Altruism is one way to motivate people, self-interest is another. So far the Government's response to the coronavirus has depended on an appeal to altruism on a scale previously known only at the outbreak of wars, and it has worked astonishingly well.
New Zealanders have accepted unprecedented restrictions on their rights of movement, companionship, business and pleasure, not so much for their personal safety as for the safety of everyone. We were all potential carriers. To avoid people was to be "kind". We were constantly praised us in heroic terms for doing nothing more than staying at home.
Altruism is good for the spirit, uplifting, inspiring even in times of national danger. But it becomes less sustainable as the danger recedes. Sooner or later self-interest re-asserts itself and, like the socialism of last century, regimes based on altruism have to be sustained by force, a contradiction of their principles. We have reached that point with the relaxation of restrictions to Level 3.
Altruism worked at level 4 because the rules were very simple: stay home, stay local, don't drive anywhere except a supermarket, even if you live near a beach don't go in the water. The rules were easily understood and left no room for interpretation. Breach those boundaries and you were likely to see, even hear, the disapproval of a passing citizen.
In Level 3, however, the rules are not quite as clear, and they are going to become steadily less clear and more open to personal interpretation, at every stage of the return to normal life.
At Level 3 we're allowed to extend our bubble. How far? To a workplace as long as we work at least a metre apart. To one other household, though surely children can return to the homes of both sets of grandparents. To school, though only if parents find it "necessary". To beaches, tennis courts and golf courses, so long as we stay in our (extended?) bubble.
Already the Prime Minister is having to talk tough to burger bars that haven't marshalled their customers to keep the required distance. She is beginning to look sterner than she was at level 4. She is going to have to be a harridan unless she is prepared to use everyone's self-interest to control Covid-19.
Self-interest does not mean simply protecting personal health. Many of us may be living in mortal fear of catching the virus but not all of us. At local parks on the first days of level 3, I saw one group of young people lifting weights together, another group kicking a football around, another shooting hoops.
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It is not just the young who don't fear this virus. I hear from people my age who, right from the beginning, have been alarmed only by the consequences of the shutdown for business and the economy.
We often read predictions that people will not be flocking back to bars and restaurants when they can reopen. I think those predictions will be proven wrong. Current restrictions make it hard to sense the public mood, but it wouldn't surprise me to see bar and restaurant tables filled with convivial groups as soon as their doors open.
But though many might not fear the virus itself, they now have good reason to fear the systems of detection and surveillance the Government has established. It has beefed up its call centres in district health boards and a centralised contact tracing hub to the point that Dr Ashley Bloomfield says they can make 8000 calls a day.
Contact-tracing on this scale might still not be enough to put the fears of epidemiologists to rest but it is enough to give every company and every working person a convincing incentive to do their utmost to ensure they do not get a call. After five weeks of enforced absence from a physical workplace, nobody who enjoys those jobs will want to be pulled away from them again anytime soon, and their boss and their associates at work are likely to take a dim view of them if it happens.
Their self-interest would not only be an effective incentive to follow the public health guidelines, it would enable the guidelines to be less prescriptive and more effective. It is quite likely workplaces could devise far better safety measures than lines on a floor if they really had to worry about the consequences for their business. And everyone in the workplace would be interested in the security of their workmates' bubble outside it.
The Government is still warning the whole country could go back into lockdown if there is another outbreak, which would magnify this economic disaster. They now have the weapons to put the risk on firms and individuals and should do so. Self-interest might not appeal to Labour principles but it works.