We don’t “follow the science”, science informs politics.

Science does not tell us what we should do. Science can tell us what the consequences will be if we do or do not do some particular thing. Science informs us and our elected representatives, but science does not dictate what the political policy should be.

Almost every decision involves some kind of trade-off. Often, the trade-off is between safety and liberty. For example, most driving and traffic regulations involve giving up some amount of liberty in return for greater safety.

In the case of Covid-19, the use of vaccines, masks, business closings, etc. is a trade-off between safety and liberty. If you say that a Covid-19 related policy is justified if it saves even one life, then you would have a problem. The vaccine has clearly saved many lives, but some people have died from the vaccine as well. It is not as simple as choosing the one that saves the most lives. Almost everyone who wants to take the vaccine can take it. The majority of adults have already chosen to get the vaccine. The relatively few who are compromised in some way and, therefore, are advised against getting the vaccine can do a lot to protect themselves against those who might be contagious.

As a libertarian, I believe that private business owners, just like homeowners and individuals, should be free to choose whether or not to associate with those who are not vaccinated. Government, on the other hand, should really not be able to discriminate based on vaccine status in most situations because we citizens don’t really have the option to “opt-out” of dealing with the government. There may be some situations or circumstances where a vaccine mandate by the government might be appropriate, but the default position should be liberty, with the burden on the government to show why the mandate outweighs the loss of freedom. Ultimately, the decisions will be made by our elected representatives. And as we all know, there is a wide difference of opinion about vaccine mandates among our elected representatives as well as among we citizens.

How to reduce U.S. overdose deaths.

It has been widely reported that more than 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses during the 12 months ended April 30, 2021, a record high. A large and increasing portion of overdose deaths is attributable to illicitly obtained drugs, especially fentanyl. Many addicts have no choice but to buy their drugs on the black market, so they can’t be assured of the strength or purity of the drug, or what other drugs might have been added to what they think they are buying. As a result, many overdose deaths are accidental.

Imagine if we treated drug addiction using a medical model rather than a criminal model? If addictive drugs could be purchased legally and were regulated as to strength and purity, many overdose deaths would be avoided. Additionally, people who become addicted might be more likely to ask for help to kick the habit if they weren’t afraid of getting arrested and put in jail. Finally, much of the crime and violence associated with the illegal drug trade would go away if our policy of prohibition were ended.

As I’ve written before, if a new pharmacy opens in your neighborhood, the existing pharmacies don’t start a shooting war to protect their turf. And if someone breaks into or otherwise trys to rob a pharmacy, the pharmacy calls the police. It is the prohibition that causes most of the violence.

Under a legal drug regime, it would still be illegal to drive a vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants, and children would be prohibited from buying drugs. But a person who minds their own business would not be a criminal for using drugs in a peaceful manner.

Register needs better reporting of COVID-19 Stats.

Here is the text of a Letter To The Editor that I just sent to The Des Moines Register:

On Friday, December 4th, you started your daily COVID-19 report with, “The state added another 70 deaths to the tally of people who died with COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, the largest one-day increase since the pandemic arrived in the state.”   Later in the article, you clarified that of the 70 deaths “reported”, 61 actually died in November, eight died in October, and one died on August 26th.  Your introductory sentence was at best poorly written, and at worst intentionally misleading.  It does appear clear that we have recently been seeing significant increases in the spread of the virus and deaths from the virus, but you lose credibility when you make such misleading statements.

Here is a link to the article:

https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/2020/12/03/covid-19-iowa-70-deaths-record-increase-another-2926-coronavirus-cases-reported/3807381001/

Supreme Court correct to protect religion

Contrary to the letter from Donnabelle Richtsmeier, our Supreme Court was correct to overturn New York’s restriction on the size of religious gatherings.  (See copy of letter below.)

The 1st Amendment to the Constitution reads in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”     The 14th Amendment reads in part, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States…”  So, states cannot violate our federal constitutional rights.

No exception is made to allow our governments to violate our constitutional rights because of a pandemic. If that were true, what limit would there be on our government’s response to a pandemic?

The statement in the preamble of the Constitution, “promote the general welfare“ does not grant any specific power to our government.  If we gave our government the power to do anything that would promote the general welfare, there would be no limit on our government.  Our Constitution establishes a government with limited, enumerated powers. Restricting the exercise of religion is strictly prohibited.

Donnabelle Richtsmeier’s letter to the Des Moines Register:

I was astonished to learn that the Supreme Court ruled against the lower courts and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s COVID-19 restrictions that included limits on religious gatherings in places of worship. The justices certainly did not take into account current scientific evidence and advice from public health authorities that such measures could help stop the spread of the virus.

The Supreme Court is no longer a bipartisan group of judges whose job it is to interpret the Constitution in a fair and just way. It is a group bent on promoting their own philosophies and politics. In their ruling, they forgot the phrase in the preamble to the Constitution that states “promote the general welfare.” Certainly, efforts to protect citizens from COVID-19 is promoting the general welfare of the citizens of not only New York but the entire United States.

The framers of the Constitution wanted to guarantee religious freedom giving citizens the right to worship in ways suited to them, free from harassment or harm. The Supreme Court really took this out of context. Limiting the size of religious gatherings during this severe pandemic is in no way an attack on the freedom of religion. It is a way to protect the health of citizens and to save lives. The justices must put aside their individual prejudices and become a bipartisan group working together to uphold the Constitution in order to “form a more perfect union.” If they can’t do this, maybe it is time for some changes.

— Donnabelle Richtsmeier, Des Moines

Trump is wrong on his nationalist, anti-international trade policy

Below is the link to an excellent article by Eric Boehm from Reason magazine’s August/September issue.  It gives specific evidence that shows how international trade makes us safer in a world-wide pandemic rather than the opposite.  There is a knee-jerk reaction when we have shortages to assume that we would be better off if we did not depend on other countries for our various needed products.  This essay shows that the facts indicate otherwise.

link to Reason essay by Eric Boehm:  https://reason.com/2020/07/11/trumps-trade-war-made-the-pandemic-worse-and-nationalism-will-slow-the-recovery/

Good news for Iowans – COVID-19 on the decline.

Here’s some good news for Iowans:  Although more than 75,000 Iowans have tested positive for COVID-19, that represents less than 3 out of every 100 people – and two-thirds of those have recovered.  Although more than 1,200 Iowans have died from COVID-19, the highest peak was in May and the current trend is sharply down from the lower second peak in early September.  We have kept COVID-19 hospitalizations, intensive care bed use and ventilator use well below our capacity, and healthcare system availability continues to get even better..  The number of Iowans being tested for COVID-19 continues to increase and the percentage of people testing positive continues to decrease.  So, Iowans, keep up the social distancing and the wearing face masks when appropriate so that these positive trends continue until a vaccine becomes available.

 

Source: https://coronavirus.iowa.gov/#CurrentStatus

Iowa does not have the highest coronavirus growth rates in the U.S.!

The statistics used in the recently published White House coronavirus report for Iowa, and published in The Des Moines Register do not prove that the coronavirus is growing faster in Iowa than the rest of the nation.  The two key statistics used are not valid indicators.  The statistic “average number of positive tests per day per 100,000 population” is not valid because the results vary depending on how many tests are reported each day, and because those getting tested are not representative of the entire population.  The statistic “percent of tests reported each day that are positive”, (the positivity rate), is not valid because, again, those getting tested are not representative of the entire population.  The only currently available valid statistic is the death rate, which is a lagging indicator, and which is going down.  We should not be locking down parts of our economy based on bad data.  We should continue to encourage mask-wearing and social distancing when appropriate.

LInk to Register article:  https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/health/2020/08/31/white-house-coronavirus-taskforce-says-iowa-has-highest-rate-country/3449153001/

Science recommends, individuals or politics decide.

The editorial team at The Des Moines Register, (as well as many liberals), seem to think that anyone who does not follow the recommendations of our government’s scientists is a “science denier.”    That’s not true.  People can believe the science but disagree about how to respond politically.  Science can give us a pretty good idea of what will happen when we take certain actions, but science does not tell us what risks are acceptable or what trade-offs we are willing to make to achieve any specific level of safety.  Those are either individual or political decisions.  We could stop COVID-19 completely if everyone was required to stay in their home for the next 30 days.   But even then, some would die in their homes. There is no perfect answer.  It is a proper role of government to use its force to stop or slow the spread of a communicable disease.   But as we can clearly see there are wide differences of opinion regarding what trade-offs we are willing to make and what level of safety should be our goal.  To the extent that those who are not willing to take a risk can protect themselves, others should be free to take risks.

Vander Platts is wrong about

Bob Vander Platas’ essay in the Register supporting the State ordered prohibition of abortion was a poor attempt to rationalize his religious beliefs.  (See link below.)  Most would agree that if an abortion is to be done, it is best done at the earliest stage possible, ideally during the first trimester.  Iowa should not be prohibiting abortions or other “elective” surgeries that increase a person’s health risk if they are delayed. Currently, hospitals in Iowa are not that close to capacity, and surgical masks are different than the N95 masks.  This is one area where restrictions should be eased now.

Link to essay in The Register:   https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/iowa-view/2020/04/09/opinion-planned-parenthood-medically-irresponsible-during-covid-19-crisis/2967513001/

“Stay-at-home” or “Shelter-in-place” not needed in Iowa

Stay-at-home and shelter-in place orders appear to be no different than what I see happening in Iowa, regardless of what you call it.   In all cases, people are still free to walk, shop for groceries, get medicine, access medical care, all while social distancing.  Iowans are doing their part to bend the curve to help not overload our healthcare system.  Those who want further protection can quarantine themselves as much as they want.  Those who criticize Governor Reynolds for not using different terminology are just playing politics.