As societies progress over the years they generally get healthier, people live longer more fulfilling lives and their choices increase exponentially. But for these advances to happen we have needed to accept the curtailment of some of our freedoms.
In the 1950s my father could drive to the pub, quaff three or four pints, sit in his driver’s seat unprotected by a seat belt and so long as he infringed no road traffic rules he was within the law in doing so. When wearing a seat belt was made compulsory and the breathalyser was introduced a decade later Dad complained vociferously about the curtailment of his freedoms. Barbara Castle really got it in the neck from him and his golf club drinking buddies.
What I do in my own home is within certain limits up to me. But when I venture out into the community rules of behaviour apply. I can’t drink and drive – a couple of half pints aside maybe. And I have to belt up. These restraints on my behaviour are not just to to protect me, though they do, but to protect others. They are uncontroversial (though no doubt on the eccentric fringes of the libertarian Right there are anti breathalyser and anti seatbelt societies).
Which brings us to Michael Gove who would no doubt like to be seen as a libertarian. Freedom of choice as to whether to wear a face mask for example. Gove’s opposition to regulation is as idiotic and selfish as my father’s opposition to the breathalyser was fifty years ago. And as ignorant.
My wearing a mask 😷 doesn’t actually protect me but the collective wearing of masks does protect me and the community as a whole. For this to work there has to be compulsion. If I drink and drive I threaten myself and others. The same with not wearing a face mask. Gove, as ever, is playing politics and seeking the applause of the libertarian cohort in his Party and beyond. Let’s hope most people see it for the populist conceit it is.