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COVID Lockdowns exposed: ‘In the sweep of history, intellectuals have specialized in conjuring rationales for why freedom needs to be ended…Every age has generated some fashionable & overriding reason why people cannot be free’


By Jeffrey A. Tucker – Tucker is founder and president of the Brownstone Institute and the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press and ten books in 5 languages, most recently Liberty or Lockdown. He is also the editor of The Best of Mises. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture. [email protected]


…the book Spike, by Jeremy Farrar (with Anjana Ahuja). He is not a well-known figure in the US, but in the UK he is basically their own Dr. Fauci. He wields huge institutional influence, through the Wellcome Trust, controlling both opinion within the epidemiological profession and funding resources for research. He was probably the dominant influence for enacting lockdowns in the UK, more so than Imperial College’s Neil Ferguson.

The book is a tell-all, day by day from the time of the dawning of awareness of the pathogen throughout the year. The book strikes me as forthcoming, and all the more terrifying for it. It reveals much about his friends, associates, frustrations, debates, strategies, worries, internal drama, and intellectual orientation, which is overwhelming in favor of deploying massive state power to control the invisible enemy.

deploying massive state power to control the invisible enemy. …

Farrar went all in. “Social distancing measures should be mandatory, not optional,” he writes. “A prime minister cannot ask people to lock down if they feel like it….that is not the way these sorts of public health measures work.”

Those little bromides – this casual dismissing of all concerns that might have doubts about a medically informed totalitarian state – are strewn throughout. I personally cannot fathom the psyche of a person who imagines that his profession entitles him to control all human interactions by police force, with gendarmes prohibiting people from behaving completely normally, and using violence against them for daring to engage with each other, opening their schools and businesses, and otherwise going about their lives peacefully – and genuinely believing that this is the best thing for society all told.

There is no clear objective other than to do something dramatic as a display of government power and willingness to act. He nowhere admits failure, of course, and predictably explains away all problems with the claim that governments should have locked down more things at a much earlier date. All problems in his view trace to not having institutioning his personal version of the totalitarian state earlier than was politically feasible. If you read this book, just keep this in mind: we are talking about a mental framework that would in any context otherwise be considered psychopathic.

What was the end game, the exit strategy, and whence came their astonishing confidence that something never before tried on this scale possibly could work to deal with viral infection that is ultimately a matter of individual health?

“Deciding to close an economy is unbelievably tough,” he concedes. “Other than during wars, Western economies had never had a lockdown since the Middle Ages, to my knowledge; this is just not something governments do.”

Did you ever really believe that it was two weeks to flatten the curve? The people who pushed lockdowns on governments around the world did not believe that. It was marketing and nothing more. For Farrar, lockdown is a more infallible doctrine than a testable strategy of viable disease mitigation. For him, lockdowns are really just a way for governments to do something in the face of a pandemic.

So we are back to square one, lockdowns forever without end due to the natural evolution of pathogens of the sort we evolved over millions of years to live with in a dangerous dance that we once sought to understand rather than fly into wild panic and abolish social interaction itself.

Here is where the author tips his hand completely: his whole outlook is that the entire world must be scrubbed free of bugs, even if it means a complete dismantling of civilization.

The virus still did its thing. I believe the author knows this, which is why he cannot bring himself honestly to engage in serious evaluation. “Lockdowns are a sign of big government and undoubtedly curb individual freedoms in a draconian way that none of us want,” he says in passing. “But the alternative is worse, as we have discovered.” Sorry but that just doesn’t do as an argument. You can’t just claim “it would have been worse” and expect all recrimination to go away.

Vinay Prasad correctly writes: “When the history books are written about the use of non-pharmacologic measures during this pandemic, we will look as pre-historic and barbaric and tribal as our ancestors during the plagues of the middle ages.”

As Lord Sumption writes: “There are few more obsessive fanatics than the technocrat who is convinced that he is reordering an imperfect world for its own good.”

In the sweep of history, intellectuals have specialized in conjuring rationales for why freedom needs to be ended in favor of top-state statist forms of social planning. There were religious reasons, genetic reasons, end-of-history reasons, security reasons, and a hundred more.

Every age has generated some fashionable and overriding reason why people cannot be free. Public health is the reason of the moment. In this author’s telling, everything we think we know about the social and political order must conform to his number one priority of pathogen avoidance and suppression, while every other concern (such as freedom itself) should take a back seat.

Reading this book, then, is a strange encounter with a new ideology and a new statist vision, one that poses a fundamental threat as disorienting and confusing as a new virus. Unbeknownst to most of us, lockdownism as an ideology, as a replacement for traditional law and liberty, had been growing and consolidating its influence for at least a decade and a half before it was deployed on the world in the shock and awe of 2020. Defenders of freedom need to know if they do not know already: here is another enemy, and its defeat will only come with honest and precise intellectual engagement.

In some ways, Farrar’s manifesto is a good beginning to get to know the mindset that threatens everything we love.