COVID-19: What is the Libertarian Reaction? – Freedom Philosophy


I watched the Democratic debate on Sunday and overheard Bernie Sanders chastising the American healthcare system as inadequate to deal with COVID-19, because it isn’t socialized medicine. I couldn’t help but note, as I sit here in the Great White North, we are having much the same issue as the Americans.

To make matters worse, when pressed for details on Canada’s response, Canada’s Minister of Health ultimately resorted to depending on the decency of ordinary Canadians to take reasonable precautions — thorough hand washing and avoiding unnecessary travel — which is to say she believes self-reliance and taking self-ownership is Canada’s best defense.

I should like to say from the outset, I find political commentary on COVID-19 disingenuous in the extreme. Akin to political corruption, or the accusation of a rigged election, where the corrupt are the ones that just so happen to disagree with the pundit’s particular political philosophy. Who are the ones incompetent at dealing with COVID-19? Your political pundit friend can tell you, it will just so happen to be the ones they disagree with politically.

It’s an odd thing. I don’t much care for Ben Carson’s politics, but if I require neural surgery, he would be among my top picks for assistance. I can disagree with someone on economics but find their handling of COVID-19 to be above average. For some reason, in politics, this isn’t happening. As such, I’ll stick to competing political philosophies, not a particular politician’s handling of it in general.

Why is it that many businesses don’t have the surplus capital to pay for employees’ paid sick leave? Why is it that we don’t have surplus capital to take time off from work? Our savings have been taxed away, many businesses have had their profits taxed out of existence, and we’ve been encouraged to go into debt with central banking.

To steal a phrase, government isn’t the answer to our problem, government is the problem.

The robustness, flexibility, and resiliency of our economy is non-existent to be able to deal with this crisis. We’ve sacrificed resiliency for the illusion of stability and this mitigates our ability to deal with the virus. Libertarian, neoclassical economic models don’t make the same tradeoff. A libertarian economy would handle these issues in a more facile manner.

We should note that our supply of healthcare services, at present, is dramatically limited. I’m told that even our American friends require government permission to build hospitals. Two of the most bombarded nation-states are Italy, which has a publicly-owned healthcare system, and South Korea, which is largely private healthcare. South Korea emerged as the clear victor in terms of mitigating this crisis.

A libertarian system would have the advantage of not pointing guns at healthcare professionals and demanding they cease their activity of providing healthcare for consenting adults.

The question at hand is governmental fiat. On the issue of bulk buying from panic, the politicians consult with medical experts and horrifyingly also, their PR professionals, while the free market has already acted. They’re restocking their shelves at a rate socialist countries dream of. They’re limiting bulk buying. They’re acting far faster in our interest than our governments, who are paid to act in our interest. 

A supposed excellence of the current system is when good choices are done via fiat from above. A local school was going to take some students on a trip to Italy, which the parents demanded go forward despite COVID-19, and was eventually overruled by the education minister. This raised the question: Is there an advantage to regulatory oversight?

The question is who is responsible for risk management? In a free market, an individual would suffer severe insurance premium increases for reckless behaviour. If the risk-manager is a politician who suffers little consequence beyond minimal PR damage, then decisions aren’t as methodical compared to an individual who suffers the consequences themselves.

This is the fundamental strength of libertarianism: People who suffer the consequences are the ones who make the decisions.

Open borders vs. closed borders has never had a more pressing debate than this current crisis. I believe now more than ever that property owners should be in charge of their borders, not government officials, far removed from the issue at hand. The people that make the decisions ought to be, in an ideal society, the people that suffer the consequences for the decision.

Self-reliance is the answer to our problems. The more self-reliance we have, the more effective the response to this crisis — the defining moment of 2020. Against the ineptitudes of self-congratulating politicians, this virus will ravage our civilization. Against the determination of hard-working, decent, and ordinary people, this virus will be quickly forgotten.

As I see the world shutting down and borders close, I believe in liberty. Overarching authorities making decisions haven’t shaken my belief that people should be free.

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Brandon Kirby

Brandon Kirby has a philosophy degree from the University of New Brunswick and is a current MBA candidate finishing his thesis. He is an AML officer specializing in hedge funds in the Cayman Islands, owns a real estate company in Canada, and has been in the financial industry since 2004. He is the director of Being Libertarian - Canada and the president of the Libertarian Party of Canada.

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