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Further Reflections on Hygiene Socialism

Summary:
Progressives and other opponents of free markets and genuine liberalism have for decades attempted to frighten people into accepting substantially greater government control over their lives. But none of the predicted horrors proved to be sufficiently alarming to cause people to accept a sudden massive scaling up of such government power. Hysterical warnings of the dangers of global warming didn’t do it. Nor was it done by ostentatiously titled tomes about, and incessant predictions of, the countless calamities that allegedly are destined to arise from income and wealth inequality. Claims of decades-long economic stagnation don’t quite have the desired pro-statist ummpph when ordinary people read these claims on their smartphones as they await, steaming cups of latte in hand, flights

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Progressives and other opponents of free markets and genuine liberalism have for decades attempted to frighten people into accepting substantially greater government control over their lives. But none of the predicted horrors proved to be sufficiently alarming to cause people to accept a sudden massive scaling up of such government power.

Hysterical warnings of the dangers of global warming didn’t do it. Nor was it done by ostentatiously titled tomes about, and incessant predictions of, the countless calamities that allegedly are destined to arise from income and wealth inequality. Claims of decades-long economic stagnation don’t quite have the desired pro-statist ummpph when ordinary people read these claims on their smartphones as they await, steaming cups of latte in hand, flights to Maui. The “China Shock,” the Great Recession, and the health-insurance “crisis” – while each is responsible for some malignant growths of government – have proven insufficient to cause Americans instantly and without question to surrender nearly all of their liberties to the state, and to cower in fear begging not only for guidance, but to be further commanded.

Even the manic fear of terrorism after 9/11, while creating much greater tolerance for surveillance and additional intrusions on privacy, did not result in most Americans being unquestioningly willing to abandon the great bulk of their liberties.

Covid-19 is different. What a blessing this pathogen is for Progressives and others who worship state power! For reasons that – should sufficient freedom of thought and expression remain – will be long debated by historians, something about this only-slightly-more-dangerous-than-ordinary virus has caused large numbers of people to forfeit, in a matter of days, a vast quantum of their freedoms and dignity.

Governors and mayors issue arbitrary dictates setting the maximum number of people who are allowed to gather in private homes and in places of worship. Our “leaders” order us to wear face masks even when outdoors. Government officials, and their moronic or spineless cheerleaders in the mainstream media, shame those who gather in numbers, and in ways, that are disapproved by public-health clerics. The state shutters businesses indefinitely (destroying many in the process); it keeps schools physically closed (thus resulting in the farce of five- and six-year old children being ‘educated’ on-line); and it pitilessly cuts people off from traveling and from familiar means of socializing (while, of course, the “leaders” themselves are too self-important to obey their own dictatorial mandates).

And don’t forget that – again, in response to “the pandemic” – government spending and indebtedness are skyrocketing, with people across the political spectrum screaming for even more such lethal largesse.

Finally, those who have long wished for a complete transformation – a “great reset” – of modern society have been blessed with the catalyst for convincing the masses to let it be brought about: Covid-19. Unlike all of the previous apocalyptic boogeymen and monsters, Covid has proven to be the real deal that is finally enabling government officials and the media to convince the masses that they are under an unprecedented and horrible threat – a threat that can be avoided only if we surrender to the state all of the freedoms that it demands from us, and that we do so without question.

Welcome, comrades, to what my friend David Hart calls hygiene socialism and to the hell on earth that awaits us all.

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Don Boudreaux
He is a professor of economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Previously, he was president of the Foundation for Economic Education.

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