Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Another Round of Coronavirus Lockdowns Might Be Coming. They'll Be Far Less Enforceable Than Before.

By Eric Boehm - June 16, 2020 at 09:30AM

There's probably no better demonstration of the nonsensical nature of America's ongoing coronavirus lockdowns than the scene that played out on Monday at a children's playground in Brooklyn. 

Middleton Playground, in the New York City borough's Williamsburg neighborhood, had been closed since June 1 for "social distancing violations"—because children were using the playground to, well, play. After repeated violations of the closure order, the city dispatched workers to the playground on Monday to weld the gates shut.

"We had to secure the location and did not have our typical resources available so as a short term fix we welded one of four entrances shut," a spokesman for the city's parks department told National Review's Zachary Evans.

Residents of the neighborhood soon took matters into their own hands.

This is the state of affairs all across America nearly three months after quarantines, lockdowns, and stay-at-home orders were first imposed to "flatten the curve" of the coronavirus pandemic. The number of COVID-19 cases is rising in many places, prompting fears that reopening plans could be halted or reversed. But public officials—from the ones running the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio—have largely squandered the public trust that would be necessary to impose another round of shutdowns.

People are understandably frustrated that for months they were forbidden from attendings weddings or funerals for loved ones because officials said gatherings of more than 10 or 25 people were a public health threat—only to see many of those same officials cheer massive protests that have spread through cities in recent weeks.

Thousands of people gathered outside of the Brooklyn Museum for a Black Trans Lives Matter rally on Sunday, but a few dozen kids can't go to a playground on Monday?

Some officials, including de Blasio, have tried to explain this seeming contradiction away by arguing that the protests matter so much that violations of lockdowns and social distancing should be tolerated. But the relative values of social justice and playtime don't matter much to the average American, who is now far more likely to roll his or her eyes at the idea that we should modulate our concern about spreading a deadly disease for some social activities but not others.

Of course, the alternative to another set of lockdowns is pretty grim too.

Sure, you can probably expect most civic and state officials to handle things with considerably more finesse than de Blasio. The next round of lockdowns, if they occur, are unlikely to involve literally locking the public out of certain spaces. But that may not matter, now that people have decided to bring bolt-cutters.


FREE MINDS

Police in Albuquerque, New Mexico, will no longer respond to some non-emergency 911 calls under a plan unveiled Monday by Tim Keller, the city's mayor. Instead, Albuquerque will put together an unarmed civilian public safety department to respond to calls involving "homelessness, addiction, and mental health."

If such a program had been in place in March, at least one resident of Albuquerque might still be alive today. Valente Acosta-Bustillos was killed by police inside his own home on March 30 during what was supposed to be a routine "wellness check." Acosta-Bustillos' daughter had called the police to ask them to check on her dad after he had not shown up to work for several days.

Even without such hideous examples—and there are far too many—of police officers killing the people they are supposed to be helping, Albuquerque's new policy makes a lot of sense. Police exist to enforce the law, not to serve as frontline social workers. And since any encounter with an armed police officer, no matter how mundane, has the potential to turn violent in an instant, cities should be aiming to reduce how frequently those encounters occur.


FREE MARKETS

The Federal Reserve will begin buying up corporate debt from private corporations in an attempt to reduce those companies' borrowing costs. The Fed was already buying corporate bonds from companies in some circumstances, but now it will allow itself to purchase the debt of any corporation selling bonds on the open market.

The shift in strategies is meant to address growing worries about the record-high levels of debt on corporate balance sheets. But, as the Associated Press notes, "the Fed's purchases should hold down corporate bond yields, making it cheaper for companies to borrow." That's not a recipe for getting companies to reduce their levels of debt, plus it seems more likely to only further inflate the corporate debt bubble. Whether as a moral hazard or as an act of overt corporate welfare, the Fed's new policy seems questionable at best.


QUICK HITS

• Some members of Congress benefited from loans that were supposed to help small businesses survive the coronavirus-imposed economic shutdown, and the Trump administration is still refusing to disclose vital information about the program.

• Some governments around the world are asking people to use wearable devices—like smartwatches—to track coronavirus cases, but that's causing "new unintended consequences for privacy, association, and freedom of expression."

• North Korea destroyed a building used for diplomatic meetings with South Korean officials. It was not occupied at the time.

• There may not be a Major League Baseball season at all this year, as negotiations between team owners and the players union over a proposed shortened season have soured.

  • Lord Fairfax will haunt your dreams:


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