The Relentless Rise of the Authoritarian State

Sir Robert Menzies was a liberal conservative, an individualist and a believer in the middle-class virtues of ambition, family loyalty and self-reliance. In all of these respects he was a man of his time, very much in the same mould as contemporary European statesmen such as Harold Macmillan in Britain and Konrad Adenauer in Germany.

I was born the year before Menzies began his second premiership. In my adult lifetime, there have been radical changes in our world, which have undermined many of the values that Menzies and his contemporaries held dear. The West’s share of the world’s resources and output, which Menzies took as a given, has been much reduced. Today, Western economies are being challenged by low-wage economies and the shortening of their technological lead. We face problems of faltering growth, relative economic decline, redundant skills and capricious patterns of inequality. At the same time, there has been a dramatic rise in public demands on the state: as the provider of amenities, as a guarantor of minimum standards of economic security and as a regulator of an ever-widening range of human activities. When we transfer responsibility for our wellbeing from ourselves to the state, we invite a much more authoritarian style of government. In many ways the intellectual goalposts have shifted. It is more difficult to be a liberal conservative and an individualist in those conditions than it was in Menzies’s day.

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Perhaps the most striking manifestation of these changes has been the response of most states to the COVID-19 pandemic. I am not going embark on a discussion of the merits of lockdowns, although I am on record as doubting their effectiveness and objecting strongly to their collateral consequences. I am concerned here with a different question, namely what this episode in our history tells us about current attitudes to the state and to personal liberty. On that larger canvas, lockdowns are only the latest and most spectacular illustration of a wider tendency in our societies.

At the root of the political problems generated by the pandemic was the public’s attitude to the state and to risk. People have a remarkable degree of confidence in the capacity of the state to contain risk and ward off misfortune. An earlier generation regarded natural catastrophes as only marginally amenable to state action. The Spanish flu pandemic from 1918 to 1921 is the event most closely comparable to the Covid pandemic. Estimates of global mortality range from 20 million to 100 million people at a time when the world’s population was about a sixth of what it is now. Australia was largely protected from Spanish flu by distance and quarantine. In Europe, where Spanish flu took a much heavier toll, governments took no special steps to curtail its transmission, apart from isolating the infected and the sick, which had been the classic response to epidemics from time immemorial. No one criticised them for this. The related pathogens behind the Asiatic flu pandemic of 1957 and Hong Kong flu in 1968 had an infection rate roughly comparable to Covid, and a mortality rate which was slightly lower. No special steps were taken to control transmission. Indeed, in the US and UK a deliberate decision was made not to take such steps because of the disruption they would have caused to the life of the nation. No one criticised this approach.

Covid is a more infectious pathogen than Spanish flu, but it is significantly less mortal. It is also easier to deal with because it mainly affects those over sixty-five or suffering from one of a number of identifiable pre-existing clinical conditions, generally affecting the respiratory system. A high proportion of people in those vulnerable categories are economically inactive. They can be encouraged to shield themselves. Governments might have worked with the natural instincts of humans for self-preservation, allowing less vulnerable categories to get on with their lives and engage in the productive activities on which we all ultimately depend. By comparison, Spanish flu was more difficult to deal with, because its most devastating impact was on healthy people aged under fifty.

Yet in 2020, Britain, in common with Australia and almost all Western countries, ordered an indiscriminate lockdown of the whole population, healthy or sick, old or young, something which had never been done before in response to any disease anywhere. These measures enjoyed substantial public support. In Melbourne, lockdown was enforced with a brutality unequalled in liberal countries, but a Lowy Institute poll conducted in 2021 found that 84 per cent of Australians thought that their governments had handled it very well or fairly well. Australians thought even better of New Zealand’s approach, with 91 per cent in favour.

It is clear that in the intervening century between the Spanish flu and Covid, something radically changed in our collective outlook. Two things in particular have changed. One is that we now expect more of the state, and are less inclined to accept that there are limits to what it can or should do. The other is that we are no longer willing to accept risks that have always been inherent in life itself.

Human beings have lived with epidemic disease from the beginning of time. Covid is a relatively serious epidemic, but historically it is well within the range of health risks which are inseparable from ordinary existence, risks which human beings have always had to live with. In Europe, bubonic plague, smallpox, cholera and tuberculosis were all worse in their time. Worldwide, the list of comparable or worse epidemics is substantially longer, even if they did not happen to strike Europe or North America. Covid is certainly within the broad range of diseases with which we must expect to live in future. The change is in ourselves, not in the nature or scale of the risks we face.

Epidemic disease is a particularly clear example of the kind of risks from which we crave the protection of the state, although they are inherent in life itself. But there are many others: financial loss, economic insecurity, crime, sexual violence and abuse, sickness, accidental injury. The quest for state protection against ever wider categories of risk is not irrational. It is in some ways a natural response to the remarkable increase in the technical competence of mankind since the middle of the nineteenth century, which has considerably increased the range of things that the state can do. As a result, we have inordinately high expectations of the state. For all perils, there must be a governmental solution. If there is none, that implies a lack of governmental competence.

There are few things as routine as death. “In the midst of life, we are in death,” says the Book of Common Prayer. Yet the technical possibilities of modern, publicly financed medicine have accustomed us to the idea that except in extreme old age, any death from disease is premature, and that all premature death is avoidable. Starting as a natural event, death has become, in the eyes of our contemporaries, a symptom of societal failure. Hence the demands for intervention by the state.

In modern conditions, risk aversion, and the fear that goes with it, are a standing invitation to authoritarian government. If we hold governments responsible for everything that goes wrong, they will take away our autonomy so that nothing can go wrong. If we demand state protection from risks which are inherent in life itself, these measures will necessarily involve the suppression of some part of life itself. The quest for security at the price of coercive state intervention is a feature of democratic politics which was pointed out in the 1830s by Alexis de Toqueville in his remarkable study of American democracy, a book whose uncanny relevance to modern dilemmas still takes one by surprise even after nearly two centuries. His description of the process cannot be bettered. The protecting power of the state, he wrote:

extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered. But it is softened, bent, and guided. Men are seldom forced to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes. It stupefies a people until each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

By definition, legal regulation is designed to limit risk by limiting freedom. Governments do this to protect themselves from criticism. During the pandemic, regulations addressed the risk of infection by Covid, because governments identified that as the thing that they were most likely to be criticised for. Governments were willing to accept considerable collateral damage to mental health resulting from the lockdown, and large increases in deaths from cancer, ischaemic heart disease and dementia. Why? Because they knew that they were less likely to be criticised for those. They would not show up in television screens, with pictures of long lines of ambulances waiting outside hospitals. They would not appear in the daily casualty lists. But they are just as real.

A good deal of historical experience suggests that people who are sufficiently frightened will submit to an authoritarian regime which offers them security against some real or imagined threat. Historically, the threat has usually been war. In the two world wars of the twentieth century Britain transformed itself into a temporary despotism, with substantial public support. Wars, however, are rare. The countries of the West have not faced an existential threat from external enemies since 1940. Today, the real threat to democracy’s survival is not major disasters like war. It is comparatively minor perils which in the nature of things occur more frequently. The more routine the perils from which we demand protection, the more frequently will those demands arise. If we confer despotic powers on government to deal with perils which are an ordinary feature of human existence, we will end up doing it most or all of the time. It is because the perils against which we now demand protection from the state are so much more numerous and routine than they were, that they are likely to lead to a more fundamental and durable change in our attitudes to the state. This is a more serious problem for the future of democracy than war.

In the first of my 2019 Reith Lectures, I drew attention to the implications of public aversion to risk for our relationship with the state. I referred to what I have called, then and since, the Hobbesian bargain. The seventeenth-century English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes argued that human beings surrendered their liberty completely, unconditionally and irrevocably to an absolute ruler in return for security. Hobbes was an apologist for absolute government. In his model of society, the state could do absolutely anything for the purpose of reducing the risks that threaten our wellbeing, other than deliberately kill us. Hobbes’s state was an unpleasant thing, but he had, I think, grasped a profound truth. Most despotisms come into being not because a despot has seized power, but because people willingly surrender their freedoms in return for security. Our culture has always rejected Hobbes’s model of society. Intellectually, it still does. But in recent years it has increasingly tended to act on it. The response to Covid took that tendency a long way further. I could not have imagined in 2019 that my concerns would be so dramatically vindicated so quickly.

Until March 2020, it was unthinkable that liberal democracies should confine healthy people in their homes indefinitely, with limited exceptions at the discretion of government ministers. It was unthinkable that a whole population should be subject to criminal penalties for associating with other human beings, and answerable to the police for all the ordinary activities of daily life. When in early February 2020, the European Centre for Disease Control published the pandemic plans of all twenty-eight then members of the EU, including the UK, not one of these plans envisaged a general lockdown. Not one. The two principal plans were those prepared by the UK Department of Health and the Robert Koch Institute, the official epidemiological institute of Germany. They came to remarkably similar conclusions. The great object should be to enable ordinary life to continue as far as possible. The two main lessons were, first, to avoid indiscriminate measures and concentrate state interventions on the vulnerable categories; and, second, to treat people as grown-ups, go with the grain of human nature and avoid coercion. The published minutes of the committee of scientists advising the UK government show that their advice was on the same lines right up to the announcement of the first lockdown.

In the UK, the man mainly responsible for persuading the government to impose a lockdown was Professor Neil Ferguson, an epidemiological modeller based at Imperial College London. His work was influential in both the UK and elsewhere. In a press interview in February 2021, Ferguson explained what changed—it was the lockdown in 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.”

It is worth pausing to reflect on what this means. It means that because a lockdown of the entire population appeared to work in a country which was notoriously indifferent to individual rights and traditionally treats human beings as mere instruments of state policy, they could “get away with” doing the same thing here. Entirely absent from Professor Ferguson’s analysis was any conception of the principled reasons why it had hitherto been unthinkable for Western countries to do such a thing. It was unthinkable because it was based on a conception of the state’s relationship with its citizens which was morally repellent even if it worked.

It is not simply the assault on the concept of liberty that matters. It is the particular liberty which has been most obviously discarded, namely the liberty to associate with other human beings. Association with other human beings is not just an optional extra. It is not just a leisure option. It is fundamental to our humanity. Our emotional relationships, our mental wellbeing, our economic fortunes, our entire social existence is built on the ability of people to come together. This is why I regard lockdowns as a sustained attack on our humanity.

Historically, the response to an epidemic like this would have been a matter for individuals to make their own risk assessments, in the light of their own vulnerability and those of the people around them. This was the policy pursued in Sweden, which avoided coercion. Sweden had a death toll broadly in line with the European average and considerably better than the UK’s. The substitution of a governmental decision applicable to the whole population irrespective of their individual situation, is an extraordinary development in the history of our society and of other Western countries that have done the same thing.

The way that this one-size-fits-all approach has been justified adds to its totalitarian flavour. One argument which we heard, at least in the UK, was that uniform rules applied to people with different levels of vulnerability are necessary for the sake of social solidarity. There are two kinds of solidarity. One is the solidarity of mutual support. But this was a different kind of solidarity. It was the solidarity of intolerant conformism. It is irrational to treat everyone the same when the impact of the problem upon them is very different. The other argument that we heard was that it would be too difficult to enforce rules that differentiated between different people according to their degrees of vulnerability. In other words, the rules were couched in indiscriminate terms to make life easier for the police. When convenience of social control becomes itself an object of public policy, we are adopting part of the mentality of totalitarianism.

All of this marks a radical change in the relationship between the citizen and the state. The change is summed up in the first question that was asked of the UK Prime Minister when Number 10 press conferences were opened up to the public. “Is it OK for me to hug my grand-daughter?” Something odd has happened to a society if people feel that they need to ask the Prime Minister if it is OK to hug their grand-daughter.

I would sum up the change in this way. What was previously a right inherent in a free people, has come to depend on government licence. We have come to regard the right to live normal lives as a gift of the state. It is an approach which treats all individuals as instruments of collective policy.

All of this was made possible by fear. Throughout history fear has been the principal instrument of the authoritarian state. Fear and insecurity were the basis on which Hobbes justified the absolute state. That is what we have been witnessing in the last two years. A senior figure in the UK government told me during the early stages of the pandemic that in his view the liberal state was an unsuitable set-up for a situation like this. What was needed, he said, was something more “Napoleonic”. That says it all. At least as serious as the implications for our relations with the state are the implications for our relations with each other. The use of political power as an instrument of mass coercion, fuelled by public fear, is corrosive. It is corrosive even, perhaps especially, when it enjoys majority support. For it tends to be accompanied, as it has been in Britain, by manipulative government propaganda and vociferous intolerance of the minority who disagree. Authoritarian governments fracture the societies in which they operate. The pandemic generated distrust, resentment and mutual hostility among citizens in most countries where lockdowns were imposed.

It is widely assumed that this is a phase which will pass when Covid disappears (if it ever does). I am afraid that this is an illusion. We have turned a corner, and it will not be easy to go back. I say that for several reasons.

The first and most obvious is that governments rarely relinquish powers that they have once acquired. In Britain, wartime controls were kept in being for years after the end of the Second World War. Food rationing was kept in place in the name of social solidarity until 1952, long after it had disappeared in Germany and in the European countries which Germany overran. Regulations requiring people to carry identity cards, which had been introduced in 1940 to control spies and fifth-columnists, remained in force for the convenience of the police until the mid-1950s. This was the social-solidarity argument in action.

My second reason is that I see no reason why politicians should want or need to respect basic liberal values if the public is happy with a more authoritarian style of government. There will be other pandemics, which will provoke the same public reaction. But public support for Napoleonic government is not simply a response to epidemic disease. It is a response to a much more general feeling of insecurity, combined with a profound faith in the ability of government to solve any problem with sufficient talent and money. This is a symptom of a much more general appetite for authoritarian government, as the price for greater security.

It is accentuated by a growing feeling that strong governments are efficient and get things done while deliberative assemblies such as parliament are just a waste of time and a source of inefficiency. Strongmen get things done. They do not waste time in argument or debate. Something of the flavour of this mentality can be seen in Australia in the decision of the then Prime Minister to assume the powers of five different ministries in addition to those of his own office. He must have believed that a single all-powerful figure, a Napoleon, was needed. The same thinking must have been at least in some degree responsible for the suspension of parliament in Victoria. Discussion and debate were thought to get in the way of the effective exercise of power.

Historical experience should warn us that this veneration of the strongman is usually wrong. Autocratic government is usually bad government. There is a reason for this. The concentration of power in a small number of hands and the absence of wider deliberation and scrutiny enable governments to make major decisions without proper forethought, planning or research. In the government’s own ranks, it promotes loyalty at the expense of wisdom, flattery at the expense of objective advice. The want of criticism encourages self-confidence, and self-confidence banishes moderation and restraint.

You might say: Well, if the public is happy, isn’t that democracy in action? I answer that that is how democracies destroy themselves. Democracies are systems of collective self-government. It is of course possible for democracies to confer considerable coercive power on the state without losing their democratic character. But there is a point beyond which the systematic application of mass-coercion is no longer consistent with any notion of collective self-government. The fact that it is hard to define where that point lies, does not mean that there isn’t one. The qualified house imprisonment of the entire population passed that point by a large margin. A degree of respect for individual autonomy seems to me to be a necessary feature of anything which deserves to be called a democracy.

My final reason for believing that we have turned a corner on liberal democracy is perhaps the most fundamental. Aristotle regarded democracy as an inherently unstable form of government, because it was too easily transformed into despotism by the natural tendency of people to fall for an appealing tyrant. I think Aristotle was right. It is the reason why some form of authoritarian government has always been the default position of mankind. Nevertheless, most Western democracies have resisted this tendency, and avoided the disintegration which Aristotle regarded as their natural end. What has enabled them to do this is a shared political culture.

Governments have immense powers, not just in the field of public health but generally. These powers have existed for many years. Their existence has been tolerable in a liberal democracy only because of a culture of restraint, a sense of proportion and a respect for our humanity, which made it unthinkable that they should be used in a despotic manner. It has only ever been culture and convention which prevented governments from adopting a totalitarian model. But culture and convention are fragile. They take years to form but can be destroyed very quickly. Once you discard them, there is no barrier left. The spell is broken. If something is unthinkable until someone in authority thinks of it, the psychological barriers which were once our only protection against despotism have vanished.

There is no inevitability about the future course of any historical trend. But the changes in our political culture seem to me to reflect a profound change in the public mood, which has been many years in the making and may be many years in the unmaking. We are entering a Hobbesian world, the enormity of which has not yet dawned on our people.

Lord Sumption is a British author, medieval historian and former senior judge who sat on the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom between 2012 and 2018. This is an address he gave to the Robert Menzies Institute in Melbourne in October

12 thoughts on “The Relentless Rise of the Authoritarian State

  • Botswana O'Hooligan says:

    One thought from the outset that common sense had been thrown out the window for it was evident quite quickly that mostly older folk succumbed to the dreaded and they were no longer in the workforce so why close down business and normal day to day life to ruin our economy? When no one in politics or in the bureaucracy showed a speck of common sense about that then we should have been protected by our constitution but the politicians and bureaucrats bypassed that too and of course the human rights lawyers as in Burnside et al who normally scream about human rights when it comes to country shoppers, were completely silent. So much for common sense, our constitution, and the Nuremburg code.

  • Citizen Kane says:

    A more sober, clear eyed and eloquent dissection by essay one will not find. Thankyou Jonathan & Quadrant.

    The malaise you have described has further resulted in the mass delusion that governments can enact policies ensuring that the weather each day is just perfect for evermore with droughts and floods banished into the annals of history simply by tinkering at the edges of a single trace atmospheric gas. And here I was thinking that the trajectory of history was one of ever greater enlightenment.

  • Aussietom says:

    Sadly true. There are far too many foolish people out there whose reaction to political overreach is “govern me harder, daddy.”

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    There is no doubt that the Covid experience is also passing on into the Climate Change experience, where much faith is placed in a series of models that many regard as deficient in both hypothesis and execution. One hope is that having been so deluded over Covid many voters might now extend their thinking into how models are so influential yet so wrong in the narrative about climate change. But that seems not yet to be the case. People have changed in their expectations of ‘protection’ and the mass media has bared its teeth against all who wish to critique an over-riding political narrative. Many other organisations have got on board for the ride, especially if there is money and/or kudos in doing so.
    Interesting to note the slowly boiling frog aspect of Covid lockdowns. At first, so we were told, they were simply to stop a very quick spread which might overwhelm hospitals. That subtly shifted to zero Covid.

  • Occidental says:

    The tendency for government erosion of individual freedoms quite obviously pre dated covid. I recall when I was a young lawyer that the red statutes in Queensland, (that is the acts of State Parliament passed and bound into book form) were for a hundred years or so, fairly consistent in size until the mid eighties and the arrival of the Goss Labour government. From then on steadily each year the volumes got thicker until we had multiple volumes for each year. However there has also been an explosion of legislation federally during the same period. The are a number of factors, not just one, which have together created this burgeoning government . Most important of all has been the breakdown of the traditional family structure. When a marriage breaks up, the wife will most likely vote for the party offering the most safety. Women living alone, whether at a university, public housing tenement, or beachside residence at Vaucluse would find more value in voting for the party of big government than a party espousing classical liberal values. Single women love regulation and police and government, many of them are even employed by government. This trend then is inexorable. Another is a tendency of bureaucrats to justify their existence by making law. Most ministers, state or federal have not a clue of what is contained in the Acts they present to parliament. This is all prepared by bureaucrats. More importantly most law is contained in regulation, and this can change weekly at the whim of bureaucrats. This is never seen by parliament. There have been attempts by conservative governments to reign in the law making, but it has only lasted for a year or so, and then the march resumes. Another factor in the Publics desire for social safety is residential mobility. Fifty years ago, or atleast before World War Two, our Fathers or Grandfathers tended to live in the suburbs they were born in. They were physically close to their brothers, uncles and cousins. This gave them a sense of strength and security. Now many of us live far from siblings and hence have lost that sense of support. Government offers a safety net which many find appealing. I remember talking to a farmer who recieved a visit from the police after a neighbour (a resident of a neighbouring subdivision) had called the Police complaining that the farmers spraying was wafting into his house. The days of a person politely visiting his neighbour and explaining his concerns appear to have passed into the pages of history. What covid gave us was a glimpse of where this tendency is leading. What the recent shootings in Queensland may have given us, is perhaps also a glimpse of where this all leading.

  • ianl says:

    As erudite, as fluent, as Jonathon Sumption is in this essay, Hobbes was right. The mass of people are easily controllable through fear – the more irrational the fear, the greater the control. An irrational feeling can only be confronted with another even more irrational feeling. Neil Ferguson (the Professor Pantsdown person) recognised this the instant he observed the Italian job.

    How insidious may this be ? The antivirus programme I use on my PC has an icon in the bottom tray to show it is alive and working. When one “hovers” the mouse over it, a balloon comment says: “You are safe”. I expect most people find comfort in that. So trivial, and untrue, yet so ubiquitous. We are not permitted to read contrary views unless they are considered “safe”.

    The MSM promote the safe space controls assiduously. Its’ denizens receive a quid pro quo – their jobs are labelled as essential, so allowing mobility, travel and other freedoms that were denied to ordinary citizens. This strokes their vanity button with superb accuracy.

    Of course the restrictions to save the planet will be tightened progressively. No private ICE cars, severely reduced food choices, gas heating and cooking removed from homes (by simply banning fuel supply), movement restricted to designated neighbourhoods, widespread power rationing … these measures are already being introduced. Accurate information about any resultant climatic conditions will be censored and replaced by propaganda, even more so than now.

    And it matters not that some of us dislike all this. If the majority feel safer, these conditions will pertain.

  • STD says:

    “The Relentless Rise of the Authoritarian State”.
    Question is, will it run out of puff?
    Is this the yeast of the Pharisees?
    Does it stifle individual responsibility, incentive and motivation and then and will this lead to calamity if and when it runs out of other peoples money.

  • Peter Marriott says:

    Thank you Lord Sumption.
    It’s been terribly disheartening, for me anyway, to experience and observe all around, the lockdowns, the fear, epitomised by almost fanatical mask wearing right up to the eyes, and by the inability to rubbish or criticise it when even some family members and friends join the fanatics, thinking it’s virtuous.
    When I hear of polls that apparently tell us most people think the controls good and that the egregious NZ crowd are even better it almost beggars belief in my mind, and the rise and rise of the dobber pretty well puts the icing on it.
    Of course I can’t know how true my thoughts on this are, but it certainly seems that way. One thing I do know from experience, the past Australian character that I have always felt, preferring free speech and association… was changed via enforcement, with mandated mask wearing and lockdowns etc. and almost enforced vaccinations.
    It seems to do with control and power, and the need to have it. The Chinese Communist Party has it, in their infamous Social Credit System, first released by their State Council in 2014 I read.
    It’s purpose has been to surveil, monitor, assess, control and shape the behaviour and trustworthiness of all citizens and enterprises in China. Backed up with rewards or punishments in one form or another depending on whether you’re ‘good’or ‘bad’. Outside the writings of Orwell and Belloc to name but two, it’s hard to imagine anything more horrible or frightening….but that apparently is what they’ve done and the Chinese just dutifully go along with it. Would we also obey, I ask myself, after seeing what happened during all our lockdowns etc. ?

  • Dallas Beaufort says:

    “Fear is a thief of your time and vision” Climate and Covid consensus, reinforced by a hockey stick and a suspect winter flu peer reviewed by an Academe, greedy State and hungry 5th Estate, Compliant interests within a cyclical cooling, not warming period. History repeats, plague and pestilence in modern social forms. Personality and politics grab for market share in a media world censoring the individuals pursuit.

  • Geoff Sherrington says:

    Thank you, Lord Sumption, for this clear and elegant discourse on the present human condition in some familiar countries. Senior English thinkers with neckties askew have long produced some of the best writing.
    Alas, in logic terms, your essay is necessary but not sufficient.
    Readers might agree that Covid circumstances have passed older barriers of restraint. You seem to argue that aeronautical analogies to points of no return have been reached, when thinking citizens are reluctant to contemplate the plane crash that must follow. They seek remediation ahead of obliteration.
    What actions, what reversals, remain possible? How can they be designed? How can they be implemented? What does history tell us about recovery from past excesses? Can the lessons from past post-dictator countries be summarised?
    A side effect of Covid processes in Australia has been a lack of clarity behind decisions. Thus, medical doctors were threatened by career loss if they advocated some treatments, e.g. Hydroxychloroquine and Ivermectin. How can the history of this pressure be dissected as to who created the pressure and why? People tend to consider such decision-makers as acting on intellectual, understanding planes above their own, but maybe such planes are illusory. Show us if the Emperor had clothes.
    There are many other unclear aspects. For example, has there been or will there be a retrospective study in some country to compare outcomes from a “do nothing” national Covid policy to a “cross into taboo medical territory” policy? Is there a positive public value in complete and open clarification of past actions? One suggested benefit would answer whether people with policies were bought corruptly by money or promises from drug companies. In popular thought, a path to correction is easier if the public can see a corruption that cries for correction and supports or demands remedy – or are you saying that will be no longer possible? Geoff S.

  • Brian Boru says:

    I have been troubled by this excellent article. It speaks truth but there are consequences from these changes as Occidental refers to in his final sentence above where he refers to the tragic Queensland events.
    I looked in vain to find in the article some reference to the constitutional limitations that must surely stop majority government erosion of our individual freedoms. One would expect an authority such as Lord Sumption to be aware if there were any.
    I looked at the US Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, ”
    But then it occurred to me that these noble and righteous words were endorsed by men who were likely involved in or who acquiesced to slavery.
    I am left troubled.

  • call it out says:

    The SA government has decided to limit river use during the flood, out of “an abundance of caution.” So you can’t paddle your canoe in a quiet backwater to pick up a few yabbies. But you can still take your small boat onto very rough seas, and many more drown in this way than on the Murray, even in flood.
    Which is more dangerous? A raging sea or the flooding Murray?
    Surely this is another example of a post covid mindset, for governments to oppress its citizens, just because they now can.
    (Or have I blown it, so now there will be “no boating” days off the SA coast?)

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