by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The problem we face is almost too large to confront honestly. You can try to turn to the culture wars as they were before the pandemic, when some of us aimed to defend the Constitution from those who would seek to replace it (I’ll raise my hand). Or you can work yourself into a lather about the ongoing threat to democracy from Donald Trump and his followers, as those on the left have done. Maybe that’s life getting back to normal.
But I’m worried that, in the future, historians will laugh at us. Over a period of 16 months, we have just discovered that governance inspired by Chinese despotism could be practiced in the West in the name of public health. Across the former free world, constitutional rights were enthusiastically violated in the name of saving lives, and the vast majority of people complied happily or even became zealous enforcers themselves.
This is something governments can’t “unsee.” When governments and other powerful entities take a hard look at the wholescale shutdown of businesses and social and religious institutions, the requirement to work at home if possible, the Zoomification of social life, the suppression of dissenting opinion and the promotion of government party lines by all major social networks across the globe, what will they see? Tools available for many other problems.
And the problem of having seen reality in the lockdowns affects the rest of society as well. “Experts” and lawmakers categorized all work under two official labels, and a third one that no one ever said out loud. Let’s deal with the two official categories: essential and inessential. Essential workers are those who hold jobs that cannot be deep-sixed or slowed down without causing obvious societal dysfunction and deprivation. Inessential workers are those whose work can more or less be performed by way of computers and telecommunications.