L.A.’s sprawling, multi-polar urban form, by its nature, results in far less ‘exposure density’ to the contagion than more densely packed urban areas, particularly those where large, crowded workplaces are common and workers are mass-transit-dependent…
Kotkin mentions mass transit, and an MIT study found that NYC subways were a ”major disseminator” of the coronavirus in New York. This is unsurprising: New York City subways are crowded, poorly ventilated and filthy. The city is only just now starting to clean them every night. (A bit late.) Cars come with built-in social-distancing: With a car, you’re riding in a metal and glass bubble with filtered air. Subways and buses, not so much. Whether this virus sounds the ”death knell” for mass transit or not, people will be far more reluctant to ride packed vehicles in the future.
Minnesota’s favorite, Bureaucracy:
Early on, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared COVID-19 a public health emergency, which raised the bar for testing requirements. As a result, hospitals and universities faced significant barriers to getting alternative tests approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
The Chinese government censored reports of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, punished doctors who talked about it and lied to the world for weeks — while allowing flights from the infected area to carry people from Wuhan all over the world. Now some authoritarian types are claiming that the spread of virus misinformation on social media offers a new justification for censorship of ordinary people.
And let’s not forget perhaps the most insidious form of censorship of all – the notion that “science” is is an orthodox canon of knowledge bestowed upon the proles by high priests of knowledge, more like the medieval Catholic Church than a framework for relentless questioning and skepticism. That – and the media and social media establishment’s efforts to stymie dissent – could wind up being the biggest killers of people and destroyers of freedom of all.