Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan argued that man’s natural state was between fear and hope, with ‘the state of continual fear and danger of violent death’ being the most prominent of these states. Consequently, to prevent this fear from consuming all of society and leaving us in a darkened husk, Hobbes argues that society needs an absolute monarch to govern, as only a strong monarch can guide the hand of society away from chaos toward order. Whilst Hobbes was writing during the course of the English Civil War, and his views were no doubt influenced by the chaos of that period, his writing has particular resonance now, with the outbreak of Coronavirus or Covid-19.
Since the outbreak of Coronavirus, the public has fallen into a trap of panic buying and emptying out supermarket shelves of items such as toilet paper, hand sanitiser and other such items, all this despite pleas from governments and other authorities not to. Indeed the situation has gotten so bad, that supermarkets are now having to insist on basic manners and ask that shoppers be polite to their staff and be understanding that there is only so much that supermarkets can do to provide for them. What an absolute mess.
Such is the uncertainty around the coronavirus and the panic that it is inducing amongst the populous that the stock market continues to both plunge and then rebound, suggesting that no matter what the governments of the world do, the markets are going to keep fluctuating until people stop acting like idiots. Of course, that markets are fluctuating should be of no surprise, markets are run by the people, and they will reflect the confidence and the nervousness of the traders and the normal citizen, and if the citizen is panic buying and worrying about a virus, then naturally the markets will also worry.
And that is not the only thing that this outbreak of Coronavirus has shown, the panic that the public are feeling around the virus is being fed by an almost constant stream of hysteria by both the papers and the so called ‘experts’ on social media. The media are highlighting the worst of the virus, and are allowing people with barely any scientific knowledge to make comments on the matter, whilst social media allows the snobs and the know alls to criticise the UK government’s handling of the matter, and decry the advice the Prime Minister is being given by his special advisors.
What all of this suggests is that despite their claims to the contrary, people as a whole are filled with idiotic ideas, and will in times of crisis give into their worst instincts, mainly fear, selfishness and violence. Unless this is dealt with, we can expect to see more instances where the common good is ignored and more people spread disinformation or sow the seeds of panic for their own ends.
Society needs a strong hand to guide us through this crisis, not some bumbling bureaucrat from the EU, or a scientist, but someone willing to listen to the experts and make the calls that are needed to be made without fear that some idiot on the internet will cause a mass panic. That can only be achieved through following Hobbes’ advice.