Some clear thinking is required to counter incessant, statist propaganda against the use of N-95 filtering facepiece respirators, to protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The message has been seconded at every turn by the Center for Disease Control, a cumbersome bureaucracy, which tightly controls both testing capacity and criteria. Such centralization is everywhere and always detrimental to the screening and segregating of the infected, and, ultimately, to disease containment.
The State and the agents of America’s highly centralized healthcare system categorically don’t want the citizen to purchase “face masks.” The surgeon general is already “warning Americans” to stop exercising their sovereignty as consumers and quit buying face masks.
Hence the incessant, near-neurotic discrediting of N-95 respirators, which, by previous CDC accounts, can be protective.
Before the outbreak of COVID-19, on its website, the CDC had asked and answered the following question:
“What makes N-95 respirators different from facemasks sometimes called surgical masks?:
“… N-95 respirators are tight-fitting respirators that filter out at least 95% of particles in the air, including large and small particles. … These respirators filter out at least 95% of very small (0.3 micron) particles . … including bacteria and viruses. … [thus reducing] the wearer’s exposure to airborne particles, from small particle aerosols to large droplets.”
By logical extension, properly made and fitted, the N-95 respirator is better than nothing and may certainly be protective. Here’s why:
While the coronavirus is indeed minuscule, smaller than 0.3 microns (likely between 0.1 and 0.2 microns), COVID-19 is delivered in a larger medium of bodily fluids or spray.
Certainly, some barrier to the spittle in which the coronavirus is dispersed is better than none.
No surprise then, that world health authorities can’t seem to get their story straight on masks. At times, they concede “that N-95 face masks are protective.” More frequently, they scratch the proverbial proboscis (ostensibly a sign of lying) and say “No, of course, they’re ineffective.” In other words, “they work for me, the healthcare worker, but not for thee.”
For honesty’s sake, the country’s health-care functionaries might appeal to consumers on the ground of dire shortages. But on the basis that no protection is better than some protection? Please!
In a free society in which the market for goods and services is free, the citizen, not a central planner, decides what purchase is in his best interest.
So, one must be especially stupid to allow a socialist like Bernie Sanders anywhere near the free market, in general, and that for surgical masks, respirators and other pandemic prophylactics, in particular.
Trust me: If the country’s health-care overlords could, they would prohibit people who want to wear N-95 respirators, during the COVID-19 pandemic, from purchasing these.
In their universe, masks are a zero-sum commodity. The more of them sovereign consumers purchase, the fewer remain for healthcare workers.
But that’s not how the glorious free market works.
Provided politicians, especially Sanders, stay out of it, here’s how the market for surgical face masks and respirators will work:
A rise in consumer demand for this product, reflected in empty shelves and relatively higher prices, will galvanize business to hire more workers and produce more of the coveted commodity.
Prices are crucial. They are the street signs of the economy. The thing the socialists will soon insist on controlling (“price-controls”) and suppressing are the vital signs of the economy.
In particular, scarcity and high prices are vital signals. Mask these natural market indices, and you kill off the knowledge needed by manufacturers and entrepreneurs to decide whether to rush into the production of surgical face masks and N-95 respirators.
Remove the precious profit motive from mask-making—and any other production process—and you kill off the incentive to produce.
Now you get why the socialist societies serenaded by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y, and Mr. Sanders suffer starvation-level shortages. The natural laws of economics cannot be suspended by man, not even by AOC and Mr. Sanders.
Rest assured that rising mask prices will make Bernie roar, as is his wont, about ruthless speculators and “profiteers” who are “causing a spike in prices.”
Bernie, AOC and their acolytes don’t quite comprehend that prices are determined by supply and demand.
Purchasing patterns drive prices up or down. Through their competitive bidding, consumers raise the price of a commodity. In this unhampered market, rising prices of face-masks, respirators, hand sanitizers and the like has signaled to established manufacturers and new entrepreneurs that there are profits to be made in these industries.
Only fools flout these signals. For without profits and prices there is no production.
The much–maligned price system works, moreover, not only to secure supply, but to conserve resources. The price system—rising mask prices, in this case—tells consumers to adjust their consumption and conserve their resources. Manufacturers may even deliver reusable respirators and face masks.
If Sanders becomes the sovereign, citizens will no longer be able to exercise their sovereignty and purchase surgical masks or N-95 respirators freely.
Under Bernie Sanders, facemasks, which every citizen has the right to purchase, if he so wishes, will be unavailable during a pandemic such as the coronavirus.
Here’s how Sanders will likely respond to the impatient call of the U.S. surgeon general for Americans to “stop buying masks.”
Bernie will likely use a declaration of emergency to commandeer the means of production, directing manufacturers to ship supplies exclusively to Atlanta, Georgia, home of the CDC, for the health-care politburo to “administer” in accordance with the “superior” knowledge and wisdom of command economists and apparatchiks.
And, Sanders will disrupt the magical market forces—the profit motive—that, in short order, will supply us all with the N-95 respirators and surgical masks we have a right to purchase, if we so wish.
Little do Sanders, AOC and their foot soldiers understand that prices are like a compass. Pegged to supply and demand, they ensure the correct allocation of resources. Without market prices, supply and demand cannot be brought into balance and, by extension, consumer need can’t be satisfied, especially in times of great need.
Masks and all others pandemic prophylactics are currently exorbitantly priced to reflect high demand and subsequent scarcity. These prices have already been taken by producers as a signal to accelerate productions.
Every bit as pernicious as COVID-19 is the central planner, who, exploiting his near monopoly over force, is capable of using a declared national emergency to seize the means of producing face masks and N-95 respirators. He would force an economic sector to respond, not to the sovereign consumer, but to command centers in Atlanta (CDC), Bethesda (NIH) and Geneva (WHO).
Ilana Mercer has been writing a weekly, paleolibertarian column since 1999. She’s the author of Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America From Post-Apartheid South Africa (2011) & The Trump Revolution: The Donald’s Creative Destruction Deconstructed” (June, 2016). She’s on Twitter, Facebook & Gab.