The effects of the Wuhan virus on our freedoms and liberties has only just started. Even with a partial lifting of isolating restrictions in a 'stop - start' control regime, it now seems inevitable that we face food rationing. Ironically, the UK is self-sufficient in toilet roll manufacture but not in food. Professor Ashton introduces the unmentionable topic in the Telegraph. However, posts about rationing and the interesting effect this will have on the extent of the nation's food fads and imagined allergies are to come. This is a post about the future.
We will get the Wuhan virus under control, maybe this year, maybe next. And I have one prediction - that after an unprecedented intrusion into our freedoms and liberties, any hopes that the Central State has of permanently maintaining these controls will be dashed. On the contrary, the universal backlash against central State power will catalyse a hugely overdue Big Bang devolution of powers. We must just ensure that our most fundamental freedoms remain intact; universal suffrage, the secret ballot and the freedom to form and participate in political parties.
In addition to movement controls, we are likely to see food rationing, possibly even energy rationing and internet and phone restrictions, controls on internet shopping and deliveries, import controls, currency controls and unprecedented State use of mobile phone location and activity data to police and monitor public behaviour. These may all be used to ensure the greatest benefit for the greatest number whilst the crisis subsists. But paradoxically it will not be libertarians praying for the early development of a vaccine (which may also be compulsory - and sod the anti-vaxers. They will disappear along with the food faddists) but the central Statists; the longer and deeper the restrictions on our freedoms, the stronger and wider the public backlash, and the bigger the Big Bang demolition of the Central State to come.
There will be an interesting re-discovery of moral exactitude and an intolerance of moral relativity. We will get used to the idea of collectivist libertarianism. As a libertarian, I have long accepted that the freedoms I demand only extend so far as they cause no harm to any other. Libertarianism isn't the sort of me-generation selfishness that drives many of the objections to the lockdown measures, but the freedom to make your own decisions about your own life within an utterly essential collective, within a society and nation. And without ceding some freedoms to the collective, we cannot enjoy individual liberty.
But these are points for debate and discussion, not a didactic prescription. And that will be new for us. Perhaps not since the age of Huxley and Orwell will there have been such a national debate, will we engage in such dialogue over existential definitions, identity and morality. The paradox is that the Wuhan virus, from the heart of the most repressive nation on earth, may catalyse for us a freedom unknown for a century.