Against more lockdowns

Are lockdowns the answer to our country’s problems? It’s not likely.

In an earlier article, I wrote about the need for the federal government to provide continued financial assistance to keep businesses afloat and prevent a deep, lingering recession. Many in the country are still desperately waiting for help from a government that has sadly allowed political calculations to get in the way of the economic needs of the country. Fortunately, it seems that Congress is now close to passing another stimulus package. The pandemic continues to hurt our economy, as many small businesses suffer and particular industries, such as airlines and hospitality, are hit especially hard. The public health crisis has created an economic catastrophe for many businesses and individuals—not to mention the mental health impact financial struggles and increased isolation have had on many.

In the face of rising case counts, some government officials are imposing the stay-at-home orders much of the country experienced in the spring. Others are calling for even more extreme, across-the-board measures. The arrival of vaccines provides some hope that the end of this pandemic is in sight. But we can’t afford to wreck our economy further as we await that day. Health and safety are top priorities of mine, as a father, husband and business leader—but one-size-fits-all, onerous lockdowns that cripple business activity are not the solution.

A former professor of mine—University of Chicago economics professor Austan Goolsbee—recently said, “the virus is the boss.” Until we get a handle on the virus and people feel safe resuming normal life, we won’t have a fully healthy economy, no matter what governments say we can and can’t do. But governments can cause more harm if they stifle economic activity unnecessarily. Many law-abiding and reasonable citizens will eventually throw up their hands in the face of what appear to be unreasonable and illogical restrictions (the examples of hypocrisy we’ve seen from some government officials don’t help either). Here’s how I see it: we must take care of the virus, but we also must take care of our economy.

We all need to do our part. Wear masks. Social distance. But our leaders must balance our public health needs with the fact that people must be able to make a living. For me, the answer is simple. I don’t want to see the economy crater or unemployment rise. We experimented with a mass shutdown last spring, and we still haven’t full recovered (with 2.4 million people unemployed for more than six months). Sustaining the economy, keeping businesses open and preserving jobs must be priorities for this nation. As I’ve discussed previously, the federal government needs to step up and offer more assistance to struggling businesses and individuals. But state and local governments must do their part by resisting the urge to impose more lockdowns that hurt the economy and increase COVID fatigue among even the most reasonable, health-conscious citizens. I believe we can manage the virus while rebuilding a healthy economy.

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