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COVID exposure: The U.K. is not a free state

Empower Wisconsin | Jan. 6, 2021

By Cameron Hilditch, National Review 

Judged according to any passable definition of a free society, the United Kingdom is no longer fit for purpose. To those with eyes to see and ears to hear, this has been clear for some time. The simultaneously heavy-handed and ineffective government response to coronavirus is only the most recent example.

Consider the case of Charlie Gard from 2017. He was born in August 2016 with mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that leads to brain damage and muscle failure. His parents wanted to try experimental treatments in the hope of saving their son’s life. They weren’t alone. In fact, Pope Francis offered to fly the Gards to Rome so that the child could receive the treatments in question at the Vatican hospital.

The government-employed doctors of Britain’s National Health Service disagreed. They thought it was in Charlie’s best interest to die. This dispute between the doctors and the parents made its way through the courts, which eventually sided with the doctors. Mr. and Mrs. Gard’s son, it turns out, was the property of the British state all along — a state that has the right to kill him (and presumably any other child in its jurisdiction) for its own reasons and on its own pretexts.

Cases such as this fade in and out of the national consciousness from time to time here, but they never trigger the sustained personal fear of the state that Americans would expect. Most people in the U.K. are content to live quiescent and biddable lives without venturing to the borderlands of their civil liberties, where alone they discover how free they really are.

Coronavirus has changed all that. The high-handed, bipartisan disregard for personal freedom that has long stalked the corridors of Whitehall and Westminster is now being impressed daily upon the life and livelihood of each and every British subject.

The House of Lords used to serve as a counterweight to executive power in Great Britain, similar to how the Senate is supposed to in the U.S. But Prime Minister David Lloyd-George essentially castrated the House of Lords of all its power over 100 years ago. The United Kingdom is, for all intents and purposes, a parliamentary dictatorship. A prime minister who commands a majority in the House of Commons can do just about whatever pleases him or herself within the Machiavellian parameters of practical electoral calculation.

But during brief periods of prorogation (Parliament’s vacation), the United Kingdom ceases to be a parliamentary dictatorship and becomes a dictatorship outright. Up until this week’s recall of Parliament to vote on the new Brexit deal, Boris Johnson has been governing the country’s coronavirus response over the Christmas period by plenary fiat.

This is particularly sinister because, before Parliament was prorogued, the British people were promised a temporary restoration of their fundamental liberties over the Christmas period. Only after MPs had been relieved from their duties did the executive start to renege on these promises and to reinstitute restrictions in the most arbitrary and humiliating manner.

During the week leading up to Christmas, the government announced that London would be placed under its severest “Tier 4” category of restrictions in response to a new coronavirus surge. The government gave Londoners mere hours’ notice before putting restrictions into effect. Since Tier 4 rules prohibit nonessential domestic travel, hordes of Londoners immediately packed a bag and flocked to the capital’s major train stations in a panicked attempt at escaping to the Elysian fields of Tier 3 or Tier 2 territory for Christmas.

When a man’s ability to make plans for the next 24 hours of his life depends entirely upon his ability to successfully predict the whims of 20 or so technocrats strutting about the halls of power, it’s clear that he’s no longer living in a free society.

Read more atNational Review. 

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