The New COVID Binary: Freedom or Fear

Do liberty and basic human rights even matter anymore?

This virus has made one thing quite clear: generally speaking, there are two types of people in the world: those who refuse to cower in fear and panic, who value freedom, democracy and human rights, and who reject the notion that these basic goods can be stolen away from us in order to ‘keep us safe’ – and those who don’t.

Yes, some shades of grey exist, but increasingly we see this clear divergence, with two opposing camps: one values liberty and the importance of making responsible, informed choices (especially as to personal health care), and the other runs on hysteria, emotion and subservience to the Nanny State.

The latter group has stopped behaving like adults and has decided that the all-powerful State knows what is best for them, and they should just meekly go along with whatever they are told to do, regardless of how ludicrous, contrary to facts and common sense, and contradictory these dictates might be.

And the odd thing is, this latter group is mostly made up of those on the left. At one point the left was all about rejecting authority, resisting the establishment, pursuing personal freedom, and maintaining the right to choose. Now, these folks are the biggest defenders of Big Government, coercion (including medical coercion), and mindless conformity.

They have grown to love and adore Big Brother Statism, and those who dare to resist are seen as troublemakers, recalcitrants and the cause of all our woes. I recently penned an entire article on this, discussing this bizarre reversal of fortune.

The biggest problem with all those who so readily will trade basic freedoms and human rights for some perceived ‘safety’ and ‘security’ is that they have entered into a fool’s bargain. What they so blithely give up will likely never be gotten back.

To talk about ‘temporary government measures’ is basically an oxymoron. What the government takes away from the people it loathes to give back. What new powers it takes for itself it seldom gives up. As Ronald Reagan memorably put it: “No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.”

As I have said so often now, most governments have been amazed at how easy it was to lockdown entire populations, with hardly a murmur of complaint from the masses. If this was a trial run for a future full-tilt government takeover, it went like a charm. Our leaders now know they can pull this off with ease.

A new piece on these matters by Peter Hitchens titled “We’re in the Age of the Curfew – and there’s no escape” is both good enough and brief enough to share here in its entirety. He writes:

Prepare to be confined to your home again. Prepare to be prevented from working and put on a state dole. Prepare to have your education trashed. Prepare to be banned from travelling and required to show wads of paper or permit intrusive apps to be installed on your phone. I can’t say when this will be. But after last week’s parliamentary report on the Covid panic, you may be sure it will happen. Next time it may well not be Covid. But that does not matter.

A terrifying principle has been established, that shutting down society is a wise and proportionate response to disease If you want to know how bad this can get in a supposedly free country, look at what has being going on, over and over again, in the Australian state of Victoria and especially the once-delightful city of Melbourne.

A bullying and overbearing police force has allowed itself to be used to enforce the orders of a not very intelligent head of government. Life has been miserable, confined and under surveillance. And nobody knows when this will stop or whether it will start again.

I mention this because I am pretty sure that the next time our country goes for a national shutdown, it will be much better prepared and have many fewer loopholes than it had last time. Those who like this sort of thing will have been watching carefully and they will have noticed how some people managed to stretch the rules a bit to make life more bearable. There will be none of that. Show your papers, get scanned, or else.

And all on the basis of what? Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee and the Health and Social Care Committee simply assume that shutdowns work. This belief is now the conventional wisdom, the groupthink which these MPs weirdly claim that others suffer from.

Evidence from around the world does not support this at all. From Japan to Sweden, nations which instead used light-touch restrictions did not do significantly worse than those which put their people under rigid house arrest. And the hardliners did not do particularly well. Take the Czech Republic, to begin with much praised by shutdown enthusiasts. 

It ‘locked down’ on March 16, 2020, slammed tight controls on its frontiers and issued Europe’s first mask decree. Yet that autumn the disease returned in force, leading it to shut down again – and the process was repeated in December. It currently has the sixth-highest number of deaths per million, 2,860, compared with relaxed Sweden’s 1,451. And that is despite the fact that Sweden, like us, badly mishandled its care homes.

Studies from around the world show there is no obvious link between shutdowns and the containment of the disease. What’s more, this is the first time in human history in which the healthy, rather than the sick, have been quarantined.

What we need is better MPs and a more vigilant media. But without them, we’ll be back before long to the days of the Sunbathing Squad, the Picnic Squad, the Front Garden Squad, and drones flying over remote moorlands, tracking hikers trying to get away from it all.

This is the Age of the Curfew. I wonder which other bit of the Middle Ages they will reintroduce next? 

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