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Opinion: Freedom is our chief advantage in the fight against COVID-19


Recurringly, the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) publishes a statewide picture of our health care capacity. 

As you can see, it wouldn’t have taken very much for us to be overwhelmed. As of the date of this writing, no hospitals in Missouri have exceeded their capacity, and while we have some critical shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing swabs, we are still in the green on ventilators and ICU capabilities. There is strong evidence that social distancing has done us good, and social distancing should be incorporated as part of our economic restoration.  The second model published by DHSS shows how cases are projected to continue but see an overall decline as we continue to practice social distancing.

Bill Hardwick

There’s a saying in the intelligence community which I appreciate: All models are wrong, but some models are useful. Missourians have done a good job navigating uncharted waters. And wisdom tells me there remains unknown risks for us to manage. It would be wrong for us to be indifferent.  For everyone who has lost a father or mother, a dear friend, or lifelong love — there is a loss that cannot be restored. Our attitudes should in no way diminish the reality that human life is most sacred, and our relationships with one another are all that we will have after our careers and ambitions have been exhausted.  

I have maintained the position, despite criticism, that our health survivability is inextricably linked to our economic sustainability. Some have said that during a siege of your city, you don’t let your walls down. However, this forgets history: The more fortified a defense, the more difficult it is to maintain. Siege warfare was effective because it caused everyone in the city to starve. Today, meat plants in Missouri are closing down. Farmers are being forced to dump food while food bank lines are longer than they have ever been. Price and purchasing controls lead to scarcity. Scarcity, in turn, causes higher prices.  

We are going to have to start stepping out of our front doors and gradually and intelligently, while monitoring risk, allow free enterprise to do what we need free enterprise to do. Economist F.A. Hayek remarked: “Practically every individual has some advantage over all others because he possesses unique information of which beneficial use might be made, but of which use can be made only if the decisions depending on it are left to him.” Hayek was writing in response to the failed central economic planning in Germany and in the Soviet Union in the early 20th century.  Hayek’s observation is known as the “local knowledge problem.” It means no matter how intelligent central economic planners are, they can never know more than the people what an individual person needs most in a particular moment. 

Only an individual can decide what is essential for her own family on a given day. The best way to meet that person’s needs is to have personal and economic freedom. The best way to solve food shortage is to allow the buying and selling of food through voluntary transactions and not government-planned distribution of food. The best way to have demand, to put money back in people’s pockets, is to allow them to sell goods and services and to employ workers to help in their respective enterprises. Their individual creativity and their knowledge — that the only way to be successful is to meet the needs of their customers — is the chief factor in restoring our nation’s economy.