Nothing So Permanent…

Economist Milton Friedman: “Nothing so permanent as a temporary government programme.”

We are publishing another original piece today by Angus McIntosh entitled “Temporary Government Programmes” which raises the alarm about the eagerness with which the authorities have leapt on the pandemic as an reason to curtail our liberty. He is concerned that some of the rights that have been “temporarily” suspended may never be restored to us. Here is an excerpt:

Let us take a moment to look beyond the current turmoil of the pandemic and the ensuing policy chaos and to consider its possible legacy.

At this point we are struggling to cope with the tide of misery which Covid and the lockdowns have created. But eventually, through a combination of spring weather, natural immunity and the vaccine, the virus will subside to the point where we could start to live with it as a normal part of the disease landscape.

It may then take a decade or more to recover from its terrible toll of death, depression and poverty and this is tragedy enough. But potentially even more damaging for our long-term future are the lasting shifts in attitudes which the virus may leave behind.

These will be many and complex, but there are three which are particularly likely:

1. Permanently lowered public tolerance for life’s normal risks and challenges.

2. Increased popular willingness to sacrifice freedoms in pursuit of safety.

3. Greater tendency for authorities of all kinds to exploit the above.

The first two of these malign legacies represent acceleration of existing trends, rather than completely new phenomena. But the third is undergoing more of a revolution.

Anyone who doubts that we have taught certain policymakers an unexpected but welcome lesson need only look at Professor Neil Ferguson’s now-infamous Times interview in which he said, referring to China: “It’s a communist one-party state, we said. We couldn’t get away with it in Europe, we thought…and then Italy did it. And we realised we could.

This insight has allowed Ferguson and other advisors to promote control of the virus above every other consideration and to keep it there.

When governments take control of a new aspect of our lives, they assume permanent accountability for it in the public and media mind. They know that they are far more likely to be called to account for any negative consequences of later relaxation than they are to be praised for its benefits. That’s why new interventions are very rarely eased, even by those who opposed them in the first place.

Worth reading in full.