The world has had to deal with the Wuhan virus of 2019 (aka Covid-19) for over a year and a half. Diverse policies have been tried to deal with it by various public and private entities. Of the lot, the worst is clearly the mandatory lockdowns — with varying degrees of severity — that most governments imposed on their populations.

Lockdowns are a terrible idea. Imposing them adds to the damage that the virus causes, directly and indirectly, and makes a pretty bad situation significantly worse.

There are two basic reasons for why lockdowns are bad. One is a moral/ethical argument, and the other is an economic argument. I believe the moral argument is sufficient by itself; the economic argument only strengthens the case against lockdowns — especially in poor countries.

The moral argument is the argument against tyranny, against authoritarianism, against the enslavement of others, against the initiation of force against innocent people. The case is for human freedom.

When the state restricts the freedom of innocent people, it’s imprisonment. House-arrest is not the same as putting people in cages but it is still a violation of the right of people to move about freely, and to associate with others.

Authoritarian regimes routinely restrict the freedoms of those they rule over. The Chinese Communist Party does it and doesn’t claim to be in favor of freedom and rights for the people. But no civilized country should tolerate policies that go against the basic tenets of a free society.

The government of a free society must not have the power to force people to do anything against their will as long as the people are not engaged in criminal activities. Moving about and associating with others must not be defined by the state to be criminal activities.

People are not perfect. And governments are people too. They too make mistakes. But imposing lockdowns are not mistakes by the government. It is a well-thought out strategy to exercise control over the lives of others. The main motivation is to grab power under the pretext of protecting the public.

The public is capable of understanding the consequences of the virus and deciding for themselves what they should do. It’s a private decision, and the state has no right to coerce people. This “I’m doing this for your own protection” does not wash.

When the governor of Delaware (the state that I live in) imposed a mask mandate, I thought it was shameful, and against the US constitution’s 1st Amendment. The mask mandate forced stores to require that all their customers wear masks to shop. I have absolutely no complaints if, say, Costco had as a corporate policy required masks. It’s their store, and if I choose to stop at Costco, I have to abide by their policy. But the state forced Costco — a private enterprise — to impose masks.

I am dismayed to note that very few people take their freedom seriously. Of all the state mottos, my favorite is New Hampshire’s “Live Free or Die.” What’s the point of living in chains? As the words of a song by the rock band “Blood, Sweat and Tears” says, “give me my freedom for as long as I be, all I ask of living is to have no chains on me.” (In case you were wondering, I do get most of my philosophy from songs and poems.)

Lockdowns are appropriate for people who don’t care for freedom, and for states that are authoritarian. Lockdowns are OK for people who are incapable of making their own decisions, for people who need paternalistic care and guidance, for people who are ruled by a bunch of power-hungry, immoral tyrants. Lockdowns have no justification in a free society.

It is a matter of immense shame that the US federal and state governments, emulating China, imposed lockdowns. But the saving grace for the American people is that the US is rich enough to survive the economic turmoil lockdowns cause. The poor nations don’t have that luxury. Lockdowns kill in very large numbers.

I will come to economic argument next. But now, the song that I mentioned above.

Well, why not another song by BS&T. This time a love song.

{Read part 2 of this series.}








Author: Atanu Dey


7 thoughts on “Lockdowns”

  1. Let us assume there are no lockdowns in deference to individual liberty.

    In that case, do you favour policing by the government to break up crowd gathering in violation of social-distancing and masking norms?


    1. Breaking up crowds involves force by the state. Therefore the govt must not be permitted to do that. Crowds are composed of people. Nobody is forcing anyone to be part of a crowd. If people want to congregate for a religious event, it’s their business. You don’t want to go and get infected, well then don’t go there. As long as information is freely available about the risks of crowds, it’s up to the individual to choose. It is OK to recommend masks but it is not OK to force masks. If I find that people on the bus are not wearing masks, it is up to me to get on the bus or not.


      1. Assume that 1-lakh freedom-loving people choose to assemble despite knowing all about the deadliness of the Wuhan virus. Let us assume that they all die.

        Unfortunately, the safe disposal of these 1-lakh-dead-bodies is now a community responsibility. In the absence of a voluntary collective taking responsibility, the disposal becomes the government’s headache.

        Does this not justify a lockdown by the government? The freedom of those 1 lakh people is harming the broader collective.


  2. Lockdowns are tyrannical and they are authoritarian overreach if imposed by a democratic government. No pandemic, let me repeat, no pandemic till this one was dealt with using this brute force method of lockdowns. It was a Chinese authoritarian solution to the China virus (dont get me wrong, I have huge respect for Chinese people. Not for CCP)
    India imposing lockdown must have killed so many people due to denial of medical care of routine nature. This will never be researched. What an atrocity !!!
    I think Modi learned his lesson from the first lockdown and saw the misery it caused to poor people and thats why there was no national lockdown the second time around.


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