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Last week we interviewed a longtime partner at the consulting firm McKinsey & Company named Peter Walker. Like so many in finance and consulting, Walker spent an awful lot of his career doing business in China. We have no idea how much money he made doing that.
We do know that along the way, Walker internalized a lot of the attitudes of China’s totalitarian government. During our interview, we asked Walker what he thought of China’s lockdown that was imposed in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
I asked Walker: “Now credible reports suggest that Chinese authorities locked people in their apartments and left them to die. We know they snatched people off the streets and threw them into police vans – God knows where they went. That’s the quarantine that you think they deserve high praise for. Why?”
REP. TED BUDD: CORONAVIRUS LOCKDOWNS — ENSURE SAFETY BUT DON’T INFRINGE ON OUR CIVIL LIBERTIES
Walker replied: “Well I think … if you just look at the results, I know there’s always going to be questions about exactly what the numbers are, but I think the harsh action that they took, given the scale of China and number of big cities in it, was exactly what they needed to do to prevent the outbreak from going any further. The reality is the outbreak hasn’t gone much beyond Wuhan.”
The secret police kidnapping citizens off the street, authorities locking people in their apartments from the outside until they starve to death – just look at the results. All of that, Walker said, was “exactly what they needed to do.”
This is the view of one of America’s most prominent business leaders. He didn’t seem ashamed to say it. Later in our interview, Walker suggested that American authorities could have done the same things in New York, if only they’d gotten an earlier start. Kind of a shame they didn’t.
Your jaw dropped watching it. But here’s the striking thing: nobody seemed to notice that he said it. Walker didn’t find himself on the front page of The New York Times the next morning. No one in American business denounced him. He went home and went to bed. Totalitarianism doesn’t shock us anymore.
Maybe that’s because, all of a sudden, it’s all around us.
In a recent incident, two armed police officers arrived at a family’s home in Wisconsin. Someone had reported the mother to police for arranging a play date for her daughter. That’s now a crime.
The first police officers asked the woman: “Are you aware that we’re in a stay at home order right now, by the government of Wisconsin? I don’t need to explain that to you?”
The woman responded by asking: “Why are you here?”
The police officer responded: “Because your daughter is going to play at other people’s home and you’re allowing it to happen….. Stop having your kid go by other people’s home.”
“Are we done here?” the woman asked.
The other officer then asked the woman for her name.
“I’m not giving it to you,” the woman said. “I haven’t done anything wrong.”
The first officer then said he already had the woman’s name.
“We got it,” the second officer told the woman. “And that’ll be documented too, that you’re uncooperative.”
“You are uncooperative. That will be documented.” Notice the tone they strike with this mother. They’re standing on her property, uninvited, hectoring her about the so-called crime of allowing her daughter to play outside the house.
The police officers aren’t apologizing for this. They don’t seem embarrassed to be carrying out an order that has no basis in science. They are utterly self-confident. They treat the woman with pure contempt, like a peasant. … They believe they have the right to do that.
Where exactly do they get that right? That’s a good question – a question we are strongly discouraged from asking. The short answer is, governors told them they could.
Never in American history have politicians been more powerful than they are now. Effectively, they are God. In the state of Maine, Gov. Janet Mills now has the power to suspend any law she doesn’t like. She can seize any state resource she feels like seizing. She can force any citizen or all citizens from their homes.
The governor can do all of this for as long as she believes Maine is in a state of “emergency.” There is virtually nothing Janet Mills can’t do. Many governors now have these powers.
J.B. Pritzker is the governor of Illinois. On Monday, Pritzker did his best to explain why his word is now law in the state. It has to be law, he explained. Otherwise, thousands would die:
“The stay-at-home order has prevented tens of thousands of illnesses and thousands of deaths,” Pritzker said. “History will remember those who put politics aside to come together to keep people safe. It will also remember those who so blindly devoted to ideology and the pursuit of personal celebrity that they made an enemy of science and of reason.”
In three sentences, Gov. Pritzker framed himself as a leader of historic stature. Those who doubt his decrees are “enemies” of science and reason – enemies of civilization itself. Enemies of the state.
Two days later, on Wednesday, it emerged that Pritzker’s own wife, who has state employees of her own, was one of these people. She had apparently violated the lockdown herself. Pritzker was asked about this.
“What is your response to people who say the stay at home order and non-essential travel bans aren’t being abided by your family?” a reporter asked Pritzker. “I believe there’s a report from Illinois Rising Action that says that she recently traveled to Florida.”
The governor responded: “Well, first of all, I want to say that in politics it used to be that we kept our families out of it. My official duties have nothing to do with my family, so I’m just not going to answer that question. It’s inappropriate, and I find it reprehensible honestly that that reporter wrote a story about it.”
Asking about whether or not J.B. Pritzker’s own family is obeying the order your family is morally obligated to follow is “inappropriate.” Indeed, the governor says it is “reprehensible.” How dare you?
It would be very useful in moments like these to have an independent media. News organizations exist to hold the powerful to account. Here we have the powerful acting with no accountability at all.
And our news media? They’re cheering it on, besotted fan girls. No abuse is too grotesque for them. No talking point is too stupid to repeat. Reporters will do whatever they are told. They’re all in.
MSNBC recently sent a camera crew to document one of the latest and most Orwellian developments in America’s decent into Chinese-style social control: barking drones that harangue citizens from the air. MSNBC was were delighted by it:
A voice coming from a drone said to people below: “|Please move away from each other and separate.”
A reporter said: “Elizabeth, New Jersey is now using drones to spread the life-saving message.”
The voice from the drone said: “You are not immune to this virus.”
“Move away from each other!” commands the state of New Jersey. “Break it up! Your God-given right to free assembly has been suspended indefinitely! Back inside, or you will face the consequences!”
MSNBC applauds this, as if it’s completely normal. It is, they tell us, “a lifesaving message.” Handmaidens to the corona-security state.
But to their credit, at least MSNBC put it on television. Most outlets don’t even bother to cover stories like this.
The other day, prosecutors in New Jersey charged nine people for daring to participate in a Jewish wedding in their backyard. A few months ago, this would have been news.
For 250 years, Americans have enjoyed the unfettered right to practice their faith as they choose. Now they don’t. It happened overnight.
Last month, Christians across the country were legally prohibited from celebrating Easter in their own churches. The national media barely noted it.
How exactly is this happening? It turns out, that’s not clear. Strangely, not very many people have asked.
Politicians have no right to do any of this. They can’t make it illegal for people to go to religious services. The Constitution of the United States expressly prohibits that. The words couldn’t be clearer.
The First Amendment explicitly prevents government from making any law that inhibits the exercise of religious faith. It’s a cornerstone of our history and our law.
Millions of people have fled to America from around the world precisely because our Bill of Rights gives them this guarantee. It’s why this country was founded. Now it’s gone.
Where did politicians get the authority to do all this? Because some elderly, power-drunk doctor told them to? That’s not how our system works – or can work.
Occasionally, you’ll hear some lonely civil libertarian fret that we may be on a “slippery slope” toward losing our rights. If only. We’re already there.
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We’ve slid to the bottom of that slope. Our rights are gone. No one has explained how politicians are allowed to do this, to override the Constitution. No one seems to care. They’re too afraid.
But if we think this is moment scary, consider what might come next. Now that we’ve ceded all authority in the country to our political leaders, what can’t they do? What are the limits to their power?
That’s not a theoretical question. It’s not an argument over philosophy or political theory. It’s the most practical possible question. The answer will define where this country goes next. What can’t politicians do in the name of public health?
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As it stands, politicians won’t let people worship, or work, or go to school, or see their aging parents. They’ve placed the nation under house arrest. That’s happening today, right now. But let’s say we all get more afraid. What then? What couldn’t they start doing? Could they intern people? Seriously.
You can dismiss the possibility if you like. But remember just a few months ago, most of us would have dismissed the idea of propaganda-spewing drones from above. Now we have them. So what’s next? What can’t they do? Let’s draw a line at some point.
Adapted from Tucker Carlson’s monologue from “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on May 1, 2020.
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