I also take issue with the substance of the position that Snowdon, Haimes and other so-called “lockdown centrists”, support: broadly, the current lockdown being maintained until enough people have been vaccinated, “in order to prevent tens of thousands of people dying this winter from [Covid-19]”. While I too went along with the first lockdown, in March last year, carried along by arguments about externalities and the harm principle, as well as general fear and uncertainty, I have since reconsidered my position. In moral terms, I struggle to conceptualise the harm principle as justifying the exercise of state power to confine healthy people in order to prevent a theoretical risk of harm to others. Even applying an economic cost/benefit analysis , if one includes all of the costs to individual welfare and utility, such as the loss of education (which will be most keenly felt by those least able to bear it) as well as GDP losses, it seems inconceivable to me that lockdowns will produce net benefits.
Also responding to Christopher Snowdon is Nigel Alphonso . Two slices (emphasis added):
To be fair to Snowdon, he does not deny or deprecate the extreme privations of lockdown and never has. Indeed, he has hitherto been one of the most articulate chroniclers of the lockdown devastation . But it illustrates a wider point that when the nanny state reached the apotheosis of its evolution and literally decided to lock us up not for anything we had done but for things that we might do (i.e., infect and potentially kill another person – infinitesimally small a risk as that is) the defenders of freedom went missing – instead focusing their considerable intellectual heft on attacking the unholy trinity of “false positives”, “casedemics” and Covid denialism.
Unlike some of our adversaries, we on the anti-lockdown side (and I use that phrase deliberately rather than ‘lockdown sceptic’) must be ruthlessly honest about our intentions. We do not believe that an alternative strategy to lockdown would have cost more lives but intellectual and moral honesty should force us to admit that even if that sad eventuality transpired, it would have been preferable to the current malaise. As we survey a devastated economy, a dislocated society, an unfair allocation of cost to the most disadvantaged and economically fragile, the erosion of human rights and the brutal imposition of state controls with scant democratic accountability – we ask ourselves: “Is this what our country has become? Is this who we are?”
But potentially even more damaging for our long-term future are the lasting shifts in attitudes which the virus may leave behind.
These will be many and complex, but there are three which are particularly likely:
- Permanently lowered public tolerance for life’s normal risks and challenges.
- Increased popular willingness to sacrifice freedoms in pursuit of safety.
- Greater tendency for authorities of all kinds to exploit the above.
The first two of these malign legacies represent acceleration of existing trends, rather than completely new phenomena. But the third is undergoing more of a revolution.
If you think measures like these are unthinkable in a Western democracy, then ask yourself whether you would have believed a year ago that we’d be willing to give up our right to leave our homes without a reasonable excuse to manage a disease that >99% of those it infects recover from.
“The researchers found no significant difference in the number of infections before and after the lockdown was intensified, compared to the other group of four. Secondly, the number of infections began to go down a week or more before the lockdown could have been expected to have any effect. Thirdly, the number of infections also began to go down in the four municipalities where no change was enforced. ”