Vote out the lockdown thugs

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Australians must never again allow such draconian authoritarianism

There are some nights you won’t forget for the rest of your life. And yes, I realise that first sentence could signal a myriad of possible paths down which the rest of this column – in some hands – might travel, some of which would see former prime minister Scott Morrison pronounce the person ‘guilty’ before nightfall and before any evidence was presented and without the presumption of innocence. Sigh.

Late last week in Melbourne Stanford Professor Jay Bhattacharya was speaking to a packed auditorium of over 500 people.  Up on stage with him were my fellow Speccie writer Ramesh Thakur and moi. (Note to readers: There have to be some benefits that flow from the insidious and illiberal ‘diversity’ mania embraced by our useless woke corporates, and universities, and public service and that eschews merit, focusing instead on statistical equivalences with the wider population based on a person’s type of reproductive organs or skin pigmentation – hence, affirmative action pick Jimbo, playing the ‘caucasian’ card, took his place up on stage with Bhattacharya and Thakur.)

Professor Bhattacharya is a legend. He is one of the three co-authors of the Great Barrington Declaration, signed in early October of 2020. The other two authors were Professor Sunetra Gupta of Oxford (on many accounts one of the leading epidemiologists in the world) and Professor Martin Kulldorff (then at Harvard University and virtually as eminent). Bhattacharya is in precisely that same league. The gist of this declaration was that lockdowns are a terrible, terrible mistake. The proper approach to a viral pandemic is to focus protection on the vulnerable (which from the start, based on the Diamond Princess data, not China’s worthless pseudo-data, was known to be overwhelmingly the elderly and obese), to leave everyone else to get on with their lives and not to indulge in draconian, despotic, heavy-handed government regulation that will inevitably undermine citizens’ trust in government and the doctorly caste (not to mention forcing the police to become episodic and occasional thugs). Bhattacharya pointed out that this ‘focus protection’ strategy is precisely the approach adopted (under a left-leaning, social democrat government) in Sweden by their chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell – who should, but won’t, win a Nobel Prize for Medicine. And it was based on a century of hard data (not modelling, data). Bhattacharya reminded the audience that Tegnell, when implementing this approach (that in October 2019 was also WHO and British orthodoxy), told his Swedish audience that they should judge him (and the approach) in two years, not day-to-day. Well, as Bhattacharya noted, the data is in and Sweden without any doubt got it right. Take a country’s excess deaths, which cannot be gamed in the way ‘of Covid’ versus ‘with Covid’ can be and were. You just look at a country’s deaths over a few recent years, say from 2015-2019, and work out the average expected per year deaths. Factor in population growth and then see if the deaths you see in 2020, 2021, 2022 are above or below. Sweden’s shot up at the start but now, they are very low. And more to the point, the total or cumulative excess deaths since the start of the pandemic are the second lowest in Europe. They will be lower than Australia’s in the next month or two.  And Sweden closed no schools. It ruined no small businesses. It didn’t spend a fraction of what we did to prop up people whose lives the government’s ‘let’s copy China and weld them in their homes’ strategy was destroying – and in any sane cost-benefit world you would factor in the costs of printing money willy-nilly, massive asset inflation that takes wealth from the poor to give to the rich and from the young to give to the old, etc.

Even just on deaths, though, the lockdownistas got it wrong. Do not let anyone tell you Australia handled the pandemic well. We did not. Nasty, brutish, solitary and far from short (to paraphrase Mr Hobbes) were the lockdowns. Bhattacharya ran through the evidence of their effects across a range of truly awful outcomes. For instance, we knew in 2019 how bad the life outcomes are for kids who miss even a little bit of school, and (yes, read this) their expected lifespan. Lockdowns will steal millions of life years from children around the planet, says Bhattacharya. Take that all you morons who mindlessly mouthed ‘oh, you lockdown sceptics are granny killers’ or, puffed up with moral self-regard, tritely exclaimed ‘not on my watch’. Your lockdown policies will kill orders of magnitude more people (because the data of what we in the West did to the Third World is truly horrifying) than the numbers your policies saved. So failed on fewer deaths. Failed on mental health. Failed on alcoholism. Failed on the economy (we have a cost of Covid crisis, including inflation, and things are going to get worse before better, assuming we can get people back to proper work and a semblance of productivity).

I could go on and on but it just makes me fuming mad. Lockdowns, pointed out Bhattacharya, were designed to protect the laptop class who kept their jobs, could work from home, usually in pretty comfortable homes not tiny flats. The plebs could continue to take risks and deliver food and what have you. It is precisely the sort of virtue-signalling but wrong-headed thinking you’d expect from inner-city elites. As Nassim Taleb forcefully once argued, you don’t get good decision-making outcomes from people who have no skin in the game. Our politicians, bureaucrats and public health clerisy had absolutely no skin in the game. Most of them got raises. The ‘we’re all in it together’ mantra is barf-inducing.

Meanwhile of the 500 odd members of the audience in Melbourne a show of hands indicated about four-fifths were connected to the small business sector. Their lives had been brutalised. And by a Liberal government in Canberra. This audience, rightfully so, gave Professor Bhattacharya a long and hearty standing ovation at the end of the night. I can also reveal that our Stanford professor did not accept a penny to come out here, just his flights. Oh, and did I mention that he recounted how he and his Great Barrington Declaration co-authors were dismissed by Anthony Fauci as ‘fringe’ epidemiologists? How all three were attacked relentlessly (yes, including trying to have them fired) by their colleagues, former friends and the public health caste? How more and more there is quiet recognition that Bhattacharya and co. were correct down the line but that the censorship on dissenting viewpoints goes on?

Science is not what Norman Swan or a public health type announces on TV. It requires the back and forth of competing views and a willingness to let non-conformists put their views.

The biggest disgrace of the last two years was the cancel culture and censorship flowing from the combined forces of Big Government and Big Tech.

This must never happen again. We’ve voted out Morrison. In November, you Victorians need to vote out Dan Andrews who took thuggery and heavy-handedness to world’s highest levels. I know Matthew Guy is useless.

But hold your nose and vote out the next lockdownista.

This article is a republication of an article originally published here by the Spectator Australia.

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  • Prof James Allan

    Professor James Allan holds the oldest named chair at The University of Queensland. He practised law in a large Toronto law firm and at the Bar in London before shifting to teaching law and has taught around the Commonwealth, arriving in Australia in 2005. Allan also writes regularly for the Spectator Australia, the Australian and Law & Liberty in the US as well as semi-regularly for British and Canadian outlets. He came out against lockdowns, in print, as soon as they were imposed and never waivered from that position. His core research areas are moral and legal philosophy and anglosphere constitutional law.

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