The news recently has been full of worry about the Chinese coronavirus, which has now reached across the oceans due to travel to and from China. With the city of Wuhan under quarantine, and deaths from the virus rising every day, there’s quite a bit of worry throughout the world. Even stock markets, which have shrugged off every piece of bad news for the past several months, are starting to drop due to fears about the virus’ spread. And with the Chinese New Year having just occurred, and millions of Chinese traveling both throughout China and to and from China to overseas destinations, the potential for the virus to spread is immense. But is it really as dangerous as the media would have us believe?
For all the reports of how dangerous this virus is going to be, the reality is that it may just be like SARS all over again. Researchers have ruled out this current virus as being SARS, with the initial indications being that the virus may have been transmitted from animals to human beings at a seafood market in Wuhan. Thus far there have only been a few hundred cases of the virus, with a couple dozen deaths. When the SARS “epidemic” occurred in 2003, it spread to 40 countries, with about 8,000 cases reported and 800 deaths. That’s hardly anything to get worked up about.
What viruses like this do is allow governments to beat the drums about public health, stepping up border controls, demanding quarantines, and generally trying to tell everybody what to do. It doesn’t matter that the virus in question isn’t a pandemic that will wipe out millions of people, it’s just another excuse for big government to try to justify its existence. Then when the virus is found out to be a big nothingburger, government takes credit for “saving” everyone from the virus, even though it was never a threat to begin with.
Just remember that when public authorities start warning how we need more government spending on healthcare, more restrictions on people’s movement, etc. As C.S. Lewis said:
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
That describes the potential tyranny that can result from public health concerns better than anything else today.