Saturday 29 May 2021

How would libertarians deal with a pandemic?

Trevor Watkins 15/4/2020

As always, the greatest threat to individual freedom comes from the certainty of others, generally politicians. In the almost complete absence of verified information, many many politicians including our own have acted with complete certainty to force the population into a catastrophic lockdown. Allowing for alternatives is viewed as a sign of weakness and cannot be considered. If a lockdown was good for China then it's the only way to go for South Africans many thousands of kilometres away.

Thankfully some more independent-minded Nations have provided us with alternative scenarios. Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Sweden, Israel have all taken different approaches and appear to have enjoyed reasonably successful results. But for a politician to question his absolute certainty is to appear weak and therefore unpopular.

How would a libertarian Society deal with the challenge of an imported pandemic? I would like to think it would have acted with a lot less certainty, a lot more introspection, and a much greater openness to alternatives.

In a libertarian Society there would be no central command structure, no overriding ministry of health, not even an enforcement structure capable of forcing people into their own homes.

What libertarians do well is communicate. In a libertarian Society the nature of the threat and all the data available would be quickly and transparently shared with the population. Some people would recommend one approach, others might recommend something completely different. They would be listened to in proportion to their reputation and standing in the community, and their record of being right on other matters.

If knowledgeable people recommend lockdown and isolation, then many libertarians might well self isolate voluntarily, particularly if they are persuaded that they are in a susceptible group such as the elderly. One can always assume that they will act in their own best self-interest. Other libertarians might be persuaded by the herd immunity approach, and would go out and deliberately attempt to become infected, as many do with their children during a mumps or measles season. I don't think any libertarians will deliberately force themselves upon others, putting them at risk of infection with any communicable disease. Social distancing is just good manners writ large.

“But we can't afford to take that risk”, shout the many statists and collectivists. They blithely ignore the fact that every contact with a fellow citizen is fraught with the risk of many different infections. “People will die!”, they weep. “If you won't do the right thing, then you must be forced to.” All this with the absolute certainty of non-experts who know precisely what the right thing is on the basis of inadequate data.

In a libertarian Society those who assess the risk on the basis of the data available to them, and decide that self-isolation is the best approach, will self isolate. Those who decide that their freedom of movement and their right to work is paramount, will go out in public. They should not encounter people who believe differently because they will all be self isolating. If you as an individual make the wrong judgement in this matter, then you will pay the price, either by getting sick or by becoming incredibly bored and poor.

As a libertarian you may not use the threat of some particular virus, amongst the many many millions out there, to forcibly deny me my Freedom.

Libertarianism, liberalism and conservatism

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