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Resist the Hysteria and Tyranny

In my latest column for AIER, inspired by Henry Manne, I call for peaceful resistance to the misinformation being spread about Covid-19, and to the tyranny being unleashed in the name of ‘protecting’ us.

In late 1973 and early 1974 Henry decried the biased and uninformed reporting on the fuel shortages that then plagued America, and he called on people to resist the demands for the strict government controls that were then said by many in elite circles to be necessary to best deal with these shortages.

Today’s Covid-19 pandemic isn’t identical to the 1970s’ fuel shortages, but the two crises share with each other many parallels. In both, media reporting consistently missed important points and, in doing so, fueled (!) unwarranted panic. Worse-case scenarios were presented as likely outcomes. Elite opinion very quickly settled on the conclusion that key human liberties must be sacrificed indefinitely to government ‘leaders’ wielding discretionary powers in order to deal with an almost-existential scourge. Talk of society being at war against an insidious enemy was widespread. Unfathomably complex arrangements of human engagement were treated as if they are as simple as Lego structures that children build, can disassemble, and can easily rebuild. And evil-doers were said to be afoot whose misbehaviors – from negligence to intentional malfeasance – were making a bad situation worse. These evid-doers, thus, were accused of being threats to innocent other people.

In both instances, governments’ heavy-handed attempts to deal with each crisis made each crisis worse.

Yet there is at least one important difference separating these two crises from each other. Compared to the energy crisis of the 1970s, today very few prominent voices in the media and in high political circles are speaking out forcefully against the misinformation and the tyranny that this misinformation is believed to justify. Are people today more cowardly than they were nearly 50 years ago? Are people today more easily frightened by misinformation and misperception than they were back then? Are people today less willing than they were back then to speak out against the dominant narrative?

I remember well the cocksure predictions made by many elite voices of the horrors that would befall us Americans if energy price controls were abolished and we refused to alter our way of life. Fuel prices would skyrocket. Ordinary families would suffer grievously as they impoverished themselves simply to fuel their automobiles and to keep their homes warm during winter. We were even warned that if we refuse to adopt rationing and other strict controls and lifestyle changes that we’d soon find ourselves unable to get any affordable energy whatsoever. Failure to follow our leaders’ advice would spell doom for us all.

To this day I thank the memory of Ronald Reagan for eliminating, almost immediately after he assumed office at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., all federal price controls on energy.

Here’s a slice from my AIER column:

Then as now, reality threw humanity a curveball. But instead of dealing with war-disrupted oil supplies intelligently and calmly, fear mongering by the media became de rigueur. For our own benefit and that of society, we little people must be reminded of the calamity that awaits us if we resist being regimented by our superiors.