Libertarians for the Covid State
The Covid State has thrown up some unexpected proponents and opponents and some unexpected, new political and ideological alliances. Some of them need explaining, they are so counter-intuitive.
The neo-left’s pitching in with rich capitalists of the Davos kind – “globocap”, as CJ Hopkins calls it – goes utterly against the grain of the central tenets of old-leftism. But these strange bedfellows have been in cahoots for some time now, on matters such as “the climate emergency” and “clean” energy. Not to mention wokery, now just as much a core concern, it seems, of the modern corporation as well as of the green-left.
On the left, there have been, mercifully, the left lockdown sceptics, an excellent group that publishes good stuff, but they are find themselves in a tiny, leftist minority.
Other noted Covid dissidents have come from a left-liberal background, like CJ Hopkins and Mark Crispin Miller. Another is the outstanding and passionate freedom-fighter Robin Monotti, who has teamed up with Mike Yeadon and Cory Morningstar to provide an indispensable resource for Covid dissenters of all kinds.
For at least some leftists, it is the sheer totalitarianism and cancel culture of the lockdown-vaccinator class to which they (correctly) object. It is a timely reminder that once the left was concerned about personal freedom, and certainly the freedom to dissent. The sixties leftist protesters marched in the streets over freedom of speech. Now, not so much. They would, these days, prefer to hop into bed with Big Pharma and Big Tech, respectively international criminals in plain sight and calculating crushers of free speech. Leftist organs like The Guardian and the BBC readily accept the money of Bill Gates, then become mere puppets for the vaccine class.
Then there are the early, consistent and vociferous lockdown sceptics who, unfortunately, went quiet on the vaccine mandates. Here we think of Lord Sumption and Peter Hitchens. For whatever reasons, the initial positions of these stalwarts for freedom in relation to lockdowns were that vaccine mandates were not too much matters over which to get upset, liberty-wise. A strange conclusion to have reached, I would think.
Two outstanding, dissident leaders of the anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine mandate movement, Tom Woods and Jeffrey Tucker, exemplary classical liberals both, have been pondering why so-called libertarians (freedom loving individualists who favour a minimal state) have been vocal in their chanting for the Covid State, and critical of those (libertarians and others) who beg to differ.
Tucker’s cover story related to the very popular Twitter-man and “influencer”, Scott Adams – he of Dilbert fame – concluding that the “anti-vaxxers” have won. They (we?) were right. Tucker called this admission “the downfall of the gurus”.
Tucker, in particular, took aim at those who, he thought, should have been vocal critics of Covid tyranny. Tucker wrote:
But also you can imagine my own sadness when two personal heroes of mine, the two most brilliant living scholars I know, somehow bought the baloney being served up by Fauci and company. I’ve been hesitant to mention this because it is deeply embarrassing to me …
And he named names – Deirdre McCloskey, and Tyler Cowen, for instance. Eminent economists, public intellectuals of considerable heft, and classical liberals to boot.
Tom Woods has also been on the case. He and the British rabbit-holer extraordinaire, James Delingpole, discussed the question in 2021. They spoke of “blue pilled libertarians”. And those in the pay of Covid Statist corporates. Like so many others, these libertarians believed the experts. They had faith in the essential goodness of government in relation to the virus. (Really, libertarians?). Woods called out the Cato Institute. These organisations are now pretty much part of the establishment (like the Institute of Economic Affairs in London, for God’s sake), despite their supposed classical liberalism. Woods called out (American) Republican governors who went along with the Covid state. The very rare Republican politicians that opposed Covid mandates typically became pariahs in their own Party, very quickly. Opposing the Covid tyranny often had dire consequences for dissenters who spoke up. Delingpole invoked the Overton Window and suggested that libertarian/conservative public figures and pundits simply didn’t want to go beyond what was deemed respectable and sayable.
There are some very good points made here.
(While Tucker and Woods are concerned with libertarian Branch Covidians, we might also ponder conservatives who have jumped aboard the Covid tyranny bandwagon. Think Melanie Phillips, who, in the past, has gotten so much right. Others, like Douglas Murray, seem so focused on documenting the (admittedly worsening and certainly evil) sins of wokery – indeed, some have made a career out of this – that they seem not to have noticed the Covid tyranny that descended on us with brutal power in early 2020, and that threatens us still).
So, why are a goodly number of libertarians such avid supporters of the massively illiberal lockdowns and vaccine mandates, on any sane reckoning heinous crimes against the free, rational individual, the supposed core concern of all libertarians? Neither Woods or Tucker have fully explained this, though Tucker has some suggestions as to why the academic class generally has succumbed to what he terms covid “suppressionism”. Interestingly, Scott Adams, and, to an extent, Tucker, seem to see the Covid failures of gurus and previously much-admired scholars as primarily a question of stupidity and not of illiberalism. Their problem is seen as having been one of perception. Clearly, for those who claimed to be libertarian or similar, their ideologies were malleable in the face of a new statist narrative.
On libertarians, Woods and Tucker have simply been gobsmacked, and continue to shake their heads in disbelief. Which begs the question … why have the libertarians been missing in action, and, worse, in some cases abusive of those who have shown real courage in standing for liberty?
There are several possibilities here:
· The so-called libertarians aren’t really that libertarian, after all;
· They seek to square off their Covid lapse through Jesuitical casuistry, or, in layman’s terms, they are slithering;
· Their libertarianism turns out to be contingent, and they draw the line at perceived public health crises;
· They simply have odd libertarian priorities;
· They actually believe that being unvaccinated and out and about in “the community” poses a mortal danger to other people, and so, on libertarian grounds of safeguarding life against the threatening actions of others, making people get the jab is quite okay;
· Like everyone, libertarians like to be hip and popular with their illiberal peers and betters, hence their long history of social liberalism that so often coalesces with positions taken by the neo-left (witness their almost universal and inevitable championing of abortion, homosexual marriage and euthanasia);
· Just like so many people during Covid, libertarians, especially academics, might well be in the pay of corporate funders of their work, and so may simply be putting career before principles.
It should be emphasised that not every libertarian supported the Covid State. As noted in the Voice of America News, the libertarians were split:
Many libertarians, who champion individual freedom and are generally skeptical of government authority, have been outspoken in denouncing vaccine mandates and social distancing measures as an unwarranted intrusion on personal liberty.
But others are just as voluble in defending the measures, arguing that libertarian principles prohibit reckless behavior – such as going maskless in a crowded room – that puts innocent others at risk.
“There's been a real split among libertarians about how to respond to the pandemic,” said Matt Zwolinski, a philosophy professor at the University of San Diego who runs the “Bleeding Heart Libertarians” blog.
And the arguments?
Libertarian philosopher Jessica Flanigan has likened vaccine refusal to firing a gun into the air on Independence Day, inadvertently injuring innocent bystanders.
“Citizens do not have the right to turn themselves into biological weapons that expose innocent bystanders to undue risks of harm.” Flanigan wrote in a 2014 journal article, "ADefense of Compulsory Vaccination.” “Mandatory vaccination policies are therefore justifiable in most cases because citizens do not have a right to remain unvaccinated.”
Whatever Jessica is, she isn’t a true libertarian. In relation to Covid, she clearly also has no understanding of the paltry threat (to most) posed by this virus and makes unfounded, heroic assumptions about the efficacy of lockdowns, masks, social distancing and (especially) mRNA experimental jabs.
And then there was this, on a Reddit libertarian thread:
“It is the right of an individual to make the choice for themselves. If they want to die, they are free to do so,” one commentator wrote.
Another wrote, “I don't view vaccine mandates as too much of an infringement on liberty. It's got zero cost to the individual and there are obvious externalities to not being vaccinated."
Oh dear. Being a stated libertarian shouldn’t absolve you from being informed about the issue upon which you choose to pontificate. (Yes, the article was written in August 2021, before some of the facts about these so-called vaccines had emerged. What would these jokers say now?)
It is instructive, too, to look at where the so-called voices of classical liberalism in Australia landed in relation to Covid tyranny.
It is telling that so-called Australian classical liberals who were willing to man the barricades over free speech and Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act back in 2015, relentlessly bagging Tony Abbott for his failure to act on it, were dead silent on the evil Biosecurity Act, also of 2015, passed on the watch of Greg Hunt, Barnaby Joyce and the rest of them. These were truly strange priorities. It was, of course, the Biosecurity Act that (literally) allowed the Australian Covid tyranny to take place. The cancelations of parliament, the closing of international and domestic borders, the sackings, the helicopter patrols, the curfews, the rubber bullets and pepper spray of VicPol, the bans on dissenting protests, the arrests of pregnant Facebook-posting mothers, the billion-dollar vaccination camps, the lonely deaths of the elderly denied being with their loved ones, and the rest. Pathetically, described by some as “overreach”. Overreach? Pardon? These were unforgivable crimes, and the libertarians say … what?
Many of those who obsessed – yes, obsessed – over 18C have been, disgracefully, missing in action when just about all of our freedoms were taken away for two years from early 2020. In the name of what Daniel Andrews (of all people) has termed “Covid exceptionalism”. Like Tom Woods’ blue pilled American libertarians, those in Australia who should have spoken out were rendered impotent by a narrative of bulldust.
Freedom of speech is important. Critically important. 18C provides a safe space for the egregious offence industry. We know this. But 18C curtails only one element of free speech in one area of life. That this issue became totemic while silence largely accompanied the actual shutting down of every freedom in ways – unlike 18C – that touched the lives of all Australians in fundamental ways, remains a mystery to me.
What about the silencing of anyone daring to dispute the Covid/vaccine narrative? We saw what happened to George Christensen in the Parliament. He was censured by all parties, including all of the 18C warriors in the Coalition. Very few of those who trumpeted their support for abolishing 18C were prepared to publicly defend Christensen. In round figures, none. Or Craig Kelly, another almost lone warrior exiled from the ranks of the Liberals. And not just defend their right to have an opinion – the Voltaire maxim – but defend their essential liberalism revealed in their objections to the Covid totalitarianism.
Then there is freedom of movement, crushed for two years by every government in Australia. Then there is the right to protest. Also obliterated. Then there were the vaccine mandates. Individual freedom of choice was simply defined out of existence. People were thrown out of work for refusing to take a State administered experimental drug, since proven to be unnecessary, dangerous and ineffective. No, Covid has made the fuss over 18C look very puny indeed.
So, it has been a very mixed bag for libertarians during the Covid tyranny. One might have hoped for a far clearer voice on behalf of liberty, shouted loudly from every rooftop. Rinse. Repeat. For the longest time, those of us beating the freedom drum during Covid were a small, lonely group, indeed. And the silence, incredibly, continues.
A mixed bag isn’t good enough.
25 January 2023