If we believe in anything, it is the Harm Principle of John Stuart Mill. People should be at liberty, to make their own choices, unless they do harm, to others, or to themselves, if in ways that might harm others too. The bar for the deciding of what is a harm, is set higher or lower, according to whether you are a Liberal or a Libertarian. Mill was a Liberal. He believed the state, the government, needed to exercise authority, on, for example law and order. The balance, is what is to be considered. The preamble to the constitution of this party refers to that as “between the fundamental values, of liberty, equality and community.
I have often put it this way. I am a Classical Liberal, on liberty related issues, a Social Liberal, on equality related issues, a Social Democrat, on community related issues. I am of the view that there has rarely been an issue that combines all these and more, and requires strong thinking and action, than Covid19.
I have just written an article for the Ustinov Prejudice Awareness Forum, called, Viral Expertise, www.ustinovforum.com an organisation, at which I am a member, and writer, an article, in which I look, at greater word length and in different ways, from a more international perspective, what I want to say here, from a UK Classical Liberal, Social Liberal and Social Democrat point of view. The importance of this issue, is such, that I would very much welcome colleagues visit the link too.
I, we, surely must subscribe to support policies that reveal and encourage, personal responsibility and public good. For all , responsible, for goodness sake, more needs to be done at home and abroad to combat this virus and act as a rehearsal for, an ongoing effort where the world performs better.
As a vegetarian, non smoker, non drinker, non driver, it is my personal responsibility to do my bit to live a good life. I expect better of others but more from government too. These virus related crises emerge usually due to the imbalance of humans and their relationship with animals and planet. Live and let live, is a daft motto if it does the reverse!
I am calling on the experts, who do not all agree, in different areas of their real expertise, or in different countries attempting to combat this virus, to err on the side of caution, on the potential health consequences, and throw caution to the wind, on the economic consequences. The former saves lives, the latter spends money. I fear that we might be unnecessarily in a situation that spends lives and saves money. Austerity has had its day. It is a very different world now.
I ask all of us, government, individuals, communities, experts, to consider the following:
Flights should be stopped , unless urgent, to all countries, temporarily, wherever possible. Holidays should be had at home. Airlines should be compensated if the insurance does not cover this crisis.
Money should get to those with underlying conditions and help to get the support they need. Similarly with the elderly and isolated.
The unemployed should not have to attend at job centres, these closed down, indeed all public sector workers not involved in the delivery of services related to this crisis, encouraged and paid, to not work, but to volunteer, online or phone, with advice lines or as needed.
Private sector employers should do likewise compensated, too, and the self employed, given a temporary basic income guarantee if unable, or detrimental, to work.
Small guest houses should be utilised in all regions, to provide a safe place to isolate those with the virus who do not need hospital, but should be kept safe, from families, or friends. There seems to be, from those used to being in mansions, no understanding of the cramped situations of many. My wife and I reside in a one bedroom flat!
All large public gathering should cease. Again, if insurance does not cover this, compensation forthcoming, from governments, for cancelling performances, theatre, concert, film, all. The Olympics should be cancelled until a year ahead.
Self isolation wherever possible, is going to be an important part of the solution. It need not be selfishness. Being less sociable thus can , lead to being more social in concern. This is a balance of individuality and society, for the good of humanity. To wash hands only, is to wash hands of this altogether!
* Lorenzo Cherin is an actor, writer, and regular contributor to politics as a member of the Liberal Democrats. He is based in Nottingham.