Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, proponents of lockdowns, shelter-in-place orders, mask mandates and other coercive government interventions have characterized these measures as benevolently “erring on the side of caution.”
Now, as the grim toll of those public health measures comes into ever-sharper focus, it’s increasingly clear those characterizations were terribly wrong.
What’s less readily apparent, however, is how the very use of the “erring on the side of caution” framing was injurious in itself—by thwarting reasoned debate of public health policies, diverting attention from unintended consequences, and buffering the Covid regime’s architects from accountability.
To understand how the misuse of “erring on the side of caution” performed a sort of mass hypnosis that coaxed populations into two years of submission to disastrous, overreaching policies, consider how the expression is typically used.
In everyday life, one might err on the side of caution by:
- Leaving for the airport an extra 30 minutes early
- Carrying an umbrella when there’s a 25% chance of rain
- Opting for a less-challenging ski slope
- Going back into the house to make sure the iron is unplugged
- Getting a second medical opinion
Generally speaking, “erring on the side of caution” in everyday life means lowering risk with a precaution that has a negligible cost.
When mandate proponents portrayed their edicts as “erring on the side of caution,” it had the effect of tacitly assuring the public—and themselves—that there’d be little or no harm associated with extreme measures like:
- Shutting down businesses for months at a time
- Knowingly forcing millions of people into unemployment
- Halting in-person attendance at schools and colleges
- Ordering people of all ages and risk profiles to wear masks
- Denying people opportunities to socialize, recreate and enjoy living
That implicit low-downside assurance not only fostered unthinking support for draconian measures among citizens and experts alike, it also cultivated an atmosphere of intolerance toward those who questioned the wisdom of these interventions and predicted the great many harms that have resulted.