As Robert Higgs trenchantly observed in his book Crisis and Leviathan, central planning is a one-way ratchet. Governments take advantage of a crisis to introduce previously unimaginable restrictions on freedom in the name of public safety. We allow permanent erosions to the bedrock of liberty under the guise of temporary expediency.
In responding to the Coronavirus outbreak, China has ratcheted up its totalitarianism – forcibly taking people from their homes and committing them to “hospital cities,” built overnight using eminent-domain-on-steroids.
Marxist philosopher-clown Slavoj Žižek sees in Wuhan’s state of emergency a silver lining. He writes of “an unexpected emancipatory prospect hidden in this nightmarish vision.”
Not only does the crisis provide a pretext for “a new kind of communism,” Žižek suggests that the “half-abandoned streets,” and “stores with open doors and no customers,” actually “provide the image of non-consumerist world at ease with itself.”
If that’s the shot, then the chaser is Jeffrey Tucker’s recent article for the American Institute for Economic Research on the virus. Tucker, AIER’s editorial director asks, Must Government Save Us from the Coronavirus? In short, the answer is no.
While it’s easy to think of Chinese quarantines as something distinctly un-American, he points out that “the US government already has the power to create sick camps, kidnap and intern people upon suspicion that they are diseased, and keep people in camps for an undetermined amount of time.”
Tucker points out that the abuse of these powers is far more common than their discerning use.
What then is to be done?
Tucker has made a career of writing boldly and beautifully in defense of free market institutions and the power of individuals to provide superior solutions to the government. He joins me this Sunday to discuss the tragic history of forced quarantines and surprisingly effective voluntary alternatives.
We also relate the expectation that government will save us from pandemic as a symptom of a much greater problem – America’s acceptance of bigger government when it suits their political fancies or addresses a perceived threat.
Listen now to hear Jeffrey explain how markets – i.e., individuals – can improvise a more orderly solution to disease outbreaks than the chaotic spasms of a failing authoritarian state.