Who knows what will come next?

I would like to discuss a previous thread by one of our anonymous posters who wrote “about the only thing of note that I haven’t mentioned is the hysterical meltdown of those on the libertarian side of things to just about any government reaction to the current crisis” and I stress the word “any”. Peter Hitchens is apparently “one of the very worst offenders”, someone whom I have quoted a couple of times, “an hysterical female-like counterpoint to his deceased brother”. He is apparently “dancing around with his hands in the air in mortal abject terror of any government imposed change to his daily routine whatsoever” (my bolding). You can read the whole thing for yourself here.

I cannot speak for Peter, but will speak for myself. And I am already all too aware how readily all too many are prepared to throw away their freedoms at the mere whiff of some socialist grapeshot. You want to hear the sound of hysterical, try this:

Our responsibilities at the moment are to sit tight and do our best to not add to the problem. Yes we are suffering some discomfort. Yes, we are also taking a financial hit. Yes, some people are taking a bigger hit than others, either due to their own unpreparedness or suffering the ill fortune of this being very bad timing. But what are governments supposed to do? Take everyone’s individual circumstances into account? Even if they could, which they cannot, exactly why should they?

Our great handicap is that so many of us are conditioned to looking to government to solve our problems. So that when a very big event such as this happens then our only recourse is to scream and shout that something must be done or must not be done as the case may be. But the situation is not normal and screaming at the sky is beyond useless. What we must do is batten down the hatches and rely on ourselves and family and communities first. We must find ways to get things done.

I never classify myself as a libertarian, but I do line myself up ideologically with F.A. Hayek who is, like myself, a classical liberal, a conservative using today’s mode of classification. On Hayek’s attitude to governments in a crisis, Steve Hayward went into that just this morning: HAYEK ON EMERGENCY POWERS OF GOVERNMENT. This is a direct quote from Hayek’s Law, Legislation and Liberty. The bolding this time is from Steve Hayward.

The basic principle of a free society, that the coercive powers of government are restricted to the enforcement of universal rules of just conduct, and cannot be used for the achievement of particular purposes, though essential to the normal working of such a society, may yet have to be temporarily suspended when the long-run preservation of that order is itself threatened. Though normally the individuals need be concerned only with their own concrete aims, and in pursuing them will best serve the common welfare, there may temporarily arise circumstances when the preservation of the over-all order becomes the overruling common purpose, and when in consequence the spontaneous order, on a local or national scale, must for a time be converted into an organization. When an external enemy threatens, when rebellion or lawless violence has broken out, or a natural catastrophe requires quick action by whatever means can be secured, powers of compulsory organization, which normally nobody possesses, must be granted to somebody. Like an animal in flight from mortal danger society may in such situations have to suspend temporarily even vital functions on which in the long run its existence depends if it is to escape destruction.

The conditions under which such emergency powers may be granted without creating the danger that they will be retained when the absolute necessity has passed are among the most difficult and important points a constitution must decide on. ‘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 such emergency powers to see to it that the emergency will persist. Indeed if all needs felt by important groups that can be satisfied only by the exercise of dictatorial powers constitute an emergency, every situation is an emergency situation. It has been contended with some plausibility that whoever has the power to proclaim an emergency and on this ground to suspend any part of the constitution is the true sovereign. This would seem to be true enough if any person or body were able to arrogate to itself such emergency powers by declaring a state of emergency.

Speaking for myself, I feel in many ways I am already living in a police state. Very benign for the moment, but they are only just starting to get used to the idea of using the police to take away our historic rights. What has amazed me more than anything in this latest episode is how few people actually seem aware of how much is at stake. There are a handful of deaths from the coronavirus but we are not in the middle of the Black Death. What we may well be in the middle of is the death of our personal freedoms. There are plenty around who would like to take them from us already and who they are ought to be visible to us all since they never stop threatening us for going out to take a walk in the park. Once you are used to that, who knows what will come next?

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13 Responses to Who knows what will come next?

  1. MACK

    What’s completely missing from this debate is any contribution from specialist health economists. There are myriad ways that government initiatives can save lives – road safety, industrial safety, medical prevention programs (physical and mental) and millions of treatment options ranging from more GPs to more intensive care units, to more drugs on the PBS. So the demands are unlimited and the well-meaning experts in each of these areas always want more government money to save lives. Fair enough, but governments have to have priorities and get the best bang for the buck. In the Covid case, how much should we spend and how much should we destroy the economy? Why is this more important than other options? Health economists have lots of techniques to do cost-benefit analyses and discuss issues such whether to focus on the young or the old. They use things called QALYs- quality-adjusted life years. Here’s an example: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5930346/
    “A prominent issue concerning many national healthcare systems today is how much to invest in new medical products, services, and intervention programs [1]. An integral part of this type of investment regards potential improvements in quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) and how much healthcare systems should be willing to spend for additional QALYs for their patients”.
    Let’s hear from these experts.

  2. Docket62

    Speaking for myself, I feel in many ways I am already living in a police state

    We are surely in a police state. Coppers intercepting people and demanding excuses then asking for ‘proof’.

    There must be a reckoning. Someone in the threads called for civil disobedience on April 25th for Anzac Day, and I dont want to usurp that comment but I for one would advocate this is a step in the right direction. If enough people turn up at enough places to defy the authority then we begin to pare back the abuse of power.

    There is (to my knowledge) no requirement for example to ‘prove’ that you you have legitimate business outside your home, you simply need to provide the legitimate response. Any further demands are unreasonable and beyond the powers of the plod. If they were to arrest you, under what power? You have stated what the legitimate purpose is, there is no requirement in the powers for you to ‘prove’ this. Thus it is unlawful, and opens the government through the police open to prosecution for unlawful imprisonment.

    Stand your ground. And make Anzac Day happen.

  3. max

    Government is playing god for a long time.

  4. amortiser

    Our golf course is open again as it is construed as exercise. The practice fairway and practice putting greens are closed as use of these may not be construed as exercise. In order not to have the authorities ( police ) come and shut us down again these restrictions have been imposed.

    We can practise all the social distancing recommended but if you are deemed to be not exercising you are screwed. We cannot run any competitions as they are not purely exercise.

    This is indeed a police state and are in for possibly months of this.

  5. Docket62

    Our golf course is open again as it is construed as exercise

    Ours is closed in Vic thanks to the Nazis in control here….

  6. nb

    There needn’t be too much emotion in the debate, just a ledger of the costs and benefits of government relative to the free market. I don’t have that ledger in front of me, but I am inclined to think it would show the free market ahead of government in benefits, with fewer costs than government. That would probably vary from country to country.

  7. Eyrie

    Now you know how the more thoughtful Germans felt from 1933 to 1939. WTF happened to my country?

  8. stackja

    Let the virus spread? The survival of the fittest?

  9. Old Lefty

    Even Turnbull had one good idea in office, which was to consider returning to the states some or all of the taxing powers they ‘temporarily’ ceded to the Commonwealth as a war emergency measure in 1941. Regrettably, he was howled down on all sides; we can’t even talk about serious policy reform these days.

  10. After the drought, the bushfires, the floods, and now the pestilence – we’re in some sort of communal emotional mythical shock zone at present. That’s why we act like well behaved children told to be seen but not as a herd. We’re likely to be over it around the end of Easter. And Passover, after the plagues.

  11. Fresh Pat

    Old Lefty, how dare you mention that back passage smeller as having a good thought!

  12. Iampeter

    I never classify myself as a libertarian, but I do line myself up ideologically with F.A. Hayek who is, like myself, a classical liberal, a conservative using today’s mode of classification.

    Um…no.
    Classic liberals are not conservatives and you are certainly NOT a classic liberal.
    Conservatives are superficially religious and politically illiterate leftists. That’s what you are as we see from your content.

    Posts from you trying to suggest you’re a classic liberal or concern trolling about “how readily all too many are prepared to throw away their freedoms” are examples of your total cognitive dissonance, given your uncritical support of a statist like Trump, who is busily taking away freedoms.

    Stuff like this demonstrates you have a lot of basics you need to figure out and a lot of thining skills to develop.

  13. yarpos

    Went for a walk in the park today, nobody was threatening or being threatened, they were just a little distant. The writer seems to be drama queening over a few weird events in Sydney, which despite what some think, is not a good indicator for Australia.

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