16 September 2020

Pandemics and public authority

 Civil authority exists so those entrusted with public office -- elected or otherwise, the auditor general or the chief medical officer or an appointed judge hold public office just as much as the premier does -- can at need exercise it for the preservation of the public welfare.

So when Fort Mac is like to burn, or there's a flood around Winnipeg, the exercise of civil authority is not -- and should not be! -- "you might wish to consider evacuating"; it's "Out, now."  And the authority suffices to have you removed involuntarily.

This applies to public authority in the context of a pandemic.  We can look around at where the control measures have worked with COVID-19, and where the control measures haven't -- Ontario is a strong "haven't" -- and note this difference; everywhere the pandemic control measures have worked have a positive construction of civil authority.  Some states are straight up authoritarian -- Vietnam -- and some are open democracies -- New Zealand -- and there are a whole bunch in between (Singapore somewhere in the middle) but they've got this common element of a general legitimacy of the idea of exercising civil authority for the general public good.

So the worrying thing is not, in its way, that a whole bunch of people are going to suffer needless harm; it's that the political mechanisms to confer and use civil authority to the degree necessary to avoid general harm are busted.  (This is apparently irrespective of political party inside Canada; it's not a uniquely conservative failing.)  I'd put this down to the slow mammonite radicalisation of the last couple generations; the only legitimate purpose of government is to not tax the rich.  (Yes, I know that sentence makes no sense.  Take it up with the mammonites.)

Going further into the century of angry weather with no exercisable construction of civil authority sufficient to avoid general harm is a distressing prospect.  Everyone individual dies, and I have no expectation of surviving the first big failure of agriculture, there's too much I can't eat. That's, well, it's a lapse of civilisation when people start dying of starvation.  Lapse is not end, and no functioning construction of civil authority is end.

It don't leave me feeling hopeful.

(Ontario is a "strong haven't" because we're getting a second wave and because the current policy overtly and consciously includes killing and maiming teachers and school children in preference to taking the (obvious, simple, known) steps necessary to extirpate the disease.  The purpose of the system is what it does; that this goes on the same pile as the customary ~10,000 annual excess deaths from air pollution doesn't render it excusable or palatable.)


JReynolds said...

More bad news - I felt horrible when I read it.

From CBC:

"A founding member of Mountain Equipment Co-op, a company that always prided itself on being owned by its members, says she's disappointed with its recent sale to a private U.S. investment fund."

So a wonderful company has been sold to asset-strippers. How long until MEC is gone?

Graydon said...

Rather depends on the membership regaining control or not.

The specific atrocity is nigh-certainly completely legal (because there's no proof of rigged board elections); MEC has been of decreasing utility for the past decade, I expect it won't last long, plaga post.