Lee Friday – September 2, 2020
The response from Canadian politicians to Covid-19 is just the latest chapter in a long, sad, history of antisocial government policies. People have been warned, scolded, harassed, fined, charged, and arrested by police for violating government edicts regarding face masks, social distancing, group gatherings, economic lockdowns, etc., even in situations where violations are questionable. If you don’t toe the line, even when you don’t know where the line is, too bad for you unless you are a politician.
The Heavy Hand of Police
As they enforce pandemic rules, it seems the police have been stopping cars, “… even though nothing in the public health orders gives police added authority to stop vehicles or interrogate people.”
In Montreal, the police promised Mélissa Leblanc a $1,546 fine (and a trip to prison for her next offence) because her friends, from their cars, and legally socially distanced, wished her a happy birthday. Leblanc stood in her doorframe and filmed them. She offered her videos to police, as evidence that no one violated social distancing rules, “but they didn’t want to watch my videos or even listen to me.” Leblanc eventually got off with a warning, likely due to the public’s negative reaction to the police response.
An Ottawa bylaw officer tackled a man to the ground, punched him in the face, and fined him more than $2,000 for walking through a park with his daughter, even though no signs indicated the park was closed.
Such stories are commonplace.
A Double Standard
When stories of pandemic rule violations are published, Doug Ford, Justin Trudeau, and other politicians have been quick to pounce, expressing anger and frustration as they lecture us about following the rules. Yet, when they break the rules, there are no consequences, while the rest of us face the long arm of the law.
In Ontario, during the early days of the pandemic, we were told not to visit with anyone outside of our physical household. However, Premier Doug Ford faced only mild criticism when it was revealed that two of his daughters visited his house during this time.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “said it was important for him to attend a Black Lives Matter protest on Parliament Hill … [June 5], despite public health advice he has personally delivered to Canadians, about avoiding large groups to prevent the spread of COVID-19.” Thousands of people attended the protest, and “Several members of his cabinet either joined the prime minister or took part in similar events in other parts of the country.”
On April 10, “Parliamentarians packed onto a small nine-seat government jet … — ignoring pandemic health guidelines to maintain a distance of two metres from others — in their haste to reach Ottawa for a vote on federal emergency economic legislation.”
Again, such stories are commonplace, in Canada, and elsewhere.
Those who trust the government’s experts, while ignoring the advice of other experts, are seemingly blind to the irrational position they have taken. Simply put, if we are at the mercy of a serious pandemic, politicians would not risk their personal safety – they would comply with the rules which they expect the rest of us to obey, thereby setting a good example, and showing that they are not above the law.
Thus, government edicts, and enforcement of same against other people, may further erode the public’s trust in police and politicians, a level of trust that was already extremely low before the pandemic. When societal trust is weakened, so is the social fabric.
The social fabric reflects the voluntary relationships – social/economic cooperation – that people have with each other. When we are free to establish these relationships, peace and prosperity tend to grow, and the social fabric is strong – because voluntary relationships are only created when they are mutually beneficial. In contrast, when a government outlaws these relationships, the social fabric is obviously weakened.
For example, the government’s pandemic policies (lockdowns, isolation orders, etc.) forbid voluntary relationships, such as employment, social gatherings, etc. This has produced enormous negative effects – massive unemployment, suicides, drug overdoses, domestic violence, child abuse, etc. – which clearly weakens the social fabric. In contrast, the 1958 pandemic, which was more deadly than COVID-19, provides a good lesson about how to manage a pandemic, while protecting the social fabric through minimal government interference in peoples’ lives.
Another example is universal health care in Canada, which was established under false pretenses, after which the government has repeatedly broken its promise “to make sure that people could get care when it was needed.” The result: every year, many Canadians suffer and die while waiting for the health care they were promised, health care which the government prohibits them from purchasing privately, voluntarily. The social fabric is weakened.
Here’s another example. The majority of violent crimes are not solved by the police and judicial system. The result: most criminals are not punished, which in turn emboldens other would-be criminals. Furthermore, the majority of violent crimes committed are not even reported to these incompetent bureaucracies, because victims have decided, “What’s the point?” Moreover, citizens are forbidden from voluntarily establishing mutually beneficial relationships – as consumers and service providers – to satisfy the demand for security and justice. The social fabric is weakened.
In contrast, on the American frontier in the 19th century, people were free to establish voluntary relationships,1 which created a strong social fabric. Example 1: the buying and selling of guns, which deterred crime.2 Example 2: the cooperation of vigilantes,3 with the support of the townspeople,4 which punished the killers of innocent people5 – punishment which, as noted above, today’s governments do not consider a high priority.6
Pandemic rules, universal health care, police, and courts. All of these, and many other government laws, regulations, and policies, weaken the social fabric by restricting social cooperation. This can be reversed when people reclaim their natural right to voluntarily establish their own relationships. When peoples’ wellbeing is their responsibility, and not that of a multitude of interfering, self-serving, two-faced, unaccountable politicians and bureaucrats, a strong social fabric is more likely to develop.
Image credit: pxhere__________________________________________________________________________________________________
- People were free to establish these relationships because the government, with its arbitrary laws, restrictive regulations, and law enforcement officers, was a minimal presence on the American frontier. See Ryan W. McMaken, Commie Cowboys: The Bourgeoisie and the Nation-State in the Western Genre (https://store.mises.org/Commie-Cowboys-The-Bourgeoisie-and-the-Nation-State-in-the-Western-Genre-Digital-Book-P10923.aspx), p 23: “All modern frontier states (i.e., Australia, Canada, and the Latin American countries) were settled for largely economic reasons by settlers willing to brave an unknown geography, but nowhere was the state less involved in this settlement than on the American frontier.
- See Roger D. McGrath, Treat Them to a Good Dose of Lead (Why the ‘Wild West’ was not what Liberals claim-my title), http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1102438/posts (1994): “The armed state of the people and their willingness to enforce certain moral codes clearly protected women. The presence of armed citizens also made robbery, burglary, and theft infrequent events.” See also Roger D. McGrath Gunfighters Highwaymen & Vigilantes (University of California Press, 1984); Terry L. Anderson and Peter J. Hill, The Not So Wild, Wild West, Property Rights on the Frontier (Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, 2004)
- McGrath (1994): “Contrary to the popular image of vigilantes as an angry, unruly mob, the vigilantes displayed military-like organization and discipline and proceeded in a quiet, orderly, and deliberate fashion.”
- Ibid., “They [vigilantes] did what they thought they had a right to do, defend their community.”
- Ibid., “The vigilance committees were organized not because there were no established institutions of law enforcement and justice, but because those institutions could not he relied upon to punish the guilty.” See also Bruce Benson, To Serve and Protect, Privatization and Community in Criminal Justice (New York University Press, 1998) pp 110-11: “Generally vigilante movements involved efforts to enforce law and re-establish order by law-abiding citizens who intended to live and interact in the community for many more years. … Law still prevails as private law enforcement arrangements arise to supplant inept, inefficient, or corrupt public institutions.”
- Moreover, as Gairdner wrote (William D. Gairdner The Trouble With Canada . . . Still! (Key Porter Books Limited, Toronto, 2010) p 373): “During a 33-year period from 1975 to 2008, some 508 criminals who, after extensive psychological testing and interviewing were judged no danger to public safety by the National Parole Board, were released from prison and in that period killed 557 perfectly innocent Canadians.”