Coronavirus and the Liberal Society

The protest against lockdowns amid the threats of Coronavirus (Covid-19) is due to the perceived infringement of human rights and economical plight. Both of the above are main concerns only in a liberal society, where members of society are defined by individualistic being having unquestionable human rights and freedom to seek their interests.

In countries which do not confined their identities to ideologies (capitalism or socialism), similar plights are experienced, but economic problem is often the responsibility of the state; and the human rights problem is considered insignificant compared to the welfare of the society. Confucianist societies in East Asia are good examples of states taking charge of the people’s interests, with citizens obediently submit to the leadership of the state. There is no guarantee of success, but there is certainly a higher level of coordination in the fight against a pandemic. People in these countries are not demanding their human rights to be honored. Their welfare systems and financial institutions, which are often backed by the state, are free to dispense financial aids to the people. In a typical liberal society like the USA, where free-market capitalism is held as the only “truth,” the state is crippled by the ideological bondage of capitalism that antagonizes any government initiative that show a hint of socialism. Any help from the state is alleged to be a move towards “big government,” and quickly shunned by the believers of the free-market. (The Obama years come to mind) Politicians are understandably cautious. So people are left to look after themselves financially. People whose means of income are affected in the current Coronavirus lockdown will have limited help from the state. When food is running out, protesting the lockdown is a viable choice.

East Asia countries have no such ideological bondage. People in these countries seldom see themselves as autonomous individual with self-defined freedom. Their cultures uphold the good of the community, over the interest or freedom of individual. After all, in a pandemic, we realize, our private well-being, including our properties, means very little unless everyone is well. From the ethical point of view, the lack of “telos” in liberalism is exposed in this pandemic. Self-centered individualism has become a threat to the whole society and its sociopolitical and economic systems, because it knows no “good” except one which is individualistic.