We live in a community. Obligations to one another flow from that. At the same time, obligations must be checked by individual freedoms because it is almost impossible for an individual to opt out. The law follows you to the boundaries of the State. Civilised societies try to find the right balance between communal obligations and individual freedoms. People tend to gravitate to societies which are relatively skewed towards individual freedoms. Migration flows speak to that. Empirically, such societies are also the most prosperous. Individual freedoms and prosperity move in sync.
Unfortunately, there is no formula which determines the ideal balance between communal obligations and individual freedoms. An added complication is that circumstances alter cases. In wartime, for example, individual freedoms are curtailed. Spreading alarm and despondency became a crime in Britain during World War II. Seems the kind of law more fitting of Oceania under Big Brother. Yet it’s arguable, I suppose, at a stretch, that it may have deterred fifth columnists from causing mischief. Does it make any sense? Perhaps, maybe, if only barely.
Making sense is the first hurdle to jump. A second is how temporary and well specified are the circumstance giving rise to the curtailment or loss of freedoms. Freedoms lost for a well-specified and temporary set of circumstances is clearly of a different quality than if it is open-ended.
As in wartime, pandemics can justify a curtailment of freedoms. Same tests apply. They have to make sense. They have to be for a well-defined and temporary set of circumstances. Below is a non-exhaustive list of freedoms lost in Australia but also, to one extent or another, across most countries during the current pandemic. I will have missed some.
♦ Freedom to travel long distances
♦ Freedom to travel short distances except for defined purposes
♦ Freedom to sit and rest in a public place while exercising outside
♦ Freedom to enjoy outdoor recreational activities (e.g., golf, fishing, sports)
♦ Freedom to mingle with friends
♦ Freedom to mingle with family outside of one’s own household
♦ Freedom to visit relatives in nursing homes
♦ Freedom to assemble
♦ Freedom to encourage people to assemble
♦ Freedom to work in specified occupations
♦ Freedom to operate specified businesses
♦ Freedom to go about unmasked
♦ Freedom to attend school
♦ Freedom to have elective surgery
♦ Freedom to refuse an intrusive medical procedure (vaccination)
It is important to understand that all of the above losses of freedom apply to healthy, non-infected people and children. Also note the devilment in the detail. A few examples: Old people left to die alone. Dysfunctional families locked together 24/7. Snitching on neighbours encouraged. Police thuggery enforcing senseless illiberal rules. Discriminatory and divisive restrictions, and public vilification, visited on the unvaccinated. Children – soon (be horrified) down to as young as six months – used, as might be guineas pigs or lab monkeys, by Big Pharma to boost profits.
The loss of freedoms across all of society during the pandemic, specifically lockdowns; shackling, if you will, of healthy people, is unparalleled in human history. Heretofore only infected and contagious people, slaves and criminals, were so shackled. Two questions. Does it make sense? Is it for a well-specified set of circumstances and temporary?
Lockdowns make no sense because they don’t work to stem deaths and cause untold suffering. Untold is the word. As yet there has been no accounting of the suffering. However, it has been massive and is continuing. And two years on, there is still no certain end in sight
Masks of the kind almost everybody wears are next to useless in curbing viral spread. They interfere with facial expressions, which are such an important part of human communication and an essential part for teachers and children at school. Vaccine passports are punitive and divisive and have no effect in preventing contagion.
And, over two years later, there is still no assurance about when normality will be restored. What an utter and unmitigated shambles.
Two sides to it, you think? There ain’t. I’ll tell you why.
Three researchers from the John Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise (a mouthful) published a meta-analysis of the effect of lockdowns on COVID-19 Mortality in January. You might have seen coverage of it; nevertheless, it’s worth repeating an extracted summary of its conclusion (emphasis added):
This study employed a systematic search and screening procedure in which 18,590 studies are identified that could potentially address the belief [that lockdowns reduce COVID-19 mortality] … 24 qualified for inclusion in the meta-analysis [which concluded] that lockdowns have had little to no public health effects, they have imposed enormous economic and social costs where they have been adopted. In consequence, lockdown policies are ill-founded and should be rejected as a pandemic policy instrument.
But we long since knew this, didn’t we? Deaths in light-touch Sweden never exploded as the models or doom merchants on the Left predicted. As at the end of January, Worldometer reports the death rate in Sweden as below that in UK, the US and in Spain. It’s higher than in some countries but lower than most. Similarly, light-touch Florida, South Carolina and Texas had death rates all lower than in New York and many other American states.
Next, to those estranging face masks. While their effectiveness in limiting the spread of the airborne virus is moot; unsurprisingly, they do work to prevent droplets from mouths and noses spreading through the air. What’s my point then? It is this: governments have spent gazillions on the virus. They have promoted and mandated masks. Why then haven’t N95 masks been made freely and abundantly available. Correspondingly, why have filthy, flimsy cloth masks been regarded as legally acceptable, if masking is so crucial? I don’t buy it.
A much better policy would have been to make N95 masks freely available to those wishing to wear them. Instead of 100 per cent of people wearing inferior masks, probably around 60 to 70 percent of people (the cautious majority) would choose to wear more effective masks in crowded situations. All told, increased protection against transmission while preserving freedom. Win-win. But then governments would have had to give up their power to push people around.
Little to say about vaccine passports. Leaky vaccines and equal viral loads among the infected vaxxed and unvaxxed. Surges in infections among highly vaxxed populations. Zero rationale for vaccine mandates, except, again, to serve the authoritarian instincts of governments.
A monumental and monstrous failure of public policy sums it up. Why did it happen? Take you pick. I mostly blame the media. Generally, those among the mainstream media are hysterics.
I read The Australian each day. No shortage of hysterics. Imagine if you took your news only from the ABC or read and believe The Guardian? One effect has been to drive political unity tickets. There is no opposition among the major political parties on combatting the virus, as there isn’t any more on combatting so-called “climate change.” In such circumstances despotism flourishes.
Media today verses yesterday: For sure, much more leftness, greenness, feminisation and callowness; but, dwarfing all of these pernicious trends is a precipitous fall in questioning curiosity, objectivity and common sense. Shows no signs of reversing.