When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020, Gov. Roy Cooper and other officials began exercising government power in ways unprecedented in modern times. They shut down businesses, withheld basic public services such as in-person schooling, and ordered healthy, law-abiding citizens not to travel, to visit their loved ones, or even to enter a house of worship (though that last edict didn’t long survive legal challenge).

As a freedom-minded conservative, I did not argue at the time that the governor and his team had no legitimate power to act during emergencies. Infectious disease is one of the few cases in which highly coercive action may be required to protect public health and safety. It represents a rare exception to the rule that private property should be inviolate and that informed consent, not government dictate, is the proper way for people to manage the risks and rewards of life in a civilized society.

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John Hood is a John Locke Foundation board member.


(2) comments


Well said!

It's quite depressing that the WD continues to peddle this grifter's nonsense. But I suppose it ought to come as no surprise given the fact that the publisher (Stephen Adams of APG) is a right-wing, Trump-supporting billionaire.


How many times will John Hood continue to rewrite this exact same column? As many times as oligarchs continue to overpay him to do so, I suppose. When comparing COVID outcomes by state, Hood doesn’t mention population density. That’s weird. Colorado has only 25% of the population density of North Carolina; Utah has only 19%. In case Hood didn’t notice, naturally intuit, or read the literature, density of people is highly correlated with viral spread: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8468130/

He also doesn’t address the fact that Florida has a higher amount of outdoor infrastructure and recreation than almost anywhere else in the US, and that Florida has the mildest average winter temperatures of any of the contiguous states. Given what we have learned about COVID, this should have automatically given Florida a huge head start on reducing viral spread. And yet, the Ron DeSantis led state still managed to come in #13 of top deaths per capita (NC ranks #38). And how about John Hood’s beloved Tennessee, which consistently dominates the Cato Institute’s “freedom” index? Number 8 in the whole country. And they’re our next door neighbor with similar climate (and lower population density). The only way to make these statistics look less damning is to throw them in a blender with a bunch of other numbers to dilute the pure death toll. Looks like the flawed definition of freedom offered by Hood and other libertarians kills people. Who would have thought?

But none of this true wonkery actually interests Hood. He only masquerades as a neutral technocrat. Keep your eye on the ball: “...there was a strongly negative relationship between state stringency and economic performance.” This is Hood’s only real concern. He wants workers to remain vulnerable, easily coercible, and financially anxious. Enough so to risk dying from a killer virus in order to supply labor for capital. Hood cares about profit, property, and “freedom of contract.” He doesn’t care about our longevity, quality of life, or ability to pursue happiness. John Locke Foundation made national news a few years back for how unbelievably egregious their climate denialism has become—so we know he doesn’t care about the survival of our species either. Hood is a pure propagandist for Big Business and should be dismissed as a merchant of death.

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