The Legacy of Lock-down will be Many Dead and Much Regret

The evidence is mounting by the day. Soon it will become undeniable that the lock-downs were a big mistake. Defending them will become defending the indefensible. I suspect many people will find it difficult to admit they were wrong, particularly those who were very public in their support for the policy and keen to participate in enforcing it. However, having to witness the deadly consequences of the global lock-down is going to be much harder. In months to come, we’ll see a global outbreak of people suffering from lock-downers’ remorse.

Hundreds of millions of people in the developing world who were living hand to mouth have been pushed to the brink of starvation and early death as a result of having their economic liberties snatched away from them weeks ago. Government officials in the developing world won’t be keen to divulge how many deaths their draconian measures caused, so we’re unlikely to ever know the exact figure, but it is likely be a large one – one that will weigh heavy on the consciences of lock-down advocates the world over.

The global lock-down was like dropping a nuclear bomb on the world’s economy and yet hardly anyone seem to give a thought to the catastrophic and deadly consequences it would have on hundreds of millions of human beings. Alas, this is how people and nations act under a great fear.

Governments cannot forcefully suspend the functioning of global capitalism – the complex system of spontaneous order that sustains billions of human lives – without causing serious consequences to swaths of humanity. The global economy is not a machine that can be switched on and off. It’s a human ecosystem. Like natural ecosystems, it doesn’t instantly return to normal functioning after its delicate balance is upset by some external force. It takes time, during which standards of living decline and that has profound consequences for people on the margin of poverty. The lock-downs may be nearing an end, but the damage has been done.

Everyone has convinced themselves the lock-down is a glorious global act of human compassion, but in reality imprisoning people in their own homes is nothing more than a deeply inhumane thing to do. To confine people to their homes for several weeks is effectively a form of government-mandated psychological torture. It’s an act of cruelty that has negative mental and physical effects on everyone, but to people who live alone, who are already depressed or who have abusive partners it is particularly brutal and harmful. If you or I used threats of violence to stop someone from leaving their own home, we would be prosecuted for the crime of false imprisonment. But lawmakers can freely engage in such immoral behaviour simply by making the necessary laws to do so.

People in government authority should not be able to create acts of government which require action that for everyone else is illegal. It would be a mistake to assume that lawmakers only have this power to do what no one else can because it is necessary or useful. They don’t. They have this power simply because they can grant it to themselves. And they use it because they can.

A temporary loss of economic liberty isn’t a matter of life or death for people in the western world, but it is for hundreds of millions in the developing world. Lacking proper regard for liberty is to lack proper regard for human life. Elected governments the world over, with only a few exceptions, showed a sickening lack of regard for human life when they elected to shut the world down through totalitarian government measures.

We may never know whether it was fear that drove this monstrous behaviour or a sociopathic lust for power. Perhaps it was a combination of both. Regardless of what motivated it, in a world where there was no coercive state apparatus to enable it and no group of people possessing the legal power to do it, such large-scale evil would not have been possible.

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