A nightclub should have the right to insist on vaccine certificates; but it should be under no legal obligation to do so. The default assumption for an open society should be that each club (and each cruise ship and each church and so on) can decide what, if any, measures to put in place. The state needs an overwhelming reason to override ownership rights. A vague sense of “better safe than sorry” does not constitute such a reason.
On the face of it, this looks like another chapter in the modern struggle of totalitarianism versus liberty. But it is more than a constitutional argument between free political systems and despotism. Those of us who are determined to be free – and believe that this is a rational choice – must be aware that even in mature, stable democracies, there is a deep and probably inextinguishable longing to have one’s choices controlled and limited by authority, to be absolved from responsibility, to be protected from the consequences of individual actions. A successful public messaging campaign turned that ambivalence into a degree of compliance over Covid rules which has shocked many British commentators but what is most remarkable is how unsophisticated the basic appeal remains: how easy it is to persuade people that they have unleashed vengeful dark forces which must be appeased.
This fear is at the heart of every form of neurotic anxiety and those who are prey to it as individuals (often the most intelligent and sensitive) can incorporate it into belief systems and public policies with the best of motives and little self-awareness: the urge to control others is as much a product of fear as the desire to be controlled. Put in political terms, an authoritarianism that presents itself as benign can be more invidious than a murderous tyranny because the case for overthrowing it seems so much less urgent and the pretext for maintaining it so apparently virtuous. What this version of it rules out is the possibility of constructive, reasonable discussion about how terrible consequences might be averted through innovation, discovery, experiment and cooperative effort – all the things that free people engage in when they are not scared out of their wits, or depressed beyond the point of reason.
Toby Green and Jay Bhattacharya explain that “lockdowns are killers in the global south.” Here’s their conclusion:
If lockdowns are the cause of this terrible carnage, as we maintain, and they are ineffective in preventing the direct harm from the virus, then we should eschew them as a pandemic tactic.
Many times during this pandemic, I’ve wondered why people aren’t panicking enough. Not about Covid (there’s more than enough of that hysteria to go around); rather the alarming level of control we still find ourselves under in the face of such a disproportionate threat. Caught in a cycle of abuse, each time the public is awarded even a sliver of freedom, they are too giddy with gratitude to look up and see the larger storm clouds gather.
She also reports this appalling result of Covid Derangement Syndrome: “Australia has already announced that even after its entire population is inoculated, it won’t be opening its borders to international travel.”