Lord Sumption The real problem is that when human societies lose their freedom, it’s not usually because tyrants have taken it away. It’s usually because people willingly surrender their freedom in return for protection against some external threat. And the threat is usually a real threat but usually exaggerated. That’s what I fear we are seeing now. The pressure on politicians has come from the public. They want action. They don’t pause to ask whether the action will work. They don’t ask themselves whether the cost will be worth paying. They want action anyway. And anyone who has studied history will recognise here the classic symptoms of collective hysteria. Hysteria is infectious. We are working ourselves up into a lather in which we exaggerate the threat and stop asking ourselves whether the cure may be worse than the disease.
Then there is this:
The expansion phase of the ratchet reflects the decisions of a quasi-autonomous government responding to an insistent but ill-defined public demand that the government “do something” about a crisis. Whatever the policy adopted, however, costs must be borne by people outside the government. The greater are the costs, the less willing is the public to tolerate them. When people are burdened too heavily, their resistance jeopardizes not only the policy but, in a normally operating representative democracy, the government itself. Anticipating such reactions, the government takes steps to conceal the true costs of its policies. Most importantly, it substitutes a (cost-hiding) command-and-control system of resource allocation for the (cost-revealing) market system and its utterly visible measuring rod of money.