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< Back to question How do we think about the UK lockdown debate? Show more Show less

The coronavirus pandemic has led to unprecedented isolation measures throughout the world. One effect has been the creation of ideological blocs across traditional party lines, lobbying for different approaches to containing the virus. UK lockdown came into effect on March 23, shutting down non-essential business and movement outside the home, bar a single daily outing for exercise. Critics variously describe this decision as too late, too little, too much and overblown. So, who are these groups, what do they stand for, and why?

The libertarian position, or 'End lockdown now!' Show more Show less

At the heart of this approach is the belief that lockdown is a violation of fundamental human rights. Its proponents range from the UK alt right, to high court judges, to commentators seeing the closure of British drinking holes as a bleak symbol of authoritarian rule.
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Lockdown puts us on the path to totalitarian rule

Advocates point to Hungarian Premier Orban’s rapid increase in power during the crisis as an example of what’s to come if lockdown remains. This group considers lockdown a form of latent despotism that will threaten civil liberties in the post-pandemic world. Proponents include former Supreme Court Justice Lord Sumption and Daily Mail columnist Peter Hitchens.
cover despotism lockdown
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Proponents


The Argument

Giving governments the opportunity to control their citizens will lead to despotism, Peter Hitchens argues in The Mail on Sunday.[1] Hitchens points out that former Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom Lord Jonathan Sumption recently said in an interview that the government does not have the authority to make such sweeping measures and enforce them.[2] In the interview, he references the Public Health Act of 1984, an Act largely made to give municipal governments the authority to quarantine the sick. The Act does not permit the government to enforce lockdowns, create travel restrictions, or police a mask mandate. Sumption continues to say that the government could create these restrictions, under the Civil Contingencies Act, but the government would have to run all of the mandates through Parliament to make them official. Both Hitchens and Sumption argue that the way the government is making and enforcing lockdown measures is illegal and puts the UK on a path towards totalitarian rule. Hitchens points to governments all over the world that have used their increased power to crack down on dissent. In Australia and Chile, a state of emergency has allowed the government to crack down on gatherings and protests.[3][4] In Hungary, the government can now rule by decree. Bolivia has postponed elections because of the pandemic.[5] Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, has shut down courts in the country and began a series of drastic tracking measures on citizens.[6] By allowing citizens to opt-out of measures and just quarantine the sick, the government could contain the virus, prevent unnecessary deaths, and not infringe on civil liberties.

Counter arguments

Writing for the Financial Times, Martin Wolf warns that the effects of lifting lockdown too early could be drastic.[7] The government, by nature, is run by and for the people. If the government starts to slide towards totalitarianism, the people can elect a new government that they view as more democratic or representative. Lockdown measures aimed at preventing infection and loss of life will eventually be lifted, and life will go back to normal as long as the public follows these measures.

Premises

Rejecting the premises


References

  1. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/columnist-224/Peter-Hitchens-The-Mail-Sunday.html
  2. https://www.lbc.co.uk/news/uk/lord-sumption-rule-of-six-unenforceable-social-gatherings-fines/
  3. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-54139669
  4. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-52370165
  5. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/30/world/europe/coronavirus-governments-power.html
  6. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/16/world/middleeast/israel-coronavirus-cellphone-tracking.html
  7. https://www.ft.com/content/2a6cd7c2-a5b5-11ea-92e2-cbd9b7e28ee6

This page was last edited on Wednesday, 16 Sep 2020 at 19:50 UTC

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