What’s the better for dealing with pandemic disease: martial-law quarantines imposed by the state according to geography, or keeping society open while trusting medical professionals, individuals, families, and communities to make intelligent decisions?
A month ago, such a question would have been purely hypothetical but the answer in the United States would have been settled. After all, this is a country of law, with a Bill of Rights, limits on state power, and an essential trust in freedom. Right?
How times change in a crisis. Mayors and governors around the country are imposing quarantines, not because they work but because they don’t want to be blamed for failing to act. So let’s consider that essential question: what works?
South Korea has seen a steady increase in new coronavirus cases for the latter half of the last week. The country had the fourth most cases of coronavirus in the world. There were no geographic quarantines enforced by armed guards. Instead, the sole focus was on widespread testing and isolating the sick.
After averaging over 500 new cases per day back to the last week of February, between Friday and Sunday the daily totals numbered 438, 367, and 248 according to the Korea Center for Disease Control.
How is it that without deploying the military or imposing widespread, enforced quarantine, the spread of coronavirus in South Korea is apparently slowing?
Actually, there’s a better question: why should the U.S. copy China rather than South Korea?
The United States is deep in the throes of an election season at present, and so haughty invokings of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence are recurrent (if not always coherent). Of course, talk is generally cheap – and all the cheaper when coming from the mouths of politicians. It’s in times of crisis that the veracity of one’s commitment to liberty and human rights is laid bare. The difference between the U.S. and China is that China makes no pretense of reverence for liberty, nor for the inviolate elevation of individual rights.