David Hart reflects on the condition of the liberty movement today. His reflections are depressing but accurate. A slice: But we need to keep this latest attack on the principles, practices, and institutions of liberty in some historical perspective. I believe that when we do that our plight will appear to be even worse than we have imagined. I say this because this latest expansion of state power (what I have termed “hygiene socialism” or “lockdown socialism”) comes on top of the eight other major areas of expanded state power which have emerged over the last 20 years, which remain largely unchallenged (intellectually) and still intact (politically). Had we been able to make some headway in reducing these other manifestations of state power and intervention, weakening their
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But we need to keep this latest attack on the principles, practices, and institutions of liberty in some historical perspective. I believe that when we do that our plight will appear to be even worse than we have imagined. I say this because this latest expansion of state power (what I have termed “hygiene socialism” or “lockdown socialism”) comes on top of the eight other major areas of expanded state power which have emerged over the last 20 years, which remain largely unchallenged (intellectually) and still intact (politically). Had we been able to make some headway in reducing these other manifestations of state power and intervention, weakening their intellectual justification, persuading voters to exercise their electoral power to elect politicians to begin dismantling key government programs, then we would be in a much better position to tackle head-on this latest manifestation of state power, but because it comes on top on these existing programs, our task has suddenly become much harder.
My great fear is that in order to continue to impose and expand hygiene socialism the state will seek and get enthusiastic public support to use these other, pre-existing programs to do this. This means that the corrupted system of money and banking will be called upon to “fund” programs to support failed businesses, locked-down workers, and drug manufacturers; the extensive system of surveillance of private citizens will be used to “trace” and “monitor” suspected disease carriers (or “ex-disease” carriers); the trade policy of “protection” for domestic industry will be expanded to make sure that “the nation” will be able to manufacture all of its “own” masks and vaccines and not be “dependent” on foreign manufacturers (especially the dreaded “Chinese”), and so on. The result will be an expanding and increasingly interlocked system of government programs and interventions which will be argued is “necessary” in order to secure the “safety of the people” (salus populi). Of course, this notion of “the safety of people” could be vastly expanded to other risks to life and limb which are even greater than covid 19. Once one has started down this slippery slope of statism there is no stopping once a certain momentum has built up.
After the Covid-19 pandemic began, politicians tightened tourniquets that would supposedly vanquish the virus by cutting off the economy’s blood supply. Governors in state after state effectively placed hundreds of millions of citizens under house arrest – dictates that former Attorney General Bill Barr aptly compared to “the greatest intrusion on civil liberties” since the end of slavery. The New York Times set the tone for media coverage when it announced that the task for government was to “learn how to frighten [citizens] into acting for the common good.”
The American Institute for Economic Research was in the forefront of denouncing pointless, oppressive restrictions from the start. In May, my old friend AIER editorial director Jeffrey Tucker contacted me and the result was my first AIER piece, “Will the Political Class Be Held Liable For What They’ve Done?” That article lambasted politicians for responding “to Covid-19 by dropping the equivalent of a Reverse Neutron Bomb – something which destroys the economy while supposedly leaving human beings unharmed…. Shutting down entire states, including vast uninfected rural swaths, is the economic equivalent of burning witches or sacrificing virgins to appease angry viral gods.”
It is questionable whether a civilised society should knowingly increase the emotional discomfort of its citizens as a means of gaining their compliance. State scientists deploying fear, shame and scapegoating to change minds is an ethically dubious practice that in some respects resembles the tactics used by totalitarian regimes such as China, where the state inflicts pain on a subset of its population in an attempt to eliminate beliefs and behaviour they perceive to be deviant.
Another ethical issue associated with the methods of covert nudging used in the Covid-19 communications campaign concerns the unintended consequences. Shaming and scapegoating has emboldened some people to harass those unable or unwilling to wear a face covering. More disturbingly, fear inflation has led to many people being too scared to attend hospital with non-Covid illness, while many old people, rendered housebound by fear, will have died prematurely from loneliness. Collateral damage of this sort is likely to be responsible for many of the tens of thousands of excess non-Covid deaths in private homes. In a civilised society, is it morally acceptable to use psychological strategies that are associated with this level of collateral damage?
The public are no longer viewed as rational adults, capable of having the risks and benefits of actions explained to them, and permitted the agency to make their own choices. They are treated like children, to be cajoled and coerced into making the “correct” decisions. This extends not only to the legislation, but to much of the public messaging — fear, shame and guilt abounds.
Little allowance is given for human needs. For those living in house shares, for example, sex with non-cohabiting partners has been legally prohibited for months. And while the onus throughout this period has been on those who break laws, the same consideration has not been given to more positive interventions, such as ensuring people have adequate sick pay, enabling them to quarantine effectively, or in getting sufficient supplies of PPE to reduce infection rates.
Working against the public, and treating human nature as an inconvenience that must be threatened with punishment, is the antithesis of Public Health and modern medicine.
It may be tempting to argue that in this time of crisis, particularly involving a communicable disease, the end justifies the means. But considering that this week marks a year since the first lockdown began — a year in which the minutiae of daily life have been rendered legal or illegal with the sweep of a pen — this cannot continue indefinitely. It is time for the Government to recognise this fact and start collaborating with the public instead of criminalising them.
The moment you depart from treating individuals, and attempt to collectivize a population, you’re not so much an expert as you are an authoritarian control freak disguised as an expert.
Fauci is not a public health expert, he’s a power drunk immunologist. Bill Gates is not a public health expert, he’s a maniacal technocrat.
Brendan O’Neill has more from the once-free country of Great Britain. Here’s his opening:
For a year we have been living through one of the most extraordinary events of modern times: the hibernation of democracy. The suspension of public life. The adjournment of politics itself. This has been the most dire consequence of lockdown. We have witnessed the outsourcing of decision-making to non-political actors, the withering away of political opposition and political debate, and the decommissioning of the public itself. Stay at home, watch the news for Covid updates, and don’t breathe on, far less talk to, another human soul. That has been the instruction to the demos for the past year. The impact of all of this on the spirit and practice of democracy is likely to be long-lasting.
Today is the first anniversary of the imposition of lockdown in the UK. It was a year ago today that Boris Johnson, having initially bristled at the idea of enforcing a China- or Italy-style shutdown of society, solemnly addressed the nation and said: ‘Stay at home.’ It would last three or four weeks, we were told. It was just about ‘flattening the curve’ and preventing the NHS from being overwhelmed. We’d be out of it soon and cracking on with life relatively normally. How naive we were to believe that. Today, on this unhappy birthday, we’re in lockdown again – our third – and public-health experts are telling us that some social restrictions could last for years. A three-week shutdown has become a neverending nightmare.
How did this happen? It is not, as some people insist, a conspiracy. Government officials did not plot this severe suspension of our freedoms. They aren’t rubbing their hands with glee at having finally made the masses docile and made themselves all-powerful (although it is certainly the case that bureaucratic opportunists have spied in this crisis a chance to push their pet nanny-state causes, whether it’s on obesity, the evils of boozing in pubs or the ‘annoyance’ of political protests). And nor is lockdown the handiwork of Big Pharma or dastardly corporations desperate to inject their drugs (and microchips?) into the lab rats of humanity. These attempts to uncover the plot behind our predicament can end up confusing the issue and in some cases can stir up conspiratorial thinking.
The enormous gulf between observational data and the unshakeable cult-like belief system of the scientific-political elite on lockdowns is baffling. Curves for Covid cases, hospitalisations and deaths give no clue about when countries and US states locked down, how hard and for how long. Hundreds of millions have suffered between the callousness of the modelling dogmatists, panic-fuelling media, authoritarian instincts of social engineers and cowardice of science-challenged politicians. Children and the elderly were both badly betrayed by the pandemic lockdowns. We’ve endured extraordinarily widespread human suffering, long-term economic devastation and reckless government spending for a year. ‘Experts’ are also perplexed by low mortality rates in countries like India and Nepal where hard lockdowns proved unsustainable. Are the modelling epidemiologists depraved, demented or just criminally incompetent?
The dam of scepticism may be about to burst as growing numbers abandon the Covid tyranny.