Why when faced with societal problems, does the State respond with zero-sum solutions? That is, in an attempt to remedy the problem, it is always at the expense of our privacy and freedoms. This has been the case with the war on drugs, terrorism and now on disease. And we will live with the unintended consequences.
By George Tomko, a Toronto-based engineering physicist and neurophysiologist.
Originally published to Medium on August 16, 2021
The march towards political freedom always takes a circuitous route. Although never a straight path, the last few millennia has demonstrated that, over time, freedom expands. But this expansion is interspersed with setbacks, and over the last few decades, especially after 911 and now with COVID-19, we are in the midst of a diminution of our political freedoms. In the past, these setbacks, however, were always followed with a continuation toward even greater freedoms. Will this be the case in the future, or have we already reached the summit and it will all be downhill from here towards global authoritarian power structures?
Over the past few decades, we have experienced increasing authoritarianism and societal polarization, leading to a breakdown of civil discourse, a steady increase in surveillance — the trojan horse of authoritarian control, unkindness at large, and now a despondence among many exacerbated by fear. In addition, the damage that Central Banks are inflicting on the economy by continuing to print more money (a disguised ‘inflation’ tax used to finance the voting demands of the electorate) will inevitably lead to the greatest debt bubble burst the world has ever known. That is important because when there are economic breakdowns in society, individual freedom always suffers, and the misery is compounded. The hyperinflation of the Reichsmark during the Weimar Republic in the 1920’s paved the way for the democratic election of Hitler in 1933, leading to his dictatorship in 1934. And although history may not necessarily repeat itself, it often rhymes.
The question that is germane, though, is why when faced with societal problems, does the State respond with zero-sum solutions? That is, in an attempt to remedy the problem, it is always at the expense of our privacy and freedoms. This has been the case with the war on drugs, terrorism and now on disease. And we will live with the unintended consequences.
Vaccines are promoted by governments and the media as our savior, protecting us from the COVID-19 infection from those that may be carriers. Earlier this year, they were promoted as voluntary, but now they are mandated in order to maintain one’s livelihood. Furthermore, since in many jurisdictions, the rise in fully vaccinated numbers is stalling, vaccine passports are being promoted to serve a dual purpose: to prevent exposure of the vaccinated to those that are unvaccinated; and to pressure people to become fully vaccinated, otherwise their lives will be restricted. However, this is merely another zero-sum solution that diminishes our privacy and freedoms. It severely violates one’s right to control whether an “experimental drug” goes into one’s body. But it has far more insidious consequences. A digital vaccine passport will institute an infrastructure in which the variable “has been vaccinated” can in future be replaced with “does not criticize the government,” or any number of mandates that a future authoritarian government may enact. In effect, it could morph into a digital ID and become like China’s Social Credit Scoring, as hard as that may be to believe!
The reason is because we humans are far from perfect — the same applies to our politicians and bureaucrats. In a democracy where we regularly elect new people to govern us, we can never be assured that politicians in the future will not exploit the existing technological infrastructure to our detriment, in effect, to gain control over us. Unwarranted electronic surveillance is a recent example. We must design technology to withstand potential shortfalls in our political systems and, accordingly, not support potentially dystopic regimes. For example, political dissidents living within even a quasi-authoritarian regime could in effect have their actions and movements severely constrained by a system originally designed as a vaccine passport, in which one modifies “vaccine” to “whatever the State chooses.”
Of course, we wish to have both public safety and good health, but not to the exclusion of freedom and privacy; nor does it have to be that way! The dated zero-sum mentality of politicians and bureaucrats is simply lazy thinking. We can have both public safety/good health and freedom — and when free people are charged with this necessity, it becomes the mother of invention. That has been the history of true innovation. The reason we have now been placed into this situation is because there is no competition of ideas to replace the zero-sum, “either/or,” model of win-lose with a positive-sum model of win-win. The problem is that governments rarely think in a positive-sum manner since, in effect, they have a monopoly: they do not need to respond to a competition of ideas. In fact, presently there appears to be a refusal to consider any alternative ideas.
However, creativity and innovation require a diversity of information and views. In the words of Arthur Koestler, who many years ago wrote “The Act of Creation,” creativity is the bisociation of diverse planes of thought. Unfortunately, today, if the information is not ordained by the State and its public health acolytes, it is considered to be misinformation, even though highly accomplished scientists in the field have produced these alternative views. I need not point out that history is replete with the “consensus” being wrong. My point is that unless we as a society give these alternative views the light of day, and let “sunshine disinfect them,” the chances of arriving at a positive-sum solution which protects health without sacrificing privacy and freedom will be minimal.
As an example, if one were to point to peer-reviewed studies that off-label treatments for COVID-19 used in other countries were safer and more effective than vaccines; or, that in all age brackets (with the exception of 65+), the survival rates between influenza and COVID-19 were statistically similar (~99+%); or, that daily intakes of vitamins D, K2, B, C and zinc will significantly decrease the risk of COVID-19 across all age brackets; or, if one were to post a video that conflicts with the consensus narrative — many (if they would even look at this new information) would most likely critique the scientific basis of those studies. And that would be fine because that’s the way science is done. But if other scientists were now to scientifically critique the the original critics, their views may be branded as misinformation and censored on major media sites. That is not good science. Creativity and innovation often arise from disputes, either amongst one’s community or within one’s own mind.
Governments around the world say they wish to approach 100% vaccination in order to protect us. Their concern is that “misinformation” will increase vaccine hesitancy and place people at risk. But their definition of misinformation is any information that goes against the narrative that vaccines are safe and effective, and that the only solution to the pandemic is to vaccinate everyone, now, using the coercive proxy of mandates and vaccine passport. But more and more “outside experts” are questioning this strategy through peer-reviewed scientific studies. Perhaps these outside experts are wrong, but unless we allow their views to see the light of day, and listen to the debate from all sides and, importantly, attempt to replicate their studies, we will never know the “truth.” Consequently, we will never achieve a positive-sum solution. This is the age-old classical liberal stance that has raised societies from poverty to prosperity, freedom and privacy, and even to a healthy society. A little over a century ago Louis Pasteur (and his germ theory of disease) was considered an outsider because he went against the consensus of the miasma theory of disease. But fortunately for society, Pasteur was allowed to debate his ideas in the open.
If we are to preserve our freedom and privacy while at the same time achieving public safety and health, then we must strive for a paradigm shift in thinking, namely, that nothing is worth achieving if it comes at the expense of freedom and privacy. A prosperous and healthy society never threatens its liberty!
George Tomko, Ph.D. | Engineering physicist and neurophysiologist | @GeorgeMyPi
George Tomko is a Board member of Energy Probe Research Foundation, the umbrella organization of Consumer Policy Institute.