A Price Worth Paying?

A Price Worth Paying?

What is the value of freedom? Throughout history it has been an ideal that wars have been fought over. A concept so important that our ancestors were willing to suffer and lay down their lives to protect it. They did this because they understood deep in their gut, that a life under the heel of a boot is not a life worth living. 

But to my dismay, it has become increasingly obvious over the past year that the general public does not share this principle. Out of fear, individual freedom has been sacrificed at the altar of collective safety. 

I do not believe that the public has done this knowingly, however. Rather, the public has been sold a lie. That freedom once sold can be easily reclaimed. 

It is an appealing lie, because we desperately want it to be true. We want things to go back to the way they were before, and the public has convinced itself that if we just tolerate lockdown for a little bit longer everything will go back to normal. Well, I’m sorry to tell you this, but that simply isn’t true. 

We know from history that when governments implement legal restrictions, they rarely undo them, even if they claim that they are temporary. The draconian restrictions on air travel that were implemented after 9/11 were supposedly a temporary measure. Yet, 20 years later they are still with us and, if anything, have only gotten tighter and more invasive over time. 

Once you have given up control over an aspect of your life to a government, there is no returning it. Lockdowns may end, but from now on, the government will always have the power to restrain you in your home, to prevent you from seeing your friends and family, to stop you from going on holiday, to close the doors of your business for a year or to prevent you from earning your livelihood. 

It will always have this power, because there will always be an excuse to use it. There will always be a threat; perhaps a new strain of Covid, or an outbreak of some new disease, or some other ubiquitous threat to health or safety that may cow the public into submission.

This may sound apocryphal or even conspiratorial but think back to this time last year. Imagine someone told you that it would soon be illegal to have a drink of coffee in a cafe, or to browse in a local bookshop or even to get a haircut. Would you have believed it? I know I wouldn’t have. 

Yet this is the society we live in now. A society so cowed by irrational fear and media fuelled hysteria, that it has given up the freedoms that make life worthwhile. 

Proponents of the continued lockdowns will argue that the sacrificing of these freedoms and cost to our wellbeing is ultimately worth the price because of the lives that will be saved. That it would be cruel and dangerous not to lockdown because of the preventable deaths that may occur.  But I would argue that continuing to lockdown is far crueller and more dangerous than the alternative. 

Firstly, there is still very remarkably little evidence that lockdowns are an effective means of preventing deaths. Nations with the harshest lockdown restrictions such as Peru have not favoured any better than countries such as Sweden, which has had hardly any restrictions, in terms of the fatality rate.

Furthermore, the very real cost to human life that the lockdowns themselves are having on the population cannot be ignored.

40% fewer cases of cancer were diagnosed in Scotland during the March-June lockdown. Between April and August 3 million cancer screening appointments were missed across the UK resulting in 350,000 fewer suspected cancer referrals. This is not to mention the many other illness that have gone undiagnosed due to an inability to obtain a GP or hospital appointment, as well as millions of surgeries that have been delayed or simply cancelled. 

Of course, the tole on mental health has been severe too. The Scottish ambulance service has reported that the number of callouts for suicide and suicide attempts has increased by 9% during lockdown. The London ambulance service reports an even more stark increase of 59% more suicide callouts per day. 

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” C. S. Lewis

The destruction of small businesses and the loss of livelihoods are acceptable collateral damage for the government.  Findings by the British Beer and Pub Association reveal that 72% expect to be unable to cope with the loss of trade and will close permanently this year. ONS figures report a loss of 177,000 retail jobs and 297,000 hospitality jobs during 2020, both of which are expected to worsen. Fear will also create a chilling effect on the opening of new business for many years to come. Starting a business is risky, challenging and costly enough without the sword of Damocles hanging overhead.  Who in their right mind would take the risk of opening a new restaurant, when the possibility of a forced shutdown is always on the cards?

Education has been collateral damage of the lockdowns too, with children and students missing out on learning as well as important experiences and interactions with their peers. How many young people have had their education damaged, delayed or derailed unnecessarily? They are the least affected by Covid yet may be the most affected by the long-term damage of the lockdowns. 

I believe that if the public had been fully informed of the devastating harm that lockdowns cause, the government would never had got away with it for so long. Unfortunately, media scaremongering, mass hysteria and a lack of principle from both the public and the political class has sown the seeds of misery that we will have to contend with for many years to come. 

Damage to health, education and the economy are just a few material consequences of giving up our freedom. But maybe the worst consequences aren’t so tangible. The erosion of societal trust, precious moments with friends lost, life-changing experiences missed out on. These are the costs of losing freedom. And for that reason, we as a people must always remember the principles of autonomy and liberty that are the bedrock of our civilisation. And if necessary, we must fight to keep these ideals alive in times when they are being forgotten.

The freedom to experience live music, to browse in a bookshop, to take a weekend away from home, or to simply sit on a park bench and just watch life go by. These are the little things that make life worth living.  Look me in the eye and tell me it’s a price worth paying. 


Author Ross Gibson is a member of the Scottish Libertarian Party.

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3 Comments on "A Price Worth Paying?"

  • Katrina Angus says

    Great article. Stupid picture.

    • Admin says

      Do you have a better one?

    • That was the picture supplied with the article. I saw no reason to reject it.

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