Friday, April 17, 2020

Lockdown Rules That Don't Make Sense

There've been a lot of complaints about the shutdown rules in e.g. Michigan, where you can buy booze, but not garden seeds--even when they're right there next to the booze and donuts or whatever. It certainly doesn't make a lot of sense to be able to buy lottery tickets but not seeds. Especially when the future of the food supply is less than 100% certain.
   I'm not really going to defend those specific decisions, but I just want to suggest that I don't think we should expect laws like this to make perfect sense, especially when instituted in haste. There are always cases at the margins of such things that don't make sense. But it seems to me that the aim should be to produce rules that generally make sense and not sweat the details too terribly much. It's very unlikely you'll be able to formulate sets of rules with no peculiarities of this kind.
   One response might be to relax parts of the rules that are particularly galling or notorious--e.g. end garden seed prohibition. If you do, other anomalies will become notorious (what, we can buy seeds but not fertilizer?? we can buy candy but not running shoes?) but that's just the way this is going to go. Repeat ad hoc easing of restrictions as necessary. This all has to end pretty soon anyway, so states should just seek to fight a delaying action. If necessary.

   If we had a set of good public arguments against restarting the economy--e.g. if the virus were more deadly to healthy people--there'd be less resistance to the measures. But the experts blew it right out of the gate, and now everybody's skeptical of their pronouncements. And the public arguments being offered aren't that convincing. If there are arguments that aren't being communicated, then, by all means, produce them.
   As for governors, like Whitmer and Northam... The latter, at least, has a preexisting reputation among about half the citizens of the Commonwealth for being an authoritarian loon. Signing all the anti-firearm bills and pretending that we're all going to go along with the shutdown until June 10th have amplified that reputation. I suppose he's popular in NoVa. But not in...y'know...Virginia...
   Anyway. It's foolish to pretend that these restrictions can work like flipping a switch. People are likely already taking the restrictions less seriously, both in response to new information and because, well, we just are. And that trajectory won't change a lot unless we, e.g., become convinced that this thing is more deadly than it currently seems. That's the way with people. Maybe with Americans specifically. I hope so, anyway.
   So the point of that is: governors should get real about how this is all going to evolve. Virginians aren't going to all stay inside until 6/10. The longer you prevent Michiganders from buying garden seed, the faster they're going to get pissed off. People are going to start leaking out of lockdown, and so, if you think it's important to slow/manage that, then start figuring out how to do so. Or figure out how to convince us it's a bad idea.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home