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Brownstone Institute

Twenty Grim Realities Unearthed by Lockdowns


25 minute read

From the Brownstone Institute


It’s common now to speak of the before times in contrast to the after times. The turning point was of course March 16, 2020, the day of 15 Days to Flatten the Curve, though authoritarian trends predate that. Rights were suddenly broadly throttled, even religious rights. We were told to conduct every aspect of our lives in accordance with the priorities of the bio-medical security state.

Very few people anticipated such a shocking development. It was the onset of a new state-conducted war and the enemy was something we could not see and hence could be anywhere. No one has ever doubted the omnipresence of potentially dangerous pathogens but now we were being told that life itself depended entirely on avoidance of them and the only guide going forward would be public-health authorities.

Everything changed. Nothing is the same. The trauma is real and lasting. The claim of “15 Days” was revealed to be a ruse. The emergency lasted three years and then some. The people and machinery that did this are still in power. The pick to head the CDC has a long track record of enabling and cheering the lockdowns and all that followed.

It’s a helpful exercise to summarize the new things we’ve all discovered in these years. Together they account for why the world seems different and why we all feel and think differently now than we did just a few years ago.

Twenty terrible realities unearthed by lockdowns

1. Surveillance and censorship by Big Tech. The resistance eventually found each other but it took months and years. A censorship regime descended on all major social platforms, technologies designed with the intention of keeping us more connected and expanding the range of opinion we could experience. We did not know it was happening, but we eventually learned of the crackdown, which is why so much of us felt so alone. Others could not hear us and we could not hear them. The regime faces a bold court challenge on many fronts but it still goes on today, with all but Twitter constantly policing their networks in ways that are unpredictably authoritarian. We have ironclad evidence now that they are all captured.

2. Power and influence of Big Pharma. It was April 2020 when someone asked me if the goal of the vaccine produced by the pharmaceutical cartel was really behind the lockdowns. The idea would be to terrify us and ruin our lives until we were begging for shots. I thought the whole idea was insane and that the corruption could not possibly reach this deep. I was wrong. Pharma had been at work on a vaccine since January of that year and called in every form of purchased influence to eventually make them mandatory. Now we know that the major regulators are wholly owned and controlled, to the point that necessity, safety, and efficacy don’t really matter.

3. Government propaganda by Big Media. It was relentless from day one: the major media proved hardcore partisans of Anthony Fauci. The powers that be could tap the New York Times, National Public Radio, Washington Post, and all the rest, whenever and however they wanted. Later the media was deployed to demonize those who violated lockdowns, refused masks, and resisted the shots. Gone was the idea that “democracy dies in darkness” and the “paper of record” replaced by darkness itself and constant propaganda. They showed no real curiosity of the other side. The Great Barrington Declaration itself began as an effort to educate journalists but only a few dared even show up. Now we get it: the mainstream media too is wholly owned and completely compromised. They already knew what to report and how to report it. Nothing else mattered.

4. Corruption of public health. Who in their right minds would have predicted that the CDC and NIH, not to mention the World Health Organization, would be deployed as frontline workers in the imposition of totalitarian control? Some observers perhaps predicted this but implausibly so. But in fact it was these agencies which were responsible for all the absurd protocols from closing hospitals to non-Covid cases, putting up Plexiglas everywhere, keeping schools closed, demonizing repurpose therapeutics, masking toddlers, and forcing shots. They knew no limits to their power. They revealed themselves to be faithful agents of the hegemon.

5. Consolidation of industry. Free enterprise is supposed to be free but when workers, industries, and brands were divided between essential and nonessential, where were the howls from Big Business? They weren’t there. They proved willing to put profit ahead of the system of competition. So long as they benefited from the system of consolidation, cartelization, and centralization, they were fine with it. The big-box stores got to wipe out the competition and gain a leg up in industrial standing. Same with remote learning platforms and digital technology. The biggest businesses proved to be the worst enemies of real capitalism and the biggest friends of corporatism. As for arts and music: we know now that the elites consider them dispensable.

6. Influence and power of administrative state. The Constitution established three branches of government but lockdowns were not managed by any of them. Instead it was a fourth branch that has grown up over the decades, the permanent class of bureaucrats that no one elected and no one from the public controls. These permanent “experts” were completely unleashed and unhinged with no check on their power, and they cranked out protocols by the hour and enforced them as legislatures, judges, and even presidents and governors stood by powerless and in awe. We know now that there was a coup d’etat on March 13, 2020 that transferred all power to the national security state but we certainly did not know it then. The edict was classified. The administrative state still rules the day.

7. Cowardice of intellectuals. The intellectuals are the most free to speak their minds of any group. Indeed that is their job. Instead, they stayed quiet for the most part. This was true of right and left. The pundits and scholars just went along with the most egregious attacks on human rights in this generation if not in all living memory. We employ these people to be independent but they proved themselves to be anything but that. We stood by in shock as even famed civil libertarians looked out at the suffering and said “This is fine.” A whole generation among them is today completely discredited. And by the way, the few who did stand up were called horrible names and often lost their jobs. Others took note of this reality and decided instead to behave by staying quiet or echoing the ruling-class line.

8. Pusillanimity of universities. The origin of modern academia is with the sanctuaries from war and pestilence so that great ideas could survive even the worst of times. Most universities – only a handful excepted – completely went along with the regime. They closed their doors. They locked students in their dormitories. They denied paying customers in-person education. Then came the shots. Millions were jabbed unnecessarily and could only refuse on pain of being kicked out of degree programs. They showed a complete lack of principle. Alumni should take note and so should parents who are considering where to send their high school seniors next year.

9. Spinelessness of think tanks. The job of these huge nonprofits is to test the boundaries of acceptable opinion and drive the policy and intellectual world in the direction of progress for everyone. They are also supposed to be independent. They don’t depend on tuition or political favor. They can be bold and principled. So where were they? Almost without exception they clammed up or became craven apologists for the lockdown regime. They waited and waited until the coast was clear and then eked out little opinions that had little impact. Were they just being shy? Not likely. The financials tell a different story. They are supported by the very industries that stood to benefit from the egregious policies. Donors who believe in freedom should take note!

10. Madness of crowds. We’ve all read the classic book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds but we thought it was a chronicle of the past and probably impossible now. But within an instant, mobs of people fell into medieval-style panics, hunting down non-compliers and hiding from the invisible miasma. They had a mission. They were ferreting out dissidents and ratting out the non-compliers. None of this would have happened otherwise. Just like in the Cultural Revolution of China, these would-be members of the Red Guard became foot soldiers for the state. Mathias Desmet’s book on Mass Formation now stands as a classic explanation of how a population devoid of meaningful lives can turn these sorts of political frenzies into deluded crusades. Most of our friends and neighbors went along.

11. Lack of ideological conviction of both right and left. Both right and left betrayed their ideals. The right abandoned its affections for limited government, free enterprise, and the rule of law. And the left turned against its traditional stand for civil liberties, equal freedoms, and free speech. They all became compromised, and they all made up fake rationales for this pathetic situation. Had this all began under a Democrat, the Republicans would have been screaming. Instead they went quiet. Then the Covid regime passed to a Democrat and so they stayed quiet while the Republicans, embarrassed at their previous silence, stayed silent for far too long. Both sides proved ineffective and toothless throughout.

12. Sadism of the ruling class. The kids were denied a year or two of school in some locations. People missed medical diagnostics. Weddings and funerals were on Zoom. The aged were forced into desperate loneliness. The poor suffered. People turned to substance abuse and put on added pounds. The working classes were exploited. Small businesses were wrecked. Millions were forced to move and millions more were displaced from their jobs. The ruling class that advertised its wonderful altruism and public spiritedness became callous and completely disregarded all this suffering. Even when the data poured in about suicide ideation and mental illness from loneliness, it made no difference. They could not muster any concern. They changed nothing. The schools stayed closed and the travel restrictions stayed in place. Those who pointed this out were called terrible names. It was a form of grotesque sadism of which we did not know they were capable.

13. The real-life problem of massive class inequality. Would any of this have happened 20 years ago when a third of the workforce was not privileged enough to take their work home and pretend to produce from laptops? Doubtful. But by 2020, there had developed an overclass that was completely disconnected from the lives of those who work with their hands for a living. But the overclass didn’t care that they had to face the virus bravely and first. These workers and peasants did not have privileges and apparently they didn’t matter much. When it came time for the shots, the overclass wanted their health care workers, pilots, and delivery people to get them too, all in the interest of purifying society of germs. Huge wealth inequalities turn out to make a big difference in political outcomes, especially when one class is forced to serve the other in lockdowns.

14. The cravenness and corruption of public education. A universal education was the proudest achievement of progressives one hundred years ago. We all assumed it was the one thing that would be protected above all else. The kids would never be sacrificed. But then for no good reason, the schools were all closed. The labor unions representing the teachers rather liked their extended paid holiday and tried to make it last as long as possible, as the students got ever further behind in their studies. These are schools for which people paid for with their taxes for many years but no one promised a rebate or any compensation. Homeschooling went from existing under a legal cloud to being suddenly mandatory. And when they opened back up, the kids faced mass silencing with masks.

15. Enabling power of central banking to fund it all. From March 12, 2020, and onward, the Federal Reserve deployed every power to serve as a Congressional printing press. It slammed rates back to zero. It eliminated (eliminated!) reserve requirements for banks. It flooded the economy with fresh money, eventually reaching a peak of 26 percent expansion or $6.2 trillion in total. This of course later translated into price inflation that quickly ate away the actual purchasing power of all that free stimulus dispensed by government, thus harming on net both producers and consumers. It was a great head fake, all made possible by the central bank and its powers. Further damage came to the structure of production by a prolongation of low interest rates.

16. The shallowness of the faith communities. Where were the churches and synagogues? They closed their doors and kept out the people they had sworn to defend. They canceled holy days and holiday celebrations. They utterly and completely failed to protest. And why? Because they went along with the propaganda that ceasing their ministries was consistent with public health priorities. They went along with the state and media claim that their religions were deeply dangerous to the public. What this means is that they don’t really believe in what they claim to believe. When the opening finally came, they discovered that their congregations had dramatically shrunk. It’s no wonder. And who among them did not go along? It was the supposed crazy and odd ones: the Amish, the estranged Mormons, and the Orthodox Jews. How non-mainstream they are. How marginal! But apparently they were among the only ones whose faith was strong enough to resist the demands of princes.

17. The limitations on travel. We didn’t know the government had the power to limit our travel but they did it anyway. First it was internationally. But then it became domestic. For a few months there, it was hard to cross state lines because of the demands that everyone who did so had to quarantine for a fortnight. It was strange because we didn’t know what was and what was not legal nor did we know the enforcement mechanism. It turned out to be a training exercise for what we know now they really want, which is 15-minute cities. Apparently a people on the move are harder to control and corral. We were being acculturated toward a more medieval and tribal existence, staying put so that our masters can keep tabs on us.

18. The tolerance for segregation. Vaccine uptake was certainly disproportionate by race and income. Richer and whiter populations went along but some 40 percent of the non-white and poorer communities didn’t trust the jab and refused. That did not stop 5 major cities from imposing vaccine segregation and enforcing it with police power. For a time, major cities were segregated with disparate impact by race. I don’t recall a single article in a major newspaper that pointed this out, much less decried it. So much for public accommodations and so much for enlightenment! Segregation turns out to be just fine so long as it fits with government priorities – same now as it was in the bad old days.

19. The goal of a social credit system. It is not paranoia to speculate that all this segregation was really about the creation of a vaccine passport system running off a national base, the one they want very much to implement. And part of this is the real and long-term goal of creating a China-style social credit system that would make your participation in economic and social life contingent on political compliance. The CCP has mastered the art and imposed totalitarian control. We know for sure now that major aspects of the pandemic response were scripted in Beijing and imposed through the influence of China’s ruling class. It is completely reasonable to assume that this is the real goal of vaccine passports and even Central Bank Digital Currency.

20. Corporatism as the system under which we live, giving lie to existing ideological systems. For many generations, the great debate has been between capitalism and socialism. All the while, the real goal has passed us by: the institutionalization of an interwar-style corporatist state. This is where property is nominally private and concentrated in only top industries in major sectors but publicly controlled with an eye to political priorities. This is not traditional socialism and it certainly isn’t competitive capitalism. It is a social, economic, and political system designed by the ruling class to serve its interests above all else. Here is the main threat and the existing reality but it is not well understood by either right or left. Not even libertarians seem to get this: they are so attached to the public/private binary that they have blinded themselves to the merger of the two and the ways in which major corporate players are actually driving the advance of statism in their own interests.

If you haven’t changed your thinking over the last three years, you are a prophet, indifferent, or asleep. Much has been revealed and much has changed. To meet these challenges, we must do so with our eyes wide open. The greatest threats to human liberty today are not the ones of the past and they elude easy ideological categorization. Further, we have to admit that in many ways the plain human desire to live a fulfilling life in freedom has been subverted. If we want our freedoms back, we need to have a full understanding of the frightening challenges before us.

Brownstone’s work and influence in this regard is far beyond any that we’ve told publicly. You would be astonished at the extent of it. The times demand circumspection in overt institutional aggrandizement.

We are grateful to our donors for having faith in the power of ideas. We are daily amazed at the ability of passionate and scrupulous writers and intellectuals to make a real difference for the cause of freedom. Please, if you can, join our donor community to keep the momentum going, for the hill is perhaps the steepest we’ve climbed in our lives. We have no “development department” and no corporate or government benefactors: you can make a difference.


  • Jeffrey A. Tucker

    Jeffrey A. Tucker is Founder and President of the Brownstone Institute. He is also Senior Economics Columnist for Epoch Times, author of 10 books, including Liberty or Lockdown, and thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.

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Brownstone Institute

A Pandemic of Lockdown Denialism

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From the Brownstone Institute


There is an old expression: “Success has a thousand fathers but failure is always an orphan.”

It’s a spin on Tacitus: “This is an unfair thing about war: victory is claimed by all, failure to one alone.”

We can judge the results of the pandemic response, then, by the number of people who claim it as their own. So far the answer seems to be: none.

These days, if you listen to the rhetoric, you would think that absolutely no one forced anyone to do anything, not even take the jab. There were no mask mandates. No one was ever locked down. There were some mistakes, sure, but those came only from doing the best we could with the knowledge we had.

Other than make well-considered recommendations, they didn’t force anyone to do anything.

Even from 2021, the media routinely referred to the “pandemic” and not the pandemic policies as responsible for learning losses, depression, business failures, and poor economic conditions. This has been deliberate. It’s designed to normalize lockdowns as if they are just something one does to deal with infectious disease, even though lockdowns have no precedent on that scale in the West.

More recently, this denialism has taken a strange turn. Now the people who actually did pull the trigger on the loss of liberty are routinely refusing to admit that they forced anything.

We’ve heard Donald Trump make this claim for a good part of this year. Mr. “I left it to the states” has yet to be publicly confronted with his decisions from March 10, 2020 and throughout the rest of his presidency. Interviewers don’t press him on the subject for fear of having access cut off later. And yet the record is very clear.

Then Anthony Fauci joined in, claiming that he never recommended the lockdowns at all.

But the pandemic of lockdown dentialism has gotten worse, to the point that the head of Health and Human Services plus the head of Occupational Safety and Health Commision are doing the same, even though the Supreme Court actually ruled against their edicts.

Ah, what a difference time and events make.

It gets worse. One of the most imperial and invasive of the governors was Andrew Cuomo of New York. He issued a massive number of edicts that he enforced with police power, including even dictating that bars couldn’t sell drinks alone but also mandating the selling of  food, even to the point of spelling out the quantity of food. This resulted in the infamous Cuomo Fries served around the state.

But to hear him talk now, he didn’t do a thing and no one had to comply with anything.

“Government had no capacity to enforce any of this,” he says now. “You must wear a mask and people wore masks in New York. But if they said I’m not wearing a mask there was nothing I could do about it. You must close your private business. I won’t. Well there was nothing I could really do about it. It was really all voluntary. It was extraordinary when you think about it. Society acted with that uniformity voluntarily because I had no enforcement capacity.”

YouTube video

And that’s why hundreds of thousands of people fled the city and state? It was all voluntary?

As Thomas McArdle explains:

 In fact, the “New York State on PAUSE” executive order Mr. Cuomo signed on Friday, March 20, 2020, included a directive that all businesses in the state deemed non-essential by the government must cease employee activities within their offices before the following Monday. That December, an army of police sheriffs shut down a popular bar and restaurant on Staten Island that responded “I won’t” and arrested its general manager for defying coronavirus restrictions by remaining open for indoor business, in just one example of enforcement of lockdowns in the state.

Cuomo’s dissembling rhetoric is simply incredible. And it speaks to why we’ve seen no justice for what they have done. It’s simply because not one pandemic leader has admitted to having done anything at all. The entire pandemic response was so brutal, so outlandish, and so utterly wrong even according to their own goals, whatever they were, that no one wants to take credit for any of it.

All of which reminds me of Dr. Carter Mecher, who Michael Lewis in The Premonition celebrates as the key architect of lockdowns. In the Red Dawn emails of 2020, he pauses from his frenzied push for lockdowns with a winsome comment. He says that if everything goes well with the lockdowns, they will have saved society from a deadly disease. The irony, he says, is that if their strategy works, everyone will be saying: look it wasn’t bad after all, so why did we lock down?

So either way, he predicted, they are doomed.

This was the real premonition. Today, no one likes these people. The public is furious beyond measure. The leaders of the response all over the world are being toppled and fleeing offices with as much dignity as they can muster, which usually means landing in the Ivy League (Jacinda Ardern, Lori Lightfoot, Yoel Roth. and Cuomo).

The one thing they will not do is admit that they were completely wrong and only caused massive wreckage from which we are still suffering, plus completely discredited public health and government for a generation or two.

Early on, I and many others were accused of Covid denialism for citing the data on the age disparities of risk. The alarmists and lockdowners were said to be the realistic ones. Three years later, this has completely flipped. Reality bit back. Now the denialists are those who actively promoted and enforced lockdowns, and now implausibly deny that anything happened at all.

All of this gives new meaning to the word gaslighting. Indeed, it is enough to drive one crazy. We encounter it everywhere, even in the second Republican debate where not even one question was about the lockdowns, much less the surveillance, censorship, vaccine mandates, or the failures of the shot. Here we have the greatest failure of government in my lifetime or any living lifetime and we don’t have official institutions out there even willing to talk about it.

The major media is tacitly conspiring with the political establishment, the corporate sector, and the administrative state to pretend like that fiasco was completely normal and also entirely forgettable, not even worth naming. We did the best we could with the information we had so just stop complaining about it!

This is not going to work. It is too close to living memory for this level of gaslighting to be effective. The more these official institutions engage in this crazy form of denialism, the more they discredit themselves.


  • Jeffrey A. Tucker

    Jeffrey A. Tucker is Founder and President of the Brownstone Institute. He is also Senior Economics Columnist for Epoch Times, author of 10 books, including Liberty or Lockdown, and thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.

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Brownstone Institute

Medicine in the Wilderness

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From the Brownstone Institute


I once was proud of my profession. I spent over 40 years as a clinician, educator, and researcher and for most of that time thought I was engaged in a noble calling. But all that has changed in the last 3 years. Medicine is lost in The Wilderness.

There were warning signals, to be sure. For many years I was heavily involved in medical associations on the local, state, and national levels. Gradually I became disillusioned when I saw that many of my colleagues who gravitated to this activity did not share my views. They enjoyed the politics of medicine. In fact, they enjoyed it too much. I lost interest. Perhaps in retrospect that was part of the problem. The policy of medicine gradually became the politics of medicine. And as is often the case, where there is politics there is also corruption.

Twenty years ago I was appointed as a technical advisor to a panel of the federal government. I was flown to Washington, housed in an upscale hotel and dined on fancy meals. I saw how intoxicating power can be. I began to somehow consider that I was special. The problem was I was expected to use my technical expertise to advise in a certain way. I realized, almost too late, what was going on. But I did realize it and was not reappointed to that position.

Looking back on it, this experience gave me a taste of how the events of the past three years came to be. I saw how money, power and flattery could cause physicians to shade their recommendations. It happened oh so gradually until one day, integrity was completely lost. The tragedy is that many times, those who lost it did not miss it.

I have come to realize that ethics and medicine have parted ways for many physicians, myself included. Things we once took for granted are gone…evaporated. We reached a point where, relating to COVID, attempts to treat disease were not just ignored but penalized. As a surgeon, I had operated under the obligation of giving Informed Consent to all my patients. I was expected to clearly explain the risks, benefits, and alternatives of my proposed course of action and allow the patient to make the decisions regarding their response to those recommendations. I could be sanctioned for failing in this obligation. However, in COVID, Informed Consent was criminalized…but only for that disease. Those who still felt an obligation to their patients were, and continue to be, vilified, slandered, fired from their position, and in some cases, prosecuted.

One would have thought that organized medicine, and academic medicine in particular, would have rallied to their defense, but that was not the case. They were the primary prosecutors. I shake my head when I think back to the days that I taught medical ethics to residents and medical students. One of the case studies involved discussing how accepting a lunch, or even a pen, from a drug company was unethical. Somehow, individuals who made life and death decisions were suspected of being bribed by a pen! And owning stock in a company and prescribing medications manufactured by that company were absolutely forbidden!

Now where are we? A good deal past the use of pens, for sure!

If a physician from even 10 years ago would look at the contents of most of our medical journals today, I am sure he or she would think they were reading fiction. These are the four articles that make up the Viewpoint section of the September 19, 2023 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In order to truly understand the departure from what was the norm a mere 10 years ago, this is a link to the contents of the Viewpoint section in the September 18, 2013 issue:

The difference in the tenor of the articles is striking, at least to me. In the current articles, the author’s primary focus seems to be finding ways to circumvent the rule of law. In 2013, the two articles that deal with a legislative focus explore how to comply with the rule of law. While some may claim that is a distinction without a difference, I would disagree. Something has changed! Change is inevitable, but is it always positive? Looking back on history, many nations have changed in response to internal and external pressure. Unfortunately, the majority of those changes have been negative.

Back in 2019, before the Great COVID disaster, Baffy and associates warned us of a change that was occurring in medical and scientific publishing. They observed the concentration of medical and scientific publishing in the hands of a few very large corporations which answered to stakeholders with conflicting interests:

Because the use of complex digital tools and rapidly growing electronic databases require advanced computing skills, Internet-based mega-companies such as Google (Mountainview, Calif), Amazon (Seattle, Wash), Facebook (Menlo Park, Calif), and Apple (Cupertino, Calif) may become interested in spearheading further transformation and outcompete current stakeholders in scholarly communication and develop more user-friendly tools. Such developments could potentially lead to a few large entities controlling the gateways to scientific knowledge, a sobering thought…

Scientific publishing has been a highly profitable industry, and there is little doubt that financial interests will continue to drive its transformation. However, the academic community has a fundamental stake in this process and should understand the trajectories of change to protect enduring values, embrace promising developments, and make scholarly communication increasingly inclusive and efficient.

It would seem the authors were amazingly prescient, as their world has come to pass. Medicine seems, at least to me, to have become the Willing Servant of an Unholy Trinity of Big Pharma, Big Tech and Big Politics. Medical publication and medical education have become more interested in ideology and propaganda than healing, more interested in class than the individual. It is the very antithesis of the concepts contained in the Hippocratic Oath. Although the proponents of the transformation may claim it is being done for a “greater good,” that excuse has been used before in medicine of some nations of the last century. When sanity returned, that excuse was repudiated.

Society now finds itself a passenger on a ship which has been taken over by ideologues. The ship is heading for the rocks. Lookouts stationed high above can see the disaster unfolding and urgently inform the captain of the ship. The captain solves the problem by throwing the lookouts overboard.

This is the dystopian world in which we now live.


  • Russ Gonnering

    Russ S. Gonnering is Adjunct Professor of Ophthalmology, Medical College of Wisconsin.

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