Histories of the Great Panic.

How will Western historians in 2050 remember 2020? In scenario 1, “The Great Panic, a lost generation”, I sketch my best guess. Scenario 2, “A job well done” is the one I imagine many current Western governments hope is told. Scenario 3, “The dark path of the Great Panic”, is one of my main fear scenarios.

How Past Plagues & Pandemics Have Shaped Human History | PocketOne should of course not take any of these too seriously, but they do help put some perspective on matters because constructing a future history of today forces one to detach from current concerns and nominate long-term forces that might come to the fore.


                   H1: The Great Panic, a lost generation.

In 2020 a new coronavirus appeared that health authorities and the media whipped into a huge panic that went viral around the world. Forced by their populations to pretend to be in control, governments instigated lots of highly damaging restrictions on the movements of their own citizens. Whilst this did very little to the spread of the virus or the eventual death toll from it, it opened enormous opportunities to governments to extend their powers, sidestep parliaments, and rob their populations.

The ideology of the Great Panic was an echo of the Fremdkörper ideology of national socialism of the 1930s: an ideology in which the country was seen as an organism that could only function if the ‘elements alien to it’ were excised. This ideology reached great popularity in 2020 when it was directed towards the new coronavirus, but, as in the 1930s, the ideology morphed when the coronavirus ceased to be a threat to include all infectious diseases and large groups of citizens. Zero-covid became zero-other-things. Increasingly draconian and destructive policies were rolled out in the 2020s by governments eager to hold on to the power they had amassed.

After the period of initial shock in 2020, an unholy alliance between opportunist local commercial interests, the global ambitions and immediate interest of Big Tech, the virtue industry, and governments emerged that thrived on continued restrictions. The surveillance state they instigated survived the end of the actual pandemic which had run its course by early 2021. New viral threats were identified to justify massive random testing regimes, with the inspectors who could use those test to order lockdowns of whole regions becoming feared figures of derision. Immunity passports became compulsory for most international travel. Masks became compulsory everywhere outside.

The disruption and ideology inherent to the Great Panic formed the kernel of its own eventual demise. Continue reading

Posted in Coronavirus crisis, Cultural Critique, Dance, Geeky Musings, Health, History, Humour, Innovation, Libertarian Musings, Life, Philosophy, Politics - international, Politics - national, Public and Private Goods, Social Policy, Society | 86 Comments

Demarchy 2020: by John Burnheim

Another post from John Burnheim who wrote this following up on having received some questions from some Spaniards. (Reminding me of the title of John Lennon’s book, or perhaps it was just a joke of his somewhere: A Spaniard in the works)  NG

Demarchy is not a comprehensive plan for reshaping existing public institutions in the ordinary course of social change. Most institutions change sometimes for good reasons and sometimes for worse.

All states are pressed towards privatising public institutions because the electorate demands more from them, but is also clamouring for relief from taxation. Privatised institutions are often capable of good performance in the short run but fall into inadequacy as they pay more and more attention to profits, try to rid themselves of obligations and resist the attempts of politicians and activists to penalise them for causes that have popular appeal.

The demarchal remedy for this problem is to make these institutions subject to rigorous but impartial audition and review. That move should be initiated in most cases by specific forums in each case that identifies the procedures and objectives in existing institutions and invites proposals to remedy them.

I would suggest that in each case these proposals should be assessed and authorised by citizen juries comprising the main groups with positive or negative interests in the results of what the particular proposal is likely to affect substantially. Once such an institution is chosen it would be required to submit a professional auditor, that would assess the efficiency of the institution in bringing about the improvements it proposed. The audit would be examined by a citizen jury like that which authorised the privatised institution.

Continue reading

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How culture war is destroying public reason: COVID edition

Cross-posted from The Mandarin (and written about ten days ago, so it fails to mention Adelaide’s latest snafu).

Lockdowns, border closures, masks, apps and eradication. Where do you stand? 

One can’t sensibly address any of these issues without knowing more about context. But we don’t do context any more. Each of the issues is now its own little culture war within the larger culture war. 

At the head of this queue is lockdown itself. One can reasonably argue that lockdowns generate more economic and human costs than benefits, including the deaths they cause. That’s not just in the countries locking down themselves, but also in low-income countries that trade with countries whose economies tank as a result of lockdowns.

I won’t be that surprised if those opposing lockdowns in a principled way end up being right in hindsight. I am surprised that those who I respect and like – like Paul Frijters – don’t express themselves with more caution and humility, that they find it so hard to believe that they might be wrong. 

After all, it’s almost impossible to specify the counterfactual – to say what would happen without lockdowns. That’s because so much of the economic impact comes from people locking themselves down, rather governments requiring it. But that’s a separate matter. They are at least doing us a service in arguing the case (if not in the way they sometimes argue it).  Continue reading

Posted in Economics and public policy, Health | 137 Comments

WELLBY cost-benefit calculations for the UK and the Netherlands

Last week I gave a masterclass lecture at University College London on the costs and benefits of lockdowns and other covid-policies in the UK. A recording is here (Passcode: [email protected]$?y9J9 ), and the powerpoint slides are here. A key piece of evidence was the sudden 0.7 drop in life-satisfaction during the lockdowns observed in the UK:

A cost-benefit analysis on the Dutch covid-policies, which were much less intrusive than the British ones but still had cost at least 20 times bigger than the benefits, was published yesterday in the ‘Economische Statistische Berichten‘, basically a monthly magazine for economists in the Netherlands. A version of that article is here (for those who can read Dutch), and the lengthy appendix discussing the literature on many of the issues involved (such as IFRs, scenarios, long-covid, the problem of health service displacement, suicides, mental health, etc.) is here.

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The vaccine and the COVID culture war

Kind of a fun graphic

Well, we look like getting a vaccine!

Of course managing the policy response to the virus could know of this only as a possibility. But, looking like it is coming to pass, that possibility seems to produce a final scorecard well in favour of the competent lockdowns in Australia, New Zealand and China and against the incompetent ones in the UK, Europe and the US which vacillated between publicly supported lockdowns and ideologically supported lockdown scepticism and ‘balancing’ the health and economic welfare of their populations.

Sweden will have done relatively well economically, though not much better if at all than its near and equally competent neighbours. But it’s had ten times their death rate or something like that. So I’m calling for more good old-fashioned ClubTroppo humility from ClubTroppo’s own #LockdownSceptics.

Posted in Economics and public policy, Health | 109 Comments

Ought Anchored to Is: Morality As A Spontaneous Order

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy

It’s a supreme finding of Hume’s clever reasoning that ought cannot be derived from is. The claim is so irrefutable that it has become a truism that acts as a bulwark against proponents of the status quo. But like a lot of reasoning, it refutes a whole swathe of assumptions without anything substantive to say about how we do or should live. Reason in this case is destructive, not instructive, an amoral tool that has no bearing on our core moral principles even if its boosters would like to claim otherwise.
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How others are organising the Covistance: ideas for those who want to help.

How are we going to escape the authoritarian nightmare and regain our liberties and zest for life? This long read is written for organisers of new Covistance initiatives, explaining the logic of what others have done and what could further be done. So I am speaking to those of you who want to help and are looking around for how you could help. I will discuss website-based Covistance initiatives (lockdownsceptics.org, pandata19.org , covidplanb.co.nz , viruswaarheid.nl, and social media groups) , petition-type activities (timeforRecovery.org and others), Covistance media (including do-it-yourself activities), and others.

There are many things people with different talents can do and very little is being done already. There is for instance no organisation or initiative yet that really is dedicated to people who initially went along with the covid-hysteria and have woken up to the realisation that they have been a victim of scare-mongering and disinformation. We are seeing hundreds of thousands of people around the world in essence “waking up” from a kind of cult-nightmare, bewildered and uncertain. There is a real role for groups and initiatives of an Alcoholics Anonymous type where people can share experiences and tips on how to cope, how to recover, how to help their families and friends snap out of the hysteria and support them through the transition, etc.. Teaching material needs to be generated for such organisations, including written and visual material. Pastoral care is urgently needed. TalentedFree Community Service Cliparts, Download Free Clip Art, Free Clip Art on Clipart Library empathic people can set up these types of organisations and really make a contribution to their immediate environment.

I also think artists have a really important role. We need plays, songs, paintings, poems, etc., to remind us of beauty and the good life. Now is very much a time for art to play its role as a source of solace and hope.

There is also of course a need for scientists to research the hysteria and what kind of societies we should try to become. This is something I have written about a lot in the past (see https://clubtroppo.com.au/author/paul-frijters/). There is now plenty of good material by top scientists and institutions that tell a Covista what is going on and what policies our societies could adopt. It needs adding to by those with real skill in that area, but it is not the biggest bottleneck at the moment.

The biggest bottleneck at the moment is community formation: the creation of groups and organisations that help people become engaged citizens. The new organisations needed include new media networks that offer a Covistance perspective and new academic-type institutions where people can learn and study. There is also a need for local organisations to engage in local and regional politics. I want to discuss the many initiatives in different countries that have emerged so far, pointing out the more successful models. Continue reading

Posted in Coronavirus crisis, Death and taxes, Democracy, Geeky Musings, Health, Information, IT and Internet, Journalism, Law, Libertarian Musings, Media, Parenting, Politics - international, Politics - national, Science | 17 Comments