Many lifetimes ago, a young worker in the City of London watched as, in response to a large IRA bomb attack, armed police officers were deployed to patrol the streets and the road entrances to the area had permanent checkpoints installed and manned around the clock.
That young worker watched in horror as his fellow citizens happily accepted this radical change to the method of policing in response to a single event which, arguably, was a result of a multiple failures of policing and intelligence-gathering (for example; how did a purchase of 1 tonne of ammonia nitrate go unrecorded?).
2001, 2005, 2006
Eight years later, further radical changes were made to anti-terror legislation following the 911 terror attacks in New York and Washington DC. A further increase in powers was implemented in 2005 and yet again the following year as a reaction to the London attacks in 2005, including the ability to hold suspects without charge for 28 days and impose house arrest without a conviction.
Similar legislation was passed in other countries throughout this period.
Australia, for example, has passed 82 anti-terrorism laws since 2001. It might be argued that, given the comparative low level of attacks since 2001 (12 deaths, including the perpetrators) in Australia, this legislation has been incredibly successful. An alternate opinion might be that there’s been significant overreach relative to the low level of domestic threat.
A decade following the financial crisis of 2008, Australia passed the Financial Sector Legislation Amendment (Crisis Resolution Powers and Other Measures) Act 2018 creating further powers to handle future financial crises.
The media scrutiny of this legislation was woefully shallow, otherwise you might have read somewhere, anywhere, that the legislation allows for “bail-ins”. That is, the funds in your bank account can be accessed by the Reserve Bank of Australia to bail out the retail banks.
In response to the unclear threat of the China virus, legislative and policing precedents were overturned in a matter of days by governments around the world. In the largest abuse of Eminent Domain since 1066, businesses were ordered to cease trading, police were given powers to fine and arrest those who were not complying with highly dubious and contradictory guidelines for social distancing.
Social and tradition media has plenty of examples of police overreach as a consequence, from police drones buzzing hikers in the Derbyshire Peak District, to Yorkshire police threatening, “to make something up, who they gonna believe, me or you?”, and a lone swimmer manhandled and arrested in Bondi for the crime of exercising alone.
The Australian Prime Minister expressed a desire for a social tracking app to be made compulsory for all citizens (and then changed his mind after some horror was expressed by anyone with the IQ above a gnat).
Many of these emergency measures will eventually be challenged in the courts and will be overturned or reduced in severity. The precedent suggested by the chronology described above is the legislation will then be amended to a form less likely to fail in the courts. i.e. the powers will remain, just with tighter legal wording.
As far as I’m aware, none of this legislation has ever been wound back. For example, the UK’s prevention of terrorism acts were initially designed to be temporary and had to be frequently renewed by Parliament. These measures are now permanent.
Similarly, financial and taxation legislation has only moved in one direction since, well, since the creation of the concept of income tax to pay for the Napoleonic Wars.
It is looking increasingly likely the fatality rate of this virus is nowhere near that predicted by the experts (who’d have thought that multi-variable computer models might not give accurate results?). Potentially, the final fatality rate is going to fall within the range of 0.1 – 0.6%, or about as bad as strong version of the seasonal ‘flu.
In which case, the global governmental response is disproportionate and should be wound back immediately.
But that’s not the point. Even if this virus was as dangerous or worse than, say, the Spanish Flu (2.5% fatality rate), there’s a bigger question you need to ask yourself:
“Am I OK with all of this?”.
Well punk, are ya?