Giving Up Essential Liberty

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. — Benjamin Franklin.

Israel Shamir, in Unz Review today, writes:

“In Israel, as in a few other countries, they ordered the most severe lockdown: people aren’t allowed to leave their apartments unless to shop for food. Even a lonely walk along the seashore or in the park is forbidden, and there is the police and the army to enforce the ban. Balmy weather, blue Med, green hills, but you have to stay indoors. A recommendation to stay home and take it easy can be taken into account; this total imprisonment of citizens is a step no tyrant had tried.

“The authorities have us where they always wanted: in the grip of fear, shopping for bread as the only permitted activity, no protests, no demonstrations, social distancing instead of solidarity….

“The internal security (Shabak), the external security (Mossad), and the police force have united to create and activate a futuristic system of total surveillance. Now they know and follow all Israeli residents all the time. If a person has fever and is considered a potential virus carrier, the surveillance system traces everybody he had been recently in touch with, or just passed by, and texts them that they must go into seclusion for a fortnight. Now they track all movements and all meetings of all Israeli residents at all times. Secret police forces of the world never had such magical abilities; now they do. The Jewish state is the testing ground for the total surveillance world project. The corona will pass, but total surveillance is here to stay forever, predicted Yuval Noah Harari. Only fear of the pandemic could make people accept it, and the corona panic did it.”

Kimberley Strassel at WSJ (behind paywall) is less radical, but equally precautious:

“The Senate did something good Wednesday night, passing a bill to inject liquidity into a virus-ravaged economy. It also did something dangerous, requiring the public to be on guard.

“Members of Congress are pointing out the many parts of society aided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, styled the Cares Act. Checks for American families. Some $377 billion for small business. Help for air carriers and other industries. Money for hospitals.

“Missing from their list is an important category, which underlines an inescapable fact: Government mostly “Cares” for government. Bills that hand out money are written by appropriators. And appropriators never miss an opportunity to expand departments, agencies, bureaus and commissions. A rough calculation suggests the single biggest recipient of taxpayer dollars in this legislation—far in excess of $600 billion—is government itself. This legislation may prove the biggest one-day expansion of government power ever.”

Both, it would seem, are on a killjoy mission, eerily reminiscent of the aftermath of 911. Back then there were many good souls — WSJ’s Peggy Noonan, notably — who similarly balked at the stand up of TSA, the federal agency which took to stopping and frisking us in our own airports. Now nearly all of us accept such intrusions as commonplace, the new normal.

And so it will be with coronavirus, our invisible king of an enemy. If we let it.

3 thoughts on “Giving Up Essential Liberty

  1. We have been ignoring diseases for decades. Sure we get a scare once in a while, but so long as the economy flows “ laissez le bon temps rouler”.

    COVID-19 apparently didn’t get the memo.

    It is not just this virus we are letting into our lives, but even in the world of bacterial nemesis we have diminished effectiveness in the name of slightly cheaper meats.

    Supposedly we were given “dominion” over the earth. I think it was supposed to stewardship. Up until a century or so ago, we were ignorant of the microbial world.

    We learned and then tried to dominate that too. Not so much, sayeth the bacteria and their nasty brethren the virus.

    Franklin’s oft quoted bit on liberty v. safety is in regards to tyranny by our own species. It makes little sense to the pandemic problem.

    It is like saying because we can swim more easily and less restricted without a life vest, we should do just that far from land too. Nature did not read our Bill of Rights.

    Still, some of the ugliest attributes for us are revealed during pandemics and plagues. We can’t strike out at a bug we can’t see, but we sure as hell can kill other people who might be blamed however unfairly.

    So do we let freedom include rampages and pogroms because the state should not provide security? Already we are treading in rising waters by insisting on the “Wuhan” or “Chinese” virus when the rest of the world recognizes it as COVID-19. And making a big issue out of that among our allies.

    Why? So we can blame the next Asian we see? That brings us back to where we were centuries ago. Ignorance begets violence and the survivors feel better.

    How we handle this crisis will say a lot about us. Are we the “Shining Light” or just another nation with highlights and lowlights, started by smart men, and protected by two oceans.

    I am afraid giving up some liberty to avoid a viral death is probably unavoidable. Like the life jacket at sea.


    Liked by 1 person

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