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‘Well said, Lord Sumption’: Elon Musk backs former Supreme Court judge’s warning that lockdown breaches human rights

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Mighty tech and legal minds unite

Elon Musk (credit: Duncan.Hull via Wikimedia Commons) and Lord Sumption

In an unlikely alliance, tech billionaire Elon Musk has thrown his support behind former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption’s critique of the UK government’s lockdown rules.

The outspoken ex-judge penned an article in which he argues the lockdown is “with without doubt the greatest interference with personal liberty in our history” and the decision to end it is “purely political” — not scientific.

The article, published over the weekend in the Daily Mail, received an unlikely supporter in the form of Tesla boss Musk, who retweeted the piece to his 33 million followers along with the line, “Well said, Lord Sumption, well said!”

Seventy-one-year-old Sumption, who stepped down from the top bench in 2018, addresses the “real issues” facing the government and its loosening of the restrictions, including the adverse health consequences of the lockdown itself, the number of people who would have died anyway from underlying clinical conditions, even without COVID-19, as well as the number of deaths we are prepared to accept in order to “preserve other things that we value”.

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Once dubbed the ‘Brain of Britain’, Sumption goes on to claim that the “talk of compulsorily ‘shielding’ (locking up)” of the old and vulnerable is a “cruel mockery of basic human values”.

He continues:

“A society in which the government can confine most of the population without controversy is not one in which civilised people would want to live, regardless of their answers to these questions. Is it worth it?”

“My own answer is no,” Sumption says. “Guidance is fine. Voluntary self-isolation is fine, and strongly advisable for the more vulnerable. Most of them will do it by choice. But coercion is not fine. There is no moral or principled justification for it.”

45 Comments

Just Anonymous

It’s a shame that Legal Cheek chose to pad out this article with the irrelevant click-bait that is Elon Musk. Lord Sumption’s argument is highly interesting in itself and more than capable of sustaining an article on its own.

In my view, Lord Sumption’s most compelling point is this:

“To say that life is priceless and nothing else counts is just empty rhetoric. People say it because it is emotionally comfortable and avoids awkward dilemmas. But they don’t actually believe it.

We went to war in 1939 because lives were worth losing for liberty. We allow cars on the roads because lives are worth losing for convenience. We travel by air although pollution kills. We tut-tut about it, but we willingly do it.”

If I understand him correctly, Lord Sumption ultimately concludes that non-life factors similarly prevail here:

“My own answer is no. Guidance is fine. Voluntary self-isolation is fine, and strongly advisable for the more vulnerable. Most of them will do it by choice. But coercion is not fine. There is no moral or principled justification for it.”

I personally don’t go that far. My own answer (at the moment) is “I don’t know.” The economic effects of lockdown will (probably) be devastating; however, the alternative may well have been hundreds of thousands dead and a collapsed NHS unable to cope with the demands placed upon it. I’m not prepared to say that the former definitely outweighs the latter.

However, Lord Sumption’s basic point remains good, even if his conclusion is debatable. Arguing that life is priceless (and thus that no other factors matter) is meaningless empty rhetoric.

(114)(9)

Pearl

Whilst any death is very sad, hundreds of thousands would not have died in any scenario – it is inconsistent with the nature (death rate) of the virus and also confirmed if we observe the data available from other countries that applied looser social distancing rules.

(33)(10)

Someone

The government was willing to let people die until events in Italy showed COVID to be much more infectious and deadly than Flu, and the Imperial model used data generated there to calculate 250,000 deaths without preventative measures.

Some deaths may be unfortunately necessary to preserve freedoms etc. / prevent other causes of death/illness that a lockdown creates, but 250,000 deaths was too much to be politically acceptable…

(14)(20)

Denisovich I.

Someone has obviously not been keeping up with the facts. The statistics from the Italian Government stated 88% of original Covid deaths were attributable to other causes and NOT Covid. And now a great deal of evidence as come to light that shows that the computing code used for the Imperial model is an amateurish joke and not fit for purpose.

(35)(4)

Mike Burnham

Where did you get this data?

Archibald Pomp O'City

Oh, Pearl. Cast ye not before swine.

(3)(1)

Pearl

Go fuck yourself

(11)(5)

Pearl

Gosh, that wasn’t my real (and very rude!) response – real Pearl here. Apologies Archibald.

Also, the Imperial model was not peer reviewed and its assumptions seem quite dubious. Really interesting interviews of “opposing” views, with interviews of the Imperial expert Neil Ferguson (who apparently has grossly overestimated previous epidemics) and a Swedish epidemiologist involved in that country’s response (WHO recently did a 180 and said Sweden should be a model): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cYjjEB3Ev8 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfN2JWifLCY. Really best to hear directly from the experts and make our own informed views.

(10)(0)

Archibald Pomp O'City

I believe you….thousands wouldn’t 🙂

Paul Hancock

1918 was extremely devastating to human life. And it’s estimated that one third of the world’s population at the time may have contracted Spanish flu.

(0)(0)

kooiar

Indeed hundreds of thousands would not have died. Its especially this irresponsible unscientific fear mongering that has gathered such a willing heard conformity to social suicide, and in many a country obligatory wearing of silly burka’s, as to keep the fear for the other as a potential contagion agent alive.

(8)(0)

Tony Foreman

Elon Musk is not ‘click bait’, he is another brilliant mind that disagrees with lockdown. And Pearl is right, the numbers are looking much less alarming in reality: look at Sweden.

(26)(20)

Uw

Elon Musk is the stupid man’s idea of a smart man. That much is clear from his Twitter meltdowns.

(34)(7)

Bob

I thought that honour belonged to Stephen Fry

(11)(0)

Question Everything

Elon Musk is making very important contributions to human society, doing things very few humans would be capable of. What do you do? Anything of importance?

(13)(8)

Libeturd Leftie

Does Tony recognize that Sweden has a different model when it comes to the family and housing of the family. It is not the same model that is currently employed by Britain. Also the Swedish, on balance trust their Government and its decisions more so than most other western countries.

Sweden is too far down the rabbit hole to change course. It remains to be seen if their decision to utilize herd immunity as their method was folly or brilliant.

What is incontrovertible though is they have a 10 fold number of deaths compared to their neighbour Norway; Sweden currently has just under 3000 deaths meanwhile Norway has less than 300. Even if we account for the difference in population, their confirmed cases and deaths is comparatively high (22,721 & 2,769 and 8,884 & 214 respectively.

(7)(3)

Ivan

Well the point is now that they have established that this virus has a infection fatality rate of 0.3 and our nhs is capable of handling this . Countries like Sweden have demonstrated that . The idea of the lockdown was to not overwhelm the nhs now that they have achieved this the government is insisting on the 5 test and then next Condition would be once vaccine is out .how long are you willing to stay in. Seriously do you lack common sense. What happened to the great British public have they stopped thinking for themselves . Sweden with a population of 10 million has a fatality rate per million which is less then Uk Spain and Italy. Maybe you should do some research before you start hiding behind the veil of consciousness . Death is certain life is not let’s start living while we are still alive

(22)(2)

Mark

I understand your point, but I feel it reflects more the overblown fears stirred up in the approach to this panic than it does reality. The “hundreds of thousands of deaths” is probably based on the Imperial College model, now generally viewed as discredited. But eve if we were to suffer hundred of thousands of deaths, bearing in mind the vast majority of those would be of people close to death anyway, in proportion to our regular annual toll of 550,000 deaths that would not be some kind of unbearable catastrophe.

And it’s important to be careful with words in these panic situations. There would be no “collapse” of healthcare and the NHS would not be “overwhelmed”. There would be pressure on services which might mean that some people could not get the treatment they need, and yes that might result in more excess deaths. But it’s important not to be needlessly manipulative by choosing apocalyptic terminology.

What’s interesting is just how quiet almost all the people have gone who normally warn against the danger of fear of some external threat being used to justify power grabs by governments.

It turns out they were right, and in a fine piece of irony they have been proved right by their own fearful silence in the face of just such a power grab.

There seems little doubt that (as Nobel Prize-winning chemist Michael Levitt recently warned), the costs of the response to this disease will massively outweigh any possible damage the disease itself could have inflicted. In future years, academics will study 2020 not for the relatively minor uptick in global disease deaths, but to analyse the way mass panic affected policymaking, so as to understand how the huge political, economic. cultural and strategic consequences came about.

(12)(1)

Westley temple king of the gypsies

Hes write if your vulnerable with age or serouis health problems new born or young child then stay the fuck in dont chance it if you ain’t crack on it’s a political statement they borrowed 62bn pounds they’ve been payed time to open the lockdown economical warfare a war to the people hunger poverty watch when it opens up your all fucked everyone’s spent hard earning cash burglaries at the highest car thefts drugs violence ram raids prostitution bank fraud vat fraud watch if I’m right. The rich will get poor the cash stackers become millionaires over night spair cash to buy property down watch by at least 20 % drop send hand cars are must new cars out the window now new cars sold cheap older cars 5 years and under go up 10 years old will sell upto grand to 1500 more a car stock and shares will be fucked wall street crashes again.look you 60 + year old in quees out side supermarkets no separate queues for the vulnerable selfish cunts sainsburys tesco or morrisons let vulnerable in first over 60s pregnant and women with newborn under 1 year I’d love to smash the shit out of the lot of yas westley temple gypsy crew

(0)(0)

*Takes the 🎤 *

But the beat goes on: da-da-dom, da-dom, dah-dah, dah-dah…

You better lose yourself in the music
The moment, you own it, you better never let it go,
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow,
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime, yo,
You better lose yourself in the music,
The moment, you own it, you better never let it go,
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow,
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime, yo….

You can do anything you set your mind to, man.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

He’s right.

(14)(2)

Anon.

Can we comment on how knackered Alex looks in his Zoom call with White & Case?

He looks about 59.

(2)(1)

Anonymous

Especially when all that was needed to was to quarantine the old, the ill and the obese. Utterly disproportionate response.

(71)(24)

Anonymous

That would mean quarantining probably 95% of barristers…?

(31)(1)

Anonymous

How can you promote someone like Elon after all the stuff he has been tweeting…

(2)(14)

TMFr

Liberty-purists like Steve Baker (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/05/03/boris-johnson-must-end-absurd-dystopian-tyrannical-lockdown2/) and now Lord Sumption are just insufferable. The high polling of support for the lockdown represents the fact that the public would rather try and save the old and vulnerable at the expense of our temporary sacrifice of liberty. The U.S. government’s own modelling forecasts up to 240,000 may die under their less restrictive plans (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/white-house-projects-100000-240000-deaths-coronavirus-200331222101557.html). If we are going to go down that route then we are pursuing archaic theories of mankind rather than practically dealing with a crisis killing a horrendous number of people.

(12)(33)

Anonymous

Should be a voluntary lockdown- those who want to can do lock down if they want and those who don’t want to shouldn’t have to.

(26)(6)

Dirker

With a voluntary lockdown, those who choose to stay home would lose their jobs and (in the U.S. at least) would not be eligible for unemployment payments, as you can only receive those if the unemployment is involuntary. So the choice would literally be to “voluntarily” isolate and become destitute with basically no social safety net (including health care, which is moronically still tied to employment in the U.S.), or “voluntarily” risk catching/spreading the disease by going out to work. With a very strong social safety net in place, I’d be fine with voluntary confinement, but not under current circumstances.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Should be a voluntary lockdown with unemployment benefits where necessary – those who want to can do lock down if they want and those who don’t want to shouldn’t have to.

(3)(0)

Annonymous

I’m afraid I do not believe we know enough about even the immediate consequences of this virus yet, let alone the medium term morbidity or possible long term problems such as autoimmune conditions like type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis. A cautious approach in those circumstances seems very sensible to me.

(0)(1)

Itty Bitty Violinny

Cut the crap Jonathan.

You have a large country home in France and are likely livid that you can’t crash there right now.

I can respect that, but please don’t preach on behalf of those who have far more to lose in this crisis.

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/23/opinion/sunday/jonathan-sumption.html

(25)(46)

Paul

Is that you Sebastian?

(1)(1)

Anon

One fatal flaw with Lord Sumption’s argument. He points to the lives lost in WWII as proof that liberty can outweigh life. The two situations are completely different. We fought WWII to prevent a tyrannical government from permanently destroying our democracy. The lockdown is nothing like what the Nazis planned to do as it is a temporary measure meant to slow the spread of the virus, that the government is actively looking for ways to end. Yes it is an interference with liberty, but comparing it to what the Nazis planned to do is absurd.

(9)(40)

Realist

Not the Nazis: the Germans.

(36)(2)

Let’s care

This whole discussion is a blatant smokescreen designed purely to deflect attention from the outrageous lack of BAME Supreme Court Justices.

(14)(3)

Phillable Hower

You should see the lack of BAME people in some London chambers.

Barristers there distract by giving pocket change to international charities, without ever needing to actually speak to anyone from Syria, Yemen or to look at the charities’ atrocious ethical record.

Such brave heroes of the downtrodden 👏🏻

(10)(25)

Anonymous

They should get better degrees then the problem would go away.

(29)(4)

Anon

They let Black and Asian people in to Oxbridge now, don’t you know?

Lots at Harvard and MIT too. Want to count the number of universities in China and India?

This has absolutely nothing to do with BAME students being less educated or lacking intellectual rigour.

(5)(18)

Bob

Do you really think that if there was a suitable “BAME” person for a Supreme Court spot that they wouldn’t already have been appointed? There will be and he or she will be

(17)(0)

Mikea1

Suitable ? What an appalling vista …. for some ?

(1)(1)

Sebastian

Hi Paul

(1)(0)

Cliff

Three more cheers for Jonathan Sumption End this lamentable lockdown lunacy now!

(8)(1)

Alex Gordon

To me, the most frightening thing about CoVID is not the disease but what a frightened population will unquestioningly accept by way of loss of liberty (their own and others’ ).
And because it is a communicable disease and not bombers in the sky we are longer in charge of our own destiny. The idea that we are the ones with most invested in our own survival has been taken from us..
The government is relying on medical advice. Good. Medics do know more about it than they guy who makes funky electic guitars, or a barrister with a bouffant ‘do = let alone a US president who reckons the secret is to shoot up Domestos
But there are dangers in that too- one of which is that even the slighest risk of loss of life is deemed more important than the greatest loss of liberty. The advice comes from those whose training and entire focus is minimising rhe impact of the disease. They also know that is how they will be judged. IAt the same time, by nature of their employer and employment, they are some of most insulated from the economic hardships which are bound to ensue (being cut off from the cottage in Burford doesn’t count). nsolvencies in the small business sector are not their problem.
This is a medical question but it is not only a medical question. Just as I would expect senior medics to speak up if our lives were at risk, I would expect lawyers to speak up if it is our liberty. The idea that Sumption should just shut up is very very worrying. It scares me far more than the disease.
Is it, for example really necessary to limit the number of times people leave the house? How many times do we actually do that anyway – particularly if the shops are all shut and we can’t go to the office? Is it in fact sensibly enforceable (other than by the most determined of curtain twitchers? So why have it at all?
It seems unfair that – say a barber – who wanted to get back to work, risks not withstanding should not be allowed to cut the hair of customers who thought likewise , starting perhaps with Mr Sumption who could clearly do with one .
I also believe there has been an abandonment of even the slightest sense of proportion. One sees in the newspapers complaints that facemasks are itchy or the (admittedly quite funny bra joke (left cup compulsory if turning bra into facemask for otherwise you would look like a right tit).
Real loss of life is one thing but are we really going to watch over the insolvency of all of our small businesses because we are way to cool to be seen out in a facemask. (Do you know how many of Hong Kongs’s 1000 or so coronavirus patients have died. Four. Let me repeat that, four). And that
s with all the shops, libraries open, no house arrest etc
To me the most worrying thing of was the banning of Corbyn’s brother’s March against it and that we accepted it that it was a matter for medics and police to decide , no different from a football match or or the day at the races. I would thought it was obvious why only the gravest increased risk arising specifically from this march should have stopped this one. To that limited extent it may have been a medical matter. I am appalled that we think it a police matter.
The idea that we owe it to NHS workers to stay alive is not one I like, not because I wish them any harm but because of what may be done to others in their name.
I agree with the Queen’s -carefully chosen words – this generation is as brave as any other. Where we fall down is in valuing liberty at nothing. Their sacrifice or bravery is not the point. It’s their achievement which is at risk.

(3)(0)

Brian virtue

Just because he’s a judge doesn’t make him an expert on covid19. Other “experts” are blaming the government for lockdown not coming quickly enough. Too many people today are stupid arrogant and ignorant and unless comment sense advice is made law, will choose to ignore it. Becoming too much like America were idiots are running around with placards bleating about their 1st amendment rights being breached. Seems thats the only law they’re “experts” in.

(0)(4)

Anthony Oakes

Bill Gates and Melinda Gates talking via video link to Boris Johnson…hmmmmm
He has billions invested under the guise of philanthropy just like Rockefeller in early 1900’s …. He owns Patents for corona virus vaccines…… The WHO is so corrupt it’s scandalous…. look out for your new passport arriving soon …. https://v-healthpassport.co.uk/
it’s obvious what’s going on

(4)(0)

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