In recent months, it has become increasingly clear just how important the work of those advocating for liberty actually is – amid a global trend towards supporting greater state intervention, a large number of people are unconvinced of the devastating impact on human well-being that prolonged lockdowns would inevitably have if used as a long-term solution.
In many cases, there is an unprecedented desire to prioritize short-term safety ahead of anything else. This comes at the expense of both our civil liberties and economic future, which in turn would ensure grim prospects for sustained abilities to respond effectively to the pandemic.
Understanding the dangers of economic collapse
Worryingly, recent events have accelerated a surge in popularity for ideas of degrowth. There are many issues with the idea that the global economy could undergo a planned contraction. For one, it does not take into account the inevitable suffering such a process would cause, particularly for the astronomical number of newly unemployed. It is disingenuous to suggest that this would not involve a widespread decline in living standards.
In terms of mitigating the negative impact of degrowth, any of the solutions put forward consist of large-scale wealth redistribution and the scope of the state expanding significantly. This would represent an unprecedented erosion of individual and economic freedom.
Furthermore, there is a tendency to ignore any correlation between economic development and reduced levels of pollution once development has passed a certain threshold. The Environmental Kuznets Curve offers some context to this phenomenon. Those who see economic degrowth as desirable in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic also fail to take into account the positive impact of market solutions to environmental problems.
Since the advent of classical liberal ideas during the Enlightenment, living standards have increased significantly through economic growth and liberalization. Originally confined to those countries which were early to adopt these values to varying degrees, the benefits of greater individual and economic liberty can now be felt throughout a growing number of societies around the world.
An impoverished world in the aftermath of an unprecedented economic downturn would also see disastrous outcomes for health care, which highlights the necessity of taking the threat of economic collapse seriously.
Sadly, there is a tendency to not consider the long-term impact of policies aimed at providing short-term solutions. It is vital to take into consideration how a prolonged recession or depression will inevitably have many casualties, and must be avoided as a matter of great urgency.
It is evident that if we want to continue to see increasing standards of living, along with all the benefits brought about by increased liberalization since the early days of classical liberalism, we must not allow 2020 to mark the beginning of a dark new era for liberty.
Standing up for civil liberties
Major crises provide governments with unique opportunities to expand the scope of the state. Many of the more authoritarian world leaders may also use these unprecedented circumstances to strengthen their personal grip on power. History shows that, more often than not, when governments pass measures to give themselves new powers, these decisions are seldom reversed.
Therefore, it is crucial to the future direction of society that advocates for liberty keenly scrutinize every action implemented and ensure that nothing goes unnoticed which may result in future infringements on individual rights.
Current concerns for safety must not be exploited as a means to expand the surveillance state or promote nationalistic trade and immigration policies. Faced with these very real threats, all of those who value liberty must be louder and more effective than ever in arguing for the values of a free, open, and tolerant society.
As various national governments are pushing for increased abilities to control the population in the name of the common good, their narratives must not go unquestioned. With the current crisis putting into question much of what characterizes the modern world, we must continue to emphasize the benefits of global trade, international cooperation, and personal freedom.
Although there has never been a time when advocating for the ideas of liberty was not important, the widespread apathy towards ensuring against growing authoritarianism beyond the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that we are at a crucial stage in this battle of ideas. In order to ensure that the future of humanity is as peaceful and prosperous as possible, the values of individual liberty and economic freedom must be respected, and advocates for these ideals now have the important task of demonstrating their value to others.
Students For Liberty is working tirelessly to advocate for the protection of our civil liberties. By educating, developing, and empowering the next generation of leaders of liberty, we are undeterred in our fight for a freer future.
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