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The myth of lockdown socialism Libertarian conspiracy theorists still don't get it

This ain't socialism (JOSEPH EID/AFP via Getty Images)

This ain't socialism (JOSEPH EID/AFP via Getty Images)


and
September 20, 2022   7 mins

After taking the summer off, the lockdown wars are back. Last week, enthusiasts for Covid restrictions attributed the Queen’s death at the age of 96 to the after-effects of Covid, rather than old age, and argued that this showed the urgency of reintroducing Covid curbs this winter. On the other side, anti-lockdown websites such as the Brownstone Institute and the Daily Sceptic have run a series of features about the return of the lockdown zealots and the ongoing harms that have been caused.

As we make clear in our forthcoming book, we see lockdowns as a social, human and economic catastrophe of enormous proportions, which did very little (if anything) to reduce virus spread and death from Covid-19. We’re grateful to those who have fought hard to define this position, and continue to do so — even though we don’t agree with them on everything.

Perhaps the strangest idea still finding traction today is the notion among many influential lockdown sceptics that draconian Covid restrictions were some kind of socialist plot led by “Marxist” institutions, such as the World Economic Forum and China-sympathisers on the “woke” left. In a recent article, for instance, the San Francisco attorney Michael P. Senger draws links between the Wuhan lockdown and the way in which this was actively promoted in Italy in February 2020 by the Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who thought that the lockdowns “could be used to implement far-Left political reforms across Italy”. Meanwhile, American Institute of Economic Research director Jeffrey Tucker has described how the best way to deal with the overreach of lockdown bureaucrats is to simply abolish the failing institutes and replace them with private corporations.

We agree that Western state institutions have failed in the Covid era — proving to be utterly inefficient, terribly oppressive, or both. Yet it seems clear they failed not because they are state institutions per se, but rather because they have been captured by private corporations and their interests. In fact, the lockdown catastrophe and subsequent mass-vaccination-by-all-means programmes, and associated pharma and tech profiteering, are the clear outcome of decades of deregulation and marketisation advocated by pro-market conservatives. Yes, centre-Left governments, from Blair to Clinton, played an important role in implementing these policies, but no one in their right mind would call Blair or Clinton socialists — if anything, they symbolise the Left’s abandonment of its socialist roots. The same can be said of Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who hails from the anti-socialist, pro-establishment Partito Democratico.

A good example of such policies is the famous practice of the “revolving door”, where there is a cosy relationship between government and business, in which executives from companies enter senior levels of government — and then where senior civil servants move into top corporate jobs on leaving government. This policy has been actively championed by conservative policymakers, who stress how much government has to learn from business models, and believe that bringing executives into senior policy roles can help to trim waste and make government more efficient.

The Covid-19 crisis gave the lie to this claim, showing the dramatic consequences of revolving door politics. For instance, the man called to lead Operation Warp Speed — the US programme created to accelerate the development and manufacturing of Covid vaccines, which provided more than $10 billion of public funding to a handful of pharmaceutical companies such as Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) — was none other than  Moncef Slaoui, former GlaxoSmithKline executive (running its vaccines programme) and board member of Moderna.

Following his nomination, Slaoui was required to resign from a number of biotech boards funded by Operation Warp Speed, and to sell his Moderna stock, but was allowed to keep his stock in GSK, reported to be worth about $10 million. Meanwhile, in Europe, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, whose husband is medical director of a US biotech company, negotiated its biggest deal yet with Pfizer — for up to 1.8 billion doses — via a series of text messages with the company’s chief.

Or one could mention how the WHO went from being an entirely publicly funded institution to one increasingly dependent on private “philanthropic” institutions — first and foremost, today, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has been accused of “function[ing] as a trojan horse for Western corporations”, and which is increasingly recognised even by mainstream media groups such as Politico as key in market profiteering associated with the pandemic response. Many lockdown critics decry the role of Bill Gates in buying influence in the media, in pharmaceutical investments, and in government, yet few would consider Gates to be a socialist; in fact he’s considered the embodiment of philanthrocapitalism. It’s also rather obvious that Gates’s ability to exert this influence has not come from socialist policies of redistribution, but rather from the upward transfer of wealth which has been promoted by the neoliberal economic agenda of the past decades.

Then there’s the fact that both the FDA and EMA rely heavily on fees and charges levied on the very pharmaceutical companies they are called upon to regulate (respectively for around half and three quarters of their budgets) — a fact which, according to several observers, raises serious issues of conflict of interest. Moreover, both agencies have long been criticised for their revolving door problem. For example, the current executive director of the EMA, Emer Cooke, previously worked for Europe’s largest pharmaceutical lobbying organisation, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations.

Should we be surprised, then, that Western governments almost entirely funded the development of the vaccines, fast-tracked the approval process, granted manufacturers close-to-full immunity from liability over a whole host of issues, and then allowed the pharma companies to fully own the patents and even set the price of the vaccines? It seems pretty obvious who benefited from this — the corporations themselves — just as it is clear that this is the result of a pro-market agenda, not a socialist one.

Perhaps the clearest evidence for this can be found in the Global South, where the socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic response have had a catastrophic impact in low-income countries (LICs). As noted in the first edition of The Covid Consensus, some have said that these were decisions made by sovereign leaders — and that global pressure has had very little to do with this. Yet the truth is that 40 years of structural adjustment and austerity policies — driven by global financial institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF — eroded the ability of state budgets to provide for healthcare and education, leaving LICs and their health agendas to be shaped by philanthropic donors and their non-profit partners.

As the trauma of 2020 and 2021 fades into the reality of the painful consequences of 2022, a broader political reckoning is required. Those of us on the Left who recognise the appalling abdication of social and ethical responsibility which many — but not all — Left-wing politicians and intellectuals showed in the face of Covid must take stock of the reasons why this happened. This is something that many people are still coming to terms with: for us, the appropriation of the Left-wing movement by metropolitan liberals far distant from production chains and everyday realities of the global working class — whether in London, New York, Abidjan or Dhaka — must be a starting point for understanding how this has happened.

On the other hand, a similar reckoning is needed from those on the libertarian Right who have fought these restrictions. These did not emerge from some socialist plot, but rather from decades of policies of deregulation, revolving doors, and the capture of state institutions by corporations. If Left-leaning critics like us need to come to terms with the reasons for this catastrophic response, so must Right-leaning critics of lockdown policies recognise how they have followed directly from policies which many of them have supported for years.

What’s interesting is that the lockdown-cheering leftists and anti-lockdown libertarians actually have more in common than they would like to admit. Both outlooks are ultimately rooted in a fundamentally flawed view of the relationship between state and market. Both groups hold the belief that state-market relations are dichotomic, where the influence of one can only increase at the expense of the other. This is why many on the Left interpreted government activism throughout the pandemic as a welcome “return of the state”, one potentially capable, in their view, of eventually reversing the pro-market project of the past decades; while those on the libertarian Right, which see state interventionism as inherently socialist and anti-market, saw those same government interventions as expressions of creeping “socialism”.

But state-market relations are in fact symbiotic. Simply put, markets — let alone so-called “free markets” — can’t exist without the state. As Karl Polanyi argued, the emergence of so-called laissez-faire under mid-19th-century industrial capitalism entailed a highly active state to “embed” markets in society; to enforce changes in social structure and human thinking that allowed for a competitive capitalist economy. As he put it: “Laissez-faire was planned… [and] enforced by the state.”

This has remained true throughout the various phases of capitalism. If the state’s role under “Keynesianism” was that of mediating between the interests of capital and labour, over the past decades the role of the state has become that of securing the interests of Big Capital at the expense of everyone else. As witnessed during the pandemic, this makes the modern state intrinsically authoritarian. It also makes it inefficient, as it entails the creation of an environment favourable to the privatisation of public assets and services through institutionalised mismanagement. Various terms have been put forward to describe this system — corporatocracy, neo-feudalism, hyper-capitalism — but one thing is clear: it ain’t socialism.

Even more ludicrous is the claim that the World Economic Forum is a “Marxist” organisation. Now, people have been quibbling for the past 150 years about what Marxism is, but what it clearly isn’t is an ideology that aims to hand power over to the world’s most powerful corporations. In fact, the WEF’s Young Global Leaders initiative, responsible for putting several members of the ruling elite into positions of power in business and politics, can be traced back to the US’s Cold War efforts to counter communist influence while ensuring that future global leaders would be amenable to American interests.

So, while libertarians understand (better than leftists) that capitalism today is heavily reliant on “political intervention”, what they don’t seem to understand is that the “free market” they dream of would require an equally interventionist state. Interventionism is quite simply an inescapable fact of advanced modern economies.

The point is whose interests the state should serve. “Less state” won’t make us freer, let alone deliver some mythical “free market” — it will just make the majority of us even more powerless in the face of financial and corporate power, the concentration of which has led to the lockdown catastrophes. What we need is a state that does the exact opposite of its modern incarnation: one that represses Big Capital, while expanding the liberties and rights of individual citizens and workers. If there’s one lesson to be gleaned from the past two and a half years, it’s that we need to reclaim the state, not give up on it.


Thomas Fazi is an UnHerd columnist and translator. His latest book is The Covid Consensus, co-authored with Toby Green.

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Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

We agree that Western state institutions have failed in the Covid era — proving to be utterly inefficient, terribly oppressive, or both. Yet it seems clear they failed not because they are state institutions per se, but rather because they have been captured by private corporations and their interests.
While there may be some truth in this, I suggest this is not the main reason why the state has failed. They are missing the human and organisational factors.
These guys should read “Parkinson’s Law” which tells us exactly how public sector organisations develop into unacountable bureaucracies which relentlessy grow regardless of the real work they need (or do not need) to accomplish. “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion”, “expense rises to meet income”.
The decisive virtue of the private sector is that failing organisations eventually die. No such luck in the public sector.
The decisive failing of the public sector is “mission creep” – trying to do too much. Local councils are forever complaining about “not having enough resources”. Yet they find the time for “National Hate Crime Awareness Week” and such things.
“Not enough resources” usually means they either don’t know how to manage and prioritise or think they should not have to do so.
When the state sticks to what it needs to do and is properly led and staffed, it can do the job – the Queen’s funeral being one example.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

An excellent observation. Malign outcomes are not usually the result of malign intentions but the side effects of faulty analysis and systems that prevent those side effects being properly recognised and dealt with. Mission creep often simply ensures that those implementing harmful policies believe that the cure for the harms is more rigorous implementation of the harmful policies.

Strict segregation of those infected with covid from the uninfected was seen to be a sensible way of dealing with a new disease that appeared to have a high propensity to kill even relatively the young in an unpleasant manner for which there seemed to be no effective pharmaceutical treatment. This policy was then implemented both incompetently and excessively.

Incompetently in that old people, who were the most vulnerable group, were removed from hospitals to care homes without proper testing and without proper segregation with the result that a larger numbers of the elderly were infected than might otherwise have been the case.

Excessively in the rigour that lockdown was implemented on the young who were least at risk and in situations that could not possibly have resulted in transmission such as those walking in the open. Of course “testing your eyesight at Barnard Castle” carried negligible risk but because of the absurd rigour with which lockdown was implemented it resulted in an equally absurd furore in the press and with the public.

The problem was that having spread alarm over the risks of covid to encourage compliance with sensible restrictions the press and public clamoured for excessive measures that the government implemented. They consistently had majority support for excessive measures and in that sense democracy is no cure for the ills of bureaucratic overreach.

The NHS is still not equipped to deal with the next pandemic sensibly and wastes time and resources on diversity measures and other obsessions that appeal to the apparatchiks of the system rather than improving the delivery of health care.

It is a while since I read Parkinson’s Law and I can’t remember the remedies he suggested for the failures of bureaucracy, whether private or public. I seem to remember one suggestion was the involvement of dedicated teams of those who knew what they were doing reviewing the practices being implemented on the ground and having them dismantled if they were in fact not delivering the service they were supposed to.

As far as the more philosophical question as to whether the problem is too much socialism or too much capitalism the answer is that it is too much fascism in its true sense. Fascism is corporate socialism as implemented by Mussolini- in other words the revolving door between corporations and government where government and corporations become intimately intertwined. Capitalism is kept honest by competition- where corporations become imbedded in government competition is eroded and the benefits of capitalism is weakened. Capitalist organisations are not automatically more efficient than state organisations unless they are made so by competition.

Terry M
Terry M
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Great comment. I particularly applaud your correct use of the ‘f-word’, which is tossed around to mean authoritarianism in general and aggressive militarism in particular.
The authors’ statement
In fact, the lockdown catastrophe and subsequent mass-vaccination-by-all-means programmes, and associated pharma and tech profiteering, are the clear outcome of decades of deregulation and marketisation advocated by pro-market conservatives.
is utter nonsense. They ignore the collusion between government and tech companies to suppress dialogue and discussion, i.e. direct attacks on free speech and liberty.
Internet companies should be required to declare themselves either as publishers (where they are responsible for publication) or platforms (where they publish everything with no responsibility) as part of Section 230 enforcement. Instead, they try to have it both ways, whichever suits their immediate purpose. This is one of the gravest dangers to emerge in the past decade.
And why do the authors tar libertarians as conspiracy theorists when there are plenty of all stripes on that moronic bandwagon.

Last edited 1 year ago by Terry M
Brown Lyn
Brown Lyn
1 year ago
Reply to  Terry M

“or platforms (where they publish everything with no responsibility) ” Good to see you are a strong advocate of child pornography.

Karen Kwiatkowski
Karen Kwiatkowski
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Media, and big science, are just more corporate interests, integrated with and dependent upon the state, a state itself governed primarily by Parkinson’s Law, as well as the Peter Principle whereby “people in a hierarchy tend to rise to “a level of respective incompetence”. When I hear things like “if only we had teams of competent government employees with good character,….” this libertarian conspiracist sees only statist comedians.

Brown Lyn
Brown Lyn
1 year ago

Media is neither integrated with or dependent upon the state. Stop getting all of your information from professional liars that target complete imbeciles.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Forget an over arching conspiracy theory of left or right. Lets just point the finger at those who betrayed us in so many different ways. There WERE malign intentions. Some attached to our vast Statist Medical Industrial Complex plainly exploited the crisis to heap chaos on a ‘Brexit government’ they so despised. Leftist Teachers Unions were baying for a hard lockdown in early March 2020 and a year later were still ignoring the Science. They utterly sacrificed the welfare of the poorest children for political ends. The vast NHSS Medical Bureaucracy panicked like Boris for sure. They had forgotten to build hospital beds & had lost the Plan. But as we lapsed into authoritarianism, they showed zero interest in the health of anyone beyond their crumbling empire. So the welfare of the private enterprise sector and SMEs in particular were sacrificed on the altar of hysteria and blind self interest. The BBC sacrificed its right to a Charter in denying data dunch audiences any comparative year on year death data in a naked bid to induce panic. Then it stiffled all scientific dissent in a truly Orwellian way. Independent of the State?? The majority of the civil service, technocracy and the appalling media tart academic doom mongers got richer still via the lockdown savings bonanza and continued to shout down warnings of a terrible reckoning right to the end. And finally – the law. For decades we were assured that human rights laws would protect ALL of us – not just minorities – against tyranny. Plenty of other countries invoked these laws to seek protection. But here in the UK? No. Nothing.
It was a big fat lie. But neither the feeble Government nor complicit MSM has any interest in exposing these monstrous betrayals. They all have got away with it.

Brown Lyn
Brown Lyn
1 year ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

“Lets just point the finger at those who betrayed us in so many different ways.” The authors of this piece would be at the top of the list with their sociopathic decision to kill as many of their followers as they could

Robin P Clarke
Robin P Clarke
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Malign outcomes are not usually the result of malign intentions

Would be good to see some evidence in defence of that notion. I have seen tons of evidence proving the exact opposite. We have a (pardon the word) pandemic of criminality in high places.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Eventually some time after 9.00 am my response to your excellent observation will appear. It is currently unavailable as I used the forbidden F word. No, not that one but the political one. I should, of course, have kept a copy and reposted without the forbidden word. My failure was to remember that we are subject to automatic censorship.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jeremy Bray
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

An excellent comment, thank you.
However I must disagree with your remark about the late Queen’s Funeral. It is reported that only a mere 250K we able to see her in Westminster Hall. Frankly after twenty five years of planning I find that pathetic. Much more thought could have been put into this momentous occasion, and simply wasn’t.

Robin P Clarke
Robin P Clarke
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

This article has a high level of correct. I am old enough to have noticed that ALL political-governmental decisions are made to the favour of the biggest Big Money.
Before 2019, the Biggest Big Money was the globalisation lobby. Tourism, international trade, transport, hospitality, people-trafficking, and not least rental income pleasantly driven up by deliberately uncontrolled immigration.
In 2020, the Big Money of the vakz-peddlers took over. Just the “Fyzer” vak alone got $35 BILLION handouts of taxpayer money.
And now in 2022, the Big Money of Nato’s Arms Trade lobby has taken its turn, even to the extent of trashing everyone’s economy other than the RF’s, and meanwhile they certainly don’t care how many Ukrainian men get fed to the artillery meat-grinder. Saint Boris has been given his cut for services to the Arms Trade, and now our very own Lizzy is on schedule for her own pay packet in due course.

Last edited 1 year ago by Robin P Clarke
dave wayne
dave wayne
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

The decisive virtue of the private sector is that failing organisations eventually die.”
Not these days I’m afraid. The corporations that continually cause the most damage, the large ones, will never die; kept alive through ‘too big to fail and too big to go to jail’.

Stu B
Stu B
1 year ago

The fatality rate was always known to be below 1% and almost exclusively the very old and sick. We had this information before the decision was made. That should have been enough to know locking down whole countries was the wrong move. There was a protracted effort to instigate a lockdown with zero rational public discussion about whether or not this was the right thing to do and we are now living with the long term consequences of that decision.

Despite narcissists like Neil Ferguson weighing in and causing havoc in search or airtime and glory I mainly put it down to our weak politicians with their short term outlook and desperation for popularity, and a population that’s forgotten that people die and you don’t get to decide when that day comes.

Less than 1% (significantly less last I bothered to check) is not enough to ruin a generation of childrens education, trash the economy and plunge the planet into recession.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Stu B

Rather than the fault lying with politicians, it lies with the media who howled and screeched our elected leaders into taking precipitate action via lockdowns, aided and abetted by scientific advisors whose grasp of their subjects has been shown to be at best superficial and at worst mendacious.

Further, the same media and so-called experts howled and screeched some more when the decisions were taken to ease the lockdown restrictions, supported by socialist politicians whilst decrying the use of private companies to produce vaccines at scale. Should we have waited for state-owned companies to do so?

Of course, the mainstream media have the very same left-leaning agenda that the author has sought – and miserably failed – to exonerate with this article.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

We would still be waiting if we expected the state to produce effective vaccines.

Tendentious D
Tendentious D
1 year ago

We are still waiting.

Safe and effective is/was a mirage.

If only any politician that said it would lose the power they have proven they do not deserve.

Josh Woods
Josh Woods
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Add Dominic Cummings to that list, because he had been a major intermediary between SAGE and the media. In fact, he was the one who organized the press-led smear campaign against the Great Barrington Declaration, atop the fact that he was also a major force in coercing Boris in locking down the 1st time in March 2020.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Josh Woods

Fortunately he has now been thrown into the “ pit of eternal stench” as he so richly deserves.

Josh Woods
Josh Woods
1 year ago

True, but unfortunately not deep enough into the pit, as his senseless fearmongering can still be heard when Sumac tried to jump ship, and he hasn’t been called out as much as members of SAGE. Before Dom sinks into the pit of eternal stench(on which he still floats and thrashes like an eel) I’d hope he gets held accountable for what he has done which is arguably even worse than what BoJo did, who despite his countless faults was actually reluctant to go the lockdown route(which paved the way of the obscene amount of excess deaths from several obvious causes we now see), and even resisted at certain points. I don’t seek vengeance in him or SAGE, but I do hope that he and the rest of them(especially Null Ferguson, Susan Michie & Jeremy Farrar) gets exposed enough for the public to know that they are not to be trusted ever again!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Josh Woods

Yes spot on sadly. From first sight I have always thought of Cummings as MEKON, the evil alien in the Eagle Comic of yore.
His malignant presence certainly did for Boris with his totalitarian approach. A historian in the thrall of science is never to be trusted. As WSC put it “we wont scientists on tap NOT on top”.
I admire your magnanimity in not seeking vengeance, I wish I could say the same!

Josh Woods
Josh Woods
1 year ago

I for one always thought of him as a deformed Popeye’s head fused onto a rabid cobra snake, his oversized snake tongue & fangs waiting to reveal their abject horror. And full disclosure: My so-called ‘magnanimity’ only extends to a limited perimeter- I sure am NOT that forgiving to Null Ferguson because he has been a fraud since the very beginning of his career, having received literally zero training or degree for the job, just riding Sir David King & Tony Blair’s coat tails up to his post. But I digress.
PS All you’ve said here about Dom Cummings can be also said about Deborah Birx in the US, who is the counterpart of both Ferguson AND Cummings when it came to lockdowns(while Fauci is combined counterpart of Whitty & Farrar), as she was the one both fudging data and coercing Trump to lock down in March 2020, further proliferating Ferguson’s fearmongering. Interestingly she was also forced to resign in late that year for the very same reasons as the 2 aforementioned men. She then largely disappeared into obscurity until very recently(just to jump ship from Fauci on the vaccines), but somehow flew under the radar when it comes to her role in the US lockdowns which is at least equal to Fauci’s!

Last edited 1 year ago by Josh Woods
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Spot on

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
1 year ago
Reply to  Stu B

Yes we kept the elderly and sick safe from covid so they can now die cold and hungry. The people that supported lockdown did so because they saw themselves as prioritising health over wealth and were too stupid to understand that health and wealth are intrinsically linked.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

Exactly Lindsay, – I (and others) tried to make this point many times during lockdown, and was surprised by the vehemence and ignorance of those who thought health and wealth were diametrically opposed.
And despite the inevitable consequences now being up on us, they still don’t get it, if this article is anything to go by.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Stu B

Well said indeed. And we thought we knew it all, smug self satisfied fools that we are.
Consummatum est.

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Kerry Davie
Kerry Davie
1 year ago
Reply to  Stu B

Indeed; the IFR ‘struggled’ to get within hailing distance of 0.5% and the only people who were truly at risk were the very elderly (admittedly a sliding definition) and/or those with fairly serious other ailments. The exclusionary forcing of a vaccine, which now is seeming to evidence serious faults, and the extraordinary lock-down policies, should be seen as probably the greatest policy failure in history.

Trish Castle
Trish Castle
1 year ago
Reply to  Stu B

Established pandemic plans, possessed by most countries and endorsed by the WHO as recently as 2019, recognised all the problems associated with shutting down society in order to try to deal with an infectious disease. Here in NZ we have https://www.health.govt.nz/publication/new-zealand-influenza-pandemic-plan-framework-action. We also have this document drawn up in 2007 https://neac.health.govt.nz/publications-and-resources/neac-publications/getting-through-together-ethical-values-for-a-pandemic/. Nevertheless, NZ, like most of the rest of the world, appeared to ignore these established plans and ethical guidelines and instead opted for experimental “lockdown” strategies etc with the apparent aim of virus elimination etc. I have yet to see a government (including the NZ govt) explain why they did not follow standard, established pandemic management protocols. The authors of this article don’t seem to be asking this question either. Maybe they do in their book.

Last edited 1 year ago by Trish Castle
Rusty Shackleford
Rusty Shackleford
1 year ago

A good example of such policies is the famous practice of the “revolving door”, where there is a cosy relationship between government and business, in which executives from companies enter senior levels of government — and then where senior civil servants move into top corporate jobs on leaving government.

Even more ludicrous is the claim that the World Economic Forum is a “Marxist” organisation. Now, people have been quibbling for the past 150 years about what Marxism is, but what it clearly isn’t is an ideology that aims to hand power over to the world’s most powerful corporations

So if I’m reading the first point correctly, senior civil servants move into jobs in the most powerful corporations, carrying out the will of the state by proxy.
If the WEF’s goal is to concentrate power in the the largest corporations, and the corporations are regulated and influenced by the state, isn’t it just further empowering the government?
I mean it’s not the guy running the pub down the street attending these economic forums. It seems like a lot of high-level government officials and ideologically-charged executives. At what point do the two become indistinguishable?

Last edited 1 year ago by Rusty Shackleford
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago

senior civil servants move into jobs in the most powerful corporations, carrying out the will of the state by proxy.

The problem is actually the opposite. Senior civil cervants – and politicians – know they will eventually move into a very highly paid private job. That gives them an incentive to keep future employers sweet, betraying the interests the civil service pay them to defend. Once moved, it lets them (mis)use their civil service knowledge and contacts to work against their first employers, and whjile they are still in the civil service it confuses them about which interests they are supposed to serve (those of Boeing or the flying public, let us say).

Tendentious D
Tendentious D
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

The interests of Boeing ultimately IS the interest of the flying public.

In a truly free market, no one will fly on planes that are at best uncomfortable and at worst crash a lot.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Tendentious D

Not really. The Boeing 737 MAX killed a few hundred people in two crashes, near as I can see because Boeing insisted on having the same flying characteristics as the previous version, and either hoped that their quick fix would work, or thought that they could risk letting the plane fly for a couple of years (and earn money) while they came up with a proper bug fix. I am not an aeronautical engineer, but a critical system that takes flying control away from the pilot and depends on a single sensor without backup does not sound like safety engineering to me.

The thing is, much as I might like to, how do I boycott Boeing? If I want to fly from A to B I need to take the airlines that fly the route, and they are happy enough with the 737-MAX, apparently (now it is fixed, at least).

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago

The Lefties’ rhetoric is always Big Business and the victims are always SMEs. One can only conclude that lefties hate small business.

Rosemary Throssell
Rosemary Throssell
1 year ago

I’m a leftie and small business owner! So explain that to me please.

Tendentious D
Tendentious D
1 year ago

Of course they do.

God forbid people run their own lives.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
1 year ago

There need be no fundamental quarrel between left-leaning social democrats and right-leaning libertarians: they all may agree that too much concentration of power in either the state, corporations, or some ungodly mashup of the two is a Bad Thing.

Two horrendous world wars driven by the misplaced nationalism of both elites and the masses led to the creation, by states and with the support of left and right, of global institutions such as UNESCO, WTO, and indeed the WHO. All designed to create and maintain common systems of value and a supposedly politically neutrally space to collaborate and exchange information internationally. Few on the left or right would contest this as an aim.

As ever in human affairs, good intentions can lead to very great evils by flawed people being led into temptation. Bill Gates, Klaus Schwab and the WEFy young leaders are no socialists, they’re just attention-seeking, insecure people led in varying combinations by the need to be the clever boy or girl in class with all the answers, a saviour complex, and a desire to feed their fragile, insatiable egos through the accretion of worldly power, money, and status. At root, it’s a fear of their own inevitable mortal demise that gets projected by them on to the rest of us. Ditto the disassociated sociopaths in charge of pharma and tech companies. Similarly, the thugs in charge of the CCP – who might well call themselves communists – are not motivated by creating a socialist utopia, but rather by a deep rooted personal insecurity.

The whole lot them could be characterised by an absence of a belief in a higher power and a preponderance of a belief that they, and their allies & so-called advisors, know best. That there is only one “way out” and that their paradigm is the only true paradigm and nothing can shake or alter their worldview. A top-down mentality in which they, and they alone, are the architects of building back better whatever cultural or other heritage and knowledge they might destroy in the process. They don’t have the courage or strength to admit to such challenge.

So the real battle is not between left and right. It’s between a majority who knows that there are real limits to what we may hope to achieve in this life, that ultimately humans are not in control of anything, that we don’t and can’t have all the answers, that suffering and mishaps are inevitable, but that people do best when they are most able to make free choices to build happy lives for themselves and their families; and a minority of narcissistic so-called “leaders” who have spent their whole lives denying this reality by creating and procuring mansions, fast cars, personality cults, pharmaceuticals, abhorrent lockdown policies, Malthusian memes about an impending climate catastrophe, and any number of other ridiculous or downright dangerous symbols of their supposed potency and dominion over their realm and fellow human beings.

“Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!” James 5:3

Tendentious D
Tendentious D
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Very good except for the God part.

While I support the first amendment of the US Constitution, one can attain the same results whether or not one believes in a supreme being.

In fact, many folks with the same problems mentioned use religion (God complex) to justify their fervour.

Not to say that I don’t believe the Judeo/Christian ethic wasn’t responsible for liberal democracy but when we respect each other’s religious beliefs to the point that we don’t know them (or care), I believe that will bring us closer to true liberty.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
1 year ago
Reply to  Tendentious D

You may be right. And you absolutely correct that many people have abused religion for their own ends, or to pursue a narcissistic power-project and to justify all kinds of barbarism.

But if one does not possess a belief in forces, supernatural or otherwise, in the universe that cannot be known, understood and tamed, it’s going to be much harder to accept that humans’ destinies are ultimately not in our own hands. A wide-eyed belief in Enlightenment progressivism (of which Soviet communism is one variant, and WEFy techno-globalism is another), in which “h0mo deus” acknowledges no limits to his potential powers and so jettisons the at least metaphorical truths of the Judeo-Christian heritage which birthed the Enlightenment in the first place, can only end in disaster.

George Carty
George Carty
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Regarding the CCP, I wonder if the issue is that they have now adopted Zero Covid as a justification for the rule?
The USSR originally justified itself as a project to build socialism and ultimately communism (as defined by Marx) but by the Brezhnev era no-one believed that any more. As a result the Soviet Communist Party switched to the Cult of Victory (“we saved humanity from Hitler!”) as a new justification for their regime, and we all know how Putin’s Russia has now taken this to an absurd extreme.
Similarly, after the downfall of the Gang of Four and the rise of Deng Xiaoping, the CCP built their legitimacy on their ability to deliver economic growth. They were aided by that by highly favourable demographics: the huge numbers of children which Mao had encouraged the Chinese to have were now coming of age, while far fewer new dependent children were being born due to the new one-child policy.
(Incidentally, West Germany’s Wirtschaftswunder in the late 1950s owed much to a similar demographic dividend, as the products of Nazi pro-natalism entered the workforce.)
Unfortunately for the CCP, demographics are now working against China as the generation born under Mao is reaching retirement age, so the Chinese economic miracle is about to run out of road and the CCP is now desperately in need of a new justification for their rule.
Enter “Zero Covid”.

Teresa M
Teresa M
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

So well stated, your observation. it is a conflict between two different views of human nature and life, not a conflict between left and right. Ultimately the conflict transcends politics.

Paul MacDonnell
Paul MacDonnell
1 year ago

You are right that the ‘Marxist conspiracy’ argument doesn’t hold up. But you’re making a straw-man argument. The counter argument isn’t that the Marxist-conspiracy line is mistaken because the ‘state was captured by private greed’. It wasn’t a Marxist plot. But it was a failure of both government and governance.
Put it this way. The scene of the global COVID policy crime has hundreds, thousands of locations.
There is one set of fingerprints common to all of these separate crime scenes: government.
This doesn’t prove the anti-Marxists right. They are wrong for other reasons – the main one being that their argument is far too simplistic, reducing state blame to pure ideology.
Look instead at the growth of the administrative state, resting on 19th early 20th century public health policy as a developing responsibility of government. Look at the extreme risk aversion of both politicians and corporations in the face of a social media world that operates, as I said in an article for ‘The Critic’ as follows: “The dynamic relationship between social media platforms and their users can cause an online counterpart to what marine engineers call the “free-surface effect”: a phenomenon whereby a few inches of water on the deck of a ship can, if the rolling sea pushes it to one side, capsize it. Social media platforms can do something like this…”. Look also at the completely instrumentalist understanding of the purpose of science that is now almost universally accepted – even by scientists themseves. See Popper and Deutsch on why this is a very bad thing.
Fear of being blamed, deliberate government spread of panic as a tool of public health information.
The lockdowns were implemented at the point of a gun. Your analysis is similar to those East German Marxist economists who insisted that the Nazis were really a rear-guard action by fascists against threats to capitalism – and who then pointed to the German industrial sector which “supported” Hitler. This has been debunked by Richard Evans who points out that the impetus came very much from those in charge of public policy.
It is no different here. Merely saying that Pfizer made a lot of money doesn’t explain why the world’s public health bureaucracies lost their reason.

Last edited 1 year ago by Paul MacDonnell
Terry M
Terry M
1 year ago

WORD!

Nanda Kishor das
Nanda Kishor das
1 year ago

It depends on how you understand socialism. If it’s in terms of a drive to distribute wealth more equally, then Gates of course doesn’t fit in. But if you see that Marxism wants to bring about a re-vo-lu-tion meant to put an end to every institution our civilization is based upon – including, in its most radical iterations, things like language and even biological sex -, and make everyone poorer with the excuse of a few people (call it ‘the state’ or ‘corporations’, there’s no real difference nowadays) managing everything, then yes, Gates and Scwab and all the rest of them can be rightly called commies.

Political divisions between right and left have ceased to have any meaning, if ever they had any; we should just open our eyes to the dangers of utopian thinking, because it’s always just greed, atheism and hatred for humanity in disguise.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

Atheism has got nothing to do with this, and it’s entirely false to equate it with a lack of spirituality, as so many seem to do. Claiming that religion is the answer ruins many an otherwise well-argued comment, including yours.

Tendentious D
Tendentious D
1 year ago

Again I mostly agree but atheism is the antithesis of hatred for humanity. We believe we have one shot so best get it right while we’re here….to as many people’s benefit as possible…and that is free market capitalism, cheap energy and teeny tiny government….and local as much as possible.
Fed gov’s main role? Defense of the realm.

Leftists/marxists NEED to call themselves atheists as they see organized religion going hand-in-hand with capitalism and state power.

There are plenty of leftists who claim to believe in god if they think it can achieve their goal of state control.

See the current pope.

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
1 year ago
Reply to  Tendentious D

‘…as many people’s benefit as possible…’ – needs defining. Just the ones alive now? Their future children? Grandchildren? And so on. If everything is designed for the benefit of our current billions, there may be poor consequences for the next shift.

Adam Bacon
Adam Bacon
1 year ago

Many right of centre commentators will inevitably view the lockdown creed as being a left wing motivated phenomenon, since the left wing have acted as virtuous useful idiots, enabling the corporates/oligarchs to be successful with their campaign of fear.

Until ten years ago, it seems to me, there was criticism and opposition to corporate wealth from both sides of the political divide. The Occupy movement accurately viewed the corporates for what they are, and created a crisis for them, since an important part of their modus operandi is to remain opaque (the MSM that they control will after all look the other way).

The corporates appear to have aligned themselves (superficially at least) with the Progressive Left’s ‘good causes’ – social justice, identity politics, climate emergency etc. In response those who were involved with Occupy appear to have evaporated, apparently satisfied that their good causes are being backed. Consequently they appear to now be in lockstep with the corporates, and have happily virtue signalled with lockdowns, masks etc.

Thus any criticism of the official narrative nowadays is inevitably labelled as (extreme) right wing conspiracy, even from those of us who have regarded ourselves as centrist throughout our lives.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Adam Bacon

“Consequently they appear to now be in lockstep with the corporates, and have happily virtue signalled with lockdowns, masks etc.”

This is less mysterious than it appears. Most socialists are in fact would-be aristocrats without the title and the money. Once they themselves are in positions of privilege, they see no problem at all with inequality of wealth and power.

Josh Woods
Josh Woods
1 year ago
Reply to  Adam Bacon

To be fair there has been some leftist opposition towards the COVID narrative, some of them even the woke stuff, but sadly has been rejected by the mainstream left for all the wrong reasons, so the consensus among liberals or leftists is in fact an illusion. You’ve got Jimmy Dore and the Grayzone, plus Prof. Sunetra Gupta(one of the co-authors of the Great Barrington Declaration) describes herself as a socialist. And I’ve met some previous voters for Jeremy Corbyn who oppose all of this as well as detesting Keir Starmer & Wes Streeting. Furthermore, I’ve met dozens of people who are otherwise left/liberal or apolitical who disagree with the whole narrative, just that they don’t tend to the loud types on social media, and there are those who spoke out but got badly intimidated by their peers into silence(I was one of the rare few who spoke out even louder in the face of my ex-friends back in Adelaide bullying me). The major problem IMO is that the corporates managed to hijack the mainstream left by pandering up with the latter, and then conditioning them to aggressively cancel anything the corporates+authorities decree as ‘far-right’, including ones that can’t be pigeonholed as left/right: Jordan Peterson, basic biology, lab leak theory, libertarianism, the Great Barrington Declaration, RFK Jr., you name it. In other words this is exactly how a cult/hivemind is formed- through repeated and radical conditioning and indoctrination, and thus what the late George Carlin meant by:”Liberal orthodoxy is as repugnant to me as conservative orthodoxy.” of which I full agree with. I am open to examining the arguments put forth by both liberalism & conservatism, but when they became dogmatic orthodoxies, I’d be running away as fast as I can!

Last edited 1 year ago by Josh Woods
Grodley H
Grodley H
1 year ago
Reply to  Adam Bacon

Perfect summary of corporate policy (and the death of the Left) over the last 14(?) years.

Last edited 1 year ago by Grodley H
Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
1 year ago

The ‘lockdown socialists’ may not have created the policy, or the pandemic, but they certainly took advantage of it for their own purposes.
The last three years have been one, long, middle class Remainer/Green/ Corbyn-supporter work to rule. In industrial relations theory, it is known as ‘soldiering’. The aim was to bring down Boris Johnson (and his equivalents elsewhere), destroy capitalism and the jobs of the working class, and introduce Universal Basic Income, as well as destroying the recreational activities of the working class, such as pubs, football and package holidays. Lockdowns and masks gave them the opportunity to punish the working class whilst sanctimoniously virtue signalling about ‘the vulnerable’.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
1 year ago

Well, at least now we can see the misery that a UBS brings. Pity that we have to go through it but we can only hope that it will be a lesson learned.

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
1 year ago

The authors:

Perhaps the strangest idea still finding traction today is the notion among many influential lockdown sceptics that draconian Covid restrictions were some kind of socialist plot

Yes how strange, why would anyone think such a bizarre thing?!
From the book written by the Italian health minister:

I am convinced that we have a unique opportunity to entrench a new idea of ​​the Left… I believe that, after so many years going against the wind, there is a possibility of reconstructing a cultural hegemony on a new basis.

Oh. Well, maybe that’s just Italy. Surely more respectable institutions like the WHO aren’t merely hard-left activists in disguise?
https://www.who.int/director-general/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-speech-at-the-sixty-eighth-world-health-assembly

Above all, our work is driven by a fierce commitment to equity, social justice, and the right to health. As the number of countries aiming for universal health coverage grows, we are in a position to change the mindset that poor people living in poor places will inevitably have poor health care. This is no longer true.

Oh. They’re totally left wing as well.
Maybe there’s just plenty of blame to go around though? The authors:

the lockdown catastrophe and subsequent mass-vaccination-by-all-means programmes, and associated pharma and tech profiteering, are the clear outcome of decades of deregulation and marketisation advocated by pro-market conservatives

This kind of thing actually makes me kind of angry. I enjoy reading Unherd articles when they challenge my views but they have to be based in some sort of reality I can recognize. This article is nothing but socialists doing their standard trick of inverting reality and hoping people will buy it if they use enough words. It is pure, undiluted lying.
Everything that happened during COVID was driven by governments and the beliefs of entirely public sector people like Neil Ferguson and Tedros. Free market conservatives were attacked relentlessly, they weren’t even allowed on TV or into the media and small business – the cornerstone of free market conservatism – was utterly wrecked.
Pharma firms meanwhile only entered the picture after about a year of this untrammelled socialist dystopia, and then only as arms of the state. COVID vaccines have one customer: the government. The manufacturers are accountable to one entity: the government. You cannot sue them. You cannot pick which product you get. You could not even opt out of consuming their product in many cases. There is nothing, zero, nada, in common with this scenario and free market libertarianism. It is the polar opposite.
No – socialists and academics like these writers own this. It was universities that told everyone lockdowns were essential, then lied about them working, then told governments mass vaccination was the only way out. Not pharma firms. Academics. The public sector. No surprise that the world they implemented was a socialist one.

Last edited 1 year ago by Norman Powers
Russ W
Russ W
1 year ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

Yes.

Cormac G
Cormac G
1 year ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

If lockdowns didn’t serve market interests (or at least the interest of capital owners), how do you explain the largest transfer of wealth in history? You pick out some anecdotes but the core of this is that the same elites who have pushed privatisation, deregulation, globalisation etc were the same disciples of lockdowns and vaccine passports, principally because they have the same net economic result: the transfer of wealth from one part of society to an increasingly small part of another.

You mentioned free market conservatism, I would say that’s oxymoronic. ‘Free’ markets depend on the upending of the very things which define conservatism: small platoons, localised industry, family units, traditional mores, strong civil society, cohesive nation state etc. There’s a reason there’s a cast iron link between social and economic liberalism. The destruction of small businesses you mentioned is merely because all companies will seek to eliminate competition, and corporations are no different. I use to be a free market type before the 2020s, but the fact that lockdowns were the most profitable thing for (most) economic elites since the 19th century has forced me and many others to re-evaluate corporate capitalism as an organic mechanism of economic selection and instead a system reliant on unfreedom and parasitism to sustain itself. I would reiterate the symbiotic relationship between the state and markets, though I think this article did it far better than I could.

Last edited 1 year ago by Cormac G
Norman Powers
Norman Powers
1 year ago
Reply to  Cormac G

how do you explain the largest transfer of wealth in history

Socialist revolutions always cause massive and overnight wealth transfers to tiny oligarchies. Always. That outcome is evidence for this being a socialist conspiracy, not against.
There seems to be some real confusion here though. In most western countries the public sector doesn’t manufacture things (anymore). Therefore, the moment socialists decide they need to buy large quantities of some physical item, they must inevitably contract with or force the private sector to provide it. These days they mostly prefer to print the money and then make offers business can’t refuse. That doesn’t make what happens “capitalism” in any way and it doesn’t imply its those companies who caused it, no more than IBM caused World War 2 so they could sell tabulating machines.

the fact that lockdowns were the most profitable thing for (most) economic elites since the 19th century

Lockdowns wrecked the private sector “economic elites” outside of a truly tiny number of companies that got lucky, like those specialized in online shopping and a handful of pharma firms (not even most pharma firms). None of these firms had previously been advocating for them. Indeed lockdowns destroyed wealth on an epic scale – that’s why GDP dropped so massively – and have since created massive management headaches even for the erstwhile winners. For example companies like Amazon/Google now face a newly office-hesitant workforce and bloated payrolls that were taken on to meet the sudden demand shock, but who now have to somehow be let go.
That’s why to spin this as somehow a conspiracy by companies is to ignore the overwhelming abundance of evidence that we have about exactly what happened and when. It was people like SAGE, like Ferguson, like Fauci and the WIV and the WHO. We have their emails, we have the timeline. They were in the driving seat at every point.
Yet this article ignores all of that whilst literally citing an article by Senger where he lays out concrete evidence. Instead, he gets called a “conspiracy theorist” even as he literally cites the key player’s own books and interviews where they say things like “we realized we could get away with it so we did it”.

Last edited 1 year ago by Norman Powers
AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago

What we need is a state that does the exact opposite of its modern incarnation: one that represses Big Capital, while expanding the liberties and rights of individual citizens and workers. 

And yet you could argue that you need Big Capital to get behind the push for renewable energy and pollution free energy. Perhaps you need Big Capital to get behind the push to feed the global population?
Indeed you could argue that the Coronavirus pandemic was an example of how ‘the State’ panicked and fell back on state theatre to justify themselves.
Using a flawed Coronavirus experience as a reason for considerable political change is unjustified. Not every problem can be laid at the feet of Big Capital, or Small Capital for that matter. Perhaps we need a reformed state more than we need reformed Capital?

Tendentious D
Tendentious D
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

A much smaller state therefore letting the market do its thing.

Life is inherently unfair but the closest we’ve ever come to fairness is free market capitalism.

Capitalism is the only ism that happens naturally when people are free.

All others are coerced.

andy young
andy young
1 year ago

Personally I never regarded lockdown as a left wing conspiracy. It was simply, as ever, inspired by a desire to control people & make money whilst at it.
Unfortunately this does not exonerate the left wing. Far from it. It suited their authoritarian instincts to go along with it, which they duly did.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago
Reply to  andy young

“we see lockdowns as a social, human and economic catastrophe of enormous proportions”
This is writing from a biased extrovert perspective. Extroverts (most of the managerial and political class) are energised (not depleted) by face-to-face contact and noise, and you assume, wrongly, that everyone else is like you. 
Each to his own. I loved the lockdowns. I don’t drink, and hate obsolete offices and commuting. I’m also an introvert, as are c 40% of the population. Pubs being shut down affected me not at all. I can’t stand them. Unfunny drunks standing around talking crap. 
BTW, pardon the digression, but this is the best de-bunking of bars / pubs / clubs I’ve ever read:
https://waitbutwhy.com/2014/05/secretly-hate-bars.html
People under 25 may have been pining for such places, but few solvent adults were.
The freedom from the pointless and expensive drudgery of commuting and the misery of unproductive open-plan offices was a godsend.  
The so-called “lockdowns” gave me my life back, saved me money, improved my health and allowed me to see my kids. And, btw, we started a new company and took on 2 major rounds of investment and won an international corporate arbitration dispute (done over Zoom).
Oh, and our primary-school age kids’ literacy and reading / maths scores spiked sharply upwards.  
Your catastrophe, your “tyranny”, your “restrictions” was my all too brief entry into a word of health, happiness and freedom.  
Try to think past the end of your own noses, lads. 

Last edited 1 year ago by Frank McCusker
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

That’s a perfectly reasonable point of view, and though i don’t agree with all of it i’ve upvoted it to counter the inevitable downvotes.
My partner and i love going to proper British pubs because of their character, history, and also because they’re inhabited by unfunny drunks stood around talking crap!! One doesn’t have to socialise with them! The amount of amusement we gain is well worth it, whilst enjoying pints of the much more available than hitherto freshly-pulled real ales from all over the UK. Drinking from cans at home just isn’t the same.
My work takes place in a studio at home, and i too appreciated the peace and quiet afforded by lockdowns, in terms of traffic noise and pollution but i have commuted in the past so know what a godsend it must’ve been not to have to do so. There’s no harm whatsoever in deriving positives from otherwise negative events.

Cormac Grant
Cormac Grant
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

‘Try to think past your own noses lads’ I would suggest that you would benefit from your own advice Frank. Hundreds of millions in poverty, collapse in home ownership, recession (even depression) through the 2020s, the largest upward transfer of wealth since at least the early industrial revolution, and large sections of society criminalised and digitised. The spectacle of people being paid trillions in stimulus, representing wealth that didn’t exist, to stay in their room for 22 hours a day, shall be remembered as probably the biggest act of civilisational self harm since the Great Leap Forward

Last edited 1 year ago by Cormac Grant
Josh Woods
Josh Woods
1 year ago
Reply to  Cormac Grant

Amen Cormac! Also if you(the likes of Frank) can afford to own or rent a place where you can comfortably work from home, and in which your kids can learn better than at school(I learnt better outside schools, but mainly because I was sent to the wrong ones), consider yourself really privileged because not everyone can afford that. Also the pubs are not just places where people go to get drunk, but for others it’s the place to socialize with both their drunk AND non-drunk friends(saying this as a sober man not fond of certain drunk types) and also the places that provide jobs and event venues for people, a fact that appears to be too far for Frank’s nose to think or smell for. And apparently those introverts who like to spend time outdoors rather staying at home are also too far beyond a lockdowner’s nose to sniff for!
And alongside the Great Leap Forward, this whole purging of dissidents against official COVID narrative is basically the global version the Great Leap Forward’s hideous sequel- The Cultural Revolution!

Terry M
Terry M
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Oh, and our primary-school age kids’ literacy and reading / maths scores spiked sharply upwards.  
This is the exception (if it is true at all). Most kids were devastated by the loss of 1-2 years of in-person schooling. This hit the poor and minority communities hardest, of course, because they have fewer at-home resources and more parents were still required to be working.
Your attitude is remarkably selfish and short-sighted.
My grandkids did just fine and my business improved during the lockdowns, but it was definitely the wrong thing to do, economically, socially, educationally, politically, and morally.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago

While there are some valid points in the above, the general position seems to miss the observation first made by Mussolini that Fascism is the merger of the power of the State with corporations. Yes, I’m aware that there is more to Fascism than merely this, but even if we go as far as removing the label from this debate, it ought to be clear that the conditions in which State and corporate power can merge is relevant to this debate.

I can’t speak for other libertarians of course, but I have spent the past couple of years somewhat horrified at the very obvious manner in which corporations used the pandemic to leverage vast indulgences out of taxpayers’ pockets using the State as the mechanism. I did not diagnose this either as the action of market forces or the action of Statist authority: it was very obvious that the measures taken were in the interests of corporations with political clout and absolutely not in the interests of the small/medium business sector whose interests depend principally upon functioning free markets.

Being of the libertarian Right, I have little interest in defending socialism from criticism here, but for what it’s worth it ought to be obvious that the stated aims of socialism can hardly have been served by shutting down society. However I am interested in defending free market capitalism from any charge that it was involved in the debacle of the western pandemic policy response. Free markets are part of society and they, too, were outlawed to a tragic and indefensible degree during the pandemic: it is not correct, as the article argues, that markets were somehow involved at the top in a closed decision-making process during 2020/21.

As an additional point, I reject the arguments of Karl Polanyi in this context for the simple reason that trade and market forces very obviously predate government. That is not to say that market forces used to act in a regulatory vacuum – of course they did not, they were at all times governed by custom and culture to some extent at the very least. The emergence of Common Law and the principles of jurisprudence in the history of England is a story that emphasises this point very well, as observed by Hayek who pointed out that law has always existed prior to lawmaking. The other point is that even if you accept Polanyi’s arguments, you only have to look at the size of the State during the time he was commenting upon and compare it with now to see that there’s a crucial difference between Big Government and effective government, and since the pandemic controversy is being fought out between left and right on the ground concerned with the size and power of the State generally, it can hardly be ignored in this context.

Finally, I accept that Fascism is an over-used word these days, so I’ll retract from my use of it here just a little: by saying that even the word is inappropriate here, we still need a term to describe the corrupt and damaging fusion of state and corporate power which emphasises that it is not a feature of free market capitalism. The pandemic exposed rigged markets, not free markets.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Riordan
Russ W
Russ W
1 year ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Yes.

Colin K
Colin K
1 year ago

Another coincidence theorist.
Do you find it strange that all the WEF young leaders seemed to be the keenest and most authoritarian, Trudeua, Arden, Macron.
The covid response goes well beyond incompetence, to the point that other agendas were being clearly being pushed.
“The pandemic represents a rare but narrow window of opportunity to reflect, reimagine, and reset our world” – Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum.”
It’s on their website.

Josh Woods
Josh Woods
1 year ago
Reply to  Colin K

Add Devi Srihar, the hight priestess of Zero-COVID who is yet another WEF young global leader(and a Clinton Foundation+Wellcome Trust crony), plus the usual nerdy reptiles like Gates and Zuckerberg.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
1 year ago

Fascists have a long historical record of calling what they are doing ‘Socialism’. Why should this lot be any different?

Terry M
Terry M
1 year ago

F***ism is socialism, except the means of production remain in private hands but are directed and overseen in a partnership with government. It is not very different from ‘crony capitalism’, which is a stepping stone on the way to socialism

Tendentious D
Tendentious D
1 year ago

It isn’t.

Note antifa.

Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
1 year ago

Whatever we “call” “them”, we have to consider who benefited and who was punished: Clearly, governments (of a certain stripe – lefty-socialist) benefitted in seizing vast new areas of centralized control; Pfizer, Teacher’s unions, Jeff Bezos, delivery services, Netflix et all became 33% richer and in control of vastly greater market share (although, with the resulting inflation from Big government spendings may mollify this somewhat”;

small business and “non-essential” workers and school-aged children and their parents suffered and went out of business

Now, empty-suit Biden claims the pandemic is over (but keeps his emergency powers in place – eg the illegal attempt to single handedly release student borrowers from repayment – based on emergency).
Plus, You lost and I lost with rampant inflation mostly fueled by pumping “free” money into the world economies – with Central Banks as their midwives.

DONT need conspiracy theories to understand who’s better off and who’s worse off.

Josh Woods
Josh Woods
1 year ago

Fun fact: The word “f****sm” actually derived from the Italian word “fascio” meaning “bundle”, which refers to a large bundle of people under autocratic rule, and this is depicted by their flag of a bundle of sticks tied around an axe(representing the autocrat). And the idea was to create a monolithic unity that utterly shuns dissenting views seen as disruptive to the former, and draconian means are often encouraged in order to achieve this. I don’t know whether or not that constitutes socialism, but it certainly sounds like what’s been happening the past near-3 years!

Last edited 1 year ago by Josh Woods
Josh Woods
Josh Woods
1 year ago

The elephant- no, mammoth in the room is that lots of self-proclaimed leftists, socialists, marxists, etc. have been badly duped by narcissistic frauds(in the literal clinical sense) like Fauci and Ferguson and of course Big Pharma that lockdowns & mandates are THE ONE AND ONLY socialist orthodoxy- which is far from true even if they contain certain socialist elements. Prof. Sunetra Gupta, Jimmy Dore and the folks at the Grayzone are socialists, but they reject these mandates and censorship outright(in fact they are simultaneously quite libertarian as well, and I personally fall into the same category) albeit labelled by the mainstream left media as not left-wing, and the same can even be said about George Orwell himself. Furthermore, if you asked many leftists & socialists back in 2019(I did in some ways) about lockdowns & mandates they’d be shuddering instantly. It’s rather unfortunate that certain corporate interests colluded with certain militant factions among the left to usurp the rest of the left and perhaps the rest of the populace, thought I should argue that the left/right dichotomy is become less and less important, but more so the authoritarian/libertarian dichotomy. In reality the COVID/Great Reset cabal can be referred as an oligarchy-led communism in which the oligarchs from governments and corporations become the collective of despots controlling the populace- which I think sums up what the WEF actually is.

Last edited 1 year ago by Josh Woods
Russ W
Russ W
1 year ago
Reply to  Josh Woods

Quote of the day, “ In reality the COVID/Great Reset cabal can be referred as an oligarchy-led communism in which the oligarchs from governments and corporations become the collective of despots controlling the populace- which I think sums up what the WEF actually is.”

Last edited 1 year ago by Russ W
Josh Woods
Josh Woods
1 year ago
Reply to  Russ W

Thanks Russ. In the context of the WEF the large corporations, especially Big Tech, can arguably be interpreted as a government organization- if we were to refer the WEF as a government.

jim peden
jim peden
1 year ago

It looks to me like state and corporate power have discovered that it’s in both their interests to rub along together (bar the occasional spat). Messaging that’s consistent across the public and private sectors has become a lot easier in the information age. Whether the message comes from corporate marketing department or government nudge unit it’s still intended to propagandise.
We do indeed now have an ideocracy – whether it’s politically left or right doesn’t matter, the results are ill-considered policy and appalling outcomes. Peter B noted that failed private sector organisations eventually die. This can also happen with states and although it’s rare, it ain’t pretty.
The habit of government to jump in the sack with big business has a long and sordid history. It’s become convenient over the past few decades and we’re all reaping the rewards.

Punksta .
Punksta .
1 year ago

You obviously don’t need a conspiracy for actors to to act in concert, merely for them to have a common vested interest.
That’s what the ‘libertarian conspiracy theory’ theorists fail to grasp..

Last edited 1 year ago by Punksta .
Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
1 year ago
Reply to  Punksta .

…you got it.

Maureen Finucane
Maureen Finucane
1 year ago

The one glaring inconsistency is that residents of care homes, whom lockdowns were designed to protect, were utterly failed and account for 40% of deaths from Covid. This was everywhere, including Sweden.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

What an apposite remark, thank you, and I am glad that you have calmed down since yesterday.
By the way yesterday you said you were “off”. What happened for this Damascene conversion may I ask?

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
George Carty
George Carty
1 year ago

Sweden is particularly notable because (IIRC) the independent over-75s had hardly any Covid deaths there: almost all the Covid deaths were of over-75s who either lived in care homes, or were dependent on carers visiting them at home.

Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
1 year ago

Excellent point!! Forgot about these truly innocent victims of Government policy (and lack thereof) – the defrocked Ex-governor of New York State (Cuomo) knowingly sent COVID patients into nursing homes (knowing what the result would be, though the facts are still gathering).

Last edited 1 year ago by Richard Pearse
Bernard Hill
Bernard Hill
1 year ago

As Peter B’s comment notes, Thomas and Toby would benefit from a re-reading of Parkinson, and a more extensive reflection on the nature of human bureaucracy at scale, which is common to both the private and public sectors.
The only feasible accountability for all such organizations, is to those personally remunerated from within the institution and its ambit. This iron law, makes Thomas and Toby’s hope for ‘reclamation of the state’ a complete fantasy I’m afraid.
[Disclosure: I am currently serving in my fourth country role, as a senior public official.]

Last edited 1 year ago by Bernard Hill
Martin Smith
Martin Smith
1 year ago

It’s really about the use of redundant politcal descriptors. There are no Marxists especially in Washington Westminster or Davos. There aren’t any in Bejing either, just as there are no fascists in the Grand Old Party or Tory HQ. The real division is between the technocrats, their fellow travellers and the rest of us. ‘Left’ and ‘right’ are just legacy terms used to divide us.

Paul Walsh
Paul Walsh
1 year ago

So the capitalist pigs decided to ruin the economy to keep big Farmer happy. Coming up with one stupid theory to counter another isn’t helpful. It just proves you view everything through your own political lens. The government initially tried to be sensible, the media howled and the opposition jumped on the bandwagon. A little bit of help from idiots like Dom and panic set in. Its much easier to follow the herd. Similar dynamics in other countries.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 year ago

A conflation of the libertarian and corporate right. The small business owner who has or is going bust and about to have their assets raped by the banks has little in common with the large corporates whose CEOs have a direct line to Tory government ministers.
There is also a simple truth missing. Those who are most in favour of lockdowns are now the healthy who can work from home. Our understanding that we can only consume because some of us produce has been so degraded that the Labour Party has ignored the question of how to produce the goods and provide the services we need since 2010.

John Croteau
John Croteau
1 year ago

This isn’t a matter of pro-market agendas. It’s a matter of corruption. Western governments have proven incompetent and inept at managing much of anything, let alone an epidemic. The most insightful and effective leaders always find their way to the private sector, so you can’t get away from that influence. But you CAN demand a degree of morals and ethics that put the best interest of the PEOPLE ahead of profiteering. This debate about socialism versus pro-market capitalism is a distraction from the real issue — accountability from those who imposed and maintained failed policies out of Corporate and self interest. Still, no one is still being held accountable because of political power brokering, even though the perpetrators are obvious.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Croteau
Gordon Arta
Gordon Arta
1 year ago

A book plug by 2 left wing ideologues, with no medical or health qualifications or expertise, using the Left and Right responses to the pandemic to argue for their own style of autocracy, rather than others.

Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
1 year ago
Reply to  Gordon Arta

Amen! A waste of time reading it

Paul MacDonnell
Paul MacDonnell
1 year ago
Reply to  Gordon Arta

The reason why they are right that it was a disaster is precisely because foolish policy-makers made the mistake you’re making – i.e. to believe that public health policy can only be made by ‘health experts’.

Jerry Smith
Jerry Smith
1 year ago

Spot on. I used to subscribe to Lockdown Sceptics which was a breath of fresh air, but when it morphed into the Daily Sceptic its association with the right agenda became obvious and I withdrew my subscription. And I live in Sri Lanka where the economic impact of the world’s over-reaction to the pandemic could not be more striking, yet the media assign the country’s parlous state entirely to local corruption and political mismanagement. These play a part, but the country has lived with corruption and economic stupidity for decades – what’s new is the economic damage caused by lockdowns. The Sri Lankan elephant in the room.

Jonathan Story
Jonathan Story
1 year ago

The analysis is made in terms of a left/right dichotomy, socialism v. neo liberalism. The one constant is that specific knowledge is built over time in corporations, and that state regulators depend on the resultant expertise. Hence the phenomenon of capture.
So what conclusion to take? I take the conclusion from this analysis is that what happened was bound to happen, whether or not new liberals had cleared the decks in the first place; The fact of the matter is that both the US and Chinese governments were involved in dodgy bio research; that operational expenses are lower in China than in the US; that Chinese/US bureaucrats were hand in glove; then Trump came along and declared trade war on China; so China decided to export the virus in retaliation, and hey presto we get what must be one of the first state produced epidemics.

In short, I don’t think this analysis gets to the bottom of the problem.

Perry de Havilland
Perry de Havilland
1 year ago

This article makes a fundamental mistake by acting as if all socialism is Marxism, which is clearly untrue. The socialism that has come to dominate the modern world is not Marxist at all, it owes far more to the Henri de Saint-Simon and Giovanni Gentile traditions of socialism. Yes, the WEF are clearly not Marxist (a preposterous notion), they are corporatist socialists. WEF are not established to oppose socialism, they were set up specifically against Marxism.
Also, never mistake or conflate pro-business sentiment with pro-market sentiment. Big businesses & Big Government are united in their dislike for actual free markets. Saint-Simon & Gentile were certainly ‘pro-business’, likewise everyone’s favourite Bond Villains Klaus Schwab & George Soros.

simon deeming
simon deeming
1 year ago

Yes exactly. The corporates running the show love socialist and environmental ideas because the policies that stem from them create barriers to entry. So it’s socialism for everyone else but not for them.

Su Mac
Su Mac
1 year ago

“As witnessed during the pandemic, this makes the modern state intrinsically authoritarian….Various terms have been put forward to describe this system — corporatocracy, neo-feudalism, hyper-capitalism — but one thing is clear: it ain’t socialism.’
Maybe not socialist – I think that word has become a way to insult the left in the way far-right is used to insult conservatives.
Anyway..all right minded people have to be on the left these days, or else.

Graff von Frankenheim
Graff von Frankenheim
1 year ago

The authors have failed to convince me that the intimate relationship between the modern state and big corporations must lead to the conclusion that the lockdowns were imposed at the bidding of those corporations. The article doesn’t provide an argument as to how lockdowns and the other repressive measures were (or could have been regarded at the time as being) in the interests of the capitalists? Why would the corporations want to close down the economy? What was in it for them to ruin the lives of their customers and to disrupt supply chains on which their own businesses relied?

Last edited 1 year ago by Graff von Frankenheim
PB Storyman
PB Storyman
1 year ago

The authors seem to conflate two very different pandemic circumstances, lockdowns and vaccine production. One can make the argument that so-called “big pharma” benefited from the vaccines they produced. The justifications for those benefits are also readily made. (One could also make the argument that certain segments of the market are and will continue to benefit from massive government largesse directed at the so-called “climate crisis”. Indeed, point to any business segment short of your local mom and pop antique store or diner and you may find its lobbyists hard at work to wring taxpayer dollars from the hands of the legislators in whose hands those dollars are [foolishly?] entrusted.)
However, it is difficult to make the argument that business, and certainly capitalism as a whole, benefited from lockdowns. I would suggest that, if business interests had access to a revolving door into legislators’ offices, they would have been demanding to “let my people go”. Indeed, if business is as callous and insensitive as some on the left believe it to be, its leaders would have insisted on keeping the machinations of the economy and the supply chain running at any cost, even the cost of the lives of workers. Recall that the world economies were humming quite nicely when COVID hit. Surely the titans of industry would not have welcomed, much less endorsed, the shutdown of factories, stores, restaurants, and travel if their influence could have kept them running. Higher resource costs, still-empty corporate buildings, billions of dollars in extraneous healthcare and PPE costs, etc., would surely have dissuaded even the largest corporations from seeing the benefits of the potential injury to smaller competitors.
Thus, if “big business'” revolving doors exist, perhaps they didn’t work due to the overwhelmed pressure on legislators to “do something, anything, even if it’s wrong”. Or, perhaps there were too many revolving doors, doors leading from both sides of the political aisles, each with competing interests. After all, the left has its revolving doors, too, else we might not have a “climate crisis”. Either way, the revolving doors of “big business” failed to stop what proved to be wildly errant strategies. Somehow, their influence stopped with Operation Warp speed and failed to change the outcomes of foolish policies, many of which remain in place.

Simon S
Simon S
1 year ago

Terrific article, thank you.

Tommy Abdy Collins
Tommy Abdy Collins
1 year ago

I understand the Queen had a fall at Balmoral and this started the inevitable as it does so often amongst old people. The fall rendered her unconscious and the next morning she had a heart attack and no amount of medical intervention was able to stop her from dying.

Russ W
Russ W
1 year ago

Wow, I got much more from the comments than from the story. But the story made me think too.

rob monks
rob monks
1 year ago

An excellent piece. I didn’t actually realize that the state and market are symbiotic.
As Karl Polanyi argued, the emergence of so-called laissez-faire under mid-19th-century industrial capitalism entailed a highly active state to “embed” markets in society; to enforce changes in social structure and human thinking that allowed for a competitive capitalist economy. As he put it: “Laissez-faire was planned… [and] enforced by the state.”

Rowan Lloyd
Rowan Lloyd
1 year ago

Our “elites” are in a courtship dance to ensure their positions at the top of the heap. Given the objectives of centralised asset ownership and enslavement of the workers are mutual to socialists and monopoly capitalists, their collusion is unsurprising.
Their ingenious 21st century marketing twist is “Universal Basic Income”, which aims to both buy complacency and neuter the old Soviet joke…..
“We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.”

James Anthony Seyforth
James Anthony Seyforth
1 year ago

The fundamental difference between 19th century statism, or philanthropic statism and today, is that many of those historic men had the fear of God still somewhat in them,or genuinely believed in individualism and the commons. Whether they were good or bad Christians, when it came to the final call, they had to at the very least make some one freer today than yesterday, and it was done from fear of a kind of religious retribution or for the belief in true liberalism.

Now philanthropists are just conglomerate monsters who want to make the world better by controlling it and segmenting it into corporate departments of their choosing. The whole world feels like a private space now because we’ve reneged on the age old concept of the commons. It’s English and British people’s fault for defaulting on this concept, for loosing the morality of a common shared space that isn’t to be sold or comodified, and the idea that individuals could transform the world without just using industrial and political machinery. The USA basically won this battle and forced England and the world to follow suit into privatisation. It was a huge conceptual and philosophical mistake to not force out such a deconstructionist agenda.

Again it’s not that there should be no private spaces but that the balance of power between, and the way the law and corporations have access to, common and private spaces defines this era.

For example, there should of been be no possibility of business having any regulatory affect on health matters in pandemic. For your average worker (of course not withstanding some exceptions), there should be no ability to require masks, require testing, enforce staying at home and demanding vaccine status etc. Many business had access to this commons type power, regardless of what the law said, business had extra sway to enforce their will against people and make up rules willy nilly. And this is a direct result of selling the idea of the commons away, of reducing common spaces to that which is basically filled only with free air and open spaces. It is absurd and a failure of modern thinking. A business is not a mini-state and must not have privilege in legal matters over individuals. It’s that simple.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commons

Jürg Gassmann
Jürg Gassmann
1 year ago

Well said, thank you.

Jim Quirk
Jim Quirk
1 year ago

So I just had a mild case of covid,first time since outbreak. I take 1k vitamin c, zinc and D3 before doing home test which shows positive went to express care to verify nurse says no need just isolate 5 days mask 10 days after. I joked “panic over” nurse laughed said yes and added covid just another flu. Rode my usual 5mi bike ride

Zork Hun
Zork Hun
1 year ago

This is a typical attempt to save the idea of socialism, without ever defining what they mean by it.
They do it with a classic example of the strawman argument.
There is NO libertarian who would call the unholy alliance between big business and the state an example of free market capitalism.

Vyomesh Thanki
Vyomesh Thanki
1 year ago

For balance read carefully with an open mind: ‘What scientists have learnt from COVID lockdowns. Restrictions on social contact stemmed disease spread, but weighing up the ultimate costs and benefits of lockdown measures is a challenge.
https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-02823-4?utm_source=Nature+Briefing&utm_campaign=6029f01091-briefing-dy-20220907&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c9dfd39373-6029f01091-47252016

Last edited 1 year ago by Vyomesh Thanki
Paul Hendricks
Paul Hendricks
1 year ago
Reply to  Vyomesh Thanki

That article is simply no good, I’m afraid.

Though the picture of the middle-aged man in Melbourne, wearing a paper mask in his own home, pressing his palms against the window is darkly amusing.

Then again maybe I shouldn’t poke fun at this “hero,” who after all stayed at home with a ridiculous object on his face, thereby “saving countless lives” and so on, right?

Sue 0
Sue 0
1 year ago

No state at all, is the conclusion I draw.

Brown Lyn
Brown Lyn
1 year ago

As we make clear in our forthcoming book, we see lockdowns as a social, human and economic catastrophe of enormous proportions, which did very little (if anything) to reduce virus spread and death from Covid-19. ” thank you for admitting you are lying scum upfront so i don’t have to read any farther.

andrew harman
andrew harman
1 year ago
Reply to  Brown Lyn

Puerile, hysterical ad hominem nonsense. You clearly have little taste for mature debate so off you trot to the BBC HYS.