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Another First-hand Report from Dystopian Down Under

Commenting at my Facebook page in response to this Cafe Hayek post yesterday about Australia, Australian Mikayla Novak writes:

The great sense of lament expressed in the letter is, sadly, not inaccurate at all. One can easily catalogue the list of bizarre and illiberal exhortations to obey “rules” (the term set in quotation marks, given the lack of parliamentary assent for them) that stifle civil liberties, economic freedoms, social activities, and forms of political expression. Examples not only include the political castigation of viewing sunsets outdoors, but advising crowds to scurry away from footballs kicked during a match, advising business owners to shoo customers out of their stores if caught “browsing,” encouraging people to use official websites and hotlines to report noncompliant members of the public, etc. There are now regular spectacles of police barricading major roads into capital cities to prevent rumoured protests (we may refer to this tactic as the Police Anti-Anti-Lockdown Protest). All laughable, if not so seriously damaging to life, property, liberty, and happiness. In my jurisdiction (Australian Capital Territory) the local government has simultaneously imposed outdoor mask mandates, QR check-in codes at all retail premises, physical distancing provisions, home “lockdown” (essentially, a bio-political disciplinary measure that would make Foucault gasp), one hour of outdoor exercise daily, discouragement of travel more than five kilometres from one’s home, inability to travel interjurisdictionally, and so on. My university recently made an urgent call-out for staff-volunteers to help feed students locked up in their college residences.

As individual liberties and potentials for human association diminish substantially under the weight of measures in response to a handful of Covid “cases,” Australia’s political executives are squabbling over the meaning of over-simplistic epidemiological models. In this respect, would a hypothetical 70-80 per cent population-wide vaccination rate (for persons aged 16 years and over) really mean the end of lockdowns, constant surveillance, etc. etc.? Politicians in some jurisdictions say “yes,” others “no,” most “maybe, who knows?” This debate is being prosecuted against the background of a 24-25 per cent population-wide vaccination rate as of today (the potential implications of this debate for continuation of restrictive measures into the forseeable future are clear). All up, the situation is dire and entirely politically-induced. (One bright spot: Australia’s libertarian political party – the Liberal Democrats – is enjoying a surge in membership and public interest on account of their no-lockdown policies.)