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HomeCOVID-19TCW, the vaccine and our civic duty – a debate

TCW, the vaccine and our civic duty – a debate

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‘It’s about time we thought more about duty and loyalty, and less about our individual liberty.’ 

These were the words with which Laura Perrins ended her brilliant take-down last week of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s Lockdown hypocrisy and doublespeak on liberty.

They provoked a response from the British political philosopher, David Selbourne: ‘I couldn’t agree more with Laura Perrins, but her view is in sharp distinction with the positions generally asserted on your website.’

His words shocked me. David is the author of The Principle of Duty, a book which argues that limits must be set to selfish individual entitlement if a free social order is to be preserved. Published in the mid-90s as the entitlement culture was gaining momentum, it had a profound influence on my emerging social conservatism and on the political thinking that led to TCW.

We entered into the following email debate which we both think worth publishing. First my reply to his assertion that Laura’s words were at odds with the positions generally asserted on the website.

KG: Not really. We have many loyal, truly ‘social conservative’ readers and followers. It was on these principles that we started the website, and we have not veered from them.

DS: Can I ask whether having the vaccine was a civic duty or does Milton Friedman’s freedom to choose have precedence?

KG: Using an untested and novel technology vaccine in a reckless mass push-out and (imposing) an unnecessary lockdown was a massive overreach of the state by any standards. The socially conservative and responsible reaction was to do all in our powers to question the reason for it and to protect future generations from the possible long-term risks of such measures. It is also increasingly debatable, in the light of new evidence about their public health consequences, whether vaccines are or should be a civic duty. You will find that many social conservatives like Laura and I resisted the bullying pressure to be vaccinated as a civic duty and forwent our travel ‘freedoms’. It is never a civic duty to inflict harm on yourself and your family, or to risk such harm. And you do not have to be a libertarian to refuse to comply with a totalitarian government.

DS: I saw Mao’s China at first hand; that was totalitarianism. The ‘lockdown’ was not. 

KG: It was heading fast in that direction, was to no purpose, had no precedent and there was no need for it. It was also unscientifically based and was economically, morally and socially destructive, not least to children. It was not in the common good or interest, and was imposed with great zeal and an unprecedented propaganda campaign of fear, making force unnecessary in the main. Children were masked all day when not locked out of school, and were subjected to repeated intrusive testing. The unvaccinated were treated as untermenschen, people lost their jobs, and some half a million vaccine injuries were reported. I have considered it to be my civic duty to expose and challenge all this in order to protect future generations from further insanity of such kind.

DS: I respect the ardour of your argument in the name of free speech and thanks for taking the trouble to put the case so forcefully. And despite the countervailing evidence you have marshalled, the jury is still out on the issues you raise; while the vaccinated who avoided getting covid, or had only mild symptoms of it, continue to attribute their escape to the vaccine and are either correct or suffering from delusions. Nor can we say whether the toll would have been much greater without the vaccine and the lockdowns. Moreover, the larger political and ethical necessity is an informed debate about the limits upon ‘free choice’ which are needed for a truly civil society to survive at all.

KG: I think the evidence I have been publishing on the site has already answered many of those questions. The extent of vaccine injury caused by direct human intervention, and not by an act of God, was in itself enough to determine my judgment. I also don’t think civic duty should be defined in purely utilitarian and supposed cost-benefit terms. There must also be a moral dimension to the issue of duty and an area of conscience that the State should respect. Moreover, the fact that I no longer have trust in the State, for very good reason, does not turn me into a libertarian or lessen my sense of civic duty, while dissent against State overreach and its unreasonable and unethical actions may itself be considered dutiful. For we have to fight incipient fascism and cannot sit on our laurels any more.

DS: Yes, we have to fight ‘incipient fascism’, but combating epidemic disease is another matter. Where would we (and our children) be without vaccines against chickenpox, diphtheria, influenza, measles, polio, tetanus and whooping cough? Edward Jenner and Jonas Salk, for instance – and there are many others in the history of medicine – were heroes of their time and in due course the discoverers of the anti-Covid medications, still at an early stage, will be regarded likewise. Over-reaction there may have been, but that too is part of the history of contagious disease. Above all, in my book – metaphorically and literally – a truly civic order has a duty of care towards its citizens, just as we have duties to the civil society to which we belong. There can be excess on both sides, but the principle of it is (to me) clear. And the search by scientists for a cure for contagious diseases, public measures to combat them, and obligations on the individual citizen’s part to help to contain them – even if they later turn out to be in part misguided – are not reprehensible but necessary and worthy. ‘Freedom’ comes into it only in the sense, a large sense, that we would be less free if these necessary and worthy measures were not taken, and had not been taken in the past.

KG: Your case is based on trust in (and the presumption that) the Government was acting for the public good and therefore its authoritarianism was justified. That is very much open to question. There were clear signs it wasn’t. Debate was shut down and dissenting scientists excommunicated and demonised. Covid ‘misinformation’ was stamped on every alternative opinion, however expert or informed. A limited group of unelected advisers with significant outside interests dictated the policy response. Censorship was the order of the day – indeed it still is. See Ofcom’s latest GB News ruling. Trust may be the ideal but it cannot be blind. You assume too that vaccine efficacy and desirability is a given, that the official narrative is correct. Must the dutiful citizen accept this without making inquiries for himself? Only a little research shows there is a significant body of evidence (scientific) that disputes its big public health efficacy claims. Paradigms and knowledge change. Research shows that improved sanitation and nutrition were the critical factors in combating earlier diseases; vaccines in the main were introduced when the diseases were already fading out. Too much is attributed to them. 

Even if you accept the fundamental social good of / need for vaccines you are still left with two further problems. One is about Covid – its lethality (the Infection Fatality Ratio) was never of the order that justified rushing out an untested experimental gene therapy (see a highly relevant article Covid: The destruction of medical ethics and trust in the medical profession, Part 1 – The Conservative Woman by a top surgeon on the collapse of medical ethics on TCW) on an unsuspecting population. Within very few weeks of its arrival it was clear Covid was not a significant risk to the majority of the population, but to the elderly with comorbidities, the obese and middle-aged with comorbidities. The risk was extremely small to the rest of the population, negligible to younger adults and zero to children, so quite different to the run of childhood diseases.

Furthermore in the case of the Covid ‘vaccines’ we are not even talking about a vaccine, but a rushed-out inadequately tested novel mRNA gene therapy.  Responsible governments should not have abandoned (established) standards of testing. Assuming informed consent, adults might decide to partake in or be co-opted to a nationwide scientific experiment. But children? Given they were never at risk themselves, never. When were children risked to save older people’s lives? Even were it the case that vaccinating them would protect older generations which it wasn’t? When was that a civic duty?

Finally Covid was not the plague. The average age of Covid death did not change from 81-2 (also the average age of death). This was well established by the time the vaccine was sold to the population as the condition of exiting lockdown – in itself morally dubious. 

In short the Government abused the people’s trust. They rushed out an experimental therapy that had not gone through the proper testing and trialling process, (this takes eight to ten years normally), exaggerating Covid’s seriousness, and so pressured people to taking it, insisting it was safe and effective when they simply had no grounds for asserting that. Even if you argue there was still a Covid public health emergency by January 2021 it was not of such an order to justify an unprecedented experiment with the population’s health. It required informed consent as medical ethics dictates. This was not given. ‘First, do no harm’ was ignored. So was ‘children first’. Their safety was cast to the wind. The Government did not act with probity. 

DS: Your powerful response, despite the ostensible ‘conservatism’ for which your website stands, is ruled by a libertarian and even anarchic scepticism about government per se, whose motives it is apparently the duty of the citizen to doubt and question, rebut and refuse, unless such motives meet the standards of the critic at his or her desk. Such a critic, finger at the ready on the keypad, is normally without direct responsibility for public decision, largely exempt from public judgment, unaccountable to all save a restricted coterie, and blessed by the kind of liberty which those in government, hard-pressed by crisis, do not possess. 

Errors were committed on many fronts in the Covid crisis, as you rightly point out, and so they are in many matters of peace and war, justice and injustice, life and death. There are also powerful forces at large in the ‘free market’ which determine much of public decision, render objection to such decision impotent, choose the course for civil society in ways which the citizen cannot check or control, and make a mockery of democracy itself. In the Covid crisis these forces were at work, but so were many honourable and hard-working public servants who did their level best to help and treat the sick. To make no mention of them, as you do, is also a reflection of our times, in which the armchair critic has the luxury of judgment upon the defects of others, and even gains a wealthy living by criticism alone. 

There is neither sense nor ethic in passive acceptance of all that government and public authority do or fail to do; but neither is there in excessive scruple, finger-pointing and objection to decisions taken in emergency and under duress, as in the Covid epidemic. The true citizen understands this; the professional critic cannot afford it.

KG: I am not usually a ‘rights’ person – much more of a ‘duties’ person. But in the final analysis this has to be about how you perceive your prior duty, your duty to God if you will. We cannot be trapped by a false or mistaken sense of duty or the false god of the NHS. The State’s ability to control, manage, manipulate and damage the population without resort to physical coercion is new, unprecedented and uncivilised. Our need to defend ourselves from that, for me, now supersedes our once civic duty. Even if the jury is out on whether the state was dutifully misguided, irresponsibly reckless or intentionally malign, it almost makes no difference given a reasonable (morally based) collapse of trust in its institutions not least because they continue to stifle, silence and censor debate. In a battle against evil the good man must fight to protect his children, family and society. If this is libertarianism, so be it. 

Postscript

David kindly gave me the last word so it is only fair to convey his subsequent comment to me that as the son of a physician who worked loyally in the NHS for many years, he found the dismissal of it as a ‘false god’ hard to take, and that he rejected the notion that resistance to current Covid treatments is a ‘battle against evil’.

We both hope publishing this debate will provoke further responses on the wider issues – comments are open below and also on our Readers’ Forum every day.

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Kathy Gyngell
Kathy Gyngellhttps://www.conservativewoman.co.uk
Kathy is Editor of The Conservative Woman. She is @kathygyngelltcw on GETTR and is back on Twitter.

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