Saturday, 9 May 2020

Coronavirus: a case of collective madness

It was predictable that the government's "lockdown" measures would cause more harm than the virus. Predictable that is to anyone adopting a rational approach to this issue. However, it was not predictable to the government. Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, admitted on 10 April 2020 at the Coronavirus Daily Update that the government had not made any attempt to assess the number of people who would die as a result of the government's "lockdown" measures. This was an admission that the government had adopted an irrational, irresponsible and incompetent approach to policy-making on this issue.

This irrationality is also revealed in the constantly reiterated assertion that the government is simply following the "science". There is no way that science can determine policy. Science cannot tell you what your values should be; nor can it tell you what your priorities should be; nor can it tell you how to weigh competing demands and needs. If science could do these things, we would have a government of scientists. We don't, and we don't because policy-making is always about values, preferences, choices: ie, policy-making is always and inevitably a political process. The claim that the policy is just a matter of science is an obvious, blatant falsehood. A falsehood that is designed to rhetorically hide a set of value judgements and to protect those value judgements from political, democratic accountability.

You weren't asked if you wanted the "lockdown" measures. You weren't told that if implemented they would save X amount of lives but cost Y amount of lives. You weren't told which lives were to be prioritised and which were to be sacrificed. You weren't offered a chance to express your preference. What you were told was: Stay Home [in order to] Protect the NHS [in order to] Save Lives. But this was so simplistic as to be not just misleading, but essentially wrong, as it leaves out of the equation many very important variables.

I have no idea what motivated the government to introduce its "lockdown" measures. But I do know that the policy is not rational when judged on the criterion the government provides: ie, to save lives. There is also the government's track record, which to say the least, casts doubt on the claim that the government values lives above the economy - I am thinking here of the fact that the government's austerity policies have (perfectly predictably) resulted in hundreds of thousands of premature deaths. That track record has led many to claim that the government has a secret plan. Variations on this theme suggest the measures were introduced to protect and promote the interests of finance and corporate capitalists; to promote the interests of Big Pharma; to impose compulsory vaccination; to make all economic transactions electronic; to introduce a global police state, etc. These arguments are all based on a search for a rational explanation for a set of measures that are plainly irrational, inconsistent and clearly not going to achieve their stated objective. This search is, in my opinion, a fool's errand. The response to the coronavirus is nothing more than just another case of collective madness.

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