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Steering the Liberal Course Through Covid Hysteria

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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 [2]. 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 [3],” 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.