Ben Shapiro: The year of living unreasonably

Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

In 2020, Americans learned that if emergency dictated, we could lock down, mask up, and blow out spending to temporarily stymie the impact of a global pandemic. We learned that if uncertainty required massive response, we could mobilize massive response, including the creation of new vaccines within one year.

And in 2021, Americans learned that it’s easier to flip the switch on toward top-down control and government dependency than to turn it back off.

We have vaccines that likely reduce the chances of hospitalization and death from COVID-19 (somewhere between 0.05% and 0.1%) to below the infection fatality rates of the flu (somewhere between 0.1% and 0.2%). We have effective therapeutics, including a new therapeutic pill that will reduce post-COVID-19 diagnosis hospitalization and death by around 90%.

And we have a new strain of COVID-19. Omicron reportedly infects at 140 times the initial rate of COVID-19, and about 70 times the rate of delta; it hospitalizes, according to South African data, at about 20% the rate of delta. Which means that nearly everyone will get omicron, and that very few people will die.

And yet here we are, nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, with our expert class informing us that we must vaccinate and boost, no matter our age (in reality, only those who are older than 65 or immunocompromised truly require a booster); that we must continue to mask up, even if that means using cloth masks against omicron (even Leana Wen, CNN’s resident COVID-19 hawk, calls cloth masks “facial decorations”); that we must vaccinate and mask our small children and possibly shut down schools again (children are at near-zero statistical risk from COVID-19); that we must test the asymptomatic, sending the economy into soft lockdown (attempting to prevent transmission is a fool’s errand given the transmissibility of omicron); that we must put in place vaccine passports (even though the vaccinated are getting and transmitting omicron); that we must continue to spend money at record rates in order to prop up an economy that we are destroying for no good reason.

We have, in other words, lost our minds.

It turns out that learned helplessness sets in extraordinarily quickly — and that proponents of such learned helplessness become unreasonably angry when others refuse to engage in it. Thus, President Joe Biden spent most of this year deriding his political opponents as friends to the virus and attempting to mobilize sentiment against the unvaccinated. Today, the media continue to preach that red states are the COVID-19 problem despite the fact that case counts are at record highs in states ranging from New York to New Jersey to Massachusetts.

Biden did announce this week that there was “no federal solution,” stating that the pandemic would be “solved at the state level.” This came after Biden tried to cram down a federal vaccine mandate, chided former President Donald Trump for his supposed failures of leadership, and went to rhetorical battle with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for refusing to engage in COVID-19 hysteria.

But his administration just as quickly bought back Biden’s comments, suggesting that “we’re going to get through this by working together”; meanwhile, the sainted Dr. Anthony Fauci announced the possibility of a vaccination passport for air travel.

It may take the election of 2022 to remind blue-state Democrats and the elitists in our media that unreasonable policy has consequences. Either way, we can only hope that 2022 is the year that Americans return to reality rather than continue living in a pandemic-paranoid fantasy.

Ben Shapiro, 37, is a graduate of UCLA and Harvard Law School, host of “The Ben Shapiro Show,” and editor-in-chief of He is the author of the New York Times bestsellers “How To Destroy America In Three Easy Steps,” “The Right Side Of History,” and “Bullies.”


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