My great classical-liberal Australian friend David Hart – now living back in his native country – sent to me an e-mail yesterday decrying the collapse of the liberty movement in the face of Covid hysteria. I thank David for his kind permission to share his e-mail.
I have been grappling with what I think has been the catastrophic collapse and failure of the liberty movement in Australia in the face of the Covid hysteria and panic, and the lockdown socialism which has been the result (or in the case of the state of Victoria “lockdown stalinism”). We haven’t seen anything like such an expansion of government power and intervention in the economy since the mid-1970s in this country, and I fear 2021 will continue down this path with barely a squeak of protest.
In 1972 the social democratic Labor Party came to power and in the space of three years completely transformed the Australian economy, including the introduction of a country-wide single payer health care system, huge increases in taxation, and in government debt. That is the reason why I first became active in libertarian politics and I joined many thousands of people who were appalled and outraged at what was happening. Last year, a conservative government did more in 10 months to expand the power of the state, increase debt, and drastically cut private economic activity than three years of a “socialist” government back in the 1970s.
Yet where are all those who once could be relied on to speak out and stand up for liberty? They are all lying low and saying and doing nothing.
It is hard to know what to do in the face of this. Is it “betrayal” of our ideals? cowardice? the failure of their critical faculties, on many levels, to question the dictates of politicians and the so-called advice of technocrats? Have they forgotten all the economics they once knew? Have they stopped loving liberty? Who knows.
DBx: Arriving in my e-mailbox very soon after I read this appalling op-ed in the Washington Post, David’s e-mail struck me with special strength. The op-ed’s headline alone would thrill a Stalinist – “My city in Australia locked down for a single covid-19 case. We welcome the restrictions” – with the first sentence of the op-ed sending the Stalinist into raptures: “Government officials from Western Australia announced on Sunday that millions of people in the southwest part of our state would plunge into a strict, five-day lockdown after the first case of community transmission in 10 months was detected in a hotel quarantine security guard.”
One case of a disease that isn’t especially lethal to people under the age of 50, and that kills mostly the very old and ill, prompts the government to put millions of healthy people under house arrest. One. Single. Case. Not even one single death. One case.
The great collectivist dream is to have every individual sacrifice willingly and without limit for the greater good of the whole, with the details of the nature of this good being specified by the state. The puny individuals are assured by those in power that evil will darken the land if the puny individuals do not stand together, as one, regimented by the state into uniformity of purpose and action.
Collectivist ideology celebrates the embrace of this uniformity. It applauds acceptance of the state’s authority and leadership. It cheers those who refuse to question the state’s commands; it condemns those who dare to so question, and will silence those who do not respond appropriately to the condemnations.
I’m no expert on Soviet or Maoist or Pol-Pottian propaganda, but I have – as, surely, you have – encountered over the years examples of such propaganda in which smiling comrades are shown joyfully marching together – as one, and led by a loving leader – toward some glorious goal. Just as the brainwashed victims depicted in this propaganda happily submit to their enslavement, so too, apparently, do millions of Australians submit to theirs. And the Washington Post publishes an op-ed written by one of them bragging of her comrades’ willingness to behave like well-trained dogs – some eager for snacks as rewards for good behavior, and others fearful of the master’s whip for bad behavior.