With so many people ignoring mask and social distancing rules, it is no surprise that infections are surging once more in the U.S.
Wearing masks, some argue, violates their personal freedom. Merriam-Webster defines personal freedom as “freedom of the person in going and coming, equality before the courts, security of private property, freedom of opinion and its expression, and freedom of conscience subject to the rights of others and of the public.”
As this definition shows, our personal freedom is not endless but instead is limited by “the rights of others and of the public.”
Merriam-Webster also includes such limits in the concept of personal liberty: “The freedom of the individual to do as he pleases limited only by the authority of politically organized society to regulate his action to secure the public health, safety, or morals or of other recognized social interests.”
So “the public health, safety, or morals or of other recognized social interests” weigh more than our personal liberty.
Living in a society naturally comes with rules. For example, we must neither smoke in restaurants nor run around naked on Main Street.
And because masks and social distancing are currently our most effective COVID-19 protection, they by no means threaten our freedom. In 1665, when the English village of Eyam was struck by the plague, villagers did not flee but completely locked down their village for over a year to avoid infecting other towns.
Talk about giving up personal freedom!
COVID-19 has undeniably demonstrated the severe impact of our individual choices on other people’s health. Even if you don’t fear the virus, you are still responsible for others. Clearly, our personal freedom ends when we harm other people.
And refusing to wear masks and to practice social distancing absolutely fuels infections and hence greatly harms others!