Sir Roger Scruton would have supported Britain’s endless lockdowns, Michael Gove has implausibly claimed.
Gove, who as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is one of Boris Johnson’s most powerful Cabinet ministers, was speaking to the Hoover Institute’s Peter Robinson as part of an online memorial event called ‘Remembering Roger Scruton’.
“Liberty is the foundation of human happiness and creativity,” Scruton once wrote.
So how, Robinson asked, did this square with Britain’s lockdown policy? Could Gove make a case for lockdowns of which Sir Roger would have approved?
Roger recognised that the single most important thing was community, family, relationships, ties of obligation felt naturally. One of the things about a pandemic is that the actions of any of us as individuals are not restricted to our own lives. As a conservative I would have a concern about a government that legalised heroin consumption. A libertarian might say: ‘What’s the problem?’ Both would concede that if by my actions I contributed to the spread of a disease which means that the weaker and the frailer among us faced additional risk, pain, and tragedy then we should be exercising restraint.
Nice try, Gove. But horribly disingenuous. As an English Literature graduate, Gove will know exactly which devil from Milton’s Paradise Lost he is incarnating here: it’s silver-tongued, oily, slippery and totally untrustworthy Belial, who used “words clothed in reason’s garb.”
Note, for example, the way he crowbars into his argument the imaginary, caricature “libertarian” who wants to “legalise heroin”. Yet amazingly — whoulda thunk? — even this imaginary, caricature libertarian is on the side of Gove’s apparently interminable lockdowns.
The case Gove presents anyway is a false one. The choice is not between looking after the “weaker and the frailer among us” or letting them go hang. It’s actually a much more fraught and complex choice between, on the one hand, the economic wellbeing of a nation, the rights of individuals to live their lives unconstrained by government tyranny, and, on the other, the prescriptions of a narrow clique of officially sanctioned “experts” on the government’s SAGE committee.
Even if we talk specifically in terms of preventing “risk, pain, and tragedy” Gove’s argument is specious. Again, this is not an issue of deciding whether to save lives or not to save lives. The lockdowns Gove has been repeatedly advocating — even if they work — may lead to more deaths than they prevent (as a result of suicides, undiagnosed or untreated diseases such as cancer, plus the consequences of the recession that continued lockdowns will inevitably trigger).
If you want to know what Sir Roger Scruton would really have thought about lockdowns and masks and the general coronavirus hysteria, this piece by one of his former PhD students, Dr Frank Palmer offers far better insights than Gove’s self-serving claims:
As an intellectual freedom fighter, he would have despised this dictatorial government, its mendacious and power-mad advisers with fingers in their ears to opposing evidence, the complicity of the MSM, and the unthinking pusillanimity of so many gullible citizens.
He would therefore surely have been appalled to witness the nauseating spectacle of the weekly clapathon for the NHS, a ritual which ignored the neglect of non-Covid illnesses and turned a blind eye to the fortitude of other ‘essential workers’. For him, this noisy equivalent of taking the knee would have been a form of idolatry like dancing round the golden calf. This sham caring, which looked like people clapping themselves clapping, involved implied (or in some cases actual) hostility to those who didn’t join in.
Scruton would have deplored the life of enforced cowardice, which destroys the virtues of courage and stoicism. He reaches back to Aristotle’s view that the happy life is a life of virtue, and the life of the coward is not a life worth living. With his characteristically delightful contrarianism, Scruton recommends a life of ‘benign shabbiness and wilful neglect’ to see us off before we lose our faculties in old age, which is also prone to terrible diseases. He might well have considered a quick fatal dose of Covid in one’s dotage – which attacks chiefly the elderly anyway (of whom I am one) – would be better than going gaga or being racked with pain and confined to a wheelchairs.
Scruton would also, according to this separate article by Sean Welsh, have abhorred compulsory masks:
But if he would be alarmed at the Government’s reinvention of the legal process, and cynical at our heretical attitude towards our own mortality, he’d be distressed at the mandated wearing of masks in public.
In his Soul of the World, Scruton devotes a chapter to what I suppose you could call the “metaphysics of the face”:
“The concept of the face, I argue, belongs with those of freedom and responsibility as part of the interpersonal understanding of the world. That is to say, in seeing an array of features as a face, I do not understand it biologically, as the invisible film that encases another brain and lets in, through eyes and ears, the information that the brain is processing. I understand it as the real presence, in our shared world, of you.”
Yes indeed. And I’ve no doubt too that Scruton would have squirmed in horror at Gove’s dishonesty, later in the interview, where he pretends that Boris Johnson’s government is keen to dispense with lockdowns as quickly as possible.
If that restraint is going to be imposed a second longer than required because a a government hungry for power and authority clings on to it, that would be wrong. But a government that did try to do that would find itself in a democracy facing a penalty at the ballot box and being flung out of office.
Gove knows that the government — with an 80-seat majority — is free to do as it wishes until the next general election in three years’ time. He also knows that the Opposition — led by Trilateral Commission member and advocate of the Great Reset Sir Keir Starmer — is even more eager for lockdowns than the Conservative government.
Meanwhile, the poor public is screwed. Gove might not be bothered by this — but having known Roger myself I’m certain he would have been.
Previously unpublished remarks by Sir Roger Scruton from 2016 on Brexit, the Migrant Crisis, and the future of Europe https://t.co/VK4MjgszUo
— Oliver JJ Lane (@oliver_lane) January 13, 2020
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