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Arthur Herman on Citizens as Passive Objects

Arthur Herman, "Politics and the ‘Great Confinement’" at WSJ Opinion (January 30, 2022).

The pandemic tempted governments and their elite allies to treat citizens as passive objects to be dictated to, bullied and coerced en masse — an attitude not unlike that found in China, Cuba and North Korea — instead of as active thinking subjects with whom government is in partnership. With few exceptions (the Nordic countries are the best examples), governments failed to find ways to affirm that despite the pandemic, citizens were still individuals imbued with inalienable rights and independent moral standing. This is, after all, how most people see themselves in modern society — as free autonomous beings rather than as laboratory rats in a series of social science experiments.