Sunday, June 23, 2024
HomeCOVID-19Are we surrendering liberty for a spook?

Are we surrendering liberty for a spook?


LAST night’s announcement by the Prime Minister was shocking: The UK is now a police state.

Earlier in the evening, I watched a German interview with infectious disease specialist Professor Sucharit Bhakdi, head of the Institute for Medical Microbiology at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, who describes similar measures in Germany and around the world as ‘self-destruction and collective suicide because of nothing but a spook’. Have we in Britain just surrendered our liberties over a spook?

Dr Bhakdi makes some fascinating observations. He asks what China and Italy have in common, and answers: Horrific air pollution. Northern Italy has the worst air pollution in Europe, he explains, and after years of breathing it, the elderly have developed respiratory problems: ‘Northern Italy is the China of Europe.’

He explains further that in nearly all Covid-19-related fatalities, there are accompanying health issues. There were already many deaths per day of people infected with a type of coronavirus other than Covid-19, he continues, and what all the current efforts by governments around the world amount to is merely an attempt to prevent the specific coronavirus, Covid-19, from replacing other types of coronavirus as the new bedfellow of those other health issues.

The worst-case predictions for Covid-19 don’t threaten a massive increase over the current coronavirus situation – we just don’t talk of the thousands of annual ‘corona-deaths’. In short, the people who have died and were infected with Covid-19 didn’t necessarily die of Covid-19. As with other types of coronavirus, it’s more complicated than that. The question is, in how many of the Covid-19 fatalities is Covid-19 the actual cause of death?

In a scenario with so many unknowns, how can it be justified to enforce a lockdown? What will result from shutting down the economy? If unemployment rises dramatically, which it almost certainly will, crime will rise along with it. (I, for one, would rather get coronavirus than be a victim of violent crime.)

Suicides will increase – the mental state of many lonely individuals who may now have lost whatever gives them purpose in life is going to deteriorate rapidly. Families with dysfunctional or dangerous relationships will begin to collapse. Drug use will rise.

The elderly we are purporting to try to protect are already living a worse quality of life through isolation – how will that affect their life expectancy? An economic depression will bring pain and death which may vastly outweigh the current pandemic crisis. And once draconian restrictions are lifted, who’s to say the pandemic won’t pick up where it left off?

One of the reasons the UK preferred mitigation as a strategy in the first place is that it didn’t require the Government to take authoritarian measures. It’s a pretty big deal to do that outside of war. On the other hand, it’s no surprise that an authoritarian government such as China can better suppress an epidemic than a free democracy. China already monitors everything its people do. In Britain, I’d like to think we have more liberty than that. 

But liberty is what the Government has just taken from us. One hears talk about individual rights all the time, but what about individual liberties? As former UK Supreme Court Justice Jonathan Sumption commented in his BBC Reith Lectures last year, it is ‘one of the supreme ironies of modern life: We have expanded the range of individual rights while at the same time drastically curtailing the scope for individual choice.’

We’ve already got into the habit of letting the state make serious decisions for us. We’ve been laying the groundwork for this moment for decades. And after we’ve surrendered our liberties to the state, what will the state do?

The horrors of the Second World War prompted the creation of the UN Charter, the International Court of Justice, the EU, the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Court of Justice, and many other supranational institutions. 

These were all well-intentioned, designed to protect individual rights and prevent international conflict, but in practice they become usurpers of national sovereignty, lacking democratic legitimacy. Is it unreasonable to suggest that the Covid-19 crisis will result in yet more expanded and far-reaching supranational institutions that dictate to the nations how to govern? 

Nations surrender their sovereignty to world institutions as individuals and families surrender their liberty to the state. All in the name of resolving a crisis, keeping peace, and protecting rights – the higher and further removed from the individual the better.

The cost is individual liberty. What will be next? Already some are advocating the same authoritarian measures to deal with climate change. And if that’s as serious a crisis as many argue, why not? 

Then again, mightn’t that also be a spook? This is a bad precedent. 

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Andrew Mahon
Andrew Mahon
Andrew Mahon is a Canadian-British writer based in London. He is the author of Don't go to University: A decision-making guide for young adults without a plan.

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