By Zak Mudie
"Tea Party 2011 tax day protest" by Fibonacci Blue
With the ongoing pandemic, the battle remains prevalent between those who argue that restrictions are in favour of security, and those who argue that it goes against liberty.
A time old question has resurfaced in 2020; the question of safety versus liberty. As governments implement lockdowns worldwide in order to curb the spread of a horrible virus, many are not so keen on giving up their freedom. I completely agree with them.
The freedoms of citizens are being curbed in such a way you would expect us to be in a Hollywood movie. The only issue is, where are the freedom fighter heroes? Unfortunately, we don’t have plot armor to save us; the lockdowns are a real villainous nightmare, and the freedom of the country has been usurped in favor of political action for point-scoring politicians. I’m not sure if anyone remembers consenting to the Government being able to dictate where you can and cannot go, who you can see and where you can conduct your business. I certainly don’t and I think it’s morally abhorrent. Yet, people argue that these lockdowns are saving lives – people who would have been killed if the initial lockdowns had not been implemented. The new lockdowns are helping protect the NHS, or health services elsewhere. They are compelling arguments, but the principles boil down to security over liberty.
When you place security over liberty, you consent to government power. This is precedent for government to continually take more power under the guise of safety. That is the first and most important point on the safety versus liberty argument. Setting precedent for the Government to take power, will mean the Government will continue to take power. This is clearly displayed through the process of security laws implemented by the UK Government after 9/11. There were more powers given to the Government to survey people and as time continued it resulted in security laws being implemented by Theresa May. This allowed the Government massive power in viewing an individual’s use of the internet to help locate terrorists.
It began after 9/11, and it continued and continued. Now we’re here where a virus now makes it illegal to protest without following a strict set of rules. The police arrested an elderly woman for protest outside of Westminster only a little while ago. This is ‘safety’. The precedent set by government power, forcing businesses to close, exuberant spending and borrowing, regulation on new levels and huge crackdowns on social rights. This is a playbook for future governments with an inkling of state control, it isn’t about law, it’s the simple fact that a government has done this before, so the new government can too. They can justify it however they need to and as long as their MPs are onside, there is nothing we can do.
Aside from precedent, freedom is not contingent, it is absolute and necessary. If there is the legal power for the Government to restrict freedoms, then your freedom is an illusion set out by the Government. True freedom is the Government not having the legal power to restrict your freedoms. Safety is a part of personal choice; for example, in 2018 there were 26,610 deaths or serious injuries from car accidents and 165,100 casualties of all severities (according to gov.uk). If safety over liberty is so important why haven’t motor vehicles been banned? You can’t justify the impracticalities or economic damage, because that’s a result of the lockdown. Most of those accidents are caused by irresponsibility, so perhaps we could follow the same practice we do with cars as we do with Covid-19.
Instead of locking everyone down, you increase testing, enable a privacy respectful test and trace system and allow people to go about their business. Freedom is absolute and necessary, removing it in favor of security on some occasions as opposed to others doesn’t make sense. The principle of ensuring safety over liberty would be completely over-arching and always active, otherwise you would be breaking your own principle, so instead freedom must be unchallenged. It isn’t a question of safety; safety is a question of responsibility, not heavy government intervention.
The Government intervention into the people’s lives in 2020 has gone beyond morality. It is outright wrong. What compromises the freedom of the individual is morally wrong. We cannot allow ourselves to be continually trapped in a process of lockdown or freedom, as if freedom is a gift from the Government. Freedom is the right of all humankind whether the Government likes it or not and the system of government authority over the people in the UK will continue to hold back the prosperity and moral freedom of the British people.