For too many, Johnson’s ‘freedom day’ will bring fear rather than release
“The purpose of the state is freedom,” the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza wrote. Its aim is to liberate everyone from fear, he argued, “so that they may live in security so far as is possible, that is, so that they may retain, to the highest possible degree, their right to live and to act without harm to themselves and others”.
Boris Johnson might nod in approval at the first part of the statement. But the plans for axing Covid restrictions in England, which the prime minister set out this week, fall far short of Spinoza’s fuller formulation. A more cautious relaxation would have been widely welcomed. Charging ahead in this gung-ho manner, scrapping almost all legal restrictions and failing to introduce mitigation measures (such as air purifiers in schools), or even uphold existing ones (such as compulsory masking), maximises the risk. The government is freeing some to return to aspects of life that they have sorely missed. But in doing so, those people risk serious harm to themselves and others.