I hold the view that when people are presented with empirical real world evidence to allow them to understand a problem and are given autonomy to make choices and changes, they will, by and large, do the right thing to achieve the best outcome. If people can see for themselves the seriousness of a situation, they do not need to be coerced or forced into changing their behaviour but will do so on their own free will.
It is with this in mind that I am always sceptical of the need for blanket centrally enforced mandates such as lockdowns. If the risks are as real and as serious as we’re led to believe, then why would anyone need to force you to do something? Wouldn’t people alter their behaviour enough based on what is happening in front of their eyes? Wouldn’t human nature suggest that you would do whatever is needed for survival?
This was evident for me personally when at the turn of the year we were put into lockdown for the third time. Even as someone who fundamentally opposes all lockdowns (and still do not consider them a proportionate response to the current situation), I could see first-hand my local health system under severe pressure and hospitalisations were worryingly high. This was enough for me to alter my behaviour without needing to be told what I could or couldn’t do and I made a conscious choice to limit contact with others who may be vulnerable. I did not need to be forced by law or otherwise to do that; the evidence was right in front of my eyes that the local situation was far worse than at any other point in the past nine months and I needed to help limit the spread of the virus.
When I explain my view to others, the response is nearly always, ‘Well you are sensible but the majority of other people aren’t like you and would carry on as normal’. Whilst I disagree with this statement for the reasons already mentioned, the bigger point here is that this gives me a clear indication of why people might favour authority over liberty. They see their fellow citizen as not being able to make their own decisions for themselves or the wider community, so would prefer a group of people (in this instance big government) to decide for everyone what is allowed and support the use of coercive measures to control the population.
As a principle, I believe humans are intrinsically good and it is the system in which they live and the extrinsic factors within it that determine how they turn out. It is a Libertarians prerogative to provide a system which enables everyone to have the same opportunity to contribute positively to society, where individuals are treated as such and trusted with knowledge to make appropriate choices. Without overbearing governments telling people how to live and making choices for them, perhaps giving autonomy to individuals would encourage people to always do the right thing?
Marco Di Paola – State Coordinator for London and South East.