COVID Realpolitik

Written by LibertariDan

The most prevailing thought in my mind, when reflecting on the collective COVID experience, is one of a government and a parliament that was led primarily by popularity and politics, and consequently made damaging decisions with long term costs. While science played some part in decision making, if you can call the laughably inaccurate predictions of Neil Ferguson science, it seems to me that realpolitik mattered a whole lot more – and short term realpolitik at that – culminating in the abject failure to accept the truth that lockdown kills and COVID kills.

It all happened like something from the Edward Bernay’s Propaganda playbook in which he said “…it remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons – a trifling fraction… – who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.” We, the public, were given such a narrow perspective of the situation and one so supported by all the ‘right’ voices, one so packed with dire consequences and fear, the great mass of people were herded into lockdown so effectively that it seemed to gain its own momentum after a while. I often wonder if the extent to which the public eventually demanded their own captivity actually surprised our masters. As Larken Rose once observed, “I’m not scared of the Maos and the Stalins and the Hitlers. I’m scared of the thousands or millions of people that … do their bidding, and pay for their empires, and carry out their orders”. And there were a lot of those.

The call to inform on your neighbours and call the police, if they had too many visitors, was like something from Soviet-era eastern Europe. “Crisis is the rallying cry of the tyrant,” said James Madison, and the reality is that we are living under an authoritarian regime right now. It is but a small step in degree or duration (or change of guard) between averting perceived disaster and grabbing power and control for its own sake, or some future purpose. The state does not easily relinquish powers it has taken. We know this because they were renewed and still remain in place. When it all began, we were subject to scenes of reluctant politicians publicly regretting our lost freedoms while in the act of voting to take them away. Then, six months later, when ‘emergency powers’ were up for renewal and the rumblings of a back bench rebellion of up to eighty MPs could be heard, the freedom loving among us waited in anticipation for those with the power to make a stand. But it turned out to be a gutless rebellion, ultimately thwarted by the MPs’ own failure to vote against renewal. Not even Graham Brady, an amendment proposer, or Steve Baker, who presented himself so reluctant to vote for the emergency powers in the first place, could bring themselves to oppose renewal. Their freedom credentials will be forever tainted in my mind.

Many no doubt imagine they were being good citizens by swallowing blindly every mandate handed down from the state. But it is not virtue to remain ignorant of the harm done by the very strategy they blindly embrace, it’s just plain old ignorance in the end. It’s precisely because COVID kills and lockdown kills that it’s not for you, me, or the government, to pick the winners and losers and thereby force harm on others. Those who feel virtuous for only caring about the people COVID kills may be free to do so, but they don’t have the right to inflict their one-sided myopic view on everyone else by force. If people are going to risk harm to themselves and loved ones in either case – and they are – the more moral approach is to provide true information and let individuals and families govern themselves to meet their own individual and very specific situations. Something more Swedish in approach perhaps, an approach we know in hindsight wasn’t worse than other nations to the extent ‘scientists’ were trying to make us believe, and far better than many in the end, without such ‘collateral damage’ – by which we mean real people, more harmed by the ‘cure’ than the disease, sometimes fatally so.

Our present government is and was possibly the least trusted to make such decisions on behalf of others that we’ve had in our lifetimes. Yet many fear that the individuals around them cannot be trusted to act correctly without government coercion. But, if individuals can’t be trusted, why on earth would you trust the individuals in government far removed from the consequences? At least I can trust most other people to at least be interested in the survival and wellbeing of those they love. I can say no such thing about the machinery of the state. As Dr. Thomas Sowell put it, “It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.” But that is exactly what most people did. And now, looking back, we see more clearly than ever how wrong those making the decisions were, and how high the price. Can enough individuals learn enough to make sure this never happens again, or does ignorance prevail sufficiently for blind faith in the state to move nations again, and again, no matter how stupidly, or how high the price to be paid?

Read more articles from this edition of Free Speech here.


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