by Izabella Kaminska
Wednesday, 13
July 2022
Idea
16:00

Brace for winter lockdowns

Covid may not be the only justification for more restrictions
by Izabella Kaminska
Will these signs re-surface this winter? Credit: Getty

Many of those who opposed lockdowns for the pandemic, predicted that the policy — if normalised — could one day be taken advantage of by opportunistic political forces to deal with almost any crisis. It was, as Lord Sumption once suggested, a potential pathway to authoritarianism. “If we confer despotic powers on government to deal with perils, which are an ordinary feature of human existence, we will end up doing it most or all of the time,” he wrote in November 2021.

Well, we are now facing just such a crisis. And there is a not insignificant chance that lockdowns might be revived, not just as a knee-jerk reaction to cope with a prevailing health crisis, but also, troublingly, an economic one. 

The monkeypox health scare may have failed to get traction, but as Covid cases begin to rise again, the slow beat of pro-lockdown messaging is beginning to circle again in the mainstream media. 

For now, the public remains far from receptive. But this could change as soon as energy shortages and supply chain issues begin to bite this winter, which they surely will. The public has already been primed to believe that lockdowns were great for generating energy savings. We saw the evidence of that with our own eyes. Traffic jams disappeared. Oil prices went negative. Air pollution reversed.

In the face of late Soviet-style chaos on the streets, unconstrained inflation, not enough electricity to heat the homes of the vulnerable, the prospect of order emanating from the “temporary” suspension of a market economy might seem appealing.

It’s even easy to predict the messaging that might feel compelling: ‘Stay Home. Don’t queue. Save Energy.’ Or, ‘Bread and energy is cheap if you stay home!’

But here is why we must not fall for this line of logic. Planned economies are what got us into this mess to begin with. Covid, the war in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia may have all added accelerants to the fire, but the smoulders were burning ever since the 2008 global financial crisis nearly brought down the system. It’s just that the consequences of papering over the flaws in the system rather than properly addressing them only became visible in late 2021. 

It took 70 years for the communist system to fall apart under the weight of its own capital misallocation. We’ve managed to achieve it in about 14 years. At the heart of the problem is the poorly thought-out subsidisation of negative-sum business models propelled by excessive cheap money in the system. 

In the communist period, this sort of misdirection was the fault of state bureaucrats who had no idea about what people really wanted. This time it’s been driven by deep-pocketed Western venture capitalists who became convinced that outsized rents from monopoly interests could compensate for short-term non-profitability.

That’s not to say the market economy is perfect or free of its own negative externalities. It definitely needs political guidance and a moral backbone to stay on course. But locking people down is not the answer. This only addresses the symptoms, not the cause. 

Our best path out of this mess is to keep the system as free as possible so that the people themselves can innovate their way out of trouble. Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. Allowing human ingenuity to thrive in a free system is our best chance to solve our economic woes.

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J Bryant
J Bryant
29 days ago

Further lockdowns will be a self-inflicted wound and we won’t have the excuse that we didn’t know how much damage they’ll do.
Fool me once…

Last edited 29 days ago by J Bryant
Philip Stott
Philip Stott
29 days ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I think it gets a bit sticky if the government mandates WFH where possible.
Companies, will I think enforce it if for no other reason than they’d be leaving themselves open to being sued should they tell their employees to continue to come to work and then they subsequently got sick with COVID.

Adam Bacon
Adam Bacon
29 days ago

Lockdowns are a form of madness! Does anyone really think they a solution for anything? For sure they cause multiple problems…

Paul O
Paul O
29 days ago
Reply to  Adam Bacon

They are brilliant for some people Adam.

If you want to control whole populations and impose your crazy ideals like some kind of Bond villain, then it is hard to think of anything as effective as locking everyone in their houses.

Who would have thought everyone in the world would go along with it?

Last edited 29 days ago by Paul Smithson
Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
27 days ago
Reply to  Paul O

I think Covid lockdowns were one of the reasons social justice and BLM took off during the pandemic. When you meet in person the private conversations before and after the meeting and the body language of people in the room convey as much information as the meeting itself. In particular it is where dissent is often expressed. Covid lockdowns are a great way to impose conformity because they remove the ability to build coalitions of dissent.

Martin Adams
Martin Adams
27 days ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

Thank you. That’s a thought-provoking observation.

Bruce Crichton
Bruce Crichton
29 days ago
Reply to  Adam Bacon

Lockdown is supported by those who want the results of lockdown: totalitarianism and economic collapse.

Kathy p
Kathy p
29 days ago

Perhaps it would be time for some civil disobedience? If enough people refuse, it can’t be enforced. How many businesses will turn away most of their customers for lack of a mask? How many arrests or citations can be issued?

Mike C
Mike C
29 days ago
Reply to  Kathy p

Civil disobedience – that worked well on Jan 6th didn’t it. Not the way to handle situations as in the end everyone actually loses at least in recent times.

Art C
Art C
29 days ago
Reply to  Mike C

Jan 6 only got out of hand a little when Ray Epps and his team got involved !

RufusVonDufus2
RufusVonDufus2
28 days ago
Reply to  Mike C

I dunno, Mike C, when I look at how successful BLM and Antifa carried out their madness.

Mary Bruels
Mary Bruels
26 days ago
Reply to  RufusVonDufus2

The difference between Antifa/BLM and Jan 6 is that the former had the whole hearted support of the mainstream media. If there is another attempt at lockdowns, whose side do you think the media will take?

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
28 days ago
Reply to  Mike C

Jan 6th was a disorganized riot that got out of hand, and riots have never been a very effective form of civil disobedience. Think boycotts, strikes, jury nullification of unjust laws, refusal of states and localities to enforce unpopular laws, etc. Passive forms of resistance are far more difficult to eliminate than obvious aggression, and governments incur far more backlash for doing so. Consider the farmer protests in India that successfully cowed the Modi government into repealing the pro-corporate farm bills. One doesn’t have to storm the Bastille to make a point,

Last edited 28 days ago by Steve Jolly
Art C
Art C
29 days ago
Reply to  Kathy p

From what I hear in my neck of the woods there will be civil disobedience. Personally, I refuse to play these stupid games anymore.

Paul O
Paul O
29 days ago
Reply to  Kathy p

I agree Kathy.

There’s been a hardcore of maybe 10% of people who have questioned everything. If they can start the ball rolling then others might slowly join in. It happened in Sri Lanka and it looks like Argentina and Albania might not be far behind. Who knows, the tractors on the continent may be the start of something much bigger.

Alex Stonor
Alex Stonor
28 days ago
Reply to  Paul O

How will they square further restrictions when ministers were fined for breaching them?

Paul O
Paul O
28 days ago
Reply to  Alex Stonor

Good point, but easily solved. Just get rid of all the naughty boys and replace them with new boys and girls who promise to behave.

Rohan Moore
Rohan Moore
26 days ago
Reply to  Paul O

Except, it seems the media’s happy to forgive and forget Rishi’s fine, and give him a promotion.

Lindsay Snoman
Lindsay Snoman
26 days ago
Reply to  Rohan Moore

It’s because he paid them all furlough. Biggest bribe ever paid from the publics purse and we’re the suckers paying it back. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

George Hinton
George Hinton
27 days ago
Reply to  Alex Stonor

Just exempt the politicoes and elites.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
27 days ago
Reply to  Kathy p

It will be interesting to see what happens to the Dutch protesters. Trudeau got away temporarily with crushing the Canadian convoy protesters but he is now playing a heavy political price. It will probably be the reason he loses his job. Similarly polling shows the J6 show trial is not helping the Democrats either.

Bruno Lucy
Bruno Lucy
29 days ago

No way people will go along

Paul O
Paul O
29 days ago
Reply to  Bruno Lucy

Yes they will. Guaranteed.

If you can get over 80% of the population to take four injections of an experimental drug that uses brand new technology, that was rush through with very little testing, from companies with zero risk of being sued and even fought in court to hide the test results for 75 years, then you can get them to do absolutely anything you want them to do.

All it needs is another brainwashing campaign on the TV and social media and 95% of people will be begging the govt for it.

Psy-ops work wonderfully. A few slogans about it being for the common good and how it will save granny, and your otherwise intelligent neighbour will be hunkering down for the long run.

RufusVonDufus2
RufusVonDufus2
28 days ago
Reply to  Paul O

That nonexistent threat of being sued is what completely turned me off to “the shot.”

Bill Dance
Bill Dance
29 days ago

Stress and Anxiety have been THROUGH.THE.ROOF. for most people!

Why don’t they talk about substance abuse (drugs and alcohol) and suicides (increasing) when we had our lockdowns?

I understand not knowing what we are up against, and trying to come up with MACRO strategies for the entire nation, but it really felt out of control and disconnected (so many families and friends fighting as well).

We CAN NOT allow emotion and political crap to get in the way this time!

The facts need to be laid out properly and CLEARLY – i.e. If this is basically another flu – get your yearly covid shot (or not) and if not, and you get covid, then you can take “TAMAFLU” for Covid.

At some point our country decided to just live with the flu…

Last edited 29 days ago by Bill Dance
William Morales
William Morales
29 days ago

I don’t see this happening again, but let’s just see how many mom and pop business we can shut down again permanently. It will get ugly if they try this crap again.

Jim R
Jim R
29 days ago

The final piece of the puzzle will be the full roll out of the surveillance state. Lockdowns when the population is not scared out of its wits will require brutal enforcement. Dissidents, protestors and casual rule breakers will have to be identified and swiftly punished and silenced. These methods are all being beta tested now in China’s lockdowns. Trudeau has said the quiet part out loud too in his response to the truckers. Once the infrastructure is in place, all it takes is for someone to throw the switch.

Jason Highley
Jason Highley
29 days ago

It’s telling that most of the world rejects lockdowns and their logic, but is not empowered to resist their imposition by elite oligarchies that increasingly resist any attempt to be governed by the people.

Rohan Moore
Rohan Moore
26 days ago
Reply to  Jason Highley

Most of the world? So far as I could tell, lockdowns were largely popular.

Last edited 26 days ago by Rohan Moore
David Barnett
David Barnett
28 days ago

Isn’t it interesting how systematically wrong every single Covid management policy was?
Lockdowns and all the other general “slow-the-spread” policies were completely (and predictably) counterproductive, serving only to prolong the pandemic and enhance its virulence.
Universal vaccination served to the extent that the “vaccines” were at all effective) served only to promote rapid evolution of the virus to evade the “vaccines” thus rendering them useless for their only legitimate role – protecting the most vulnerable to the virus.
Why should we trust policies promulgated by people who were not even randomly wrong (i.e sometimes right), but systematically wrong, every time?

Last edited 28 days ago by David Barnett
Arkadian X
Arkadian X
29 days ago

The title is very click-baity.
Anyway, what on earth does this mean?
“outsized rents from monopoly interests could compensate for short-term non-profitability.”

Mark Scholes
Mark Scholes
29 days ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

Thank goodness. I thought it was just me.

William Hickey
William Hickey
28 days ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

See the profit histories of Google, Facebook and Amazon, three near-monopolies today that didn’t turn a profit for years, yet were investor darlings all that time.

Su Mac
Su Mac
29 days ago

Thank you Izabella for some sane commentary on lockdowns, economics and the push to more authoritarian controls – as they say “what is the difference between a conspiracy theory and a fact? About 6 months”
As you point out “At the heart of the problem is the poorly thought-out subsidisation of negative-sum business models propelled by excessive cheap money in the system.”
Better to have regular, market driven smaller “corrections” than one god-almighty-enormous bubble to pop. It will not be pretty. Ironic how the West is determined to turn itself into a Soviet style mess currently complete with “black is white” statements on all topics, endless propaganda nudging, corruption and collapse of institutions.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
25 days ago
Reply to  Su Mac

Yes, quite so. And capitalism will be blamed for all of it.

Dustin Needle
Dustin Needle
29 days ago

At one point in this collapse of the West do the media stop broadcasting the views of politicians that led us here over the past 30 years?
And stop forcing their worthless opinions on the rest of us?

Peter MacDonagh
Peter MacDonagh
29 days ago

Suggesting we lockdown won’t work, will it? A bit like convincing us to arm Ukraine and cut our selves off from Russian energy and wheat? Who would fall for that? No one will paint their houses the colour of the Ukrainian flag. No British dad would send their sons to pointlessly die in a Russian artillery attack. No wife would allow their husband to house an attractive young Ukrainian woman who then steals the husband and family home.

Who would support the need for 30,000 U.S. troops in D.C. to protect against an army of white supremacists. Who would build global religious monuments to the martyr of fentanyl overdoses.

We are all fantasists now, a p***s is female genitalia and an apple is an orange. We live in circus world and we are clowns and performers. Wear the damned mask!

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
28 days ago

Whether COVID or climate change, the basic theme is control through fear. When human behavior runs contrary to the needs/wants of rulers/politicians/elites, they nudge people towards more ‘desirable’ behavior through various appeals. First a moral or nationalistic appeal to moral duty or patriotism. Second, a fear appeal based on the threat of some terrible implacable foe, real or imagined. Finally, and lastly, when they have fully co-opted the mechanisms of law and power for themselves, comes the authoritarian appeal, the threat of direct individual punishment for ‘undesirable’ behavior. COVID showed us examples of all three. They’re working towards doing the same for energy concerns because there’s no way other than controlling human behavior on a mass scale that they’ll be able to limit energy usage. We are already dangerously far down the path to authoritarianism. In America, what you will increasingly see is people taking energy concerns into their own hands directly through things like propane generators and storage tanks, rooftop solar panels (which even my Trump worshipping father believes in), micro-hydroelectric generators, etc. along with a lot of states and localities doing the same, because that’s how Americans are. If we don’t like the dictates from Washington, we just ignore them, do whatever we want, and dare anyone to stop us (witness the different approaches to COVID state by state). Can’t speak for Europe or the UK, except to say I suspect it will be harder there.

Last edited 28 days ago by Steve Jolly
RufusVonDufus2
RufusVonDufus2
28 days ago

W/o lockdowns, masks, and Gavin Newsom along with Whitmer, Pritzikis, etc. how else would the dems be able to pull off the scam of mail-in ballots again? Also, I am so damned tired of this “sky is falling” attitude of the losing dems. I say KMA, democrats.

Last edited 28 days ago by RufusVonDufus2
Betsy Arehart
Betsy Arehart
29 days ago

Perhaps rolling lockdowns…

Last edited 29 days ago by Betsy Arehart
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
29 days ago

And if the system is “as free as possible” surely the venture capitalists would exploit that to keep gambling on achieving monoplies?

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
29 days ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Most businesses start and run without input from big VC groups – which is what I think Izabella was referring to. Those VC groups can be helpful, but in the way that loan sharks are. Their prize is equity in your business and soon they’ll be finding you a buyer so they can cash in.

Mark Halliwell
Mark Halliwell
28 days ago

This time it’s been driven by deep-pocketed Western venture capitalists who became convinced that outsized rents from monopoly interests could compensate for short-term non-profitability.
Very interesting – we need clear evidence and, then, to do something about it

Charles Gordon
Charles Gordon
25 days ago

Interesting (?) to note that the Scottish government have embedded most of the additional population controls that were introduced during Covid into permanent law – so no more hasty regulations regarding new lockdowns – it’s all already in place! (Not that anything democratic ever happens in the Scottish Parliament, of course!)

William Adams
William Adams
27 days ago

There’s a saying in finance that “the cure for high prices is high prices”. Fewer people will drive so demand for fuel will decline, leading to a lower oil price. It’ll be a painful process, particularly this coming winter but it will happen. No need to compound the problem by locking everyone up.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
28 days ago

A clickbait article to wind up the Unherd readership.

Mike C
Mike C
29 days ago

Lockdowns will be one way for sure to cause the price of fuel to drop back to an acceptable level.
On the other hand I’m not sure more government handouts would be on the way this time.

James Ranson
James Ranson
29 days ago

What a sensationalist, clickbait “theory.” I recognize that the Author is London-based, but to be clear (since this is being promoted on Drudge, a largely American audience): No American government at any level would ever even consider a lockdown for this economic crisis, no matter how bad it gets. This is the kind of fear mongering that is intended to rile up extremists and dupe the gullible into anger about a non-existent problem, so they will share the story with their gullible friends to generate more clicks. It serves no common good for the public at-large. Izabella – do better. Be kind and respect the intelligence of your readers. The COVID lockdowns were authorized as a Health Emergency to avoid an imminent threat of death from a virus for which, at the time, we had no known mitigations. We’ve been through multiple cycles of economic turmoil over the last 100 years – far worse than now – without lockdown measures. That is because there is not (and never will be) any legal avenue to implement lockdown measures for an economic situation.
(Edit: Downvote away, folks)

Last edited 29 days ago by James Ranson
Warren Trees
Warren Trees
25 days ago
Reply to  James Ranson

You must be the reincarnation of a former Prime Minister. Neville, is this really you?