If we agreed to the ten commandments of democracy, the first could be “you will love your neighbor and defend their freedom above all things” and the second, “you will not take the name of freedom in vain.” This is a headline that I borrow from the blog of my union teacher José Luis López Bulla to draw attention to the instrumentalization and trivialization of the idea of freedom.
In recent times, a concept of full and unlimited freedom has been consolidated, which sublimates individualism and ignores the community, while demanding absolute security and zero risk from society and its institutions.
It is not a new phenomenon, the dialectic between individual and community has always accompanied the human being. But Covid-19 has also caused a pandemic of social nihilism.
It is urgent to fight the ideological battle to safeguard the very essence of freedom. It is an objective that we can share in broad and cross-sectional sectors of society to stand up to the liberticides on one side and the libertarians of other. Although perhaps one and the other are the same with a different necklace.
During the pandemic, the freedom to drive drunk or smoke in enclosed spaces has been added to the freedom to act according only to our needs and desires – each of us – ignoring the community and breaking the rules, even if it entails risks for other people. .
This is not a strictly Spanish phenomenon and we have good evidence of it. The most recent, Boris Johnson identifying July 19, the day on which all social restrictions have been lifted to combat Covid-19, as “the day of freedom.” Although there is the paradox that at that very moment he is forced -literally- by public opinion to go into quarantine due to close contact.
It is the same absolute freedom, closely linked to the ideal of the market, by which everything that can be bought can be done, be it sex with women or the women themselves to act as a surrogate. The same freedom that allows elderly people who can afford a private residence to be cared for in hospitals, while others are prevented from accessing the ICUs in Madrid at the toughest moment of the pandemic. The freedom of the market that in Spain and other European countries leads to denying residence rights to poor immigrants, which instead is recognized for rich immigrants who can buy them through the Golden Visa.
It is a concept of freedom that maintains a curious and ambivalent coexistence with other fundamental rights. A few days freedom gives way to the right to life -that is justified- when it is intended to deny us access to euthanasia. Or when, in the name of life, the right of women to voluntary termination of pregnancy is denied. On other days, on the other hand, freedom of conscience is imposed and serves to endorse the refusal of some professionals to practice sanitary acts protected by law and to which we have the right.
This is the same self-interested, reversible and volatile concept of freedom, in this case of movement and residence, which has led the Constitutional Court to annul some articles of the Decree on a state of alarm.
Of all the incomprehensible things in the Constitutional ruling, the one that seems most serious to me is not the scant solidity of its argument, but the lack of legal sense which, don’t forget, is a variant of common sense.
It is of little common and legal sense that the constitutionality of the Decree is analyzed from the interesting doctrinal debate on whether the measures of the state of alarm suppose a limitation or a suspension of the right to free movement. But done in the scientific vacuum of classroom debates, it ignores the consequences of its conclusions on the life and health of citizens.
The best proof of the lack of consistency of the sentence is the fear that the majority of the Constitutional Court has of its own conclusions, as the dissenting dissenting votes have shown. A fear that is expressed in the fact of having waited to dictate it just when it no longer has direct health effects. Also, by not applying the same criteria used to analyze freedom of movement to freedom of business. Undoubtedly due to the economic effects that the declaration of invalidity of this article could have for the state.
Fortunately, the sentence was handed down 16 months after the state of alarm decree came into force and it has not had the health effects that it would have had if it had been handed down in the first weeks of the pandemic. Although looking to the future it has placed us in an alley with a difficult exit.
Today, we have enough experience to know that a pandemic with a high contagion capacity and a heavy burden of lethality requires a speed in the actions that is incompatible with the slow procedure, by guarantee, of the state of exception. And we have enough time distance to know that the duration of the necessary measures goes beyond 30 days, extendable for another 30 – these cannot be extended – required by law for the state of emergency. In this sense, the incongruity of the ruling on the non-usefulness of the state of exception to respond to a pandemic is surprising. And to air it with a brief comment that “the temporal scope of the state of exception affects issues that are not raised.”
In my opinion, the most serious part of the sentence is the ideology libertarian -Which is not libertarian- from which its legal foundations and its operative part draw. The right to life, physical integrity and health are barely mentioned in their legal foundations, because their concept of freedom makes them disappear in the name of freedom of movement.
Even more surprising – to put it respectfully – are the grounds of the sentence when compared with the order of the same Constitutional Court of April 30, 2021 that endorsed, sheltering in the state of alarm, the prohibition of a demonstration in Vigo to safeguard the The right to life and physical integrity, which he considered preferential to that of demonstration and freedom of association. And he did so by characterizing the prohibited demonstration as a risk to public order, another malleable concept in the hands of the majority of the Court.
In any case, it should not surprise us that the right libertarian, which is neither conservative nor liberal but reactionary, use the word freedom in vain to combat freedoms and policies of equality and fraternity. This manipulation in favor of the dominant economic powers at all times has accompanied us throughout the history of humanity. Let’s look at some examples.
The historical chronicles explain that, on the occasion of the Black Death of the fourteenth century, the English landowners were left without laborers, which caused an increase in the wages demanded by those who had survived. To avoid increasing “market wages,” the Crown passed a Royal Ordinance in 1349 that forced laborers to work for the same wage as before the plague. And he imposed penalties on those who demanded a higher salary. All this justified, of course, in the name of freedom.
Something similar happened in the early days of industrialization. Labor organizations and collective bargaining were prohibited. In the Spanish Penal Code of 1848 and under the heading of “machinations to alter the price of things” jail sentences and fines were set for “those who join together in order to increase or lower the price of work or regulate its conditions. “.
This peculiar concept of freedom is also in the origins of capitalism. It is enough to remember the words of Adam Smith justifying the servitude: “the servants have privileges that the slaves do not have, they can only be sold if the mine is sold, they can enjoy marriage or religion”.
This same conception of freedom is the one defended in the 1930s by the globalists of the Geneva school and which has come to this day dressed as neoliberalism. Accompanied by the conviction, which they had no problem defending, that democracy is an obstacle to full market freedom.
To face this degradation of the idea of freedom, it does not serve to ridicule Ayuso’s occurrences, because neither are they occurrences – it is an ideological battle of the first magnitude – nor is it just a matter of the Madrid “kinky” right.
Society, with its plurality, must fight the ideological battle for the reassignment of the concept of freedom, putting the community in its rightful place. And looking for allies in the liberals of all spectra – those who really are – with whom to fight liberticides and libertarians.
Democracy is by definition complexity, even more so when it comes to finding the balance between different fundamental rights in conflict. But I think we could agree that freedom only makes sense if it is exercised in community.
NOTE. I have waited to publish the article to read the sentence and the particular votes in full.