This is the editorial from the Spring 2020 edition of the IPA Reviewby Editor of the IPA Review, Scott Hargreaves. A Table of Contents can viewed here. IPA Members receive a print edition and online versions of articles are progressively released in the months following publication. To join/subscribe see here.
It is worth examining why the recent experience in Victoria is so commonly referred to as a ‘second wave’, when by any global standard there was never a first wave. Even now, Australia’s proportion of the total number of deaths attributable to coronavirus by the WHO is 0.088 per cent, compared to our 0.33 per cent share of the world population. Of our comparatively small proportion, 90 per cent of the 870 deaths occurred in Victoria after the notorious failure of hotel quarantine.
Our geographic remoteness perhaps played a part as we lost a sense of proportion. Dozens of cases here drove a panic that in Western Europe was associated with numbers in the tens of thousands. Decisions were taken quickly and some—such as closure of the international border—seemed to promise isolation and that eradication was possible.
Ever since our daily media has obsessed over administrative catastrophes (aged care, Ruby Princess, Hotel Quarantine) while hardly noticing the absence of a stable and articulated strategy—stumbling along until a vaccine arrives doesn’t count as a strategy.
IPA Research Fellow Andrew Bushnell in our Autumn edition accepted the logic of ‘flattening the curve’ but pointed out there were also risks of social catastrophe:
Along with the economy, something else is at stake in both catastrophes: society itself. Social collapse, by which I mean the loss of institutions, habits, and beliefs that constitute our social order, is also made possible by the disease and our response to it.
While the progress of the virus has been (after some effort in Victoria) more or less frozen, our institutions, our economy, and the fabric of society have indeed been breaking down. And flattening the curve has been replaced, without debate, by a de facto eradication strategy.
The list of damaged institutions begins but is not limited to our Federation—the foundation of our nation-State. Starting on page 16, former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, describes how it’s been:
… every jurisdiction for itself, in a form of ‘pandemic protectionism’. One Australian state with virtually no corona cases won’t admit people from another state with virtually no corona cases…
This is just one insightful point made by Mr Abbott in this important speech which we are publishing here as it should be read in its entirety, especially by those charged with managing the pandemic.
The frazzled Federation comes just as key States have plunged themselves in crises of their own making. In the Autumn issue we covered Victoria (Tunnel Vision), and in this issue Marcus Smith and Dan Petrie from Queensland on page 8 identify that State’s issues with public sector bloat, rising indebtedness and a shocking record of business bankruptcies.
At State and Federal levels fear of a pandemic has enabled an attack on the institutions preserving the free enterprise system, which is the foundation of a liberal democratic society. After 50 years of struggling against bastardised Keynesianism, we are back to no deficit or level of debt being too large, and all that matters is Government spending. That private investment and employment has been collapsing—as shown by Cian Hussey’s research on page 26—hardly receives attention. We are seeing that sources of actual wealth creation are being crushed in favour of an even bigger State; with the full support of those who pass for the elite of economic decision makers in this country. Gideon Rozner’s excellent review of Lionel Shriver’s dystopian novel The Mandibles beautifully lays out how that brilliant writer has described the end point of the economic insanity now running rampant in the Western world, turbocharged by a virus.
Meanwhile, all Governments now take it for granted that they can minutely prescribe the activities of business and the lives of their citizens. As Daniel Wild explains on page 52, this is exactly the sort of activity at which the ‘clerisy’—our new class of educated rulers insulated from the noise and muck of the marketplace—excels.
I have written elsewhere about how well what we have seen in Victoria maps to the seven signs of “Ethical Collapse” identified by Marianne M. Jennings in her 2006 book of that title. The seventh sign of ethical collapse is the most explicitly moral: “goodness in some areas atoning for evil in others.”
Clearly the Premier, Daniel Andrews, is convinced that all measures taken can be justified for the good of preventing deaths. This means he can ignore the moral and ethical problems with the measures he has ordered, and even to the other deaths that will pile up but which are counted in ledgers outside his myopic system.
In our cover story Laura Patterson describes the social costs of Victoria’s lockdown, as experienced by women in business who had to manage as all the supports for their complex lives were removed by Government edict. The impact on women with careers—and the expectation they would somehow manage customers and staff as schools were closed, child care was withdrawn, and social and business networks broken—is real enough. But most grating is that in the bubble created by the Government propaganda machine and its minions on social media any women daring to speak out were hounded and their complaints deemed illegitimate—precisely by those who usually virtue-signal their belief in the great cause of women’s participation in the economy beyond the home. Patterson points out the silence which resulted from this hostile environment should not be mistaken for acquiescence.
In this editorial I have mentioned only a few articles most related to the themes I wish to explore, but I trust you will find inside much great reading and food for thought, as we all grapple with how to preserve what is best and take our nation forward.