The memes kept coming: “Warning, cliff ahead: keep driving, freedom fighter.” “Personal freedom is the preoccupation of adult children.” And most recently: “Freedom is a two-way street—unless you’re blocking it with your truck.”
It’s astonishing, when you stop and think about it: freedom, for centuries an aspiration of democratic societies, has devolved to a laughingstock. It’s one of Covid-19’s most unfortunate victims.
People have argued that “nobody has the freedom to infect others.” While reasonable at first blush, this statement doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. For one thing, no sane person seeks the “freedom to infect” any more than a vehicle driver seeks the freedom to slam into pedestrians. It’s a disingenuous allegation that warps a simple desire for personal agency into a malevolent impulse. Second, people have always infected each other. They’ve passed along colds, flus and other bugs, creating long ribbons of transmission that occasionally caused someone to die. Before Covid, we ascribed this to the victim’s frailty. We grieved the loss, but didn’t go hunting for a “killer” to blame. It’s only since Covid that viral transmission has mutated into a crime.
People have also said that “with freedom comes responsibility.” Sure, that’s fair. But even responsibility has limits. Society cannot function if each individual bears the full weight of other people’s health. Aaron Schorr, a Yale University student who had to take immune-suppressing medication in the summer of 2021, understood this when he wrote, in a January 2022 issue of Yale News: “I didn’t expect the government to structure its entire response around my personal well-being. Feeling unsafe? By all means take extra precautions, but 4,664 undergraduates should not be forced to adhere to the same standard.”
If we insist on curtailing basic freedoms until the world is scrubbed of all risk, we will curtail them forever. As we step into the endemic phase of Covid, we need to unpack the idea of “acceptable risk” in exchange for more liberty.
Most of us in mainstream Western society have grown up with large doses of freedom. We understand the trade-off—more freedom, more risk—but wouldn’t have it any other way. Then along comes the pandemic, and public sentiment does an about-face. Safety becomes the all-consuming preoccupation and freedom gets branded as right-wing stupidity. Freedom to take a walk on the beach? Stop killing the vulnerable! Freedom to earn a living? The economy will recover! “Your right to get your hair streaked doesn’t trump my grandfather’s right to life,” shout the Twitterati, turning freedom into a caricature.
One of the most deplorable casualties of Covid culture has been freedom of expression, a core principle in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Experts speaking publicly about the harms of lockdown have faced systematic ostracism from mainstream media, especially left-wing news outlets. Here’s Oxford University epidemiologist Sunetra Gupta, writing in the UK’s Daily Mail in October 2020: “I do have deeply held political ideals—ones that I would describe as inherently left-wing. I would not, it is fair to say, normally align myself with the Daily Mail.” But she had no choice: left-wing media wouldn’t give a lockdown critic the time of day.
Jay Bhattacharya shares, on Twitter, an excellent example of how Covidians are continuing their attempts to distort the narrative, hide truth, and fuel hysteria. (DBx: The typical Covidian is a 21st-century Torquemada – an enemy of truth, enlightenment, and civilization.)
it’s very simple:
if you allow dictatorial powers to be assumed upon the declaration of emergency you have, in effect, dictated that you will forever onward inhabit states of emergency.
this is too temping a prize to place before leviathan.
they will everywhere and always seek to assume and to retain that power.
and they will vilify and demonize any who try to take it back.
We cannot mask our way to COVID zero, and we are harming our children by trying. (Anyone who wants to keep masking, can! )
We need to recognize that children are at exceptionally low risk from COVID. Any schoolchild who wants to be vaccinated can be, and parents should decide whether their child needs the additional protection — if any — afforded by a mask.
Emergency-room visits for suspected suicide attempts among adolescents increased 31% in 2020 from the year before. In February and March 2021, visits for suspected suicide attempts for girls aged 12 to 17 rose 51% compared with the same period pre-pandemic.
School mask mandates create tension and division at a time children most need a sense of normalcy in their lives.
To the media, Florida was “reckless” in abandoning the rules. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman called the state the “poster child for red-state Covid disaster” and said that DeSantis was operating a “death cult.” But it turns out the vilified DeSantis made the right decisions. The lockdowns Newsom has desperately clung to appear to have been an exercise in pandemic theater: a recent meta-study from the Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise found that they “had little to no effect on COVID-19 mortality.” But they did impose “enormous economic and social costs where they have been adopted. In consequence, lockdown policies are ill-founded and should be rejected as a pandemic policy instrument.” These findings back up John Tierney’s analysis, published a year ago in City Journal, that lockdowns resulted in “more deaths from other causes, especially among the young and middle-aged, minorities, and the less affluent,” and were a “failed experiment” that “must end.”
Lockdowns — which the World Health Organization disavows except in very narrow, short-term circumstances and which are unsupported by science — have dragged on and on. Teachers unions kept schools closed month after month in blue states, and even children as young as 2 are being forced to mask despite no scientific support for doing so.
Indeed, masking has become a political statement, to the point that Democrats routinely report wearing masks outdoors simply to ensure they won’t be mistaken for Republicans.
Anyone who disagreed with this approach was accused of “spreading misinformation,” engaging in “conspiracy theories” and generally wanting everyone’s grandma to die.
Mandatory vaccination became an article of faith, even for those with natural immunity, which evidence suggests is at least as good as that produced by the vaccines. Many Democrats supported rules designed to punish the unvaccinated, to exclude them from restaurants, stores, schools — pretty much everywhere outside their own homes.
It was like a return to the Middle Ages, with the modern equivalent of shouts of “Leper! Outcast! Unclean!” aimed at the unvaxxed. And the definition of “fully vaccinated” kept changing to require more and more shots.
Golly-gee-willikers, this is surprising! Some European governments actually put pressure on South African Dr. Angelique Coetzee to lie about the the seriousness of Omicron – to declare publicly that Omicron is more dangerous than Dr. Coetzee believes it to be.
Through it all, the Freedom Convoy’s central theme has always been clear. Protesters were frustrated with the never-ending amount of government restrictions during Covid-19. They opposed mandatory vaccinations, wanted lockdown measures to be tossed aside and prayed that things would go back to normal.
These are the sort of basic human freedoms that classical liberal philosophers such as John Stuart Mill, John Locke and Adam Smith would have supported. Cherished concepts like limited government and individual rights and freedoms must always take priority in a liberal democratic society. Anything less than these basic human rights would have been classified as either totalitarian or tyrannical in nature.
Mr. Trudeau may be a Liberal by political persuasion, but he’s obviously not a classical liberal in his political philosophy. He’s what we might describe as a modern liberal, or someone who is rather Left-leaning, supportive of more government intervention – and, oftentimes, presenting himself as an opponent of freedom, liberty and democracy.
Interestingly, Covid-19 has turned modern liberals like Mr Trudeau and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern into something slightly more sinister in nature, illiberal liberals. They’ve become quite authoritarian, more than happy to propose and pass layers and layers of government restrictions. This includes everything from extreme lockdown measures to the emergency relief funding for individuals and businesses that have shattered the global economy.