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Civil liberty and Covid-19

(78 Posts)
Greeneyedgirl Mon 18-May-20 20:25:55

Lord Sumption, former Supreme Court Judge was interviewed on the BBC by Mishal Hussain yesterday, and he was arguing against the continuing of lockdown on grounds of civil liberties.

I feel that the risk to society is a greater concern to me than my own personal freedom to take risks in the present pandemic.

Do you think he has a point I wonder?

Anniebach Tue 19-May-20 11:57:48

He has just been interviewed on SKY news, he said the police cannot stop people going to Brighton because there is no law against this. He also said the Government are terrorising
the people.

suziewoozie Tue 19-May-20 12:21:39

Well yes there is no law against going to Brighton, He is also right that the Govt is terrorising the people - I’m terrified by their lying, incompetence, carelessness and crass stupidity.

Elegran Tue 19-May-20 12:21:58

You are right, Baggs, he isn't insisting, and so far he has not ben exposed to the virus, but as soon as he mixes with the general population he will be exposed to it.

Does he want to be allowed but not take up the chance? If everyone did indeed do that - have the theoretical freedom but choose not to exercise it - then there would be voluntary isolation and this dilemmas wouldn't exist (except for key workers, who are at the sharp end in all scenarios) I can't see everyone being as altruistic though, passing up contact with grandchildren or socialising with friends. Not even Lord S.

(He being him? I think I'd chicken out of the grammar and say "Lord S being Lord S")

MaizieD Tue 19-May-20 12:32:35

There could be a counter argument that says that, if restrictions on our 'freedom' are lifted, vulnerable people will be deprived of their liberty because they are obliged to stay away from everywhere that the non vulnerable can go in order to protect themselves. And presenting that as 'freedom of choice' would seem very dubious to me.

suziewoozie Tue 19-May-20 12:35:29

Yes .*Maizie*. Are you into John Rawls’ theory of justice? The veil of ignorance ? That would challenge Lord S’s stance.

suziewoozie Tue 19-May-20 12:42:17

If you’re interested

MaizieD Tue 19-May-20 13:14:54

Thanks, suziewoozie. I didn't know this term, so good to be introduced to it.

The much older precept that I think it must be related to is that of 'Do unto others as you would be done to'. One of the few principles of Christianity that I approve of in my atheistic old age grin

MaizieD Tue 19-May-20 13:16:24

(But don't always adhere to, before I'm accused of hypocrisy...)

Alexa Tue 19-May-20 13:32:26

It's good people remember civil liberties and respect them. At times of great danger it becomes necessary to make personal liberties less important than the welfare of the society. It may even be necessary to have martial law.

Elegran Tue 19-May-20 13:34:06

Very good concept, and one which is echoed in many moral frameworks, Christianity being one of them. At least, the theory is echoed, in practice human frailty means that people are easily seduced into choosing a stance which favours themselves, and have to be reminded from time to time that justice, fairness etc is for all.

Perhaps the philosophy should be taught in schools, and pupils given the exercise of imagining themselves as having that "veil of ignorance"?

Elegran Tue 19-May-20 13:43:24

Re my post at 09:21:28. I was a wee bit inaccurate to translate "civis" as I did. It is more related to words like "citizen" - a member of the state (that was "civitas"). However, the connection with civil rights and duties and their relation to one another still stands

Greeneyedgirl Tue 19-May-20 14:26:21

Initially when I heard Lord Sumption arguing against lockdown on civil liberty grounds, I felt it was a selfish argument.

However his argument is a powerful one, he is one of the most respected legal minds after all. The risk of exposure to the virus is an individual risk of course, but as others have said should individual choice be paramount during a pandemic emergency?

I do have concerns about erosion of our civil liberties, and 'thin end of the wedge' thinking, but if we follow his argument through, allowing people to make their own choices regardless of consequences, surely health services would be rapidly overwhelmed, supply chains for food and medicines for example be disrupted, and chaos could ensue.

This also doesn't take into account the argument about protecting the most vulnerable in society which I believe a responsible society should. There are repercussions in Sweden I see now, about the number of elderly who have died there, but strangely their society seems to have been functioning almost as normal.

Elegran Tue 19-May-20 14:45:36

Society is people. They matter as individuals as well as together making up the population on which statistics are based. Statistics don't care about individuals, only about ticks in boxes.

Sussexborn Tue 19-May-20 15:07:15

If you are attempting to keep as many as possible of a 55 million population safe, it’s pretty obvious that some rights will have to be set aside for the time being.

It’s impossible to know who has kept up with the current guidelines, who has willfully chosen to not understand them, who thinks they are invincible, who is more worried about keeping up their macho image than caring about their own family never mind the rest of society.

A tremendously difficult set of circumstances that is being made worse with all the “experts” chipping in with their contradictory statements that some will latch on to as it gives them an easy opt out.

Baggs Tue 19-May-20 17:36:20

Protecting the vulnerable is definitely important and what a civilised society should do. I think Lord S's argument is saying that it should be possible to do that without so much damage to the rest of society.

With regard to his breaking lockdown himself, I would guess he'd follow the rules that he doesn't like (as he has been doing) if only to avoid being caught out by Gotcha Journalism. The man's no fool.

Opal Tue 19-May-20 19:34:43

I was having an interesting discussion with a friend yesterday, who has a three month old granddaughter, as do I. Our grandchildren are in the middle of their baby immunisations at the moment, but he expressed concern that small babies and children are not being exposed to the usual viruses and bacteria in the outside world that they would normally be. I remember reading an article recently that our immune systems are continually evolving, and for the healthy amongst us, these systems are able to do their job properly because we are constantly being exposed and therefore building immunity. If lockdown continues, how will that affect babies and young children, who have not built up immunity? Once lockdown is ended, I am concerned that these youngsters' immune systems will not be able to cope with everything that is suddenly thrown at them, and they may be very poorly as a result. Whilst I agree lockdown is needed at the moment, I worry that prolonging it unnecessarily will be even more detrimental in the long term. Surely a balance has to be struck?

Alexa Tue 19-May-20 19:44:56

We suppose we give political representatives and/or their parties the job of finding out the correct information and acting upon it in our best interests.

John Rawls was left wing. Right wing politicians support the established way of making money for people who are already well off.

We need proportional representation.

GrannyLaine Tue 19-May-20 20:07:14

Opal I think that's a very good question and one that I have been thinking about. Our immune systems need something to work on, especially in infancy and there is a theory that we are seeing high levels of allergy in children because they are being raised in an environment where there immune system doesn't have much to do in comparison to babies of say, 50 or 60 years ago. Someone made the analogy of the virus behaving like whack-a-mole when people finally emerge from their total, sanitised isolation.

MaizieD Tue 19-May-20 20:35:10


What on earth has John Rawls' political stance to do with the 'veil of ignorance'?

Alexa Wed 20-May-20 10:14:52

Maizie, the veil of ignorance is about how to get distributive justice. Left wing politics is more about distributive justice(equality of opportunity) than right wing politics. Right wing politics tends much more to accumulation of wealth for the few.

Greeneyedgirl Wed 20-May-20 13:21:22

I think you are correct Alexa. Rawls explored the thought experiment 'Veil of Ignorance' in his book Theory of Justice.

I don't think it was an original idea but a similar social contract theory has been discussed by philosophers since Ancient Greece.

The purpose of this thought experiment is to explore a society based on justice, morality, equality and social status. These principles I believe accord more with left than right wing ideology. Others may disagree of course.

Baggs Wed 20-May-20 14:52:41

I don't agree, alexa. I think left wing politics is interested in equality of outcome more than equality of opportunity.

Baggs Wed 20-May-20 14:54:28

Anyone who believes in equality of opportunity knows there will be unequal outcomes because people are not all the same.

Baggs Wed 20-May-20 14:56:08

Distribution of wealth is about outcomes not opportunities.

Elegran Wed 20-May-20 15:06:36

In the US it is a much vaunted equal opportunity that anyone can become rich, or even President, if he/she sets his mind to it. That doesn't appear to be linked to equal outcome, either of power or of wealth or wellbeing. Possession of wealth would seem to be the prerequisite for acquiring and enjoying the other two.