Governments Will Impose New Lockdowns If They Think They Can Get Away with It, by Ryan McMaken

Once governments seize new powers, they never willingly relinquish them. From Ryan McMaken at mises.org:

This year’s stay-at-home orders and lockdowns imposed by governments on their populations represent a watershed moment in the history of the modern state.

Before March 2020, it is unlikely that many politicians—let alone many ordinary people—thought it would be feasible or likely for government officials to force hundreds of millions of human beings to “self-isolate.”

But it turns out governments were indeed able to force a sizable portion of the population to abandon jobs, religious practices, extended families, and community life in the name of “flattening the curve.”

Whether through fear manufactured by the news media or through outright threats of punishment, business owners shuttered their shops and offices, churches closed down, and schools abandoned their students.

Over time, most governments lessened their restrictions, largely out of fear that tax revenues would collapse and out of fear that the public would become unwilling to obey lockdown edicts indefinitely.

Those fears—not scientific objectivity—have been guiding the gradual loosening of lockdowns and lockdown-related restrictions in recent weeks. After all, in many jurisdictions—both in the USA and in Europe—cases and case growth are far above what they were back in March and April when we were told that high case totals absolutely required strict lockdowns. If case numbers are higher now than during the previous peak, why no new lockdowns?

Make no mistake, many politicians would love to impose lockdowns again, and indefinitely. After all, the power to micromanage the behavior of every business and household in the manner of covid lockdowns is a power undreamed of by even the most despotic emperor of old. It’s not a power a regime would abandon lightly.

But could they get away with it? This is a question every prolockdown politician is asking. For the extent to which lockdowns have been scaled back and lessened, we cannot thank any enlightenment or change of heart on the part of politicians. If lockdowns now seem to be receding, it’s because policymakers fear another round of lockdowns would be greeted with resistance rather than obedience. In short, the retreat of lockdowns is a result of an uneasy truce between the antilockdown public (which is by no means the whole public) and the prolockdown politicians. The politicians have conceded nothing in terms of their asserted authority, but they nonetheless fear greater resistance in the future.

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