On July 19th, all legal restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic are coming to an end in England. That includes things like social distancing, keeping 2-meters apart from strangers, and the wearing of facemasks on public transport and at airports. Instead, the prime minister said the government would be relying on the personal responsibility of individuals to take any necessary precautions.
But is this move by the UK government guided by science or ideology? In a pandemic, when our health doesn’t depend only how responsible we are, but on how others behave around us, is personal responsibility an appropriate principle to appeal to? Is the function of the language of personal responsibility to merely shift the blame from government failure onto the public? And is the left’s tendency to resist acknowledgement of the role of personal responsibility in people’s life outcomes in danger of undermining our sense of autonomy and control over our lives?
Toby Buckle is the creator and host of The Political Philosophy Podcast
This podcast is created in partnership with The Philosopher, the UK’s longest running public philosophy journal: https://www.thephilosopher1923.org
Artwork by Nick Halliday
Music by Rowan Mcilvride