A Libertarian Perspective on Covid-19

There is a vast spectrum of opinion on Covid-19 and the SARS2 corona virus. One end believes that governments should declare martial law and forcefully lock down their people, in the extreme, extending such lock-downs indefinitely to prevent climate change. At the other end, there are those who believe the entire thing is a hoax, designed to enable a vast globalist conspiracy to take over the world. Naturally, the correct view lies somewhere in between.

I’m going to talk about the pros and cons of the anti-globalists first.

It is certain that there are those who seek to use Covid-19 to further their globalist agenda. These people do indeed have real power and influence. How far this extends is unclear. Allegations that the international monetary fund (IMF) has demanded authoritarian lock-downs be imposed as a condition for relief don’t seem unbelievable to me. Especially in China, and to a lesser extent in Europe, the authoritarians wield real power.

On the other hand, the anti-globalists are understating the severity of Covid-19. While it is true that case numbers are higher now due to expanded testing, deaths are climbing. Certainly there are deaths attributed to Covid-19 that are not due to it, but no metric is perfect. The idea that you should ignore a phenomenon because its measurement is imprecise is foolish. Also, one should never attribute to a conspiracy anything that can be put down to mere incompetence.

Next, the pros and cons of the authoritarians view.

Centralized control works very effectively when the central authority is doing the right thing. Both China and Australia have been unarguably successful when it comes to slowing the spread of the SARS2 corona virus. Governing by majority opinion is very ineffective. The majority tend to vote in their short term interests, leading to massive problems (like debt) in the future.

Authoritarians are also very effective at doing harm when the central authority does the wrong thing. Over and over, authoritarian governments have shown that they can’t predict the outcomes of their actions. Millions starved to death due to the communist government of the Soviet Union. When new powers are given to a central government during an emergency (like the new powers after 9/11), they are rarely rescinded when the emergency is over. Power always leads to corruption.

So what would a sane, rational approach look like?

What limits should there be on government power? The government has no right to prevent people from doing things that are legal and do no harm. Does opening your restaurant do harm? No, assuming you are not forcing people to enter. Covid-19 is not like food safety, where a customer has no way to access their risk of food poisoning. Any adult should be capable of determining the level of risk they are putting themselves in by going into a restaurant.

If everyone engages in risky behaviour, the virus will spread, eventually to the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, who are at high risk of developing Covid-19. Those who care for them have a responsibility to keep the vulnerable as safe as possible. This responsibility extends to all people to a degree. The government should issue recommendations to guide people to engage in safe behaviour. The government does not have a right to break the charter and use force to curtail people’s rights. There are stupid people who will do stupid things. The government cannot prevent this.

I recommend you assess risk and don’t do anything stupid. Since March, I haven’t been to the office (it’s closed), taken transit, gone to a movie theatre, or travelled out of my area. I have been to restaurants and taken several short trips to a resort hotel that’s nearby. Until recently, I haven’t worn a mask, since I’ve done very little that might expose me to the corona virus. Recently, as the number of cases has increased and my wife has gone back to work, I sometimes wear one, though I think there’s still little risk that I will spread the virus.

The corona virus is more dangerous than the flu. This year, for the first time in a while, I got a flu shot, mainly so that I don’t have to worry as much about going to hospital and catching the corona virus. In the eighties, I had a very bad flu and pneumonia, which took weeks of convalescence and months to fully recover from. When the corona virus vaccine is approved, I will watch carefully as the first wave of people, medical staff and the elderly, are inoculated. Assuming they fare well, when the vaccine is offered to the wider public, I intend to get it.

About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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