Dennis Hackethal’s Blog
My blog about philosophy, coding, and anything else that interests me.
Lockdowns Are a Collectivist-Altruist Nightmare
These past few days, the world has seen new lockdowns in some countries. Among them are the Netherlands and Austria. The Austrian lockdown is particularly evil because it targets only the unvaccinated, thereby creating a two-class system with those who have ‘earned’ their freedom, and those who have not. This is disgusting. As David Deutsch has said, “freedom granted conditionally is not freedom at all”.
A year ago, well into the first wave of lockdowns across the planet, you would have been called a conspiracy theorist had you expressed concerns the government might one day discriminate against those who are not vaccinated.
The docility with which some people – not all, mind you – have been agreeing to be effectively locked into their homes is remarkable. No self-respecting man would abide by that, let alone agree to it. What’s needed is an ideological infrastructure which guilt-trips people into paying a debt they don’t owe.
This infrastructure is provided by collectivism and altruism. From the Ayn Rand lexicon:
Collectivism means the subjugation of the individual to a group—whether to a race, class or state does not matter. Collectivism holds that man must be chained to collective action and collective thought for the sake of what is called “the common good.”
In this case, the ‘common good’ is everyone’s health.
And from the entry on altruism:
What is the moral code of altruism? The basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value.
When the pandemic started, the health of others immediately became your debt to pay to the state. Even though those who wish to lock themselves down have always been free to do so – no centralized mandates required – lockdowns are implemented by force. Those refusing to pay a debt they do not owe are branded as ‘selfish’. But that’s not selfish. You do not owe people something you did not agree to owe them. Period.
I had a chance to watch a bit of the debate you recently posted on Twitter and thought I’d share some thoughts with you. I wasn’t able to watch much of it, so some points below you may already have used in the debate itself.
The main thing that stood out to me is that your opponent likened stay-at-home orders to the “no-lights orders” during the blitz in London. At that time, turning on the lights in one’s apartment at night could draw Nazi bombers to one’s building, thereby putting everyone in the building in grave danger. Likewise, your opponent argues, socializing puts others in grave danger during this pandemic. If one didn’t want innocent civilians killed during the blitz, surely one shouldn’t needlessly socialize today—so his argument goes.
This line of reasoning is a false analogy for a number of reasons, but perhaps the most important is this: during the blitz, if you turned on your lights, everyone else in the same building had no way of protecting themselves short of leaving their property behind immediately and not coming back until the morning, quite possibly getting hit by a bomb in the streets. They didn’t even have a way of detecting whether lights were on in the building without going outside and exposing themselves to danger. In other words, others could not help become the victims of your turning on the light. That’s not comparable to this pandemic, as those who want to self-isolate are free to do so and are not forced to mingle with others in any way even if you decide to mingle with others.
Your opponent—not this particular one, but perhaps a future one—may reply that people are forced to mingle with others eventually and thereby become victims comparable to those in the blitz example after all. This would be a trick because he’d be equivocating two different uses of the word “force”: 1) to coerce someone into doing something they don’t want to do, 2) to do something out of necessity (which isn’t really force). Anti-capitalists, for example, bemoan the law of nature that “forces” people to work for their wealth—to then justify actual force (the first meaning) against productive people. When asked why he thinks self-isolators couldn’t stay at home forever, your opponent may respond that expecting people to do so is unrealistic and that person-to-person contact cannot be avoided forever—at which point he’s making your point for you.
In short, the difference between the blitz and the pandemic is that during the blitz, people were not free of the consequences of your actions, while during the pandemic, they can be, if they so choose, and locking people down is not necessary to ensure that. A comparable situation to the blitz would be to forcefully enter someone’s home, prevent them from escaping, and cough into their face in an effort to infect them.
On a more general note, I believe I have identified altruism as the core evil behind lockdown policies, building off Ayn Rand’s work. There is a great interview here in which she explains the main problems with altruism. In short, it is the idea that one must place others’ interests above one’s own; that one must live for others; that “the sole justification of [man’s] existence is the service he renders to others and that self-sacrifice is his basic virtue, value, and duty.” Going beyond the data a bit and looking at the explanations that cause people’s decisions, there seems to be a tacit, underlying assumption that it is one citizen’s duty to ensure the health of another. That one man has a “mortgage,” as Rand likes to call it, on another’s life, in this instance to have his health provided for him.
Then there is another tacit assumption built on top of the altruistic attitude, namely that it is morally legitimate for a third party—the government—to force one man to ensure the health of another, and to sacrifice his life to do so by, e.g., destroying his business by forcefully closing it down.
As Rand points out in the interview, nobody has ever explained why it should be one man’s job to ensure the health (or wealth, etc.) of another, much less why it should be morally legitimate to force him to do so. I suspect that future opponents of yours would not be able to explain why, either.
After mentioning this to people with whom I discuss lockdowns, they usually refer back to ICU numbers being catastrophic as the overriding concern. But that’s not an argument in favor of altruism—it’s a dodge. Perhaps ICU numbers could be improved by convincing people to stay home—assuming that would actually help—but lockdown supporters do not seem to consider persuasion a valuable tool to have in one’s tool belt. Others point to the status quo of the welfare state which likewise rests on altruism—but using the altruistic status quo to justify altruism is circular. Lastly, altruists like to cast those who don’t want to be sacrificed on the altar of altruism as “selfish"—but is there anything more selfish than forcing others to give up their lives for one’s health?
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