Learn about the contradictions of Christian libertarianism
Note: since the writing of this article, there has been
a surge of new cases among Singapore’s foreign
workers, but the situation is now under control.
“Loving your neighbors is protecting them, not jeopardizing
their health by exposing them to this deadly virus.”
-Florida State Attorney Andrew Warren
Christian libertarian Dale Courtney has now written two columns on the coronavirus for the Moscow-Pullman Daily News-one praising Singapore (April 1) and now one extoling Sweden (April 15), which is ironic because in a previous column (March 18), he called its government a “savage master.” (Check archives at dnews.com.) It is true that both nations have avoided lockdown and both are democratic socialist nations, but that is where the similarities end.
Courtney’s column on Singapore contains two more delicious ironies. First, libertarians such as he would normally not tolerate the strict measures taken. Most libertarians would not find them, as Courtney assumes, “reasonable and not too invasive.” Would Courtney wear a state mandated electronic wrist band that makes sure he does not break quarantine? Understandably, many East Asians have tried to escape their unlocked isolation rooms.
The second savory irony is that Courtney does not realize that Singapore is a democratic socialist state. From 1959-1976 its ruling People’s Action Party was a member of the Socialist International until the Dutch Labor Party asked it to leave because of human rights violations. Originally, PAP had many communist members, but they were eventually purged as the party consolidated its power.
Just like other members of the non-communist Socialist International, Singapore developed a robust welfare state but kept most of the economy in private hands. About 16 companies, however, are owned by the government, including a majority share in well-respected Singapore Airlines. In 2019 this well-run company had the highest revenues ever, but high fuel costs cut its profit in half.
Personal and business taxes are low in the city-state (topping out at 20% for both), but everyone must pay an additional 20 percent for generous social and health benefits. Businesses must contribute 15.5 percent to this fund.
In a response to a reader on-line, Courtney boasted that Singapore and Hong Kong are ranked first and second in the world for economic freedom, but he neglected to mention that five other social democratic nations are in the top ten of the study he cites. Denmark stands in 8th place but the U.S. is at 17th. For more on Singapore and Hong Kong, which also has improved the British Health Service and has increased state intervention, see www.tomandrodna.com/nick_gier/hksing.pdf.
Along with its East Asian neighbors, Singapore has done comprehensive testing, tracing, and strict quarantine for those infected. Staying at home without being tested, as most Americans are doing, is not quarantine. You may have it and you may infect your love ones. In Iceland 50 percent of those who tested positive showed no symptoms of the virus.
Millions of Americans with symptoms still can’t get a test, and Trump will be responsible for this colossal negligence. He is now saying that the East Asians are lying about their low mortality rate, but, even with his health experts explaining the testing/tracing protocol that led to East Asian success, he chooses to do politics rather than science. On the other hand, in early May it was learned that Trump will now soon charge that hospitals are inflating their virus deaths in order to get more Medicare reimbursements!
Sweden has tested only those who have shown symptoms, and this insufficient response has led a mortality rate of 12.6 percent (3,175), while Singapore’s is .o9 percent (20 deaths), as of May 8. Rather than go up, the number of tests analyzed in American labs went down 30 percent in early April. Our fatality rate is now 5.6 percent and climbing. Read my column on virus deaths to learn why these rates may be incorrect.
Millions of Europeans will not lose their jobs because their governments will be paying their employers: 90 percent of wages in Denmark; 84 percent in France; 80 percent in Germany; and 67 percent in the United Kingdom. The U.S. Paycheck Protection Program has limited coverage, has been delayed, and has now run out of funds. Furthermore, 30 percent of the applications have been turned down.
I commend Courtney for having sympathy for the unemployed and the higher rates of suicide among them. Most libertarians, however, resist any governmental attempts to interfere with individuals taking their own lives, and they support doctor assisted euthanasia.
Furthermore, libertarians do not believe in unemployment insurance; rather, they insist that people find other work or start their own businesses. Here is the position of the Libertarian Party of California: “We oppose state unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation insurance, and state disability insurance.”
The principal reason that there will be less debt and fewer unemployed in Europe is that these countries have already budgeted and paid for generous sick leave, unemployment benefits, childcare, child support, and family leave. In stark contrast, the U.S. is attempting to build an emergency welfare state overnight for $2.2 trillion with and much more aid to come. This will be messy and inefficient, and it will add trillions of dollars to the national debt.
Experts say that coronavirus mortality rates are most likely under counted in Europe and the U.S., primarily because people who are undiagnosed may die of kidney, heart, as well as respiratory failure. By dividing deaths by cases, locked-down Norway and Denmark have far fewer fatalities (2.7% and 5% respectively) than Sweden at 12.6 percent. A more accurate measure is the general mortality rate: Sweden’s has risen to 88 deaths per million, while Denmark’s rate is 47 per million while on lockdown.
Making for strange bedfellows, states without stay-at-home orders are following Sweden and experiencing the highest spikes in new cases: Arkansas (60%), Nebraska (74%), Iowa (82%), and a whopping 205 percent in South Dakota.
The Swedish government claims that its goal is not herd immunity, but this exactly what it is. British health authorities attempted this initially, but with a rapid rise in mortality (now 14.8 percent!), they wisely chose lock-down instead. Imperial College London estimated that 250,000 Brits would lose their lives (they nearly lost their prime minister), and health authorities took note.
Evangelical churches have been hot spots for the coronavirus. Half the initial cases in South Korea came from the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, which has a sister church in Wuhan, China. In one California county one-third of the confirmed virus cases were traced to evangelical churches. Evangelical Liberty University is being sued by students and parents for its decision to open for classes.
Courtney’s church is a member of the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches, which has just announced that “we believe the time is now at hand for our leaders to stand down from the extreme isolation efforts, and the date after which we will no longer comply, is soon approaching, in days or weeks, not months.”
I now quote scripture to reveal the fourth irony in Courtney’s position: “All of you must obey those who rule over you. There are no authorities except the ones God has chosen. Those who now rule have been chosen by God” (Romans 13:1) American Loyalists referred to this verse when they sided with King George in the Revolution.
Dale, do y0u really believe that it is worth the risk to your family, your congregants, and the people of Moscow to defy Gov. Little’s and the Trump administration’s guidelines?
Nick Gier is professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Idaho. Read all his columns at htttp://nfgier.com. Email him at ngier006∂gmail.com.