April 8, 2020
Author: Chilton Williamson
Secretary Mnuchin’s announcement this morning that the federal government is looking to restart the economy in regions of the country where the Covid virus has not taken a strong hold is politically wise, and in fact critically important.
The Western public has so far cooperated, for the most part willingly, with the shutdowns, shutouts, lockups, and other draconian orders by their governments, but their patience is beginning to wear thin. In Sicily shoppers are refusing to pay for their groceries and clashing physically with the shop staff. In Great Britain—at least before Boris Johnson went into hospital—Whitehall was threatening to compel 65 million people to remain in their homes with no exception made for periods of outdoor exercise. Writers for The Daily Telegraph, organ of the Conservative government, have begun to turn hard against it, arguing that Johnson’s strategy in the crisis has been indecisive, aimed neither at saving as many lives as possible at whatever the cost nor rescuing the economy from maximum damage regardless of fatalities, while failing abjectly to acquire a sufficient number of medical kits to test thousands of people weekly. In France the Gilets Jaunes held an “illegal” rally in the heart of Paris to protest against Macron’s government with all the usual complaints, including those against the current restraints. The churches too are beginning to protest the cancellation of services. Some evangelical sects in the United States are defying regulations at varying levels of government by threatening to hold Easter services and damn the torpedoes; a female bishop in the Church of England is refusing to comply with Archbishop Welby’s order to his priests not to broadcast directly from their churches on Sunday but from their home instead: and R. R. Reno, the editor of the conservative Catholic journal First Things in New York, and Cardinal Raymond Burke have each criticized shutting down the churches as being the wrong thing to do at a time when spiritual guidance, comfort, and protection are especially needed. As an old friend and former colleague of mine, a retired professor from a conservative mid-Western colleague, wrote to me the other day: “The most disappointing thing about this Great Virus War is the response of the [Catholic] Church. I guess the Pope and the bishops have decided that the worst thing that can happen is for us to die, which doesn’t leave the Church much to do, does it? The utter failure to take care of us in the only way that matters condemns the Church much more than any priest-scandal can, or is the former the inevitable result of the latter?”
Mr. Mnuchin is, of course, the porta-voce for President Trump in this crisis, where Trump’s political instincts are as sound as ever. He knows that neither this country, nor the West, nor the world itself can go on much longer living an anti-social and, indeed, anti-human existence that, if allowed to continue for many more weeks, will result in another form of collective death than mass death-by-virus. In any event, people are tired of being lectured and scolded as they presently are being by their governments, the French and the British ones particularly, as if they are selfish schoolchildren who shirk the rules and regulations at every opportunity they get. It is not the citizenry that is responsible for the current catastrophe but their rulers, who besides pursuing irresponsible global economic and political policies have also neglected warnings over a generation or more from their own health departments of the radical and immediate need to plan for and take precautions against just such a pandemic as the world is now enduring.
Governments around the world face a stark and immediate choice. Either they find more rational and reasonable solutions to the crisis, or their people will have go at doing so themselves.
Laramie, Wyoming (population 30,800) is a railroad and ranching town straddling the Union Pacific Railroad’s first route from Chicago to the West Coast. On an ordinary day, rail traffic through Laramie in both directions is nearly continuous. In just the last week or ten days, observation suggests is has slackened considerably—due, I suppose, to the decrease in the volume of trade generally, but trans-Pacific trade in particular. The photos above show the almost deserted rail yards downtown, taken today from a footbridge across the tracks in 40-mph winds.