We’re entering the early stages of a new culture war pitting freedom-lovers against proponents of Zero Covid
By Sherelle Jacobs | 5 July 2021
THE TELEGRAPH — In October 1958, the philosopher Isaiah Berlin gave a groundbreaking lecture at Oxford University on the subject of liberty. There were two kinds, he said. “Positive” liberty – in which freedom is usually only achieved through a collective, utopian quest – would always lead to tyranny, as epitomised by communism. The antidote, he contended, was for the West to champion “negative” liberty instead – the individual’s freedom to do what they want without interference.
Some years later, however, Berlin wavered. By defining “negative” liberty as a person’s ability to do what they want (rather than what other people deemed by they ought to want) the scholar could not get around the paradox that, in certain circumstances, people may genuinely not wish to be free at all. They might adapt to unfree situations by no longer desiring their own autonomy. A society might even “liberate” itself from the terrors of freedom, with its daunting emphasis on personal responsibility.
Freedom won the Cold War, of course, and for decades libertarians – myself included – have assumed that freedom was almost a basic instinct, a natural and universal desire, happily glossing over the basic conundrum that tortured Berlin. That was until Covid struck. […]