Culture Wars/Current Controversies

The burden of proof is on those who impose burdens

By Edward Feser

I have argued both that the lockdown was a justifiable initial reaction to the Covid-19 crisis, and that skeptics ought nevertheless to be listened to, and listened to more earnestly the longer the lockdown goes on.  Here’s one front line doctor who argues that it has gone on long enough and should be eased up.  Is he right?  Maybe, though I don’t have the expertise to answer with certainty, and I’m not addressing that question here anyway.  What I am sure of is this much: The burden of proof is not in the first place on him and people of like mind to show that the lockdown should be ended.  The burden is on defenders of the lockdown to show that it shouldn’t be.

This is especially so given that the initial justification for the lockdown (the prospect of overwhelmed hospitals and shortages of ventilators and other medical equipment) no longer applies. Not to mention the fact that we can be certain that the lockdown is causing massive damage to people’s livelihoods and savings, whereas we are not certain that a general lockdown (as opposed, say, to a targeted lockdown of the elderly and those with special health problems) really is the most effective way to deal with Covid-19. Not to mention Sweden.

The issue is not just that doing massive damage to the economy is, if unnecessary, imprudent in the extreme – though, to say the very least, it most certainly is that. It’s that the lockdown entails actions that, in ordinary circumstances, would be very gravely immoral.

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