Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

State or Private Law Society on Dealing With Corona – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on January 4, 2021

Certainly, politicians as a whole do not have the brightest of minds. And the “do-gooding” that unites them all as politicians, i.e. their claim to want and be able to help other people (or even the whole of humanity) to greater happiness and prosperity through their own actions, should be regarded as suspect from the outset.

In view of this, it seems almost self-evident that decisions on appropriate defense measures should be made by local decision-makers familiar with the respective local conditions. And it should be equally self-evident that these local decision-makers must be private owners or owners’ associations. For only they are responsible for their decisions and their selection of experts on whose advice their decisions are based. And only they therefore have an immediate incentive to learn from their own mistakes or the mistakes of others and to reproduce or imitate success, whether their own or that of others, in order to approach a solution to the problem step by step in this way.

By Hans-Hermann Hoppe

Thomas Jacob: Professor Hoppe, you are known as a critic of the state and of political centralization. Doesn’t the coronavirus prove that central states and central government regulations are necessary?

On the contrary.

Of course, the various central states and international organizations, such as the EU or the WHO, have tried to use the COVID-19 pandemic to their own advantage, i.e., to expand their power over their respective subjects; to try out how far one can go with ordering other people around in the face of an initially vague and then systematically dramatized danger of a global epidemic. And the extent to which this has succeeded, up to and including a general house arrest, is frightening.

But if the course of current events has demonstrated anything, it is not how necessary or efficient central authorities and decisions are, but conversely how critically important decentralized decisions and decision-makers are.

The danger emanating from an epidemic is never the same everywhere, for everyone, at the same time. The situation in France is different than that in Germany or Congo, and conditions in China are not the same as in Japan. And within diverse countries, the threat level differs from region to region, from one city to another, between urban and rural areas, depending on the demographic and cultural composition of the population. Moreover, there is a whole range of greatly differing assessments and proposals concerning what and what not to do in the face of this threat level, all put forward by equally “certified scientific experts.” Therefore, any centralized, nationwide (in extreme cases, worldwide) measure to avert danger – a “one-size-fits-all” model – must from the outset seem absurd and inappropriate.

In view of this situation, it was only natural that, in addition to the representatives of the central governments, various provincial and local leaders everywhere quickly and increasingly became involved in the business of danger prevention. The epidemic offered them the perfect opportunity to distinguish themselves from the central state and its representatives and to expand their own sphere of power. They ignored, exacerbated, mitigated, delayed or otherwise modified their central government’s measures for their respective regions. Always with an eye on public or rather published opinion, and often carried by the hope of eventually qualifying for the office of central dictator by becoming a popular regional dictator.

Notwithstanding some improvements in hazard control that such decentralized decision-making has brought about, and notwithstanding the fact that a variety of different and differently treated regions systematically supports learning from mistakes, the overall experience regarding states and state decision-makers in dealing with epidemics is shocking. As in all other areas, the state fails magnificently, especially in the area of public health and disease prevention. In fact, as current events make increasingly clear, the state kills or makes more people ill through its protective measures than it heals or protects from death.

TJ: Are politicians simply stupid?

Certainly, politicians as a whole do not have the brightest of minds. And the “do-gooding” that unites them all as politicians, i.e. their claim to want and be able to help other people (or even the whole of humanity) to greater happiness and prosperity through their own actions, should be regarded as suspect from the outset. But the real reason for the failure of politics in general, and especially in dealing with infectious diseases, lies deeper and is of a structural nature.

The deeper, structural reason is that policy makers, whether central or regional, have what is now casually called ‘no skin in the game’ when making decisions. That is, they are largely freed from the risk of possible wrong decisions and possible losses and costs. They do not have to think long and hard about the consequences and side-effects of their actions, but can instead make ‘spontaneous’ decisions, as they are not personally liable for the consequences of their edicts. On the whole, they can burden other people with the costs of their actions. This is the deeper reason why and when stupidity and do-gooding – especially when combined – become a danger and then systematically promote irresponsibility, arbitrariness and megalomania.

Take, as an example, the coronavirus: Why should one not, in the face of an infectious disease, resort to “bold” means, such as bans on going out and contact, house arrests, company closures, work and production bans, etc., if one does not suffer any direct loss of income as a result? The reason is  as in the case with all political decision-makers and so-called civil servants, one’s own income does not come from productive gainful employment, but is financed from taxes, i.e. by means of compulsory levies, and is therefore secured in the short and medium term. And why should one worry much about the indirect and long-term side effects and consequences of one’s own actions, if one cannot be personally accused, held liable and held responsible for damages? To justify one’s own “bold” actions, one can point to a small but creatively extrapolated number of people supposedly saved from serious illness or even death in comparison to the respective total population, while simply ignoring the consequences of a lockdown, i.e. the fact that a far larger number of people will fall into economic hardship as a result of these measures and will, as a result, indirectly and perhaps eventually fall ill or die.

In fact, at first it seemed as if the political decision-makers did not know at all (or did not want to know) that even “rescue operations,” however well-intentioned, are not, and never are, free of charge. By virtue of being rescue operations, they were rather presented as “not having an alternative”. When the side effects became more obvious and could no longer be denied, they asserted that their decisions were about a trade-off between “health” and “the economy” and that for them, being the do-gooders that they are, human life always has absolute priority over all economic considerations. –– There is an elementary insight that the ‘powers that be’ showed themselves incapable of, or did not want to arrive at. And this is that such a dichotomy does not exist at all. On the contrary, a prospering economy is the basis for safeguarding humans and preserving their health in particular. It is therefore just the poorer regions, population segments and people who are affected most severely by a lockdown (not least regarding their health). Only with difficulty could this   elementary insight be reconciled with the stance taken by all political decision-makers of being the bold rescuer in the greatest emergency.

And when, finally, in view of the actual extent of societal impoverishment as a result of the state-imposed bans on contact, production and sales, company closures, expropriations, insolvencies, unemployment, short-time work, etc., even the naive life-saving argument no longer held water and the politicians’ posturing as almighty savior  sounded increasingly hollow or even hypocritical, they maintained  that the losses incurred as a result of their measures would be  compensated  in the best way possible as a matter of course. In a sense, this would make them a savior twice over:  The rescuer of a rescuer in distress. – And this feat was accomplished by massively increasing the money supply. The loss offset or the compensation took place simply by creating from nothing some new state paper money, produced at practically zero expense. This procedure costs the political decision makers nothing and it hands them, always welcomed on their part, an increased amount of money, the allocation of which enables them immediately to put on airs as rescuing benefactors. In the meantime, the costs of this money supply increase, i.e. the resultant loss of purchasing power of a money unit and an increased future debt service are covered up and foisted on other people or socialized. The whole maneuver resembles the notorious example of the arsonist, who subsequently acts as a firefighter in extinguishing the house he set alight and becomes a celebrated hero in the process. The only difference is that the state, by increasing the amount of money, also socializes the costs of extinguishing the house it set on fire.

But – and this is probably the most frightening thing about the whole corona episode – the state easily gets away with this brazenness. To be sure, there is resistance to the lockdown here and there, and the longer it has lasted, resistance to it has grown. But still the majority of policymakers are seen as heroic saviors rather than arsonists. And the state, its representatives, have used the idea of the danger of being infected, which was systematically hyped up, to extend their own powers to an extent unknown so far, at least in peacetime. This includes the suspension of all property rights and liberties and an almost complete restriction of personal freedom of movement right down to inside private households – and all this in the name of infection control and public health.

In my opinion, the degree of subservience to politics expressed in this development is highly disturbing.

TJ: How would the problem of a pandemic be solved without government regulations, in a private law society?

In a private law society, all land, every square inch, is privately owned. All apartments, houses, settlements, roads, waterways, seaports and airports, factories, offices, schools, hospitals, etc., have a private owner. This owner is either an individual or a group of individuals, a private association, each with its own house rules, organizational structure and internal decision-making rules and procedures. The Myth of National D… Hans-Hermann Hoppe Best Price: $17.10 Buy New $18.66 (as of 01:30 EDT – Details)

So this achieves, in contrast to all and any political centralism, a maximum of decentralized decision-making and, at the same time, a maximum of responsibility and responsible action. Every decision is the decision of a particular person or association with regard to their (and only their) private property. And every decision-maker is liable or covers the costs and consequential costs for his decisions or wrong decisions with his own property.

For the specific problem of dealing with a pandemic, this means that much like the immigration problem, the urgency of which is currently obscured by the coronavirus, the question in the face of a pandemic is simply “who do I let in and who do I bar?” or “who do I visit and who do I stay away from?” More specifically: Each private property owner or property owner’s association has to decide, based on their own risk assessment of an infectious disease with respect to their property, who they allow to enter their property, when, and under what conditions, and who do they disallow. And, especially in the case of commercially used property, this decision can and will include one’s own preventive measures that are intended to facilitate visitor or customer access by making them appear to reduce or minimize risk. And conversely, visitors or customers may also take precautionary measures on their part to provide unimpeded access to various potential hosts.  The result of these multiple individual decisions is a complex web of access and visiting rules.

All encounters or meetings of persons take place voluntarily and deliberately. They come about in each case because both the host and the visitor consider the benefit of their encounter to be greater than the risk of possible infectious contagion resulting from it. Therefore, neither host nor visitor have any reciprocal liability claims, should an infection actually occur as a result of their encounter. This risk (including possible hospital costs, etc.) must be borne by each party  alone. In this case, liability claims are only possible if, for example, the host deliberately deceived his visitors concerning his own preventive measures or if the visitor deliberately and intentionally violated the host’s conditions of entry.

But even without any deception, the decisions of hosts and visitors are never without a price. Every preventive or precautionary measure involves an additional cost that must have an apparent justification, whether by the expectation of additional profits or reduced losses, or whether by increased acceptance or reduced rejection by potential visitors. And, in particular, every private decision-maker also has to bear the costs of possible wrong decisions in this respect, i.e., if the expectations are not only not fulfilled, but even turn into the opposite. If the supposed defense and precautionary measures are not only ineffective, but turn out to be counterproductive and even increase the risk of infection overall, be it of hosts or guests, instead of reducing it.

These are considerable costs that are the responsibility of a private decision-maker and could still be his when faced with an epidemic. His economic existence and his closest social environment may be at stake. In view of this, he will consider his decision thoroughly, and all the more so the more property and friendly relations he has or maintains. He must be quickly prepared, often almost “by force” to learn from his own mistakes and to correct his earlier decisions in order to avoid further economic or social costs.

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