Canada Health Alliance

Measuring the Mandates: Questioning the State’s Response to COVID-19

Richard Cox (

In 2020, the announcement of a pandemic saw the implications of this claim manifest in the most pronounced and consequential manner since the Second World War. Politicians around the world insisted that they needed to restrict human freedom and mandate medical interventions—all in order to keep us safe. They had the power and claimed the wisdom to know this was the right thing to do. Much of the population agreed, yearning only for stronger restrictions on their liberty.

The human cost of these policies has been as horrendous as it was predictable—a fact not even their most ardent defenders can seriously contest. We’ve witnessed the closing down of businesses, the coercion of medical treatments, the loss of jobs, the separation of families, elderly people dying alone in care homes and starvation levels increasing around the world. For this, we have been landed with a bill that we will be paying off for generations to come.

Yet much like the Great Wars of the 20th century, the argument goes that if the state hadn’t intervened the situation would have been much worse. The implementation of these draconian measures means that millions of people are now alive who otherwise wouldn’t have been. However brutal, the price was worth it.

Is this position defensible? Were any of the state mandates actually justified, even given the limited information available at the time? With hindsight, were they beneficial, or did they end up making matters worse? If they did worsen the situation, are there a different set of general principles that politicians could be guided by when future nightmares arise? These are the questions this document seeks to address.

Image: Edwin Hooper @ Unsplash

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