Government Likely to Make Itself Hero

What have you learned from the coronapocalypse so far? Has it changed you?

The experience has shown me where my preparedness was good and where I could make improvements. I discovered the need for some supplies I hadn’t considered before. I’ll work to fix those areas, but it’s hard to prepare for everything when you can’t know what “everything” might include. Next time could be completely different.

I have become more appreciative of the freedom to simply be around other people. I’m not excessively sociable, but I like being able to choose to socialize when I’m in the mood. It will be nice to go to a fast-food place and sit inside and eat among other people again, even if they are loud.

I’m not afraid of the virus, but out of consideration for those who are — and those who have more risk if they do catch it — I’ve changed my behavior during this pandemic.

If I had any trust or faith in government, this experience would have destroyed it for good. Of course, that ship sailed decades ago, so watching the incompetence and tyranny from those who imagine they know best how to run your life hasn’t affected me much.

I’m suspecting the differences in how people view government’s response will further divide America between those who imagine government saved the country from certain disaster and those who realize everything government did in response to the pandemic harmed the country worse than the virus.

Those in the first group will want government to have even more power over our lives from now on, and those in the second group will want to take back our rightful liberty, which was stolen over the last couple of centuries.

This isn’t a huge change, but the disagreements may get more heated unless one side backs down. I don’t see that happening.

I’ve become more skeptical of the sanity of those cheering the police state tactics justified by the virus, the intelligence of those begging government to do more, and of the morals of those who became snitches, reporting anyone they suspected of not complying with unconstitutional orders.

Speaking of learning — I’m curious how this time will look when it’s history. Unfortunately, government gets to decide what the history textbooks will say about this event, so its version will be taught to generations of children in its schools. Expect government to make itself out to be the hero of this story, regardless of the truth.

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Protesting the Protestors Who are Protesting Tyranny

It seems that the protests against the coronavirus shut-downs are really upsetting government-supremacists around the world; turning them into protestor-haters.

They frequently lie about the reasons they imagine the protests are occurring, saying the protestors believe the virus is a hoax or a conspiracy, or are “Trump supporters”, although a few admit they don’t understand the protestors.

I’m not a protestor, personally, and although I believe there is a virus– why wouldn’t there be?– I believe the government response to it is harmful. I believe the response has the potential to cause more harm than the virus. But even if that doesn’t happen (or can’t be proved) government has no right to tell businesses to close, or to order people to stay in their homes. None. Zero.

Government can recommend and suggest all they want, but they have no right to give orders because political “authority” doesn’t exist in any way, shape, or form, beyond being the most dangerous superstitious belief. Also, the Constitution doesn’t allow it, if you care about such things.

Many of the protestor-haters say they want government to shut-down the protests, which they mischaracterize as “endangering us all“.

It’s like they simply can’t believe that someone might not trust governmedia to be completely honest about the risks and that they therefore might not want to follow what governmedia says to do.

I guess they don’t notice that government “experts” have lied about this pandemic from the beginning– the face mask lies were some of the most obvious early ones. I suspect there are lots more lies they told about the situation that I’m not even aware of.

Those who fear the protestors ignore the lives that will be lost due to economic disruption. The protestor-haters are perfectly free to sequester themselves for as long as they want– years if that’s what they feel they should do. They don’t have any right to demand everyone else do the same. As is so often the case with government-supremacists, they aren’t content doing what they believe to be best, but they demand to have their choices imposed on others at the barrel of a gun. That’s not very nice (or civilized) of them.

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Whither the Precautionary Principle?

The precautionary principle, per Wikipedia, is “a strategy for approaching issues of potential harm when extensive scientific knowledge on the matter is lacking. It emphasizes caution, pausing and review before leaping into new innovations that may prove disastrous.”

Over the last half century or so, regulators and activists have regularly invoked the precautionary principle versus industrial and commercial concerns: Will this new car wash ruin the nesting grounds of the Great Purple-Crested Bandersnatch? Could construction of that pipeline conceivably pollute a river? Might the noise from a proposed refinery disturb the sleep of some nearby Mrs. Nimby?

Then came COVID-19, and all of a sudden many of the same voices who’d have followed the precautionary principle to hell and back to stop construction of a nuclear power plant or delay the logging of a plot of old growth forest completely abandoned it.

For THIS situation, panicking and screaming “SCIENCE!” at the top of one’s lungs suddenly and inexplicably became satisfactory substitutes for “caution, pausing and review” before radically transforming the lives of more than 300 million surprised human lab rats.

I’m pretty sure that placing millions of Americans under de facto house arrest and shutting down significant portions of the US economy constitute “new innovations that may prove disastrous.” And every day it becomes clearer that “extensive scientific knowledge on the matter was lacking” when it came to the rationales for doing so.

Over the course of the last month, projections of US COVID-19 deaths from supposed “experts,” based on their super duper magic … er, “scientific” … models, have fallen from a high of 1.7 million, to a likelihood of between 100,000 and 240,000, to perhaps 60,000.

None of those numbers are numbers we want to hear when we’re talking about dead people, of course, but the fall from 1.7 million to 1/28th that number is a strong indicator that the overall process was based on something resembling wild, panicked guesses (and in some cases raw political opportunism) more than realistic modeling based on smart assumptions and fed with good data.

Don’t take my word for it. Ask Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: “I’ve looked at all the models. I’ve spent a lot of time on the models. They don’t tell you anything. You can’t really rely upon models.”

But those models were what federal bureaucrats, state-level politicians, and local health officials DID rely on, and point to, as the basis and justification for a cascade of crazed policy decisions that have already resulted in what will likely turn out to be the worst US economic collapse since the Great Depression.

Don’t let the government’s COVID-19 Catastrophe Caucus fool you into believing they saved America or humankind. Before this is all said and done, we will have gotten off very easily if their mistakes haven’t killed more people than COVID-19 would have killed if left to rage completely unchecked.

It’s time to start interpreting the precautionary principle as a strong presumption against trusting the state with any power whatsoever.

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Will We Learn COVID-19’s Most Important Lesson?

On February 29th, US Surgeon General Jerome Adams took to Twitter to admonish Americans:  “Seriously people — STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus …”

A little over a month later, Adams finally got around to asking the Centers for Disease Control if perhaps he’d been talking through his hat when talking through a mask might have been smarter.

City governments from Miami to Los Angeles gave themselves whiplash as mask-wearing went from “officially discouraged” to “mandatory” virtually overnight. Philadelphia’s city bus system adopted the new policy so enthusiastically that masked cops were summoned to violently drag non-masked riders off of buses.

The Parable of Mask Idiocy’s lessons extend, like those of most parables, far beyond the specifics of the story itself.

If general lessons can be drawn from our experience of COVID-19 so far, here are three of them:

First, never expect government to be prepared to respond to a pandemic.

Second, never expect government’s ad hoc responses to a pandemic to be the correct responses.

And third, never expect government to admit its errors.

The sequel to the Parable of Mask Idiocy is the “Saved You From Apocalypse” Claim.

You’ve heard that story in its mocking primitive form before:

Villagers cower in fear as the sun begins to disappear behind a black spot. It’s the end of the world, their witch doctor informs them. Follow my instructions to appease the gods or you will all be consumed! Then the eclipse ends and the witch doctor takes credit. The world WOULD have ended if it hadn’t been for him and his wisdom, see?

At this very moment, herds of government officials and “public health” bureaucrats are stampeding away from their initial predictions of hundreds of thousands, even millions, of American deaths from COVID-19. Latest guesstimate: “Substantially under” 100,000.

They know you won’t forget those early predictions, so their task is to con you into believing that the lower numbers are a function of you having obeyed their orders.

One problem with that is that so far the death tolls seem to be worst in areas where draconian orders were most strictly enforced. And that seems to be true globally, not just in the US (see the responses and outcomes in Italy versus South Korea, for example).

While there are certainly other factors involved — population density being a big one — it’s at least plausible that the authoritarian responses of governors like New York’s Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey’s Phil Murphy increased, rather than decreased, the death tolls in their states.

As with so many other jobs, the state is neither competent nor trustworthy when it comes to protecting us from contagion. Let’s never again forget that.

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How Freedom Can Survive This Pandemic – With Your Help

There are not many possible outcomes in which humans become freer after the COVID-19 pandemic. Already Western governments (see: United States) are taking unprecedented powers and violating civil liberties on a mass scale, despite farcical mismanagement of the crisis. Countries already well along the authoritarian road are openly embracing dictatorship (see: Hungary) or violent suppression (see: the Philippines, China).

The stay-at-home orders and lockdowns have probably made you feel powerless to help fight either this pandemic or the emerging fascistic orders. But there is plenty we can do. This list is just a start:

Make yourself more resilient

Are you isolated? Very well. Become a stronger individual. Do things which will reduce your dependence on the people who would run your life.

  • Wear masks in public (and practice physical distancing): Protect other people from transmission of the virus by wearing a mask. You may be a carrier without having any symptoms. Stay at least 6 ft. away from others, and limit unnecessary travel. All the basics: don’t make things worse for yourself or others.
  • Stay fit: Eat well and exercise and monitor your own health.
  • Prepare for shortages: It’s a bit late in the game to “stock up”, but supplies of some things are still plentiful relative to supplies in a few weeks. Don’t hoard, but at least make sure you have enough for yourself and your family to avoid the bread lines.
  • Keep some cash: Having cash (rather than debt) right now will be a source of optionality. The more cash you have, the longer you can resist the dole.
  • Get good at doing things yourself: Whether you’re making a mask or raising chickens or building a home gym, you’re going to have to do a lot of things yourself, or else do without. You’ll have to fix a lot of things.
  • Learn self-defense, and get the tools for it: This virus will be making traditional police forces both weaker (due to sickness) and more dangerous (due to new levels of power and nosiness). You would be well advised to learn gun safety, get a gun, and maybe acquire some other self-defense skills (such as a martial art).

Strengthen voluntary communities

Even strong individuals will look outward for help. We can let them turn to dictators and/or bureaucrats, or we can make voluntary associations and the voluntary institutions of civil society strong enough to meet the demand.

  • Help your neighbors: Your neighbors will be suffering too, whether from loneliness or from actual need. Donate to your food bank, send food or supplies to your local medical workers, volunteer if you can do so safely, and bring groceries for your older neighbors.
  • Support small businesses: The more independent entrepreneurs survive this crisis, the fewer the people forced toward welfare-dependency, government work, or employment for the crony corporations.
  • Create value: Entrepreneurs who can build new technologies and businesses to help during this pandemic will be doing a great deal for freedom, even if they don’t speak about politics at all. Growth and innovation are their own arguments for liberty, and private initiative to solve social problems will be a clear counter-example to the corruption and incompetence of bureaucracy.
  • Make churches and community groups work well remotely: You must find a way to transition traditional mass gatherings into forms of peer to peer connections. Livestreams won’t be enough. People need interaction. Consider group video calls, group chats, email threads, etc. for the communities you care about, and keep interaction going.

Organize and foster dissenting voices

Shutdowns and lockdowns create perfect opportunities for petty tyrants to rule isolated individuals – unless we find each other online. We will have to organize regardless of the distance:

  • Connect with fellow freedom-lovers: Reach out to your friends, colleagues, and acquaintances who are likely to share a concern for political liberty. Find people you can trust and people who will be willing to stand alongside you in protest and even disobedience. There may be differing levels of interest or commitment as well as different ideological orientations – that’s fine. Work with people where they are, and build a coalition of people who care.
  • Share information: Watch and share important news about the pandemic and government overreach. Curate from many sources. Take the pandemic seriously and avoid fake news.
  • Speak out: I’m generally cynical on the value of political speech, but you never know how you might shift what someone else is willing to accept from their government. Say something. Share why bailouts are destructive of economic welfare, criticize police harassment of solo beach walkers, point out the illegality of business shutdown by state fiat, etc. Share how deregulation of a choked medical industry is helping, and how free people working together have often bested government solutions.

Prepare for active dissent and disobedience

More steps toward tyranny have happened in the past few weeks than have happened in a year, or so it seems. As economies quickly degrade and social unrest rises, governments will claim more power which they may use against dissidents in the name of safety. And if lockdowns on travel, free assembly, and free enterprise continue, civil disobedience will be both just and necessary (if more dangerous). So it’s not a bad idea to be prepared for further crackdowns by paranoid governments, as well as the risk of being libertarian in that eventuality:

  • Do the anti-surveillance basics: The surveillance state will probably take this opportunity to reveal itself fully. Make things harder for it, at least. Encrypt your chats using an app like Signal, encrypt your emails using PGP, and remember that your devices’ microphones and cameras might be watching/listening to you (block them if you can).
  • Reduce dependence on anti-privacy platforms: Platforms like Google, however well-intentioned, seem to have no qualms about making your data (location, etc) available to governments. Facebook certainly won’t mind turning over your communications if doing so can be justified by “the emergency.”
  • Reduce dependence on censorship-oriented platforms: Twitter recently announced its intention to remove tweets contradicting “expert” information about COVID-19, at a time when “experts” were still claiming that masks were ineffective (they now acknowledge masks’ usefulness). These platforms may continue to make terrible editorial/censorial decisions as economies .
  • Learn your legal rights: It has become a meme, but you should know how to challenge police officers for violation of the 4th amendment (and other rights). Consider the possibility that you may be arrested either for something as silly as going outside or for deliberate disobedience of business shut-down orders.

This pandemic will pass. The authoritarian gains made now will remain for a long time. But if we act early and often, we can thwart a lot of it, give the state some black eyes and PR nightmares, and maybe even eke out some victories for freedom.

Originally published at JamesWalpole.com.

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Don’t Let Politicians Use Pandemic as an Excuse for Dictatorship

By invoking the Defense Production Act, which “authorizes the President to require acceptance and priority performance of contracts or orders and to allocate materials, services, and facilities to promote the national defense or to maximize domestic energy supplies,” US president Donald Trump has declared himself America’s economic dictator.

He’s also moved to seal the nation’s borders, even as governors and mayors have banned public gatherings, ordered businesses to close or severely curtail operations, sealed off neighborhoods, and even in some cases — San Francisco comes to mind — ordered the entire populations of cities to remain indoors.

And we’re letting them do it.

Why? Because they say it’s about “public health.”

If this was about public health,  obvious vectors for the spread of COVID-19 like the Transportation Security Administration and its airport security screening lines would have been among the first things shut down.

Your neighborhood tavern, where people are seldom closely packed unless one is trying to sweet-talk another back home, is closed. TSA agents are still making airline passengers line up to be groped and coughed on.

If it was about public health, America’s non-violent prisoners would have been released to make more room for “social distance” between the remaining prisoners, reduce staffing needs, and prevent the virus from raging through captive populations.

Some prisons and jails are releasing some inmates or refusing to take in more. But not nearly as many prisoners are being released as Americans are being made prisoners in their own homes.

If this was about public health, government would be letting the market produce, and set prices for, essential goods instead of trying to seize control of production and suppress “price gouging.”

This isn’t about public health. It’s about political power. And things are getting very ugly, very quickly.

Vladimir Putin WISHES he had the power that American politicians have seized in the last couple of weeks.

Latin American dictators are green with envy at the enthusiasm with which Americans are surrendering our freedoms.

Pardon my French, people, but WTF?

A month ago half of us didn’t trust Donald Trump, half of us didn’t trust Nancy Pelosi, and many of us trusted neither. Now all of a sudden most of us seem to be practically begging both of them, and their henchmen, to order us around.

That’s not going to contribute to the public health. It’s not going to shorten the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s just going to crater our economy and leave us less free after than we were before.

If we force the politicians to knock this nonsense off now — by ignoring their orders until they run to the front of the parade by countermanding themselves — we might get off light. A short recession, maybe, and perhaps even some politicians who are scared into respecting our rights a little bit more, for a little while.

If we keep going along to get along, we’re more likely to end up thinking of the Great Depression and Stalin’s reign as versions of “the good old days.”

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