The virus may be “natural” but governments have made the crisis. Although the circumstances are new, says Queen’s University law professor, Bruce Pardy, the pattern is not: the larger the welfare state, the more it stands in the way of well being. Don’t double down: turn around.
Hard times make strong people, the saying goes, but it didn’t work out that way for the Brits. Victorious but beaten to within a hair of its life from six years of war with Hitler, the U.K. opted for socialism. In a landslide election following victory in Europe in 1945, voters threw out Winston Churchill in favour of Labour leader Clement Attlee, who proceeded to create the British welfare state. After sacrificing everything to protect their freedom, voters chose a government that promised to look after them. Except for the period under Margaret Thatcher, who tried to turn the ship around, the U.K. has been on the road to serfdom ever since.
Other Western nations have, too. In Canada, the administrative state is now ubiquitous. It regulates haircuts, dog food, cheese and mattresses. It taxes and subsidizes, plans and incentivizes, licenses and inspects. Over time, we have become more like China than China has become like us. Now, in the name of a virus, government is not just supervising but driving the bus. Businesses are shut and liberties curbed. Public coffers are the only reliable source of money. Earlier this month, the Guardian’s Patrick Wintour argued that losers in the post-corona world order will include those who have argued for the deconstruction of the administrative state. Turns out government is willing to move in only one direction: bigger. We are about to double down on the nanny state.
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