Spontaneous Order in Complex Systems
As expected, my last piece generated a wealth of critical comments.
I don’t deny that there are many bad actors scattered across our governments, and that these bad actors coordinate, plan and conspire. The question, is not whether there are conspiracies, or whether these policies benefit our oligarchic elites, or whether I’ve looked into Event 201. The question, is what is the dominant force driving containment and universal vaccination right now.
The one thing I want to convey here, more than anything else, is the complexity and extent of modern western governments. These are unbelievably elaborate systems, and they are not easily controlled or understood by individuals or confined groups. A lot of their regulations and policies are totally baffling and inexplicable, and this has been the case for decades, long before anybody cared about SARS-related coronaviruses. These systems exhibit properties of spontaneous order; they act towards their own ends, in ways nobody intends, even as people within them perceive the folly of what their institutions are doing. They are suprahuman organisms.
As for plans and conspiracies, there two of them which played a huge part in making what should have been a middle-of-the-road pandemic influenza-type event into a worldwide catastrophe:
1) There is, firstly, the decades-long retooling of biodefence planning and preparedness into pandemic planning and preparedness. This happened after 2003, in the wake of the SARS-1 outbreak. Our benevolent public health authorities and their allies in academia suddenly became deeply interested in pandemics. They acquired a bunch of shiny new policy toys they wanted to try out. The false Swine flu panic of 2009 was an early sign that this entire network of think tanks, schemers and philanthropic organisations had begun to represent a truly dangerous threat to our economies and societies.
2) Then, secondly, there is the specific role of shadowy actors, mostly from mainland China, in promoting mass containment after January 2020. I really recommend you betake yourself to the Event 201 website and watch all of the videos. You will find there a perfect statement of everything western pandemic planners had spent years fantasising about. What’s missing from the event, is lockdowns, border closures, mass testing, contact tracing, and everything else that belongs to mass containment. All of this, which has made the Corona pandemic massively worse, was implemented by very deliberate conspiracies in the earliest months of 2020.
Together, 1) and 2) have proven to be a toxic mix. Governments are now using the repressive containment policies they got from China to drive their populations into the arms of the vaccinators. In their eagerness for a pandemic, they once again jumped the gun and overreacted to a virus that was only somewhat bad. They were not welcomed as saviours and not everybody wanted their vaccines. A lot of people weren’t sure these new products were safe. Then the vaccines turned out not to work so well, and that was to many of these people a double slight. Their escalating fanaticism, vindictiveness, and newfound preference for punitive approaches, are all psychological reactions to the failure and repudiation they have experienced.
So yes, the inception of this involved a lot of planning. Now, however, the initiators are no longer in the driver’s seat. They shouted fire in a theatre and caused a stampede to the exits; the crowd will continue to rush out whatever anybody does.
A whole ideological revolution has taken place, thanks to two years of intense media propaganda and social isolation. Millions and millions of people believe in containment, in the same way they believe racism is bad. The collective force of these deeply held beliefs is very great, and vastly stronger than any repressive policies an autocratic public health establishment could issue from on high. These beliefs are especially rife in the middle and upper-middle classes – the urban professionals, the well-off doctors and lawyers, the university professors, and so on. It is precisely these social spheres that are most heavily represented in our government, corporate and academic institutions. The collective force of these public and private bureaucracies is now driving containment; this is just undeniable.
It has been clear, since the summer, that the political leadership and the upper bureaucratic ranks want to end lockdowns, and are in fact desperate to do so. The vaccines drained a lot of the organic demand for these policies, which have also proven to be wildly ineffective and dangerous. This repudiation, however, has happened for the most part in silence. Policy makers decided it was best simply not to talk about lockdowns anymore, and to ensure that their odious, forever-wrong modellers appear less often in the press.
Only now, many months into this quiet pivot, do we begin to hear the first clear statements in the left-liberal media that lockdowns were a mistake.
There was a distinctive moment, at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, that neatly encapsulated the mistakes and confusion of Britain’s early efforts to tackle the disease, says Mark Woolhouse. At a No 10 briefing in March 2020, cabinet minister Michael Gove warned the virus did not discriminate. “Everyone is at risk,” he announced.
And nothing could be further from the truth, argues Professor Woolhouse, an expert on infectious diseases at Edinburgh University. “I am afraid Gove’s statement was simply not true,” he says. “In fact, this is a very discriminatory virus. Some people are much more at risk from it than others. People over 75 are an astonishing 10,000 times more at risk than those who are under 15.”
And it was this failure to understand the wide variations in individual responses to Covid-19 that led to Britain’s flawed responses to the disease’s appearance, he argues – errors that included the imposition of a long-lasting, national lockdown. This is a strategy that Woolhouse – one of the country’s leading epidemiologists – describes as morally wrong and highly damaging in his forthcoming book, The Year the World Went Mad: A Scientific Memoir.
“We did serious harm to our children and young adults who were robbed of their education, jobs and normal existence, as well as suffering damage to their future prospects, while they were left to inherit a record-breaking mountain of public debt,” he argues. “All this to protect the NHS from a disease that is a far, far greater threat to the elderly, frail and infirm than to the young and healthy.
“We were mesmerised by the once-in-a-century scale of the emergency and succeeded only in making a crisis even worse. In short, we panicked. This was an epidemic crying out for a precision public health approach and it got the opposite.”
The tone is still tentative here and there, because the primary force driving lockdowns is the vast, distributed consensus of the middle bureaucratic managerial ranks. This is a dangerous force even for politicians and wealthy oligarchs to confront, and they’ve approached it carefully.
Since the pandemic started, the go-to Bond villains at the glorified conference circuit known as the World Economic Forum have been trying to move on from Corona and get back to their own pet issues, which are an evil if beige blend of equity, sustainability, and technocratic fantasies. In a 10 July 2020 invitation to the Dutch Minister of Finance, Klaus Schwab wrote that the WEF
aims to provide a clear signal, at the beginning of next year, that the world has moved out of the COVID-19 pandemic. The discussions will focus on shaping policies for the post-COVID-19 era under the theme of the Great Reset.
Despite Schwab’s hopes, the world did not leave the pandemic behind in early 2021. Corona persists, because in early 2020, a lot of people with outsized social, economic and political influence were converted into to a parareligious belief system about how best to manage a respiratory virus. This system has been reinforced by months of hysterical press coverage; by bad propaganda disease statistics; and by an imprudent, heavily policed scientific consensus. These all started life as a coordinated information campaign to promote and enforce Chinese-style authoritarian lockdowns in the West. Since then, the propaganda has become an autonomous, self-sustaining media and bureaucratic organism, driven by the personal fears and convictions of untold thousands of people, and nobody can shut it off.
The Davos crowd, for their part, have spent years trying to develop widespread interest in their stakeholder-capitalist aspirations. They’ve had very mixed results, compared to the religious fervour that containment has achieved. I’ve written before about why that is: As an issue, climate change doesn’t have the same universal appeal as Corona. It doesn’t give everyone a role to play, its threats aren’t as immediate, and the time-scale is too grand. It’s unsurprising that the Schwabs of our world are doing everything they can to hijack Corona as an issue and make it about their own policy priorities. So far, they’ve had roughly zero success.
I’m always a little surprised that analysis like this proves controversial.
We all know multiple, real-life, flesh-and-blood Corona hystericists in our own lives. Notice how these people tend to come from precisely those segments of society whose views are over-represented in government and the press. This really, really matters. It makes radical government policies possible in the first place, it ensures close enforcement of even the most ridiculous rules. However it began, it has become an autonomous, self-perpetuating force, not all that different from other political ideologies that have inspired similar fervour among their adherents.
In the beginning, there were plans and conspiracies, and there are plans and conspiracies still. The difference between then and now, is simply that those early plans unleashed a preference cascade which took our whole society and culture by storm. Further planning by confined groups of people is now overwhelmed by the semi-stable international ideological consensus driving containment. This consensus has moved our world in a very extreme, radical direction, that is no longer in anyone’s interest. Profits are no good if you destroy the economy or destabilise the currency.
I don’t type all of these things to irritate my readers. I type them because they are true, and because they indicate certain strategies. To begin with, I think it’s very important to avoid anything that deepens fear or panic, even in the face of bad news. I’ve not always gotten this right, but I do my best to maintain a calm, level-headed tone. In the second place, I think it’s essential to develop a counter-narrative that is politically neutral and accessible to ordinary people, many of whom are just going along with this. In the third place, it’s worth remembering that if we’re thinking about this, other people with vastly more resources and, uh, conspiratorial and planning capacity, are thinking about this too. Some of you have suspected this is might explain the origins of Omicron, which is not implausible, but they’re unlikely to stop there.