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Steering the Liberal Course Through Covid Hysteria

In my latest column for AIER I explain why I retracted my harsh criticism of classical liberals and libertarians who remain silent in face of Covid-19 lockdowns and other draconian restrictions. Here’s my conclusion:

Again, I’m as confident as I can be that liberal civilization is now in grave peril. Whether it’s called “safetyism” or “bioprotective statism” or (as David Hart has named it) “hygiene socialism,” the dangers are high and real of the sudden acceptance of the dual idea that the worst fate that can befall a person is to come into contact with a pathogen, and that the state must protect us from this fate by imposing on us lockdowns, mask mandates, and other draconian restrictions.

Civilization as we know it – liberal, free, dynamic, prosperous civilization – cannot survive what I fear will be repeated rounds of pathogen panic and the resulting Covidocracy-like tyranny.

And so I will continue with every sinew to publicly protest this madness – to play whatever role I can to persuade people to temper their excessive fear of Covid – to warn whenever I can of the many dangers of hygiene socialism – to urge in private my quiet friends to break their public silence.

I cannot deny that I’ll feel much disappointment whenever I encounter Mr. __’s or Ms. __’s refusal to add his or her voice to the protests against lockdowns. Never will I understand how a classical liberal or libertarian can behold what’s going on today in the name of fighting Covid and not see misinformation and tyranny on such a scale as to demand, from all of liberty’s friends, forthright public opposition.

But my failure to understand isn’t a sufficient warrant for me to criticize those who remain silent. I will respect their choices. Showing such respect is what Leonard Read would have done. It’s what my ever-wise Friend does and will always do. The liberalism destroyed by hygiene socialism need not have added to it the liberalism destroyed by liberals’ own intolerance.