Responses to the spread of the coronavirus vary considerably in different jurisdictions. In states of the U.S. that are dominated by massive cities, health constraints have tended to be severe, subjecting rural counties to the same crippling strictures as urban ghettoes. Relief from such broad-brush diktats often depends on discretionary enforcement by police, who can usually judge local needs better than governors.
Here in New Hampshire, the outbreak has thus far struck a fairly light blow, perhaps because the Governor’s order fell a little more on the strict side than the situation originally seemed to warrant. He didn’t close the borders, but this time last week barely one-tenth of a percent of our state was thought to be infected. By contrast, New York State then had confirmed cases amounting to nearly 1.3 percent of its population. It’s nice to imagine we have only one-twelfth as many infections per-capita as New York, but excessive isolation may merely have delayed us from developing herd immunity—leaving us vulnerable to a second wave.
As many have noted, Sweden followed a milder course. Its population voluntarily observes sensible precautions, albeit less stringent than those being imposed by force in much of the U.S. Far more of their society continues to function. Old people isolate, and most others keep some distance. High schools and colleges closed because older, more mobile students pose a greater risk of transmission, and because remote learning is more effective for them. Primary schools remain open for the opposite reasons.
This seems to infuriate advocates of prison-like lockdowns that have failed to prevent far worse mortality elsewhere, and they compare Sweden only to those countries with better outcomes. Yet Sweden has suffered barely one-quarter New York State’s per-capita death rate, one-third of Belgium’s, and less than half that of Spain or Italy. Thus far, Sweden’s government has accepted the risk of slightly higher immediate mortality to ease social trauma and avoid the economic collapse we’ve inflicted on ourselves. Their chief epidemiologist said his country expects its citizens to act responsibly, and for the most part they do. Meanwhile, blanket lockdowns of untested constitutionality flourish in the U.S., where personal responsibility is so unfashionable that one political party thrives on promises to provide everything for everyone.
Given so densely populated a world, the probability of other pandemics runs high. Riding out such storms has been the tactic for centuries, but modern society has apparently lost all patience with governments that allow any citizens to die. Until recently, we waged wars costing hundreds of thousands of lives for the sake of such obscure notions as liberty, but suddenly Americans seem perfectly willing to surrender any ideal rather than risk the slightest chance of death. Nothing seems worth a life anymore: Andrew Cuomo declared last month that virtually any sacrifice is worth it if it “saves just one life.”
Satisfying such an extraordinary new value requires desperate measures, but a foolproof solution does exist. Fires can be stopped by starving them of fuel, and in viral epidemics the fuel is the host who has contracted the virus. Depriving a virus of hosts can starve it, too, but isolation achieves that end only temporarily. There is only one way to permanently protect mankind from viruses, but it simultaneously offers protection against all other dangers.
Most people favor birth control, and many—including life-worshipping Andrew Cuomo—are already perfectly comfortable with abortion. Why not mobilize those tools for a war against death? Simply make universal birth control mandatory, with compulsory abortion in case of contraceptive failure. It should attract bipartisan U.S. support. Coercion appeals to Democrats, who strive zealously to force their moral standards on everyone else, and Republicans would surely benefit from the gradual disappearance of younger voters.
Abortion resisters might occasionally go into hiding until they reach full term. They would have to come out sometime, however, and—as Governor Ralph Northam explained to Virginians last year—it’s never too late to finish the job on an abortion, even in a case of stubborn viability. Northam should know; he’s a doctor.
It would take an entire human lifetime to accomplish, but by eliminating birth (which, after all, is the underlying cause), we could eradicate death itself by the end of this century. Pious Christians would recognize it as the Rapture, and welcome the New Testament promise that “there shall be no more death.” Equally devout progressive humanists could rejoice, too, because never again would another human life be lost.