Don Boudreaux on “Covid Tyranny”

tyranny-brancoDon Boudreaux over at Cafe Hayek makes very important points:

A government that acts without rules, that consistently changes course in favor of exercising ever-more and longer-lasting power, and that now refuses to publicly state guidelines for ending its unprecedented assault on ordinary human liberties is tyrannical. I don’t see how this word fails to accurately describe today’s British government – as well as many other governments across the globe.

All tyrants claim that their harsh exercise of arbitrary power is necessary to protect the people from terrible evil. Some tyrants, I’m sure, even make these claims sincerely. Further, all tyrants’ claims to rule in the interest of The People are widely believed by The People. Tyrants who are popularly understood to be tyrants never actually become tyrants because their support remains too narrow.

In short, most victims of tyranny never recognize their fate until it’s too late.

Reasonable people can disagree on just where the exercise of arbitrary power turns from being merely unwise into being tyrannical. But given that we’re now more than a year into lockdowns – given that, over this time, the justification for lockdowns has changed repeatedly – given that we are given no firm guidance about what level of Covid cases or deaths would be sufficient for a return to normalcy – given that nearly all of the major actors ignore the costs of lockdowns and other restrictions, and they act as if no amount of precaution against Covid can be too much – given that these unprecedented responses to Covid run counter to all public-health guidelines issued through the end of 2019 – given the media’s appalling reporting on this disease – and given the fact that people scared out of their wits by the incessant peddling of unwarranted hysteria are too likely to mistake tyranny for salvation, I’m convinced that much of the world today is solidly caught in tyranny’s gory grip. And so I call it what I believe it to be.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics

The image at the head of this post is from For America, the tyranny of government is more dangerous than COVID-19. The date of that article? April 26, 2020. That’s from almost one year ago. Here’s a paragraph:

Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, China, and North Korea also arrest people who oppose governmental decrees. All are absolute dictatorships. Most are communists. The connection between these totalitarian states and autocratic Democrat politicians in America is that both demand absolute subservience to their rule.

I am amazed that people have surrendered their freedom so easily. Daniel Hannan on the matter said this:

I hate everything about the lockdown. I hate the confiscation of liberty, and the ease with which it is surrendered. I hate the damage to children’s education. I hate the prying and the prissiness and the pettiness. I hate the way university students have missed out on what should be the best time of their lives. I hate the tone in which police officers address people going about their lawful business.

I hate the way the goalposts keep moving: flatten the curve; no – wait for a vaccine; no – keep the pressure off the NHS; no – stop new variants. I hate the cataclysmic impact on small businesses, and the indifference of large parts of the public. I hate the debt we are racking up. I hate the protectionism and the authoritarianism. I hate hearing words like “hoarder” and “profiteer” – words we used to associate with extremist ideologies. I hate the loneliness that I see weighing on my elderly neighbours. I hate the profusion of pettifogging laws.

But d’you know what I hate the most? I hate what it has revealed about us. It turns out that we quite like being bossed around – at least, a lot of us do. Given the excuse of a collective threat, we revel in crackdowns and prohibitions.

I am sure that the world will recover from the Chinese virus pandemic. But I am not so sure that people will regain the freedom that they’ve lost. And I am sad that over 100 million poor people would have paid with their lives when all this is over.

I hate governments.

Author: Atanu Dey


3 thoughts on “Don Boudreaux on “Covid Tyranny””

  1. Atanu, what is your opinion about wearing masks? There are folks who consider wearing masks as an affront to personal liberty and refuse to do so during this pandemic. What do you do?


  2. Atanu,

    Here is my request to you to throw some light on the economics of covid vaccine.

    In India we have a company called SSI which is world’s largest vaccine maker, capable of making covid vaccines and already making it in large quantities and yet the demand is far too high for the supply. SSI says they need additional 3000 crore INR to ramp up production to meet demands.

    Here are my specific questions:

    Assuming threat of covid is real, is vaccine a “public good” ? (hence should be provided for free to individuals by government?)
    SSI took a big risk and stockpiled the vaccine even before it was approved. Now, this is very definition of risk taking. SSI would have suffered huge losses had this bet failed. It did not, but government capped the vaccine prices to Rs 150 and hence SSI was denied the benefit of that risk. Do you think SSI will take similar risks in future ?
    When government fixes the prices of vaccine (too low) who is truly subsidizing the vaccine for individuals ? (And is it sensible ?)
    Is the too low price of vaccine responsible for shortages ?

    What would be a good policy advice an economist should give to Indian government to ensure Indians have enough vaccines to avoid further lockdowns ? *

    Of course you need not assume anyone will actually implement the advice.


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