I heard some libertarians say that we live in the most superstitious times since the middle ages. Observing what is going on at the moment, one is tempted to think that even the middle ages do not compare. We are witnessing the peak of a dangerous superstitious believe – the believe in the omnipotence of the state. Apparently, the state can now save us all from viruses, who would have thought that possible?
The currency of politics is fear. It is not easy to convince people to submit to power. But fear turns out to be the one thing that makes this submission seem almost natural. The state promises that if we only accept its controlling powers, we will be saved from, well, almost anything.
Of course, historically, this claim progressed. The state did not always pretend to be able to solve every problem. It slowly accumulated the savior role of more and more dangers over time. In some roles it looked more credible than others. Even many Libertarians, for example, will grant the state some competence in upholding public order, protecting us from foreign and domestic bad guys.
In many roles, however, the state looks quite incompetent to the educated observer. In many instances, Leviathan is even the root of the problem. An example for a dangerous fashion of the last century has been the believe that the state can save us from economic misery. No one, so the promise, will have to suffer any economic hardship, as long as we allow politics a tight control of the economy.
Anyone studying the facts, however, will know that this claim is entirely unjustified. To the contrary, state control of the economy is the single biggest source of lasting economic hardship. Even though this is well known and documented, the myth that the state is the source of prosperity for all seems impossible to defeat. Instead of testing their believes, proponents of this myth will instead revert to a circular reasoning. The hardship we are seeing, so they argue, is not because of the state control, but because there is not enough control. The solution, therefore, is even more regulations.
To reinterpret the falsification of a theory as proof of it is one of the key features of dogmatic thinking. Since evidence to the contrary is seen as proof for a theory, these believe systems only seem to retreat when the evidence against them becomes overwhelming. And even that does not kill them completely most of the time. Instead, the false theory might just change its appearance without being modified in substance.
The believe that the state can solve every problem seems to be the big mass delusion of our time. And it goes quite a long way. Many people now believe that a perfect world, in which everyone is save and prosperous can be achieve, if we only give enough power to the state. A good example of this believe is the idea that the state can simply print prosperity by printing money. These people do not even understand that it is not money that makes us rich, but the things money can buy. Just because we print money does not solve the fundamental problem of living in a world of scarcity.
But if you think that this is the most delusional believe of state apologists, think again. There are many others. In the last few decades, many people started to believe that the state can actually control the temperature of the entire planet, giving us all a perfectly save and stable climate. The only reason that has not happened yet, is because evil economic interests are preventing it from happening. Even more bizarre, some people now believe that if we pass the right laws, we can do away with biological inequalities like the sexes. The list goes on.
For anyone who was paying attention, what we are observing now should have therefore not come as a surprise. And yet, it did surprise me. In the last few weeks, we have seen political developments that are so extreme, and came so quickly that they even left me stunned.
I am talking of course about the politics of the new coronavirus. Viruses are probably one of the oldest forms of life on this planet. Many virologists argue that they are very essential for biological evolution. They have also always been one of the major problems for humans. Repeatedly throughout history, viruses were able to kill significant numbers of people. The most devastating pandemic in the last century was the Spanish Flu which killed at least 17 million people in 1918-20. Even with all our modern medicine, viruses still routinely kill large amounts of people every year. Non of that is news, of course. We live in a dangerous world in which mother nature kills a lot of us every day.
But apparently, these simple facts are news to many people. Looking at the reports about people dying with corona virus, these are never put in perspective to how many people die normally every day. The illusion is being created that hundreds or even thousands of people dying in a single day is somehow unusual. Comparing the numbers with the absolute numbers of people dying, however, would clarify that a lot of the corona deaths would have been in the death statistics with or without the virus.
The cult of the state has discovered the virus problem and is now on it to solve it. Where is this strange believe coming from that the state can control viruses? We have a flu pandemic every year, which often kills about half a million people, and yet so far we have not been able to stop this from happening. We even have a vaccine against one of the worst flu viruses, Influenza, and yet even that does not seem to stop it.
But not to worry. Now finally the state is on it to protect us all from viruses, what could possibly go wrong? The illusion that we can live in a perfectly save world without any risks whatsoever must not die. Unlike so often, politicians did not even come up with this idea. The cult of the state is so deeply rooted in our thinking now, that the people demanded it.
When some governments, like the UK or the US, tried to explain that they could not possible protect society from a virus, the masses hysterically responded, not good enough! They were accusing the government of putting lives over special interests and demanded firm action.
And firm action we got. A large part of the planet is imprisoned in the name of controlling a virus. Whether this will actually result in less people being negatively affected by COVID 19 is not clear. It is especially not clear how, even if these extreme policies had an effect in the short term, we can get out of these emergency policies without having to face the same virus problem again. But like in a dogmatic cult, critics are not welcome. Governments have to do something, this is something, so let’s do that. Anything else has become unimportant. The economy, mental health, friends, family, nothing matters as long as we try to fight the virus.
A good illustration of how convinced a lot of people are that the state can indeed save us all is that many are now calling for a boycott, and even reparation payments, from the Chinese government. Why that, one might ask? Well, the situation is clear, the Chinese government let the virus out. The underlying assumption behind the idea that Beijing let the virus out is clearly that it was in control of it in the first place. To a sane person that does not make any sense. Viruses occur and spread naturally. It can only be understood within the mass delusion of seeing the state in charge of everything.
The attempt to control the virus does cause a lot more harm than good. People suffer great levels of stress and anxiety, which is going to shorten many lives. In addition to that, the whole economy is thrown against the wall. For state cultists, this does not seem like such a big problem. For many of them, the economy seems to be some kind of interest group of evil rich people. In reality, it is of course the great cooperation machine that gives us a chance to live good and long lives. If we stop cooperating, we are all alone on our own. And that is pretty miserable.
Non of that seems widely understood however. The believe in the state leads to very strange solutions. Instead of having a productive economy, we can just print our way out of it. Money for everyone. But what if that money cannot buy anything anymore?
An Economy is not like a machine. It cannot simply be switched off for a while and then restarted as if nothing happened. Many businesses will be gone for good. This will disrupt supply chains and the very important price signaling mechanism. The damage being done is enormous and will be felt long after this virus has disappeared from the news.
This would be true even at the best of times. This shutdown, however, comes at the very end of an economic boom that was prolonged artificially many times by central banks. We were due for a massive recession to correct the excesses of the boom anyway. A soft landing was the best we could hope for. But now we got a full on crash like never seen in modern economic history. The effects will be devastating. The absolute last thing we need in this situation is more central planning by the governments.
But central planning is what we are getting. As expected, these policies reveal the very common shocking low level of understanding basic economics. Hardly anyone pointed out the absurdity of keeping only the essential economy open. How on earth do politicians know which parts of the economy are essential? The economy is enormously complex. Every part influences the others. It is impossible to shut down certain parts of the economy without that having repercussion for the rest of it. The parts that are seen to be essential, like food supply, will suffer if other parts of the economy cannot operate.
This will make us all worse and worse off. Since the state cult is based in circular reasoning, there is little hope, however, that the reaction to this unfolding disaster is going to be less central planning. The fact that we will be worse off, will make the cultist scream for even more state control, which then will make things even worse, which leads to even more control etc.
We know from historic experience that this vicious circle can go a long way. It can bring societies to a total collapse. As mentioned earlier, these kind of believe systems only die when the evidence becomes overwhelming. And that overwhelming evidence will likely come in the form of millions of dead and an impoverished society. This was the result in many societies the last time this delusion peaked.
There is another danger here. At first this virus really looked more lethal than the flu. But the more we know about it, the less dangerous it appears to be. It is too early to tell, but it might very well end up to be just another flu virus. Think about the implications of that. All it took was a flu virus to turn even liberal democracies into lockdown police states, abolishing hard earned liberties over night.
This sets a dangerous precedent. A lot of aspiring dictators will watch this with great interest. There is always a deadly virus out there. All it takes is to put a camera on the victims and pretend that something very unusually dangerous is going on, and the sheepish people will beg the government to take over control. It is almost certain that this will be used to establish some tyrannies.
There is absolutely no evidence that governments can contain viruses. This is a superstitious believe that is not based on evidence. In a crisis, we need freedom more than ever. Freedom allows us to test our assumptions and actions. Let many people experiment with solutions and then we see what works and what doesn’t. One of the few good things coming out of this crisis is that suddenly a lot of medical regulations have been lifted in order to allow experimental treatments. Still, way too many regulations remain in place.
The cult of the state will not allow liberty to solve this crisis. It will give governments exactly one, all or nothing, shot at trying to solve the problem, wrongly assuming that unity is a strength. As always with central planning this one shot has almost no chance of getting it right. And we already seeing how horribly wrong the pursued solutions are.
All of this is very tragic to watch. I am not very hopeful for the immediate future. The whole horror will have to play out, there is nothing stopping it at this point. The madness of crowds is shouting down anyone who questions the official narratives.
We can only hope that people will have enough, and are going to be willing to change course, sooner rather than later. Only that will save us from going through the full horror show of a USSR or communist China. There is a realistic hope that not every country will go through the same amount of destruction. That means that people fed up with statism might be able to find some refuge.
I am hoping that the UK will not be the worst place to be. But the scary thing in this country is that the government seems almost more sensible than the people. And those sheep are allowed to vote. I will, therefore, carefully test that assumption and leave immediately, if it shows signs to be false. And I recommend for everyone else to do the same.