OVER the past few weeks, I have noticed that social commentators and journalists have been invoking the “social contract” in their musings. Noisy protests, induced by COVID-19, economic distress and the activities of anti-vaxxers, are forcing us to think about the balance between the rights and responsibilities of the members of a community such as Australia (here, here and here).

Suddenly, it is as though the social contract were something that we had signed on to when we became adults.

It is now over 50 years since I read Plato, Hobbes, Locke, Machiavelli, Rousseau (who wrote The social contract), Marx and Engels, and others, as part of a university course in moral and political philosophy. I must admit that in the interim the “who wrote what” of it all has become rather blurred, although I do remember that Plato’s Republic had a brown cover while the Hobbes book was red (although perhaps not easily read), and I have misplaced my key to Locke.

These thinkers were exploring the fundamental questions of how it was that their societies had arisen, how they could be governed, and what it was that the various members of societies owed to one another and to their community as a whole, and vice versa.

Of course, pre-modern, pre-scientific philosophers had no concept of the human species as being part of the continuum of evolution, or that the biological and social evolution of animal communities as our predecessors laid the foundation for human communities – humans were humans and had simply been plonked down on Earth by the gods or god to self-organise under rules that had been ordained.

Members of small communities of humans are intimately co-dependent, know one another personally and are likely to be related – small communities sink or swim together.

It was only a relatively few thousands of years ago that the small-group model that had served the great variety of social organisms well for millions of years became insufficient for the organisational challenge posed by the bigger groups that were supplanting them.

In contrast, the diversity that is enabled and necessary in large complex human communities creates functional challenges, as well as opportunities for internal competition and much greater inequality. In order to operate effectively as large communities, we have had to create complex systems of rules for organising ourselves. Or maybe it was the other way around – that we were only able to become larger because we learned how to organise. Or perhaps even more likely, the solutions and their consequences evolved concurrently.

It is very important to remember that, as I have discussed earlier, the cultural and physical evolution of our societies from very small self-governing groups into large communities also created the environment and opportunity for pandemics, and offered up communities vulnerable to complexity, instability, and collapse (and here).

The emergence of communities with greater diversity poses the challenge of how to maintain cohesion when composed of members who pursue self-interest at the expense of their fellow members, with whom, nonetheless, they share a degree of co-dependency. Why would individuals remain engaged in a society where they do not receive an adequate share in the benefits that they generate for others? How much diversity, dissent and pursuit of self-interest can be allowed to persist in a community without threatening coherence and viability (as has happened in Lebanon)? If diversity and individual ingenuity drive growth and change, will enforced homogeneity and intolerance of intrinsic human diversity stifle flexibility and inhibit necessary adaptation to new circumstances (as is happening in China)?

Larger groups created the need to explore these issues in the interests of their sustainability, while offering philosophers some freedom to consider them. No doubt, and as always, controlling leaders and groups within societies try to manage the discussion in their own interests.

The historical literature of the social contract may seem quite abstract. However, it is probably best understood simply as an attempt to explain the origins and operation of communities. Perhaps surprisingly, the issues are the same whether or not humans subscribe to modern evolutionary explanations – that communities emerged and persist (until the collapse) because they offer greater likelihood of reproductive success and genetic continuity.

The core issues relevant to the current challenge of COVID-19 can be summarised in two questions that emerge from the premise that it is in our interests to live in large communities:

What individual personal sacrifice do we owe to the state (that is comprised of us)?


What does the state (that exists only as lots of us) owe to each of us?

The answers philosophers and politicians have found to these questions are manifest in the design and application of constitutions and laws. And their effectiveness plays out over time in the rise and fall of communities in conflicts over power and control.

[Note: The voting populace are known as constituents (def. voters or ingredients), and that should remind us that the electorate is our community. It is the reason that dictators go to such lengths to claim victory in (often rigged) elections to sustain the illusion that they can rule with a community mandate founded on adherence to the social contract; for example, the recent election in Belarus, Nixon and the Silent Majority, and Donald Trump’s claims of victory when he clearly lost.]

Few would disagree with the principle that humans cannot function as fully self-sufficient organisms. We are all dependent on our community for our sustenance and our wellbeing.

The organisational solutions suggested by philosophers range from idealised benevolent despotism (Plato) to the rule of the proletariat (Marx). Unfortunately, history shows that rulers too easily drop the benevolence and many team players rapidly descend into despotism (Venezuela) – human nature easily trumps theoretical ideals.

We expect the leaders of our democracies to [as they say in their victory speeches] “govern for everyone”. However, in heterogeneous communities, they do not have no-lose options for decision making that are in the personal interests of every constituent member.

Leaders generally represent an ideological subgroup within the subgroup that is their party. But when their communities are under threat, elected leaders have a duty to set aside the interests of their subgroup of origin to protect the longer term interests of the group as a whole. Almost every choice they must make will either confirm the antipathy of other subgroups or cause their subgroup of origin to feel betrayed.

Constituents have a duty to understand and accept how their leaders should act during a crisis, and respect the decisions that they make, even when they are not in their particular interests.

However, the rapidly changing relationship between leaders (who used to be able to assume that they could tell the community what to do) and their community (who now feel empowered to make choices about everything from sexuality and vaccination to voluntary assisted dying) has made implementing the social contract more difficult. Each of us should think very carefully about our role in, and relationship with, our community. This means recognition that, in spite of our freedom of choice apparently growing, we are actually increasingly dependent for our survival, not just on our own community, but also on the incomprehensible dynamic complexity of the 21st century’s global interaction and behaviour of other humans (here and here).

So, how do we personally decide how to balance the freedom to act as we choose versus the right not suffer avoidable harm as a consequence of the exercise of freedom by others?

Few would dispute that, respecting diversity, democracies should support and encourage their citizens to believe that, in principle, they have the right to freedom of thought and action. Our social contract respects the right of individuals to engage in dangerous activities (think unroped rock climbing) that may cause harm to themselves alone, or refuse interventions that might bring them benefit (blood transfusion or dialysis). However, the rights to act are not limitless. The privilege of membership of a community also comes with the presumption that members will not act in a way that deliberately or consciously harms other members or the wellbeing of the community, and that in some circumstances the members of a democracy must defer to the interests of the community as a whole, even if the community’s choices may deny them freedoms or cause them harm. Most constituents also believe that leaders have the right to impose consequences for acting in a manner that causes or has the potential to cause harm to others.

I have great sympathy for our current leaders who have found themselves in a position for which they could not have prepared, and must make choices the consequences of which are often unknowable, apart from the fact that they will probably result in some degree of disorder, and probably deaths, whatever they decide. In facing up to this pandemic (and the greater threat of global climate change), leaders are being challenged to move outside the political paradigm and into a dynamic and uncertain world. They must deal with complexity, viral evolution, epidemiology, public health, ethics, and the variety of human behaviour – all in the name of the longer term interests of their community, and even when that might compromise their short term political prospects. There may only be least worst options.

They have no option for indecision or prevarication when decisions are necessary. A failure to actively make choices is, nonetheless, a statement of acceptance of the consequences of the current direction (as I have explained to patients struggling to make choices or to delegate to others).

They must be open about the evidence, honest about the seriousness of our predicament, blunt when describing the possible poor outcomes that may be inevitable, clear about the options and the choices that they make, and reach out across the political spectrum – for some, this approach will be an anathema.

But, we will respect them much more when they do.

Fortunately, over more recent times, I have noticed a growing candour from some of our leaders. It is as though they have come to understand that the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change are not political problems to be solved. Their duty, as leaders fulfilling their obligations under the social contract, is to lead us along what they and we hope will be the least bad path. In doing so, they are accepting that their political futures will have to take care of themselves.

In theory, as the constituents of a community adhering to a strict interpretation of the social contract, we should all be accepting our duties without question; doing what we must to minimise harm by accepting the constraints on our behaviour (travel restrictions and social distancing), following directions and advice (masks and vaccinations), and understanding the realities of resource allocation in the interest of the community as a whole (with triage if unavoidable).

However, in the words of the 20th century sage Yogi Berra, catcher, manager and coach for the New York Yankees baseball team:

In theory there is no difference between theory and practice – in practice there is”

So, how is all this blather about the social contract and our individual relationship with the community of ourselves playing out in the face of the real-world universal threat of COVID-19?

In Australia, unlike some other countries, overall intra-communal harmony seems to have improved in spite of our great diversity.

Mostly we have accepted that vaccination (unless medically contraindicated) is a win/win – our individual choices protect us, those we know, and all of those in our community we don’t know. By trying to avoid serious illness, we also repay the benefits of membership of our community through reduction of the risk that our community, and particularly its health system, will be overwhelmed, and thus less able to meet our needs and those of others.

While respecting the right of individuals not to be vaccinated, a consensus also seems to be emerging that the burden of risks imposed on the community by those who make such choices means that they can excluded from sharing in some of the benefits of mass vaccination. Mask wearing is mandated in some circumstances (here, and here).

It seems to me that such responses throughout the pandemic reflect a tacit acceptance of what we describe as the Social Contract, a simple descriptor for deeply ingrained evolved biological and cultural behavioural traits that enable us to better manage external threats. Such behaviours emerged as an almost universal necessity for the success of small groups of social organisms long before we became humans

Dr Will Cairns OAM is Consultant Emeritus at Townsville University Hospital, and Associate Professor at James Cook University.



The statements or opinions expressed in this article reflect the views of the authors and do not represent the official policy of the AMA, the MJA or InSight+ unless so stated.

5 thoughts on “Social contract: leading and following through COVID-19

  1. Dr Louis Fenelon says:

    I hope this thread stays open because the small voices have not had their say heard in the world of Australian COVID-19 medicine. Thanks Brendan for your philosophy. Medicine is about what is good for us. COVID-19 does not need help from social and political prejudices.

  2. Brendan Vote says:

    Firstly Will, thank you for taking time being thoughtful, doing some slow thinking (Daniel Kahneman: Thinking, Fast and Slow) on this matter. Slow thinking moves us away from ignorance and towards integrity (’truth’). Integrity with ourselves and others; not just our tribes but as a whole society.

    However I agree completely Louis. and like you want nothing to do with this toxic narrative.

    Will, some aspects you raise (like many others with a platform are raising on this – AMA leaders, AHPRA, Public Health, government, business leaders, media, etc) have a measure of validity (most narratives do). Nonetheless the prevailing societal narrative adopts numerous assumptions and biases that both suit the narrative currently pervading our society and the conclusion that our latest ‘social contract’ is good. No I am not talking vaccination but mandates.

    I too have thought deeply on this matter, and as a doctor have trained myself (like Louis and others and I am sure you) to recognise pathology. Our society is in the midst of toxic tribal ‘vaccine mandatalism’ which is not only the wrong solution for this problem, but now introducing far bigger societal harms than the covid-19 disease ever will. Though it may underpin the ‘social contract’, the biggest failing of ‘social proof’ is pluralistic ignorance (the emperor has no clothes) and why wise kings had a court jester.

    Only I’m not laughing and nor is Louis from what I can tell. In fact, I am deeply disturbed for society and my vocation of medicine. Fast thinking (organisational thought bubbles) by ‘leaders in our community’ (like AMA and AHPRA) saying ‘you don’t deserve to practice if you don’t get a vaccine – leave the profession’, are damaging; for all health care workers, for our health system, and for societal health and well-being.

    How? Implicit bias – systemic and societal bias-based bullying.

    There are many manifestations of implicit bias’ toxicity/pathology/cancer in our society. It accounts for our generational racism, sexism and every ‘ism’ that diminishes our diversity as a society. It occurs when someone is perceived as an outlier to your ‘tribe’. You know where it goes for the ‘isms’ manifesting from there. Assumption based fast thinking, Implicit bias and our need for conformity with ‘our tribe’ are the root cause of ‘isms’. We say we are not racist or sexist when we ‘think carefully’ about it, but we act racist or sexist without ‘thinking’ (fast thinking), manifesting our implicit bias, to be part of the tribe (Just picture Taylor Walker at half-time with his local footy team (tribe) trying to motivate his tribe – speaking/acting without even understanding why).

    There are many signs of this toxic mandatalism if you care to look, but some clinchers came this week. First the autonomy protests (no they are not anti-vaxxer, they are about autonomy wrt construction vaccine mandates, i.e pro-choice for their own health decisions), the second a school nurse at one of my local schools shaming a student in front of the class as the only student yet to have a vaccine!

    Where is the societal safety now? At school, in the workplace, in the community, in society? Vaccine mandates don’t make us safer as a society, they harm. ‘Primum non Nocere’. First, do no harm. Not second, not third, not as long as we do good in the end. First, do no harm.
    An oath all health professionals take (including public health). When you coerce, compel, or intimidate you are bullying; autonomy and in turn informed consent dis-integrates. The First action in a mandate is harmful (bullying). It is a further assault to remove societal living or employment prospects, and it is an assault/battery if an individual is forced into medical treatment without informed consent. That is not a choice but a tortuous dilemma for the individual. As for society it is another nail in the coffin of civilisation. Historically all forms of government end up in totalitarian dictatorship and certainly not benign.

    You see when I think, I ask “What don’t I/they see?”

    I have determined at least 10 reasons why vaccine mandates (in general) present the wrong narrative (language) for our society, and more specifically why covid vaccine mandates are rapidly leading us down a path of disintegration (no integrity) – perhaps terminally for our society.

    1. Need – a well-governed state respecting the autonomy of its citizens should not need to use force to overcome bodily autonomy. (now? really? with how well we are placed which is mostly access based?)
    2. Science (thinking, fast and slow; decision making)
    3. Safety (especially absolute risk)
    4. Workforce (capacity/employment)
    5. Narrative (behavioural science and ‘social conformity’)
    6. Integrity (esp. organisational)
    7. Privacy (health, societal)
    8. Ethics (clinical vs. public health)
    9. Cost-effectiveness (the utilitarian measure
    10. Legal (proportionality)

    Let’s focus on three areas that are forming a regular part of the ‘utilitarian’ societal contract narrative – safety, ethics and the ‘social proof’ narrative itself.

    Language does matter because it determines both message delivery and reception, and from there the effectiveness of our communication (and for doctors including public health the effectiveness of our interventions). What story (narrative) are you telling (yourself/others)? Is it a narrative lacking integrity? By which I mean a narrative based on assumptions and biases that serve the narrative? Rather than a narrative based on integrity (integrity of course encompasses personal integrity, but more importantly in our current narrative the integrity of our organisations, our processes, our transparency, our science, etc). Ask yourself – is our societal truth’ based on integrity or assumptions and in what role am I and my profession acting? Sadly messaging from doctors has been responsible for as much of the mess we are in as the good that has been done (think about how the ‘anti-vax’ [toxic label prefer ‘pro-choice’ respects autonomy] came about in first place – yes doctors).

    ‘Never make decisions in a red room!’ It means our environment influences the quality of our decisions. We have been in a red room for over 18 months and despite best intentions our organisations revert to error prone bias and assumption based decisions. This is where meeting human needs (Maslow) comes in. Taking prime amongst those needs is our need for safety/security/certainty (for more 80% of any tribe). Leading the various ‘tribes’ the highly significance driven ‘powergods’. Yes our leaders may be decisive but good decision makers in this covid crisis environment? Few and far between. Last year we are ‘all in this together’ (all unvaccinated and many of us on the frontline including some of my unvaccinated colleagues who like me value autonomy in their informed medical decisions). This year ‘we must sacrifice the unvaccinated to appease the covid god’.

    Putting aside our ‘daily update’ of covid vaccine science (most of which has ‘disintegrated’ 400 years of Baconian method that led to our scientific method). Let’s continue with the reasonable assumption in this crisis that covid vaccinations are good. Even without completed phase 3 covid vaccine trials we have sufficient evidence from the real world to allow our emergency access to vaccines in an informed consent fashion. However, I am old enough to remember thalidomide and as a minimum that should give pause on mandates, as established processes designed to protect our society from ourselves have not been followed. Covid vaccine mandates based on assumptions, now we are on a slippery slope. The reality is, in the absence of a pandemic crisis, none of these vaccines would have likely been approved (and certainly not yet). Operation ‘warp speed’, yep we know speed kills (because we don’t have time to process all that we should to avoid an accident).

    Somehow we have gone from immunity = good … to vaccines = immunity = good … to covid vaccines = path to immunity = good … to covid vaccines = best path to immunity for everyone (society) therefore covid vaccines = good for everyone … and end up in a place that covid vaccine mandates therefore also = good. This is where the narrative has become toxic (workplace safety, capacity to be a good health care worker [any worker], capacity to be a contributing member of society coming down to a ‘vaccine passport’ which neither confirms safety, transmission risk or societal benefit).

    How did we get here? Media (standard and social) and Governments know full well, control the narrative and you control the ‘answer’. Watch this short youtube to remind yourself – Asch Conformity experiment. It works against both sides but the predominant narrative prevails.


    So vaccination by informed declination rather than mandates is the solution. Again this means stepping up and actually addressing what our mostly hesitant patients’ implicit biases are so that we may assist them to make better decisions – but their decisions.

    You see there is a lot more to this topic than you or I have thought about Will. Me I’m a health CARE professional. It is time we all took more time in our CPD thinking about our thinking (it’s called meta-cognition). It is designed to address our bias based decision making.

    I prefer to care – for my patients, for my society. Louis has a right to a voice in this debate (unlike all who support mandates being the abusers of others). Abusers don’t have a right to a voice in our society and if you support mandates then you are part of the problem not the solution. It is all about bias-based bullying. I chose vaccination. As for my son I hope he has a wiser doctor than me. If this is where our profession and society is being taken in ‘Blind faith’ (Ben Elton) by ‘powergods (significance driven individuals) care-lessly leading organisations’ we are rapidly approaching an ‘Atlas Shrugged’ (Ayn Rand) future.

    Everyone is looking to rules for us to live by in these times of crisis. Here are some better rules I think, than those our leaders are pushing on us. Follow these and take time to think (proper thinking) so that we can make better decisions (rather than just being decisive).

    Try living by these Four Agreements from Toltec philosophy relayed by another ‘medicine man’ (Don Miguel Ruiz).

    1. Be Impeccable with your word (= Integrity of your/the narrative. Use nonviolent communication [Marshall Rosenberg]. It helps us overcome our implicit bias’ and avoid violence in our communication (as in mandates). No two people’s needs are ever in conflict, it is only strategies used for getting those needs met that are in conflict)
    2. Don’t make assumptions (= be a true scientist always asking “What don’t I see?” or “Nothing in isolation”)
    3. Take criticism seriously, but not personally (As Will rightly identifies our individual leaders generally do have good intentions. I think it is our organisational systemic failures which are driving this toxicity not the individuals – often they know no better)
    4. Always do your best, but recognise that this will vary. Our goal both as individuals and society is to be better than we were yesterday (again as Will identifies, our leaders are in unenviable positions, support solutions rather than adding to the problem). Bias-based bullying through mandates however means we ARE communicating both poorly and violently the health messages our society really needs.

    As Louis has said, no kool-aid for me. The message needs to pivot and be simple. First ask the hesitant to put all the ‘politics’ to one side and consider just one decision. Do they want a parachute? The edge of the building is getting closer and they may get pushed off in the throng.

    There is a reason our society needs people who value ‘freedom’ or autonomy highly. History tells us, we are only ever a generation away from loss of freedom (civilisation) so we must protect it. Win-Win or Lose? It is an infinite game (Simon Sinek) we are in and our organisations (and sadly some leaders) are only equipped for finite games.

    With Society pluralistically ignorant on many matters, perhaps it is time we all step up and truly advocate for ALL our patients – the individuals that collectively comprise our whole society. For the ‘true’ integrity of our society. You see I learned long ago the difference between population statistics and individual statistics (give some thought to what a kaplan-meier survival curve really means).

    Want to protect your kids from the various threats to their lives, start with paying more attention on the roads. Time to get some perspective colleagues. People are very poor judges of risk. Put your own need (bias) for certainty and significance aside and try to bring some objectivity our our risk discussions. Want to do that in an academic fashion look at http://www.qcovid.org. Not perfect but a start when it comes to informed consent for your patients (helps us decide what floor they are on and whether a parachute really is needed for them based on meeting their human needs (certainty etc). It is a 100 story building we are going to face (the virus) but we are all jumping from a different height. Our risks are not the same, therefore must take a more nuanced approach to risk (age and comorbidity stratified). Guided for the individual by relative risk (and their own needs), but for society where we are right now – by absolute risk. My father is 79, zero risk factors, he is on the 92nd floor (1/700 risk death). I am 54 also zero risk factors, I’m on the 63rd floor and about 1/12,000 risk of death. My 21 year old son he is on the 1st floor (1 in 1,000,000 risk of death, 1 in 32,000 risk of hospitalisation vs 1 in 16,000 risk of myocarditis with pfizer). I’m not his doctor but how would you give informed consent? Oh, btw he is a plumber so thanks Dan/Brett mandated to take one for the team! Safer workplace? What a crock. Once you have a parachute (vaccine) you can be no more (or less) protected than you already are (irrespective of whether anyone else is wearing their parachute at work or home). That is what absolute risk means. Covid viral transmission is reduced at best 3-fold (UK, Dutch studies). Consequently when society opens up, in absolute risk terms, more people will be spreading the virus in our community vaccinated than unvaccinated (vaccine passports anyone?, Worksafe and OH&S anyone?). Our best estimate of covid 19’s IFR (not CFR) is 0.16% (Danish Study). Less than 2% of all deaths occur in those under 40y.o (US data). Balanced and informed consent people and remember there is more than one path to immunity (viral evolutionary pressure suggests that as a species we don’t all want the same defence key).

    Do vaccines work for Delta – absolutely but really only as parachutes (the NNV for Covid is over 200 cf about 70 for influenza and 1.7 for measles). How good a parachute? Pretty good from what we can tell 60-90% reduction in morbidity and mortality. Does everyone need a parachute? I am not convinced with the information I have available. Of course err on the side of caution in relative risk terms for guiding individuals. But absolute risk matters more in informing public health responses as our vaccination levels progress (Oh wait ARR wasn’t published!) At least we can calculate it! You see the more we learn about covid the less we know!

    Bad outcomes will always be very sad and even very small percentages of large numbers can be a large number (like we will likely see for some our young) but these are incidents. Informed consent and access to covid vaccines not mandates. Choice at the level where it matters – each individual (or their dependants). Autonomy and Privacy respected.

    Uncertainty, sure, I don’t have a crystal ball, but I do recognise a whole bunch of superstition and taboo driving our decisions. Incidence and eminence (opinion) based decisions rather than evidence based objectivity.

    Integrity for our society means caring, in a human sense not a socialist sense. In caring I am a better doctor because I recognise my own implicit bias, and take time to understand yours so that together we can find the best ‘truth’. That is what informed consent (autonomy) and Primum non Nocere means.

    Fred Hollows had it right when it came to community interventions – ‘nothing in isolation’.

    I say our newest form of bias-based bullying is not ok and it is time to stop this toxic vaccine ‘mandatalism’ conversation. What action are you going to take? In this you are either for or against bullying and implicit bias, it really is as simple as that.

    Mandates are a blunt tool like a hammer, and when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail (Maslow). Remember though, people are not nails!

  3. Dr Louis Fenelon says:

    I am sorry, but I believe this analysis is flawed in a number of ways.
    Firstly the politics of COVID have dismissed the level of privilege leaders have to choose for their constituents.
    With regard to establishing an environment mandating vaccination, they are not directing against public disservice, but demanding constituents consent to a medical procedure to remain part of that free society, or to earn an income for their family, or to move around our “free” land. This is not the same as childhood vaccination, where defenceless children are provided with treatments that PREVENT serious illness with generation-long safety data excluding unpredictable adverse outcomes. Those children are also never excluded from their future freedoms after receiving their vaccinations – see below.
    Complicit involvement in generating an US against THEM forum that blatantly encourages public, employment and individual discrimination against the unvaccinated, in the context of state or national guidelines for vaccination targets, is completely at odds with the culture of acceptance and rejection of discrimination in this country and across most of this world. “You can’t come into this shop because you are of colour” is no different to “You can’t come into this shop because you are unvaccinated”, yet the latter is being encouraged from our leaders down to constituents. Do we really believe leaders advocating discrimination in a public forum represents us morally???
    Second, there is no evidence the way our leaders have presented this COVID pandemic to us has been full disclosure. While that may not be necessary for leaders making overarching decisions, this is not the time of Plato. People sense and investigate bullshit. Hearing state leaders blaming each other or the feds smells like politics in the 2020’s, not like advocacy. Being told the risks of vaccination were far lower than the risks of infection when there was no risk of acquiring the infection in 99% of Australia in early 2021 encouraged vaccine skepticism. Hearing our medical leaders dismiss all communication other than vaccination is the answer has exacerbated skepticism in the constituents.
    Thirdly, there is neither convincing evidence that vaccination will prevent COVID-19 infection and community spread, nor is there any confidence that high vaccination rates will allow constituents the freedom to return to a normal social and business life. In fact it is obvious that certain states (Qld and WA at least) will not open their borders to allow our small business and social economy to recover when those vaccination rates are achieved. It is also obvious that local and regional lockdowns will continue to be instated and enforced when COVID cases pop up in a vaccinated population, continuing small business and social uncertainty. Further it is obvious that higher and higher percentages of hospitalised COVID patients will be fully vaccinated as the general population is more and more vaccinated. The health care system will not rebound back to pre-COVID days because this virus has not even started to get its teeth into Australia. When many more thousands per day succumb things will worsen for all of health care. Constituents are going nowhere encouraging and they know it.
    History is punctuated by philosophers who dared to analyse the human spirit, our place and our rights. Not all accepted the rules dictated before they made their analysis. Perhaps it is worth reading Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola, who wrote “Oration Of The Dignity Of Man”. Before his death, no doubt at the hands of the Catholic Church, his insights allow us to understand that only man has the potential to limit the potential of man. Right now our society is being damaged badly by decisions made by non-medical people who are turning US against THEM in the guise of a disease, the treatment of which is being limited by repressive invasions of human rights, ignoring all possibilities of pre-hospital management other than jabs in the arms of an uncertain population.
    So thanks for telling us we should feel better about all this, but I’m not drinking the Koolaid.

  4. Constance Dimity Pond says:

    I really like this thoughtful article. Thank you Will.

    PS It is surprising how the bits of uni I thought I had forgotten still inform my thinking. After a recent heated discussion, I remembered looking in depth at some events in Rome in my undergraduate days. We were taught to examine the public documents and private documents and place the event in the context and discourse of the time. Then we were taught to look at the outcomes. These outcomes – even in that somewhat less complex society than our own – were often surprising and different from what the context and discourse of the time had predicted.

    It will be interesting to look at where this pandemic leaves us, in terms of a range of outcomes, including our attitude as a society to the social contract.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Excellent article and one that the Feds should take note of.

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