You Don't Burn Your House Down
You don't burn your house down because it has cockroaches in it, yet that's exactly what governments are trying to do in response the the Wuhan virus.
This is not a post about how to measure, or deal with the virus - this is way beyond my rather average biology knowledge. The fact that a large part of the available data comes from China, and is interpreted by Positivist scientists, means there isn't even a reliable consensus on how the virus behaves.
It suffices to say that it seems as contagious as the Spanish flu, and as deadly as measles - with the potential to become worse, since viruses mutate quite frequently. This is more than reason enough to worry, plan and act. It is not nearly enough to justify the panic we're witnessing - the same panic we saw during zika, swine flu, aviary flu... and countless other epidemics that turned out not to be so deadly to people who had access to proper hospitals.
Why this much panic? For the same reason behind climate-change panic, school-shooting panic, and any other type of mass hysteria: it is very profitable for politicians seeking more power.
In the "shadier" corners of the world, the political use of the virus is pretty out in the open. China has used it to get protesters off the streets, craft a new "national unity" narrative and justify an increasingly intense police presence - even for its own tyrannical standards. Russia, being Putin's private company, has taken the opportunity to ramp up their oil production during this low-demand period, in an attempt to drive Americans out of the energy business. It has also used it to further legitimize "Cossacks" like Gorbunov and Kovalov - Putin's unofficial paramilitary units - as they patrol Chinese neighborhoods for the "common good".
America's aspiring tyrants have to be much more subtle - and this panic is the perfect opportunity to expand the government's power "for the common good". On the local level, many towns have declared "preventive" states of emergency - a way to get their hands on more tax money, and lay the ground for illegitimate policies. On the federal level, we can see this panic being used as fuel for the "healthcare is a public issue" narrative - which usually precedes an increase in government power over healthcare.
The only reason a disease that kills hundreds of thousands of Africans can be just a minor inconvenience for Americans is, well... reason. More specifically, the fact that Americans are free to act rationally, and reap the benefits of their actions. It is reason that cures diseases. Panic only benefits fear-mongering politicians.
- March 11th, 2020