Flat White

The tyranny of good intentions

22 January 2022

11:45 AM

22 January 2022

11:45 AM

Many are familiar with the term ‘fifteen days to slow the spread’. People were largely on board in 2020, given the unknown nature of Covid. Fifteen days have become more than 500, while government and public ‘servants’ increasingly intrude in personal decision making – with debatable results.

Remember, vaccinations and other treatments were developed despite government involvement – not as a result of it. The negative impact of bureaucratic involvement has been played out not only privately, but publicly. Public confidence in the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine was undermined due to the bickering between Chief Health Officers, premiers, Scott Morrison, and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

Nick Cater quotes economist Thomas Sowell on government tactics, ‘A crisis is declared over some harm that the government claims it can eliminate. Critics of the solution are dismissed as absurd, simplistic, or downright dishonest.’

Perhaps we should have added George Orwell’s famous words to the agreement, ‘We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.’

Governments (state and federal) have failed to honour compacts with the public, as well as agreements with each other, and appear to shift goalposts without cost-benefit analysis or publishing their medical, societal, and economic reasoning.

We were presented with projections of 100,000 people dying in 2020 even with restrictions being implemented. The actual figure was fewer than 1,000. Clearly what has happened is not what was presented. The Victorian Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton, who has had a history of over-stating the effects of this virus, came up with a figure of ten times more dangerous than influenza so we can have some confidence on what the maximum impact would likely be.

The encroachment by government has been further reaching than numeric health impacts. It has dictated the major tenants of our civilisation:

  • Freedom of Speech
  • Freedom of Assembly
  • Freedom of Worship (in some circles this could be seen as an outcome of the first to freedoms)

These freedoms are fundamental to the success (for the people) of a civilisation, and are also quickly curtailed in dictatorships (Mesquita & Smith, 2011). These are not arbitrary statements, and much can be discussed as to why this is the case.

If we take the simple example of workplace productivity – freedom of speech and assembly act to make our workplace perform more effectively, and government regulations less of a burden to workers. Curtail these freedoms and the result is more government regulation and less effectiveness for all.

The encroachment into religious worship is concerning. The success of our society has been reliant on churches operating differently to the accepted mantra which has been proven to be surprisingly malleable (see the history of eugenics and the promotion within government agencies and scientific institutions versus restraint from prominent Christians).

Chesterton once observed, ‘But the truth is that it is only by believing in God that we can ever criticise the Government. Once abolish the God, and the Government becomes the God.’

The church acts as a counterbalance to the authoritarian overreach which governments can devolve into. God warned Israel of this in 1 Samuel 8: 10-22 before granting their wish of a King with the caveat of accountability through the judges and priests. Interestingly, we see this accountability measure needed within the first generation of the new government.

The Fair Work Commission Vice President Hatcher in a September 2021 minority ruling noted, ‘..the powers to make PHOs [Public Health Order] cannot lawfully be used in a way that is punitive, and human rights are not suspended during states of emergency or disaster. The current PHOs have moved well past the minimum necessary to achieve public health aims, and into the realm of deprivation.’

William Pitt the Younger (the man who, as Prime Minister, abolished slavery in England and worked against it worldwide) once said in 1783, ‘Necessity (ie: public health) is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.’ In a similar line, theologian John Macarthur said, ‘Get people afraid and you can get them to do whatever you want.’

Our current situation of ‘Rule by Health Order’ is overreach, as health orders were only intended as temporary, limited, and minimal in their application.

Eighteen months of arbitrary instruction – without published justification – is hardly befitting our society. The fundamental method of law through parliament, as laid out in our constitution, which is intended to deliver accountability and restraint on government encroachment on people’s lives, has been bypassed in the name of necessity.

I only came to recently understand how it could be possible to form a tyranny from sincere intentions.

I am deeply concerned at how terms including ‘ring-fencing’, ‘passports’, ‘short sharp’, or a certain group ‘enjoying freedoms’ have so easily entered the common vernacular – particularly when talking about entire groups of people being excluded from our ‘free country’ (as Prime Minister Scott Morrison put it in his maiden speech in federal parliament on 14 February 2008).

All of this in the name of someone’s own good? We should be cautious to allow this type of thinking to permeate our society.

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