We still lean libertarian here at LoS. Lean.
Because ultimately the dream of a world without government is utopian and silly. The same actually applies to “democracy”, which is why we figure – in the end – monarchy. But that’s a long discussion.
No, this morning we are simply pondering the whole coronavirus thing, and how it all pans out in the longer term. What have we learned? Indeed, what have we done?
There is irrational fear, and then there is rational fear. Let’s stipulate at the outset that when people with the relevant background and training who are in a position to know tell us that we are threatened with a dangerous pandemic the fear of that pandemic is rational. And our collective reaction to that information appears to be measured and rational as well. Which is to say, other than some hoarding early on there has been remarkably little behavior that could fairly be called “panic”. People have adjusted to a dramatically changed day to day reality without undue complaint or much dissent. People – ourselves included – comply with directives from the government against which we would normally chafe. We do this owing to our rational fear.
And this may be the key to understanding the net result of all this, though we hasten to add that we probably won’t have enough perspective to be confident in our conclusions until the crisis portion of this strange event is past: as in a war, in our rational fear we have looked to our government to protect us from the threat. We have collectively granted, at least at this crisis stage, dramatically more power to our government.
We are not the only ones who are less than sanguine about this development.
It wouldn’t be fair to say that the only thing government has done with this is to restrict, oppress, and regulate, because it has also provided, in a manner of speaking, with stimulus and whatnot. But that is not as beneficent as it seems, as an otherwise obscure billionaire who is nevertheless probably in the know points out.
Let’s step back a bit, to a theme we have discussed more than a little over the years this blog has creaked along. Centralization and collectivism were strong, not to say irresistible trends from the middle of the 19th century on. The great wars of the 20th century were the most important manifestations of these trends.
Towards the end of the 20th century, though, the counter-trend began: de-centralization and individualism. Obviously, whatever progress this trend has seen, it has also encountered significant challenges in the 21st century: the 9-11 attacks, the resulting “war on terror”, and now the worldwide pandemic.
Is this centralization and collectivism in their death throes, or an enduring trend reversal where they are vanquishing their rivals, de-centralization and individualism?
We don’t know this morning. And we don’t know if we’ll ever know except in hindsight.