Harrison Pitt draws lessons for 2020-2021 from Hayek’s 1944 book, The Road to Serfdom. Two slices: While the situation varies across the Anglosphere, in all of its countries, from Australia to Britain, the relationship between the individual and the state has fundamentally transformed — and these conditions will likely outlive the pandemic. Sydney remains under a draconian lockdown, as does New Zealand after the discovery of just one case of the coronavirus. The British and Canadian governments intend to make freedom conditional on state-issued vaccine passports, while President Joe Biden, fresh from his Afghanistan debacle, recently called on parents to mask up their children when they leave the house. These measures can easily be relaxed or intensified by government officials at a
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Don Boudreaux writes Some Covid Links
Don Boudreaux writes Some Covid Links
While the situation varies across the Anglosphere, in all of its countries, from Australia to Britain, the relationship between the individual and the state has fundamentally transformed — and these conditions will likely outlive the pandemic. Sydney remains under a draconian lockdown, as does New Zealand after the discovery of just one case of the coronavirus. The British and Canadian governments intend to make freedom conditional on state-issued vaccine passports, while President Joe Biden, fresh from his Afghanistan debacle, recently called on parents to mask up their children when they leave the house.
These measures can easily be relaxed or intensified by government officials at a moment’s notice. But while restrictions can be tweaked, few in power have renounced the overarching authority they represent. In this sense, they are symbols of an abiding new normal, which, before 2020, was utterly unthinkable in free societies.
Hayek’s defense of liberty was driven by more than a moral revulsion to state force. He also argued that letting individuals take personal responsibility for their lives makes greater practical sense. Hayek’s ingenious arguments against a centrally run economy, therefore, are equally devastating to the idea of a centrally run biosecurity state.
Hayek also understood that such temporary measures, implemented for a limited purpose, rarely remain that way. In Law, Legislation and Liberty, Hayek accepted that sometimes the liberal order ‘may yet have to be temporarily suspended when the long-run preservation of that order is itself threatened. During such emergencies, be it a war on germs or Germans, protecting civil society itself becomes the ‘overruling common purpose’.
But when defined vaguely enough, that ‘overruling common purpose’ can be invoked to continue denying liberty even after the initial threat has waned or passed. As Hayek wrote, ‘”Emergencies” have always been the pretext on which the safeguards of individual liberty have been eroded — and once they are suspended it is not difficult for anyone who has assumed emergency powers to see to it that the emergency will persist.’
If anything, it is harder for governments to relinquish such powers. Once people get attached to the idea of a benevolent, all-caring state, it appears compassionless to return to normal. COVID restrictions were initially put in place to ‘slow the spread’ so that hospitals would not be overwhelmed with patients. Now, public health officials use them for a myriad of different purposes: to minimize ‘long COVID’ or to prevent cases entirely.
Here’s some good news from Britain. (HT Yevdokiya Zagumenova)
Australians are currently being subjected to hitherto unprecedented control over, and incursions into, our lives by the state. We have been subjected to a seemingly inexhaustible and constantly changing supply of confusing, dehumanising and arbitrary edicts which are daily issued by a cabal of unelected health bureaucrats and their politician handlers. Our police forces have successfully cowed the citizenry into unquestioning obedience. Even more remarkable has been the willingness of many to become accessories to this political overreach by ‘ratting out’ our friends, families and neighbours.
That Australians are being socially disciplined has been admitted by our state apparatchiks. In May, the Chief Health Officer of Queensland, Jeanette Young said that the decision to close schools was about messaging rather than health. Dan Andrews has said repeatedly that the onus is not on him to prove the efficacy of any one measure, such as curfews or the closing of playgrounds.
The police have also admitted as much. Mick Fuller, Commissioner of the NSW police, a public servant who is currently earing $665,000 per annum, has increased on-the-spot fines for health disobedience to $5,000. ‘We have to shape the behaviour of people’ he said to his subordinates. ‘If you write a ticket and get it wrong,’ Fuller added, ‘I won’t hold you to account for that.’ When the Victorian police opened the official snitching hotline in April 2020, a staggering 21,000 Victorians rang to report on each other. Even the police were surprised by the sheer number of informants. ‘I don’t think we understood the role it would play and how committed Victorians were to ensuring people followed the advice,’ Police Minister Lisa Neville said.
Joel Zinberg reports that “Delta is dying.” Two slices:
Despite media claims that “We Can’t Turn the Corner on Covid,” the numbers of Covid-19 cases, new hospitalizations, and deaths nationwide peaked and started to decline around the beginning of September. The combination of this milestone, new findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing widespread levels of vaccination and natural immunity, and improved availability of treatments suggests that, outside of isolated pockets, Covid-19 is likely to become a diminishing health risk in the United States.
Though a few vaccines induce a better immune response than natural infection, experts generally say that “natural infection almost always causes better immunity than vaccines.” This appears to be true with Covid-19.
A new study from Israel confirms that natural immunity to Covid-19 is superior to vaccine-induced immunity, even with the Delta variant. Between June 1 and August 14, when Delta was dominant in Israel, the risk of infections was 13 times higher for vaccinated people than for previously infected, unvaccinated people when either the infection or vaccination had occurred between four and seven months before. The risk for symptomatic breakthrough infections was 27-fold higher. While natural immunity did wane somewhat over time, vaccinated persons still had a six-fold higher risk for infection and a seven-fold higher risk for symptomatic illness than people infected up to ten months before vaccinations started.
The Biden plan rests on mutually exclusive premises. First, there is the implicit assertion that the vaccines work. Indeed, they work so well that we should force 80 million people to get vaccinated, whether they want to or not. This, of course, flies in the face of the other presupposition: that we need to vaccinate damn near everyone because people are simply not safe otherwise.
Aren’t those who voluntarily took a vaccine already protected? If not, the vaccines are not all that effective, and mandating them will not make them any more so. If that’s not the objective, are we really protecting the anti-vaxxers from themselves? Since when is that an appropriate use of government power? Either way, forcing people to submit to a vaccine they don’t want as a condition of their continued employment doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.