November 26th, 2021
Threats to Democracy and Freedom
Brian McWilliams argues that limiting the entrepreneurial and individual freedoms might seem like two different things, but they are not.
We are coming off of a very strange time in the histories of many nations. We are coming off of the COVID pandemic wherein governments were given, by the mandate, I guess, of the people, due to the fearmongering that has been pushed forward by the media, these dictates in which they were able to force people to stay home, to abandon their businesses or to cut capacity greatly, to virtually avoid societal interaction, to shut down schools…
Being based in the United States I know things are going to be different than to me than somebody in Europe, however, we have a lot of similar action taken across the board internationally. This is in regards to the lockdowns that were imparted onto the people, the measures in which they tried to mitigate the economic damage and fallout of this by forcing people to stay home and not go to their jobs or severely limit the ability of certain companies to operate during this pandemic…
Here in the United States, it struck me as especially ridiculous some of the actions taken because they tacked on $600 benefit to anybody that declared for unemployment. Thus, not only you get unemployment benefits, but you got $600 more. That was more than people usually make going to their jobs. But the thing was we were bought into the premise that the actions taken by our governments to limit our freedom of movement, the freedom to make a living, to feed our families, to garner an income, and to go out in general and spend some time with each other. We were conned in accepting this basic premise. By virtue of the fear instilled and the threat that was presented to us.
Thus, the first thing when we address any issue of this nature is this: we have to ask ourselves what actually warrants gives the government the ability to do this? Is there anything that should give the government to do this? I would argue that there is not.
People have various opinions on the pandemic, whether or not has the death rate that would warrant certain actions on the government level or that should be simply left out to the people to decide your own risk factors. I myself fall into the side of the things where if you know the risks, as they are becoming apparent to the population and not being twisted or played up or manipulated, then you can decide what level of risk you want to partake in.
However, when we see a people turn over a mandate to the government wherein they can virtually lock everything down all at once, that is something that should never be allowed to take place. No matter what we are facing, be a pandemic, with which we have been threatened with the pandemic in the past. The World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control have told us about the bird flu, the avian flu, SARS… All of these things have been threatened and played out and yet none of them had that big of an impact.
I’m not here to question what the impact of COVID has been to this point as far as death tolls and whether those numbers are accurate or not. My point being is that we never locked down for those in the past. We never shut down during war times in the past. Of course, America has been lucky in that we have not been ravaged by war like some European nations have or nations the world over have (they have certainly been impacted by our ravaging, but that is a different story).
When we look at the actions taken during wartime, then yes, there might have been some factors, maybe in the try to conserve some things trying to allocate into wartime needs, you still weren’t forced to stay in your house all the time. You weren’t forced to maintain a distance from your child. For Pete’s sake, in the early days of the pandemic they were telling you if your child had COVID they had to stay in their room and you weren’t allowed to talk to your child, to be with your child for two weeks. So under what premise do we accept the shutting down of all society, the absolute destruction of the social fabric? Under the pretense that there is a virus that may or may not make us sick, with scientific facts and figures coming out that change by the day.
Coming back to the main topic, limiting the entrepreneurial and individual freedoms might seem like two different things, but they are not. They are uniquely tied together. When you limit an individual’s freedom, you could say “I was told to stay in my house, I was told this and that.” Yet, you don’t realize this plays out in so many choices that you have to make or that you are enabled to make in life. Because without entrepreneurs we would not have access to so many things that we have today. For instance, going online, by virtue of social sharing, zoom… we are able to stay in touch with each other, we are able to find workaround solutions, we are able to work virtually. By virtue of ingenuity, we are able to have infinite choices in so far as what products we want to eat, what products we want to feed our children, we are able to travel farther and better. Let’s not forget, we are probably more free before the past year than we have been in the history of mankind. Because we have reached the point of entrepreneurship, of technological advancement, of course, enabled by free markets and free-market capitalism, we have been able to achieve a level of freedom, of lifting the world out of poverty that has never before been seen. We have a rate of poverty on an international level that is sub 10%, and that has changed drastically in the last 20 to 30 years. How? Capitalism.
The introduction of new technologies into markets that have never had been exposed to them before, though entrepreneurs that found ways to filter water faster, to build houses better… We are looking right now at an emphasis on 3D printed housing that could revolutionize not only homelessness, third world country needs, or the underprivileged portion of society’s needs. We are talking about fast effective ways in which to provide people housing, water, food, nutrition… And again, not only people are getting these new bountiful ways in which to live and succeed, but they are also able to utilize those in freedom of movement. Once you have that excess capital, that you are not spending all of your time into meager farming trying to feed your family and having to depend on whether or not it is going to rain enough for you, not that you have access lift yourself up, now that you have earned money in various different ways, you are making more. You now have the ability to travel. That is why entrepreneurial freedom, the freedom to start a business, run a business without having state overlords trying to get in the way, and stop that from happening is vital to your individual freedom.
When we think about almost anything that we do on an everyday basis it depends on business. It depends on other people’s inventions and probably some of our own inventions. Every day when I turn on my car, when I turn on my computer, when I access the internet, when I buy something that feeds my family, I am depending on entrepreneurs. My individual freedom without these things is severely limited. When we will come out of this unbelievable period in history, where the government has shut down the ability of businesses to move forward, they are without a doubt impacting your individual freedom beyond what you might see right now. Not only they are going to limit what you can’t do at this moment, they are going to limit what you can and can’t do down the road because your money is going to go quickly a lot faster. Once we have supply lines cut down because governments have locked down certain industries, locked down certain freedoms of travel, you are going to have skyrocketing amounts of inflation within the supermarket, you are going to have your oil going through the roof…. Everything you do is going to get impacted by the virtue of the government getting involved in business and stopping people from finding new ways to do business with each other on a voluntary basis. So, these things are intertwined on a very basic level.
Coming around full circle here, when we talk about authoritarian measures we rarely see the government put authoritarian measures that are rolled back. Every freedom that we have lost here, these might seem like temporary measures, we might hear a government say we are going to get all these rights back we are going to be able to go out and cavort again and go out in the sunshine, and go out in the bars and have a drink (now they are threatening with these vaccine passports).
The idea that they can impose lockdowns like this, that they can shut down a business, that they can limit production, limit supply line, that they can strange the means of people getting vital meats, cheeses, fishes, vegetables, or maybe just the basic means of making a living… the fact that they have that power should scare every single one of us. This is a distinct threat to democracy. Not just our civil rights that we have already seemed to give away, but democracy as a whole.
If the government can turn that spigot off, if they can shut down your business they can force you to stay in your house, well then by default there is no democracy. If they control everything that you do and everything that you can earn and so simply can deny that to you, why would they even bother with democracy?
When the government controls the means of production, of supply lines, of operation and they get you on that government goal, they own you. There is no democracy anymore. There is no need for democracy anymore. There is no need to stay accountable anymore because they know they have all the power. And that is a very scary, scary thought.
The views expressed on austriancenter.com are not necessarily those of the Austrian Economics Center.
Do you like the article?
We are glad you do! Please consider donating if you want to read more articles like this one.