President don’t try to fool us: you do restrict freedom

Deputy Director of the Master's Degree in Economics and Political Science at ESEADE.

In yesterday’s announcement, Alberto tried to deny the obvious.

Yesterday, Alberto Fernández, along with Horacio Rodríguez Larreta and Axel Kicillof announced that the quarantine would be extended until the end of the month.

In the same act, the president denied that there was a quarantine, something that is partly true, although it would be necessary to ask the owners of the gyms what they think about it, or the owners of the theaters, or those who want to have “social gatherings.”

All of this, as a result of the successive decrees signed by Fernández, is today prohibited and punishable by law.

Another thing that the president denied, on two or even more occasions during his message yesterday, is that the government was restricting freedoms.

His specific words were the following:

«We never restrict freedoms, we only take care of people’s health. Because if when doctors tell us that the solution we have is to preserve ourselves by trying not to circulate and we order that, if that is restricting freedom … It is as if the doctor told me not to add more salt to my food because I have high blood pressure and I told him that he is restricting my freedom to eat salt. It is exactly the same.

There are no freedoms at stake, what there is is what happens to us when we face a disease. And the world is sick. We have to have certain restrictions… If I am diabetic and they tell me not to eat sweets, they are not restricting my freedom, they are taking care of me. “

With this phrase, clearly paternalistic, the president tried to make a rhetorical turn to deny something that is really impossible to deny: the government does restrict freedoms, and it is not even clear that it is for good reasons.

We dissect the content of the message.

First, the doctor-patient relationship is not the same as the government-citizen relationship. It is that even when the doctor may prescribe that we do not eat salt, that we do more sports, or that we do not eat sweets, it is up to each patient to follow the prescription or not. Medical advice is not an order, but a professional warning that the patient probably has an incentive to follow, but is free not to comply. In fact, the doctor, in the hypothetical case that the patient does anything but what is indicated, will have the freedom to stop treating him, but he will never be able to impose his will on him.

The government, unlike the previous case, can fine, or even arrest and imprison anyone who disobeys it. In the latter case, freedom is clearly threatened and restricted. Try opening a bar in broad daylight and accepting 10-15 people to sit at your tables. It will not take long for municipal inspectors to arrive to close the business.

Second, no matter why it is done, if freedom is restricted, it will be restricted. When the government imposes a tariff barrier to prevent imports, it does not matter if it does so to “protect the employment of Argentines,” the barrier implies a violation of free trade and, therefore, a violation of individual freedom.

The case is identical if the government prohibits alcohol or drug use. No matter that he does it to “take care of our health”, it is still an attack on our freedom, in this case with a motivation known in the literature on the subject as “paternalism.” That is to say, that situation where the government acts as if we were adolescents and he was our father.

Finally, it is also not true that “the world is sick.” The coronavirus pandemic accumulates 21.3 million infected with 14.1 million recovered. In other words, 0.001% (zero, point zero, zero one percent) of the world population is currently suffering from the disease caused by COVID-19. It would be more correct, in light of these data, to say that “the world is healthy”, and that some people within that world have coronavirus.

To make matters worse, of that total number of infected, only 3.5% died (762,400 people), which constitutes terrible news for them and their close ones, but it must also be said that the other 96.5% have not died, that Likewise, he never showed symptoms, and that the disease particularly aggressively attacks the older sector of the population.

According to official data from the City of Buenos Aires, 84.4% of the deceased are over 60 years old and the average age of those who die from coronavirus is 76 years old. If we look at the case of Italy, with which the government permanently scares us, we obtain that until July 14, 34,066 citizens had died, but only 386 (three hundred and eighty-six) of those deceased were less than 50 years old.

Teniendo en cuenta esta evidencia: ¿es necesario que el gobierno, con la excusa de «ciudar al mundo», restrinja nuestra libertad de trabajar, comerciar, pasear y juntarnos con nuestras familias y amigos? ¿O no sería, tal vez, más razonable que se limitara a fortalecer el sistema público de salud y a proveer información relevante para que podamos tomar mejores decisiones individuales en el marco de una pandemia (decisiones que podrían incluir incluso el aislamiento voluntario de mayores o personas muy adversas al riesgo de contagio)?

Con la política de cuarentena el gobierno no cuida «nuestra salud», sino que se limita a intentar evitar que las personas que forman parte de grupos de riesgo se contagien del COVID. Es decir, y repito, no cuida «nuestra salud», sino a lo sumo la de algunos, pero a costa de la de otros, cuya salud se deteriora al perder el empleo, mantenerse en el encierro, o ver cómo su negocio cierra de forma indefinida.

Finalmente, y para empeorar el cuadro, no solo no nos está cuidando sino que, aunque lo niega, sí está violando nuestras libertades. El gobierno no es nuestro médico, ni tampoco nuestro padre, y cuando se posiciona en tales roles, la libertad naturalmente estará amenazada, sino directamente restringida o suprimida.

Espero haber sido claro, a ver si el presidente y toda su militancia lo entienden alguna vez.