Modern Machiavellians have developed far more sophisticated tools for political control than the earlier simplistic use of fear, pain and pleasure.
William Riker introduces the idea of 'heresthetic' to capture this new way of doing politics. Whereas rhetoric is the use of language to influence people, a key element of political power, heresthetic is the way a situation is created that enables actors to get the outcome they want. It's more than gatekeeping, as it is about using the variables in a situation to exclude some outcomes while filtering in the outcome you want.
Lockdown in South Africa is a difficult matter and there are pros and cons to the regulations. The restriction on alcohol makes sense based on hospital admissions resulting from alcohol-related violence. The numbers, real and anecdotal, are significant. Also, with the increase in grants for food, restricting alcohol sales ensures that more money is likely to go into hunger alleviation while protecting the grantee from gratuitous violence to take money for drink.
This issue of tobacco products is more opaque. The health issues are well known but how does a ban on sales create space in hospitals on scale for the forthcoming Covid-19 peak? This has...