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What some philosophers have to say about the right to come and go in the pandemic

by Ace Damon

Wikimedia Commons / Montage about reproduction

Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC)

Can governments limit the right to come and go during a pandemic? Yes. The Roman philosopher and politician coined the phrase Salus populi suprema lex esto – something like “The health of the people must be the supreme law”. For him, it is the role of the State to do whatever it takes to keep the population healthy. More than 1,700 years later, the phrase was considered one of the fundamental principles of governments by the liberal philosopher John Locke.

Thomas Hobbes (1588 – 1679)

Governments have the prerogative to enact a lockdown, and he recommends that they do so. For Hobbes, stateless humans tend to annihilate themselves in irrational decisions – in the case of 2020, making unnecessary crowds or drinking disinfectant to fight the coronavirus. Conclusion: if he lived today, Hobbes would be one of the greatest defenders of the quarantine to prevent the pandemic from getting worse.

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Friedrich Hayek (1899 – 1992)

The Austrian economist, a defender of the minimum state, has always said that the government should interfere as little as possible in individual choices. But he recognizes that, during “war and other temporary disasters, subordinating almost everything to immediate need is the price to be paid for freedom in the long run.” The question is whether he would consider the pandemic to be an international emergency serious enough to warrant intervention.

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