Flat White

The virus made us do it

5 February 2021

2:28 PM

5 February 2021

2:28 PM

Let’s be honest.  Mr Morrison and the Coalition right now are offering us all the sort of interventionist, huge spending, freedom-ignoring sort of government that in John Howard’s day would have been characterised as ‘centre-left’ or maybe just ‘left’.  Go ahead and try to enumerate for yourself the ways this Team Morrison is to the political right of, say, Keating Labor on energy prices, the footprint of government, the reach of regulations, the curtailment of civil liberties, workplace complexity, the number of massively overpaid bureaucrats and political advisors (and university head honchos, for which the feds are indirectly responsible as they provide the preponderance of uni funding), and even caving into grievance politics and the ABC.  If you’re like me your list will be pretty near invisible.  Is this what most Coalition supporters voted for in 2019? 

 I know, I know.  They’ll say: ‘The virus made us do it.  Really, at heart we’re a small government team that supports individual civil liberties, deregulation, freedom of speech and of religion, the private sector, the values of hard work, individual responsibility, respect for the accomplishments of our forefathers, competition and the like but this scary virus that’s killed not even a thousand Australians this entire year made us – it forced us, we swear – to adopt the policies of the socialist hard left.  For your benefit, not ours – even though we politicians and bureaucrats haven’t lost our jobs, or any pay, while the small business private sector has been annihilated by us. (Our buddies in big business are mostly doing okay though. Phew!)  Still, it’s not as though we like deciding whose business can open.  Or who can go where, when.  Or who can leave the country.  Or who can visit (not!) their dying relatives.  And really it would be too disruptive to stand up to all these Premiers.  Besides, look at Sweden and Taiwan and Japan where they adopted far, far, far less civil liberties-infringing policies to deal with Covid.  In those places they focused on the vulnerable elderly and largely left most others (who, truth be told – which it isn’t – aren’t at any greater risk from this virus than they are from normal life risks) to make individual choices. 

Take excess deaths in 2020, which are deaths above those of 2019 or of the earlier five year average.  In Sweden there were (wait for it, because it’s not the Black Death or even the Spanish Flu) just 5,000 more 2020 deaths than in 2018 – 97,941 versus 92,185.  And the same number more than in 2012.  And in 2015.  If we just ignore population growth and the fact of aging populations (because otherwise places like Sweden had hardly any excess deaths due to Covid) that’s what we get.  These heavy-handed, liberty-crushing policies of ours were for those non-population adjusted 5,000. 

Yes, yes, yes there is always the possibility that the lockdowns we imposed will themselves cause all sorts of extra deaths per year – from missed cancer checks, mental health devastation, the poverty that will come from lost businesses and losing the family home and missed schooling, and decades of paying off our racked up massive government debt.  But we politicians don’t want any of these things.  We foresee them, sure.  But we don’t want them.  And anyway, all you voters love being told what to do.  The evidence is plain.  You’re mostly sheep who dislike even hearing the lockdown sceptics’ case.  Better to wallow in fear porn about the virus and the supposed ‘science’ of modelling brought to you by the likes of Niall Ferguson.  We Coalition politicians are just giving Australians what they want.  Or what we’ve scared them into wanting.  But believe us.  At heart the Coalition is a small government team that supports individual civil liberties, deregulation, freedom of speech and of religion, the private sector, the values of hard work, individual responsibility, respect for the accomplishments of our forefathers, competition and the like.’ 

Pretty depressing, isn’t it?  So here’s a quick diversion to round off this column.  This coming weekend, February  8 in Australia, is the biggest sports event in the North American calendar.  It’s the Super Bowl, the final of the NFL season (or American football or ‘gridiron’ to Brits).  Last year this was watched by 100 million Americans and some 60 million others around the world.  For those who didn’t know normal NFL TV ratings in North America dwarf those of the NBA basketball – and the NBA’s are plummeting while those of the NFL are holding steady.  In the US a half-minute TV commercial, during the Super Bowl, is this year going for a record US$5.25 million, or about US$175,000 per second. 

The game itself will feature Tampa Bay against last year’s winners Kansas City.  It will be intriguing as it will feature two great quarterbacks.  This is the key position in American football as the quarterback is like the field general, the man on the field in charge of what the offense will do and who makes the downfield throws.  On one side will be Tom Brady, for most diehard fans the clear choice as the greatest NFL quarterback of all time.  The man has already won six Super Bowls (two more than anyone else).  And this will be his tenth Super Bowl appearance, which is double the next closest.  That’s partly because this is a league with the most aggressive salary cap scheme and other ‘share TV revenue’ schemes of any sport anywhere that make it brutally hard for teams to remain on the top and to be repeat winners.  In fact, the last team to repeat as winners was Brady’s 2003-04 New England Patriots. 

Brady is now old.  He’s 43 which makes him a dinosaur in this ‘can get hit without the ball’, brutally tough game.  Until last year he had played, and won, his six Super Bowls with the New England Patriots.  Then he opted to move and signed with Tampa Bay. And he’s up against the man, Patrick Mahomes, who is clearly the best current NFL quarterback, and by some margin.  So it’s greatest of all time against today’s stellar quarterback.  To get this far Brady has led Tampa Bay to three straight playoff road game wins, two as underdogs.  The ratings for this should be high.  (And, trivia question: Tom Brady has consistently been willing to take a far below market level of pay.  For years he took $15 million p.a. when lots of lesser quarterbacks got four or five million more.  A main reason is that Brady is the only quarterback in the NFL whose wife earns more – a lot more – than he does.  Name that wife? Oh, and Brady is also a Trump supporter which is very rare in US sports.) 

At any rate, Kansas City is favoured to win.  But don’t count out Tom Brady.  Enjoy. It will help take your mind of Australian politics. 

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