On the Only Lights Left in the World

 

I am reminded that today is the 80th Anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. I am embarrassed to admit that my own understanding of our history with respect to this event goes little beyond what was still being taught in schools when I was a kid; the few children’s books that provide a basic overview; stories of the Second World War, which must necessarily describe an event that finally brought the reality of war close enough to home that the United States could no longer sit back, somewhat coldly debating “someone else’s problem.”

I have a friend who was eight years old at the time, in Toppenish, WA, which looked much, much different than it does today – he showed me a class picture from that year and pointed to four young Japanese-American friends of his. They left … and eventually they came back. People leave and come back all the time, and even in the 1930s, you don’t think much of it at the time.

He tells me about the water, which was outside. He tells me about a doctor who had arthritis and used to come over to the ranch in order to get stung by the bees — his Grandfather was a gardener who cultivated flowers and kept bees. The pictures themselves display a massive technological advancement that 80 years can bring, even without observing their content, noting the farming implementations, the styles, the vehicles. Today, I am more struck by what hasn’t changed.

Jim cannot tell me about what his parents were discussing at home during that time; he cannot tell me about whether the totalitarianism that swept through Europe was the envy of his local bureaucrats and intellectuals, or whether they looked over in disgust, and then sat their older children down to talk about the importance of checks and balances, separation of powers, the importance of liberty. I wonder what the doctor thought. Stung by bees; and I’m sure there was some truth behind something like that. Maybe it worked. I suppose you might call it a non-pharmaceutical intervention.

Strange anniversary. Stranger perhaps in 2021 than it was even a year ago. This morning, I opened up CafeHayek and saw an excerpt from a piece that is titled, The Death of Europe:

Europe is on a precipice. It has marched, blindly, towards something very much resembling tyranny. Austria will shortly criminalise those who refuse the Covid vaccine. Germany looks set to follow. Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, is wondering out loud if every member state should do likewise and make offenders of those who reject this form of medication. In Italy you are deprived of your livelihood rather than your liberty if you say no to vaccination: the unvaxxed are not permitted to work. Anywhere. In Greece, everyone over the age of 60 must pay the government 100 euros for every month they remain unvaxxed. As if the Greek government, in cahoots with its masters in Brussels, had not immiserated Greek pensioners enough already.

Donald Boudreaux adds his own thoughts as an aside:

Why are so few voices protesting this hellish tyranny that is now sweeping across the globe? If – and this “if” is big – humanity recovers its senses and liberalism survives Covid hysteria, our children and grandchildren will look back on today’s goings-on with much the same mix of revulsion and “How could human beings have done that?!” with which we today look back on the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre and other brutal religious persecutions.

My goodness. But a person doesn’t even really have to look to Europe. In New York City, the outgoing mayor has announced sweeping mandatory covid 19 vaccinations. Mandates have extended to private sector educators, but they go beyond that:

[NYC health commissioner, Dave A.] Chokshi said the city will also require those aged 5–11 to have at least one vaccine shot in order to enter restaurants and other public venues. The city will also now require people aged 12 and up to get at least two doses of the vaccine to enter these places. Previously, people aged 12 and over only needed one shot to go to restaurants, gyms, and entertainment venues, and anyone younger didn’t need to be vaccinated at all.

Is this our Pearl Harbor? The bombing of London? Perhaps not. Media coverage sounds less like Joel McCrea and more like Lincoln Steffens. World War II had been raging for two years before the United States felt threatened enough to step into the fracas. Eighty years later, a great many of us look out over the world as it descends into quite another form of tyranny – but I’m thinking about Joel and Alfred; I’m thinking about C.S. Lewis, many of whose books began or ended with a wall caving in; I’m thinking about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and wondering whether he ever looked around at his friends in astonishment; I’m thinking about all of the children in brown shirts, in red shirts, in masks, all being taught not to question, not to challenge, all blindly and obediently part of the solution. I am thinking about all the advancements that have been made, and wondering whether I should have ever needed to show proof of a bee sting in order to go watch the symphony. But the more I think about these things, the more I keep going back to Jim and his little Japanese-American friends, who disappeared, and some of whom came back; the more I keep thinking that my analogy is all wrong.

Jim pointed to the two Japanese brothers in the third row. One day, he said, they were just gone, and I never really thought about it until much later. The brothers came back a few years later. The older one graduated valedictorian of his class. The brother and sister, there in the front row — they didn’t ever come back. I think they moved, somewhere, the midwest. Their dad was a farmer, and a good one. Jim’s grandfather knew him.

Whenever someone asks me why I need so many guns, I generally give a sarcastic look of confusion. I have a Walther Model 9, chambered in .25ACP, and, just as when it was popular in the 1920s, it fits perfectly into a vest pocket. Sure, today we find fewer occasions to wear vests, and though the Model 9 most often sits up on a shelf alongside the railroad watch that my dad gave to me, who doesn’t want to have a beautiful little gun that fits perfectly into a vest pocket? Is this a serious question?

What it really reminds me of is the fact that I have too few guns; after all, three of those AR-15’s are chambered in .223. Where is my 300 blackout? Where is my 224 Valkyrie? Notably absent between the 12-gauge shotguns and the 16 is a 20-gauge! Why indeed do I need so many guns, and what need have I of critics, when I have friends like you to constantly remind me of my poverty, to gawk at my glass half empty, to rub salt in the wound of my peasant’s arsenal? And what need do you have of so many shirts, so many shoes, why so many rooms in your house when people could very easily sleep on the living room floor?

Why do I need? Of course, I don’t. I can give you a reason for every little thing that I collect. Why do I need so many tools in my garage; why do I need a bucket of baseballs instead of just one; why do I need anything at all, for that matter, when I could live in a clay pot and carry a lamp around all day? But I’m not a cynic; there is a lot more to life than utility, just as there is a lot more to life than avoiding a virus. I don’t need so many guns – what I do need is for there to be as many guns as possible in the hands of as many people as possible. I can learn that lesson from one of the many superfluous books on my shelf, which references any number of figures who debated the American Constitution; I could learn that lesson from Jim, who used to carry a 1911 on skis, while stationed up in Alaska. Not because of the skis, or the 1911, but because of the friends who disappeared back when he was only eight.

Australia doesn’t have any guns to speak of, but it does now have internment camps. The camps house Australians who have tested positive for a virus so ubiquitous that it has swept across the entire globe; a virus that could easily be made into a textbook explanation for virologists wondering how mutations bring about the common cold, but one that will instead become a textbook explanation for how totalitarianism needs only a spark. It is freedom that requires vigilance, constant attention, constant reminders, and a well-armed militia.

When I think about our internment camps, it may be with revulsion, but it isn’t without a certain degree of understanding. The reality of bombs falling from the sky is indeed a frightening one, and for most people, the attack on Pearl Harbor seemed to come from nowhere. Under those circumstances, fear is powerful, and the tendency for most is to give in to that fear, to one extent or another. During that particular war, fear gave rise to a great many things that should never have been. With so many young men volunteering to fight, a draft was likely unnecessary and even counterproductive. With so much innovation, with expansion of the labor markets; a deregulated economy would likely have produced more than a tightly controlled wartime economy.

In our fear, we turned to power. Much of that power that we relinquished to our government was never returned, and ironically, what we ended up with at the end of the war turned out to be a major push toward giving us the systems that we had just defeated. We couldn’t even learn the lessons that were right before our eyes as we landed in the smoldering ruins of Europe, and as we helped to build it back, we never thought to build back all that we had destroyed at home. Liberty was a casualty that didn’t come home in a body bag; it wasn’t buried with ceremony and tears and recognized with monuments and parades, and 80 years later, we look around and wonder where it went.

Why are so few voices protesting this hellish tyranny that is now sweeping across the globe?

Looking back at history, I can only wonder how long it has been since we’ve actually fought tyranny. Those absent voices are the same ones that have always been absent. Here are the voices who tell us that the only meaningful battles are against some tangible enemy. These are the voices who applaud when we adopt the tactics of the fascist, so long as we defeat the man named Hitler. Tyranny is not something that can be fought in a battle the way we fight individual tyrants; it arises organically among people who have given in to fear. The simple answer is a discouraging one — the voices that would protest hellish tyranny are always loudest when there is no hellish tyranny to protest. They rant about the figures of the past and they call it tyranny. They protest their opponents of today by calling them tyrants, but it is always the man, the politician, the long-dead, or the distant enemy. When tyranny arises, those voices are silent; they are silent because they acquiesce because they are afraid. They cannot fight tyranny because they are the ones who demand it.

Liberty requires one of two things: the absence of fear or the acceptance of fear. There really isn’t any middle ground. Today, we look around and wonder where all of our friends went. We think about the conversation that we were having years ago when Democrats controlled the presidency and Congress, when universal health care was being pushed, Supreme Court justices debated and battled over; those voices talked a lot about tyranny and freedom and liberty, about constitutional protections, checks and balances, presidential overreach. Those voices cried about the tyrant who would rule with a phone and a pen, and then they cried about the tyrant who would rule with a different phone and a Twitter account; they cried about tyrants in the absence of fear.

Obamacare is bad the way the New Deal is bad — it is inconvenient, it is foolish, but it isn’t scary. Democrats, the media, and even a great body of people on the right cried about the tyranny of January 6. Nobody was afraid of January 6. An insurrection requires military force to overthrow a government, and nobody was afraid that a man in a buffalo hat commanded the military force to overthrow even a building, much less a country. The cognitive dissonance of praising six months of violent left-wing riots while crying tyranny over one day of right-wing protesting is only possible in the absence of fear.

Liberty in the midst of fear is difficult. It requires an understanding of the true nature of tyranny, the true source of tyranny. It requires a people who accept fear, who own it, who do not beg to be released from it; people who do not beg for safety.

The speech was a good one, when it was made by a man who was standing in a darkened room that shook from the falling bombs:

It’s too late to do anything here now except stand in the dark and let them come… as if the lights were all out everywhere, except in America. Keep those lights burning, cover them with steel, ring them with guns, build a canopy of battleships and bombing planes around them. Hello, America, hang on to your lights: they’re the only lights left in the world!

That man (though fictional) was surely brave, and his countrymen were brave. I said that a draft was unnecessary because my grandfather was brave — he loved liberty, even if he didn’t fully understand it. Men and women volunteered for the war for the same reason that they joined the workforce at home, for the same reason they made sacrifices that didn’t need to be required of them. Tyranny crept into the United States because the war gave it an excuse to do so, and because people believed they were fighting tyranny when they were only fighting some of the tyrants.

There is a hellish tyranny sweeping across the world. There is a hellish tyranny sweeping across the United States. It doesn’t wear uniforms or jackboots, and it isn’t dropping bombs. It is the same tyranny that we neglected to defeat 80 years ago; the one that finds enemies at home and puts them into camps for their own safety and for that of their countrymen; the one that asks to see your papers; the one that promises to keep you safe by protecting you against your neighbor, and even yourself.

I am less concerned about the lack of voices speaking out, and more concerned about the lack of minds that truly understand just what it is that gives rise to tyranny. Those people we thought were our friends — those voices decrying so many tyrants — they were good at spotting tyrants because that is easy politics; the tyrant is whichever politician I don’t like. They failed to understand that tyranny is not something that appears out of nowhere, brought by some malicious individual. It comes from the ground up and is demanded by the very people it victimizes.

In order to recognize and fight against tyranny, you have to know enough to see it as it arises in yourself. In other words, when you are afraid, when you desire safety and protection, tyranny is something that you must actively reject, even when it means accepting responsibility for whatever it is that frightens you.

Liberty in the midst of fear is difficult.

Published in General
This post was promoted to the Main Feed by a Ricochet Editor at the recommendation of Ricochet members. Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

There are 39 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    This magnificent post is on a fast track to the front page.

    • #1
  2. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    I just excerpted this over at LF.  Will update when this inevitably goes to the main feed.

    • #2
  3. Victor Tango Kilo Member
    Victor Tango Kilo
    @VtheK

    I am sorely grateful our modern media weren’t around in the time of Pearl Harbor. “2,400 Die as Ships Sink” would be the CNN Headline. 

    • #3
  4. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    Victor Tango Kilo (View Comment):

    I am sorely grateful our modern media weren’t around in the time of Pearl Harbor. “2,400 Die as Ships Sink” would be the CNN Headline.

    Or, 

    Japanese Americans brace for violent backlash!

     

     

    • #4
  5. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    BDB (View Comment):

    I just excerpted this over at LF. Will update when this inevitably goes to the main feed.

    What is “LF”?

    • #5
  6. Hammer, The (Ryan M) Member
    Hammer, The (Ryan M)
    @RyanM

    Ed G. (View Comment):

    Victor Tango Kilo (View Comment):

    I am sorely grateful our modern media weren’t around in the time of Pearl Harbor. “2,400 Die as Ships Sink” would be the CNN Headline.

    Or,

    Japanese Americans brace for violent backlash!

    Certainly if it was an Islamic attack…

    But my point about the Japanese is that if we are really afraid of something, we don’t hesitate to engage in the very activity that just yesterday was fascism.  The first thing Biden does at the discovery of Omicron, which has proven to be something much less than deadly, was shut down travel.  Of course, Trump’s travel bans were proof that Nazis were on the rise in the US.  As we know, it’s not the action, it’s the person.  That is why I say we can only fight tyranny when we are able to recognize it not simply when it comes from people we don’t like, but when we are able to reject it even during those times when we secretly desire its outcome…   somehow we’ve gone from “constitutional right to privacy” to “no jab no job.”  I didn’t address the circular nature of all of this; that in our ignorance and fear, we demand tyranny, which stifles knowledge and creates propaganda, increasing ignorance and fear and growing like a snowball.

     

    • #6
  7. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    I largely agree. However, I tend to avoid throwing around words like that (e.g. fascist). I admit that I’m not immune from propaganda from my own side, and I admit that I’ve been taken in by the ginned up emotionalism in the past (and very likely the future too, considering human nature).

    Despite these faults, I remain decidedly not a libertarian. To the left I’m a fascist and to libertarians I’m a hypocrite statist or theocrat. I think the devil is in the details, though. The distinctions. In this case, if we had been dealing with a virus with Ebola-level fatality rates and covid transmissibility rates, then I would be ok with some intrusive government regulation because it would be obviously warranted and even one of the purposes that government is instituted. That’s not what we are actually dealing with, though, so I’m against it. Would it be fear that my decision turns on in my cov-bola hypothetical? Would it be prudence? Why not both?

    • #7
  8. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    @BDB called this post “magnificent”.  Me too.  I’ve never called a post that before and I doubt that @BDB has either. 

    I hope you all agree with BDB, and with me except for my grammar.

    • #8
  9. Hammer, The (Ryan M) Member
    Hammer, The (Ryan M)
    @RyanM

    Ed G. (View Comment):

    I largely agree. However, I tend to avoid throwing around words like that (e.g. fascist). I admit that I’m not immune from propaganda from my own side, and I admit that I’ve been taken in by the ginned up emotionalism in the past (and very likely the future too, considering human nature).

    Despite these faults, I remain decidedly not a libertarian. To the left I’m a fascist and to libertarians I’m a hypocrite statist or theocrat. I think the devil is in the details, though. The distinctions. In this case, if we had been dealing with a virus with Ebola-level fatality rates and covid transmissibility rates, then I would be ok with some intrusive government regulation because it would be obviously warranted and even one of the purposes that government is instituted. That’s not what we are actually dealing with, though, so I’m against it. Would it be fear that my decision turns on in my cov-bola hypothetical? Would it be prudence? Why not both?

    There are a few problems with this, though.  First, if covid was ebola, it wouldn’t spread like the common cold.  There is a good reason why the totalitarian model has virtually always been roundly rejected by doctors and “health experts.”  The most honesty we ever got was right at the beginning of 2020 (back when Fauci correctly said that masking is pointless).  We were told that once the cat is out of the bag, there is no containing or controlling, there is only treating and learning to live with the virus.  We knew that, and I think we still know that, but politics got in the way.

    That brings up the second problem.  Let us pretend that there was a magical virus that spreads like the cold and kills like ebola (leaving aside the many reasons why this is impossible).  Even if we grant that government intervention is justified, the question remains whether government intervention does any good at all.  Over the past 2 years, totalitarianism really has run amok.  But what to show for it?  DeBlasio is mandating universal vaccination – pretending that it is justified, is it effective?  

    What you are effectively saying is that your fear is not yet great enough – the threat is not yet great enough – to justify such intense curbs on liberty.  What I am saying is that there are no threats that can be better handled through a totalitarian system.  If covid was as deadly as ebola, and our government did literally everything in its power (which, quite frankly, many governments have done already in response to covid!), this pandemic would have been over in a handful of months – the ineffective government actions would have saved nobody, and those who survived would be little more than prisoners.

    We know this because we understand what totalitarianism does.  There are no contexts where knowledge is increased, where innovation is increased, where more problems are solved.

    (continued…)

    • #9
  10. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Hammer, The (Ryan M) (View Comment):
    pretending that it is justified, is it effective?  

    If it isn’t effective, it cannot be justified.

    • #10
  11. Hammer, The (Ryan M) Member
    Hammer, The (Ryan M)
    @RyanM

    (…continued)

    These things all happen when individuals are free to pursue their own quality of life.   That system does not change with the severity of the threat.  The government gives us Solyndra while the free market gives us Tesla; this is because of how our economy works, how innovation works, how information is exchanged and how progress is incentivized.  Why on earth should we suddenly trust a government – which is incompetent with respect to small, unimportant things – simply because it is now attempting to solve big, important problems?  What about the severity of the threat suddenly changes the nature of government incompetence?

    And what can we learn from covid?  These governments have been wrong every step of the way.  They have acted with political self-interest.  Their “interventions” have been corrupted; their relief funds turned to pork and interest-group payoffs.  Self-interest has dominated, censorship has been present in ways that were previously unthinkable.  We have seen the FDA and the CDC influenced not simply by partisan politics (as the media and individual governors have), but by Teacher’s unions and pharmaceutical companies.  We have seen scientific journals publish absolute rubbish in an effort to provide backing for decisions being made by individuals who control grant money.

    Now we are seeing governments solidify power even as study after study proves their methods either unnecessary or wrongheaded.  We are seeing the federal government powering through with executive overreach even after being slapped down by the supreme court; and fat lot of good that supreme court does, when state governors tell the feds to “step aside and hold my beer.” 

    It is becoming increasingly obvious that the virus has done whatever it wanted to do, and that we have had zero influence over that.  It has spread and has mutated, and it will likely end as a result of acquired immunity and cold-like variants such as Omicron.  

    So in response to your hypothetical virus that spreads like covid and kills like ebola, under which force may be justified, I only ask:  So what if it is justified?  What would be different?  Would corruption cease?  Would centralized authority suddenly gain knowledge?  Would the bulk of humanity become so crippled, unable to innovate and adapt, such that force would not only be justified, but that it would suddenly be better than the alternative?  And why on earth would governments not only be spared that same fate, but enabled with the ability to solve major problems when they’ve never previously been able to solve minor ones?

    • #11
  12. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    Hammer, The (Ryan M) (View Comment):

    ….

    That brings up the second problem. Let us pretend that there was a magical virus that spreads like the cold and kills like ebola (leaving aside the many reasons why this is impossible). Even if we grant that government intervention is justified, the question remains whether government intervention does any good at all. Over the past 2 years, totalitarianism really has run amok. But what to show for it? DeBlasio is mandating universal vaccination – pretending that it is justified, is it effective?

    What you are effectively saying is that your fear is not yet great enough – the threat is not yet great enough – to justify such intense curbs on liberty. What I am saying is that there are no threats that can be better handled through a totalitarian system. If covid was as deadly as ebola, and our government did literally everything in its power (which, quite frankly, many governments have done already in response to covid!), this pandemic would have been over in a handful of months – the ineffective government actions would have saved nobody, and those who survived would be little more than prisoners.

    We know this because we understand what totalitarianism does. There are no contexts where knowledge is increased, where innovation is increased, where more problems are solved.

    (continued…)

    Government is part of liberty if it is representative, participatory, fair, and systematically stable and limited via charter, and backstopped by an armed citizenry. It’s not totalitarianism simply because of  restrictions and impositions on individuals. The nature of those restrictions and impositions matters, the method matters, the ability of the citizenry to petition and change the government matters.

    What I’m effectively saying is that at some point it’s difficult to distinguish fear from prudence just by looking at actions. What I’m saying is that there are upper limits to your point. Cov-bola was just a hypothetical; I’m not trying to say such a thing is or is not possible, only that if there were such a thing then government action would be both justified and not inherently illegitimate, and that that is obviously so. The argument over effectiveness would be one of those devilish details which would help us determine if such government action is actually unjust or illegitimate.

    • #12
  13. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Hammer, The (Ryan M):

    Donald Boudreaux adds his own thoughts as an aside:

    Why are so few voices protesting this hellish tyranny that is now sweeping across the globe? If – and this “if” is big – humanity recovers its senses and liberalism survives Covid hysteria, our children and grandchildren will look back on today’s goings-on with much the same mix of revulsion and “How could human beings have done that?!” with which we today look back on the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre and other brutal religious persecutions.

    My Goodness.  But a person doesn’t even really have to look to Europe.  In New York City, . . . .

    Nazis and southern slaveholders didn’t always know they were doing evil. It seems obvious now, and it should have been obvious then, but it wasn’t obvious–not to the sinners who needed to know it the most.

    To help us not do evil that will be obvious in the future but not to us, we’ve learned rules.  Rules about things like the rights to life, liberty, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech; honesty; and minding our own business most of the time while doing our best to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

    I think it will be obvious in the future that many Covid policies were badly, badly wrong.  I think it’s plain enough now, but if it’s not, then here’s a major clue: Covid policies are going against all the rules we learned about all the other times humans did terribly, terribly wrong things to each other.

    • #13
  14. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    @ BDB called this post “magnificent”. Me too. I’ve never called a post that before and I doubt that @ BDB has either.

    I hope you all agree with BDB, and with me except for my grammar.

    Let’s leave your grammar out of this.  She’s a fine woman.

    • #14
  15. Hammer, The (Ryan M) Member
    Hammer, The (Ryan M)
    @RyanM

    Ed G. (View Comment):

    Hammer, The (Ryan M) (View Comment):

    ….

    That brings up the second problem. Let us pretend that there was a magical virus that spreads like the cold and kills like ebola (leaving aside the many reasons why this is impossible). Even if we grant that government intervention is justified, the question remains whether government intervention does any good at all. Over the past 2 years, totalitarianism really has run amok. But what to show for it? DeBlasio is mandating universal vaccination – pretending that it is justified, is it effective?

    What you are effectively saying is that your fear is not yet great enough – the threat is not yet great enough – to justify such intense curbs on liberty. What I am saying is that there are no threats that can be better handled through a totalitarian system. If covid was as deadly as ebola, and our government did literally everything in its power (which, quite frankly, many governments have done already in response to covid!), this pandemic would have been over in a handful of months – the ineffective government actions would have saved nobody, and those who survived would be little more than prisoners.

    We know this because we understand what totalitarianism does. There are no contexts where knowledge is increased, where innovation is increased, where more problems are solved.

    (continued…)

    Government is part of liberty if it is representative, participatory, fair, and systematically stable and limited via charter, and backstopped by an armed citizenry. It’s not totalitarianism simply because of restrictions and impositions on individuals. The nature of those restrictions and impositions matters, the method matters.

    What I’m effectively saying is that at some point it’s difficult to distinguish fear from prudence just by looking at actions. What I’m saying is that there are upper limits to your point. Cov-bola was just a hypothetical; I’m not trying to say such a thing is or is not possible, only that if there were such a thing then government action would be both justified and not inherently illegitimate, and that that is obviously so. The argument over effectiveness would be one of those devilish details which would help us determine if such government action is actually unjust or illegitimate.

    I don’t disagree.  I am certainly not an anarchist.  Michael Munger has a post up on EconLog that talks about the necessity of governments to ensure freedom.  I’ve heard him make this point before:  “If two parties cannot agree on an enforceable arrangement for mutual benefit, they are harmed by their inability to arrange to be coerced,” and the point is a good one.  I didn’t really follow (nor did he really expand) what he means when he talks about the blockchain…  but I agree that a system with zero government would probably not be wise.  He wrote about a similar topic before covid; I’d be interested in seeing how he updates that piece post-covid.

      

    • #15
  16. Hammer, The (Ryan M) Member
    Hammer, The (Ryan M)
    @RyanM

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Hammer, The (Ryan M):

    Donald Boudreaux adds his own thoughts as an aside:

    Why are so few voices protesting this hellish tyranny that is now sweeping across the globe? If – and this “if” is big – humanity recovers its senses and liberalism survives Covid hysteria, our children and grandchildren will look back on today’s goings-on with much the same mix of revulsion and “How could human beings have done that?!” with which we today look back on the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre and other brutal religious persecutions.

    My Goodness. But a person doesn’t even really have to look to Europe. In New York City, . . . .

    Nazis and southern slaveholders didn’t always know they were doing evil. It seems obvious now, and it should have been obvious then, but it wasn’t obvious–not to the sinners who needed to know it the most.

    To help us not do evil that will be obvious in the future but not to us, we’ve learned rules. Rules about things like the rights to life, liberty, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech; honesty; and minding our own business most of the time while doing our best to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

    I think it will be obvious in the future that many Covid policies were badly, badly wrong. I think it’s plain enough now, but if it’s not, then here’s a major clue: Covid policies are going against all the rules we learned about all the other times humans did terribly, terribly wrong things to each other.

    Well put.  I would add that, perhaps as important as the rules themselves, is an understanding of why those rules exist in the first place.  This is most evident with democrats – gerrymandering is a threat to the republic, until it’s not; the filibuster is a threat to the republic, until it’s not; investigating foreign interference in elections is the height of patriotism, until it’s you who won, and then a refusal to “acknowledge the results of the election” is a threat to the republic.  Many of these sorts of “rules” exist in our constitutional republic as a way to protect minority interests, to act as a check to mass delusion and the mob mentality, etc…  When we understand why these rules exist and how they protect even us, we may better accept them even when they are used to protect others.

    • #16
  17. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    Hammer, The (Ryan M) (View Comment):
    So in response to your hypothetical virus that spreads like covid and kills like ebola, under which force may be justified, I only ask:  So what if it is justified?  What would be different?  Would corruption cease?  Would centralized authority suddenly gain knowledge?  Would the bulk of humanity become so crippled, unable to innovate and adapt, such that force would not only be justified, but that it would suddenly be better than the alternative?  And why on earth would governments not only be spared that same fate, but enabled with the ability to solve major problems when they’ve never previously been able to solve minor ones?

    Except that governments do solve minor problems (traffic rules and signs). Major ones too (water reclamation and monopoly use of force with police and military). Not all problems or all kinds of problems, but some problems are why we institute government to begin with. Not all governments. The form matters, the personnel matters, the culture matters.

    That is not an argument for centralized authority. That is not an argument against centralized authority. That is an argument for legitimate authority being able to do what it does in a just and legitimate way. There will be no circumstance in which everyone is ok with authority; there will always be someone opposing it. There will be no circumstance in which everyone agrees on what words like “just” or “legitimate” means. Does that make government inherently illegitimate? I don’t think so; government properly conceived is one way we exercise liberty and are able to peacefully and systematically sort out these fundamental disagreements. 

    I am getting the feeling that you think I’m disagreeing with you more than I actually am. I agree with you that the covid hysteria and overreaction has become and is continuing to become authoritarian and illegitimate. I agree that this has been used as an excuse for illegitimate restrictions and impositions. 

    • #17
  18. Hammer, The (Ryan M) Member
    Hammer, The (Ryan M)
    @RyanM

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Hammer, The (Ryan M) (View Comment):
    pretending that it is justified, is it effective?

    If it isn’t effective, it cannot be justified.

    I mean morally justified.  I think what Ed means in his comment is that he can envision situations in which he would be more comfortable with the removal of certain rights.  Of course, in such a situation, it is likely that he would voluntarily change his own behavior…  this would be based on his personal assessment of risk vs. reward.  What we see with state coercion is the enforcement of one group’s fears (that group’s assessment of risk vs. reward) upon everyone else, many of whom do not agree with that assessment.

    This is a good example of how coercion destroys knowledge.  People are not free to act on their own preferences or hypotheses – we don’t see the outcome of those choices, and knowledge is thereby diminished.

    Interestingly, we do have access to that knowledge with respect to covid, because coercion has not existed across the board – just travel from Seattle to virtually anywhere in Idaho.  Travel from New York to Florida.  Look at Sweden as compared to its neighbors.  What government coercion does is force all of us to ignore that knowledge, which otherwise most of us would act on.

    • #18
  19. Hammer, The (Ryan M) Member
    Hammer, The (Ryan M)
    @RyanM

    Ed G. (View Comment):

    Hammer, The (Ryan M) (View Comment):
    So in response to your hypothetical virus that spreads like covid and kills like ebola, under which force may be justified, I only ask: So what if it is justified? What would be different? Would corruption cease? Would centralized authority suddenly gain knowledge? Would the bulk of humanity become so crippled, unable to innovate and adapt, such that force would not only be justified, but that it would suddenly be better than the alternative? And why on earth would governments not only be spared that same fate, but enabled with the ability to solve major problems when they’ve never previously been able to solve minor ones?

    Except that governments do solve minor problems (traffic rules and signs). Major ones too (water reclamation and monopoly use of force with police and military). Not all problems or all kinds of problems, but some problems are why we institute government to begin with. Not all governments. The form matters, the personnel matters, the culture matters.

    That is not an argument for centralized authority. That is not an argument against centralized authority. That is an argument for legitimate authority being able to do what it does in a just and legitimate way. There will be no circumstance in which everyone is ok with authority; there will always be someone opposing it. There will be no circumstance in which everyone agrees on what words like “just” or “legitimate” means. Does that make government inherently illegitimate? I don’t think so; government properly conceived is one way we exercise liberty and are able to peacefully and systematically sort out these fundamental disagreements.

    I am getting the feeling that you think I’m disagreeing with you more than I actually am. I agree with you that the covid hysteria and overreaction has become and is continuing to become authoritarian and illegitimate. I agree that this has been used as an excuse for illegitimate restrictions and impositions.

    I agree – and I don’t think you’re disagreeing with me all that much.  I just wanted to expand on your example of the covid/ebola hybrid, because it is an example that I have used many times to make that same point…  I wish I could get into every issue that I think is relevant in posts, but seizing on them in the comments is a second-best, so I didn’t let the opportunity go to waste!

    • #19
  20. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    Hammer, The (Ryan M) (View Comment):
    “If two parties cannot agree on an enforceable arrangement for mutual benefit, they are harmed by their inability to arrange to be coerced,”

    Interesting that you quote this. A long time ago on some of the libertarian threads on Ricochet we got to this point, and I argued then and still argue that it’s not coercion if you agree to the system by which disputes are to be resolved. I don’t like everything that happens, but other free people disagree with me. As someone committed to the project of liberty (Americaconfirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law) I have an obligation to go through the checkdowns before I simply dig in my heels and refuse to participate or even resist. I can persuade my fellow citizens to my point of view, I can seek enough votes to secure my viewpoint, I can engage in civil disobedience if I think the disagreement is serious enough, or I can as a last resort in self defense take up arms against illegitimate authority. It’s not coercion, though, simply because I disagree if that action is undertaken legitimately according to the rules I agreed to. 

    • #20
  21. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Virus, Schmirus.  I don’t care.  To me this is all about what government does when [x] happens for whatever value of x you choose to fill in.

    • #21
  22. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    @ BDB called this post “magnificent”. Me too. I’ve never called a post that before and I doubt that @ BDB has either.

    I hope you all agree with BDB, and with me except for my grammar.

    Grammar is just a social construct.

    • #22
  23. Hammer, The (Ryan M) Member
    Hammer, The (Ryan M)
    @RyanM

    Ed G. (View Comment):

    Hammer, The (Ryan M) (View Comment):
    “If two parties cannot agree on an enforceable arrangement for mutual benefit, they are harmed by their inability to arrange to be coerced,”

    Interesting that you quote this. A long time ago on some of the libertarian threads on Ricochet we got to this point, and I argued then and still argue that it’s not coercion if you agree to the system by which disputes are to be resolved. I don’t like everything that happens, but other free people disagree with me. As someone committed to the project of liberty (Americaconfirm thy soul in self control, thy liberty in law) I have an obligation to go through the checkdowns before I simply dig in my heels and refuse to participate or even resist. I can persuade my fellow citizens to my point of view, I can seek enough votes to secure my viewpoint, I can engage in civil disobedience if I think the disagreement is serious enough, or I can as a last resort in self defense take up arms against illegitimate authority. It’s not coercion, though, simply because I disagree if that action is undertaken legitimately according to the rules I agreed to.

    There is a line.  It cannot be true that all government action is legitimate because we voluntarily leave here (and if you don’t like it, move or vote for someone else!).  I acknowledge that governments must exist, but we greatly limit the authority of those governments.  I do not believe that it is constitutional to delegate legislative authority to bureaucrats, for instance, who are not elected.  Yet, what are we seeing with the CDC, with Fauci, et. al?  We are seeing a sort of nanny-state health-based totalitarianism that is very clearly outside the scope of our “agreed upon” system of governance.  But also keep in mind that what we’re discussing is what our response should be – I’m writing in fairly broad terms because I happen to think that the very abuses over which we fight the obvious tyrant (as in WWII) are of a kind that we should be equally vigilant against, no matter how local or how innocuous they might seem (hence, my example of fighting Hitler while ignoring the rise of a tyrannical mindset at home).  We do still live in a constitutional republic, and it is still meaningful and effective to change attitudes and minds – I don’t know to what extent this is possible in Europe or Australia, but if enough Americans stood up and simply refused to comply, it would stop here.

    • #23
  24. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Hammer, The (Ryan M):

    Donald Boudreaux adds his own thoughts as an aside:

    Why are so few voices protesting this hellish tyranny that is now sweeping across the globe? If – and this “if” is big – humanity recovers its senses and liberalism survives Covid hysteria, our children and grandchildren will look back on today’s goings-on with much the same mix of revulsion and “How could human beings have done that?!” with which we today look back on the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre and other brutal religious persecutions.

    My Goodness. But a person doesn’t even really have to look to Europe. In New York City, . . . .

    Nazis and southern slaveholders didn’t always know they were doing evil. It seems obvious now, and it should have been obvious then, but it wasn’t obvious–not to the sinners who needed to know it the most.

    To help us not do evil that will be obvious in the future but not to us, we’ve learned rules. Rules about things like the rights to life, liberty, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech; honesty; and minding our own business most of the time while doing our best to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

    I think it will be obvious in the future that many Covid policies were badly, badly wrong. I think it’s plain enough now, but if it’s not, then here’s a major clue: Covid policies are going against all the rules we learned about all the other times humans did terribly, terribly wrong things to each other.

    But there is evil — knowing evil — involved.  I’m sure of it.  As a minor example, every governor who requires masks and physical distancing and closing of particular businesses, but chooses not to wear masks, or distance, or who leaves open or otherwise patronizes his favorite shops, they know what they are doing is something akin to lying; they know that the directives they are giving are not functionally protective — otherwise they would be following their own directives.

    And though I can’t prove it, Facui must absolutely know that he has been wrong for close to a year now regarding the vaccine, and masks, and physical distancing.  He is not stupid, he is lying and in the process hurting others, to preserve his own interests — most obviously, to not get into trouble or be proven wrong about anything.

    These people I mention can only honestly deny their guilt by having their consciences seared to insensate scar tissue.

    They know, but they deny that they know, and the bottom line is they don’t care.

    • #24
  25. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    @ BDB called this post “magnificent”. Me too. I’ve never called a post that before and I doubt that @ BDB has either.

    I hope you all agree with BDB, and with me except for my grammar.

    Grammar is just a social construct.

    “just”?

    What are social contracts…chopped liver?

    • #25
  26. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    @ BDB called this post “magnificent”. Me too. I’ve never called a post that before and I doubt that @ BDB has either.

    I hope you all agree with BDB, and with me except for my grammar.

    Grammar is just a social construct.

    “just”?

    What are social contracts…chopped liver?

    They are vapors that pass with the morning light.  I would explain this to you without words, but you would be incapable of understanding.

    That’s not my fault.  And if it were, fault is a just social construct anyway.

    • #26
  27. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Hammer, The (Ryan M):

    Donald Boudreaux adds his own thoughts as an aside:

    Why are so few voices protesting this hellish tyranny that is now sweeping across the globe? If – and this “if” is big – humanity recovers its senses and liberalism survives Covid hysteria, our children and grandchildren will look back on today’s goings-on with much the same mix of revulsion and “How could human beings have done that?!” with which we today look back on the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre and other brutal religious persecutions.

    My Goodness. But a person doesn’t even really have to look to Europe. In New York City, . . . .

    Nazis and southern slaveholders didn’t always know they were doing evil. It seems obvious now, and it should have been obvious then, but it wasn’t obvious–not to the sinners who needed to know it the most.

    To help us not do evil that will be obvious in the future but not to us, we’ve learned rules. Rules about things like the rights to life, liberty, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech; honesty; and minding our own business most of the time while doing our best to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

    I think it will be obvious in the future that many Covid policies were badly, badly wrong. I think it’s plain enough now, but if it’s not, then here’s a major clue: Covid policies are going against all the rules we learned about all the other times humans did terribly, terribly wrong things to each other.

    But there is evil, knowing evil, involved. I’m sure of it. as a minor example, every governor who requires masks and physical distancing and closing of particular businesses, but chooses not to wear masks, or distance, or who leaves open or otherwise patronizes his favorite shops, they know what they are doing is something akin to lying; they know that the directives they are giving are not functionally protective — otherwise they would be following their own directives.

    And though I can’t prove it, Facui must absolutely know that he has been wrong for close to a year now regarding the vaccine, and masks, and physical distancing. He is not stupid, he is lying and in the process hurting others, to preserve his own interests — most obviously, to not get into trouble or be proven wrong about anything.

    These people I mention can only honestly deny their guilt by having their consciences seared to insensate scar tissue.

    They know, but they deny that they know, and the bottom line is they don’t care.

    There also is much evidence that treatments with Hydroxychloroquin and Ivermectin are effective prophylactically and that new rules were put forth by the federal public health authorities and politicians to prevent physicians from executing their roles in a normal established fashion. Looks like a money influence.

    • #27
  28. Hammer, The (Ryan M) Member
    Hammer, The (Ryan M)
    @RyanM

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    snip

    Nazis and southern slaveholders didn’t always know they were doing evil. It seems obvious now, and it should have been obvious then, but it wasn’t obvious–not to the sinners who needed to know it the most.

    To help us not do evil that will be obvious in the future but not to us, we’ve learned rules. Rules about things like the rights to life, liberty, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech; honesty; and minding our own business most of the time while doing our best to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

    I think it will be obvious in the future that many Covid policies were badly, badly wrong. I think it’s plain enough now, but if it’s not, then here’s a major clue: Covid policies are going against all the rules we learned about all the other times humans did terribly, terribly wrong things to each other.

    But there is evil — knowing evil — involved. I’m sure of it. As a minor example, every governor who requires masks and physical distancing and closing of particular businesses, but chooses not to wear masks, or distance, or who leaves open or otherwise patronizes his favorite shops, they know what they are doing is something akin to lying; they know that the directives they are giving are not functionally protective — otherwise they would be following their own directives.

    And though I can’t prove it, Facui must absolutely know that he has been wrong for close to a year now regarding the vaccine, and masks, and physical distancing. He is not stupid, he is lying and in the process hurting others, to preserve his own interests — most obviously, to not get into trouble or be proven wrong about anything.

    These people I mention can only honestly deny their guilt by having their consciences seared to insensate scar tissue.

    They know, but they deny that they know, and the bottom line is they don’t care.

    Exactly right.  I hope that it doesn’t sound like I’m minimizing that truth.  DeBlasio is a tyrant, for instance.  Newsome, Inslee, Brown…  these individuals are corrupt liars and they are knowingly and cynically engaging in power grabs while openly deceiving.  Much of the media is equally complicit, and they are not stupid, either.  My point that “tyrants do not cause tyranny,” but that people accept and often demand it, should in no way deny the evil of actual tyrants.

    • #28
  29. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Hammer, The (Ryan M):

    Donald Boudreaux adds his own thoughts as an aside:

    Why are so few voices protesting this hellish tyranny that is now sweeping across the globe? If – and this “if” is big – humanity recovers its senses and liberalism survives Covid hysteria, our children and grandchildren will look back on today’s goings-on with much the same mix of revulsion and “How could human beings have done that?!” with which we today look back on the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre and other brutal religious persecutions.

    My Goodness. But a person doesn’t even really have to look to Europe. In New York City, . . . .

    Nazis and southern slaveholders didn’t always know they were doing evil. It seems obvious now, and it should have been obvious then, but it wasn’t obvious–not to the sinners who needed to know it the most.

    To help us not do evil that will be obvious in the future but not to us, we’ve learned rules. Rules about things like the rights to life, liberty, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech; honesty; and minding our own business most of the time while doing our best to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

    I think it will be obvious in the future that many Covid policies were badly, badly wrong. I think it’s plain enough now, but if it’s not, then here’s a major clue: Covid policies are going against all the rules we learned about all the other times humans did terribly, terribly wrong things to each other.

    But there is evil, knowing evil, involved. I’m sure of it. as a minor example, every governor who requires masks and physical distancing and closing of particular businesses, but chooses not to wear masks, or distance, or who leaves open or otherwise patronizes his favorite shops, they know what they are doing is something akin to lying; they know that the directives they are giving are not functionally protective — otherwise they would be following their own directives.

    And though I can’t prove it, Facui must absolutely know that he has been wrong for close to a year now regarding the vaccine, and masks, and physical distancing. He is not stupid, he is lying and in the process hurting others, to preserve his own interests — most obviously, to not get into trouble or be proven wrong about anything.

    These people I mention can only honestly deny their guilt by having their consciences seared to insensate scar tissue.

    They know, but they deny that they know, and the bottom line is they don’t care.

    Well, that’s true.

    And it’s also an old rule. The negative Golden Rule. Good ol’ Confucius!

    • #29
  30. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    @ BDB called this post “magnificent”. Me too. I’ve never called a post that before and I doubt that @ BDB has either.

    I hope you all agree with BDB, and with me except for my grammar.

    Grammar is just a social construct.

    “just”?

    What are social contracts…chopped liver?

    A contract written in liver must be upstream of lessons written in blood.  Sheesh.

    • #30