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Covid, clinical trials and dementia

A guest post by Tony Brown

The 'science' (which governments kept telling us they were following) is now clear: lockdowns don't work and inflict far more damage than they alleviate. How can I be so certain? It is the clear conclusion of a meta-study by the highly reputable Johns Hopkins University:

“This meta-analysis concludes that lockdowns have had little to no public health effects, they have imposed enormous economic and social costs where they have been adopted. In consequence, lockdown policies are ill-founded and should be rejected as a pandemic policy instrument." 

For any of you that don't know, a 'meta-study' draws its conclusion by looking at all the available studies and aggregating them to produce a definitive judgement.

So, unless there is overwhelming clear-cut evidence to the contrary, we must not be subject to any more locking down, period - and if our government tells us otherwise, they are not following the science whatever they may claim: the deprivation of freedom and choice cannot be justified and must never be imposed again!

How much worse would it have been if Starmer's and others' calls for even longer, tighter and harder lockdowns had been heeded? When Starmer or Sturgeon attack Johnson, it is worth remembering that for all his failings, they got it wrong and would have been even more disastrous for us and for freedom!  

What has worked is vaccination. Johnson's government made the right call. They backed their analysis and put in the resources and fast-track procedures to approve and vaccinate as fast as was humanly possible. Perhaps there are a couple of wider lessons here?

First, restriction, regulation and prohibition, even when they may appear to be justified, should be imposed only with the strongest possible justification and even then for the shortest possible time and as moderately as possible: authoritarianism undermines the quality of our lives and our prospects of prosperity.

By contrast, innovation should be encouraged and the obstacles to it kept to a minimum.  In particular, new drugs and medical treatments should be brought on as quickly as possible with the speed of the covid vaccines potentially applied to other ground-breaking treatments - and I have a candidate to suggest.

Dementia is a scourge. It comes by and large at the end of people's lives, destroying their quality and blighting the final memories and experiences of loved ones. Sadly, despite much endeavour, medical science has been able to make very little difference to date.

However, there is now hope as "British scientists believe they may have discovered the first effective treatment... Researchers at Neuro-Bio, a biotech firm... say their potential remedy is likely to succeed where other treatments have failed because it tackles changes in the brain that have previously been ignored. The scientists say they have identified a ‘neurotoxic’ chemical which triggers the early stages of the degenerative condition, and have developed a treatment that can neutralise it.... Neuro-Bio’s treatment [is] given as a nasal spray," so it is also non-invasive and easily administered. [Daily Mail report]

On the whole medical protocols fail to discriminate between the ages when treatments are taken. Thalidomide was such a terrible tragedy because it was a drug administered in pregnancy and the baby had to suffer the consequences during their entire lives from birth to death. By contrast, a dementia treatment only affects the end of life. Moreover, the effect of dementia as described above progressively deprives it of all quality for all concerned, such that the final death of even the most loved of people can still be a blessed release.

In these circumstances, I would argue that not all medicines are equal and that fast-track procedures can and should apply. Just as with the covid vaccine, Neuro-Bio should be aided and encouraged to develop its treatment absolutely as fast as possible with fast-track procedures and protocols also applied in this case.

I say this with such confidence because the impact and timing in life of dementia mean that there is very little downside, especially if you judge quality of life as well as longevity. A treatment for dementia is the exact opposite in its impact of thalidomide.

My belief in freedom and individualism - which I define as always treating and judging all people and circumstances as individually as possible - combined with the covid experience tells me that we have got to become more nuanced in how medicines and medical treatments are tested and brought into use. What we have achieved should have wider application. Once people reach their 80s, the length and the quality of their lives are ever more limited. Let's recognise this and worry less than we do about a drug administered to a pregnant woman, a child or a younger adult.    

Tony Brown was a Political Adviser to the former Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy and its predecessor, Europe of Freedom and Democracy 


Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

By Tony Brown

Lord Acton's famous dictum, "all power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely", might have been written for Putin. 

Putin allowed the oligarchs to keep their fabulous wealth on condition they steered clear of politics and effectively became hedonistic playboys: Chelsea FC and all those yachts are rich men's toys! He then proceeded to eliminate all significant opposition and took personal control of all the Russian state's levers of power, appointing an entire class of bureaucrats to run everything on his instruction. They in turn received fabulous wealth, but retain it only on condition they do his bidding. Not only is there no internal dissent, but all alternative opinions are unwelcome.

In the tradition of Peter 'the Great' and Stalin - both tyrannical bullies - Putin has become the ultimate autocrat. And that is where Lord Acton's aphorism comes in, for such autocrats come in time to believe that they and they alone have a monopoly of truth; that their opinion is right on everything.

I believe that Putin genuinely believes that Ukraine is not a proper state, that the territory is really Russian (and always has been) and that it needs and requires 'de-Nazifying'!  

Manifestly this is arrant nonsense. 

Ukraine is a properly constituted sovereign state under international law without any caveats. Russia itself accepted this when it guaranteed Ukraine's territorial integrity under the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances signed on the 5th December 1994. In return Ukraine voluntarily gave up the nuclear arsenal left on its soil from the USSR. How Ukrainians must now regret their naivete!

If you want a historic, international parallel, it is the 1839 Treaty of London: this created the state of Belgium (which did not exist before that date, though they actually rebelled to create their new state in 1830) - and guaranteed its integrity. One of the signatories was Prussia. The German Empire of 1871 was the legal successor state. When the German Empire invaded Belgium in August 1914, they were in clear contravention of their own international guarantees - which both brought Great Britain into the 'Great War' and made it much more straight-forward to argue that Germany was the aggressor and had caused the war. Putin's behaviour is identically illegal and immoral.

Most state boundaries, especially in Europe, are 'accidents of history'. If you know the history of Europe, you know that entire states come and go: Hungary literally did not exist (except briefly during an uprising in 1848/9) from 1526 to 1867; likewise Poland from 1795 to 1919. Yet Poland was vast in 1648 and Hungary in 1914. States are created by key European treaty settlements: the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 created the Netherlands and Switzerland; Vienna in 1815 shaped Germany into its modern 'Länder' after the abolition of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806 and enshrined the three Empires which dominated the map of Europe east of the Rhine in 1914. The Versailles Treaty of 1919 abolishes empires and redraws the map east of the Elbe to create many of the boundaries and states we know today. Eire was created out of the UK only in 1922. Even if you take the view (which I don't) that Ukraine was only created by Lenin in 1917/1922 then it is still as old as most of Europe's states. Putin's claim to his neighbour is without merit, hogwash, bunkum, risible, ludicrous and absurd!

As for Putin's claim to be 'de-Nazifying' (his word), that is gaslighting as international diplomacy: Putin is the one behaving like a Nazi with his fake flag incidents to justify invasion, just as Hitler did over the Sudetenland in 1938 and Silesia in 1939. 

Yet, without any dissenting voices to tell him otherwise, I believe that Putin believes his own propaganda: he probably genuinely thought inside his own world of delusion that his troops would be greeted with flowers and that it would all be over in days; a week at the outside.

Putin is therefore not merely an international war criminal and deluded megalomaniac, he is also an explanation of why freedom and democracy are so important. For only with dissent allowed, many political voices, freedom of speech, a mechanism to change government and transfer power, can we avoid creating the Putins of this world.

Sadly much of the world has only ever really experienced rule of the autocratic kind. A real lesson for me of current events in Russia and Ukraine is to reinforce my certainty that western values are right and better, that we must have the confidence to say this, that not all cultures and value systems are of equal value and that real decadence - of the kind which dooms you - is no longer believing or asserting this.   

Tony Brown was a Political Adviser to the former Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy and its predecessor, Europe of Freedom and Democracy. Tony is a member of The Freedom Association. 


Our Freedom and Democracy at stake?

The following is a guest post by Tony Brown. Tony was a Political Adviser to the former Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy and its predecessor, Europe of Freedom and Democracy.

It is a truism that for political freedom, you need choices - which means a real opposition. Part of the reason many campaigned to leave the EU was because the EU's suffocating consensus precluded alternative policies, beliefs and approaches - including belief in an emphasis on freedom.  

Survey British politics today and it is questionable whether we have any real choice at all.

Tax:

Boris has just put through a significant 'across the board' tax increase deliberately designed to hit everybody: national insurance and dividends so all of employers, employees and shareholders have to pay. Concepts of increasing the tax take through growth and lowering rates to maximise revenue have disappeared. It also follows, inevitably and logically, that higher taxes transfer resources from the individual and private sectors to the state so 'small(er) state' believers have no home. And, in passing, it is worth noting that the idea of legalising marijuana as so many states now are and making it a new source of revenue as per, say, Colorado, was called for in the Telegraph but never even considered by the Government. Now both Labour and Tories are high-tax parties.    

Covid:

The statist approach of restrictions and testing continues. It contrasts very interestingly with the Danish declaration that for them the Covid crisis is over: not because it has disappeared, but because they have learned to live with it. Instead we in Britain have threats of new lockdowns with Labour having consistently attacked the Tories for 'too little, too late', not being tough enough, etc. (For the record this has nothing to do with opposing vaccinations as both I and everyone I know got themselves fully vaccinated as soon as they could and feel much safer and better for having done so.)  As I have previously written, the UK travel regime with its complex procedures and high, multiple test costs, makes going abroad a bureaucratic nightmare and has caused airport chaos and personal misery. In Belgium, for example, tests for incomers are free; for those leaving they are half the cost than they are in the UK and require only a single nostril swab. This makes the whole procedure less invasive, less uncomfortable, quicker and cheaper.

Greening:

Boris has committed the country to a whole series of green targets and measures to achieve them. Almost no-one I know is against green measures per se. But they have a very real set of practical questions, including:

  • Will it make any worthwhile difference with countries like China, India, Nigeria and Brazil industrialising as fast as they can? 
  • Is the resulting benefit worth the higher cost of living - affecting especially those who are poorer the most? 
  • Will the motor car be priced out of many people's reach and with what consequences for mobility? 
  • Do we have viable, practical plans to deliver the resulting, essential extra generating capacity - especially as wind, solar, tidal etc. are fluctuating and weather dependent: imagine the consequences of a cold, overcast, windless, autumnal day? 
  • In short, are we trashing our standard of living, especially for the poorest, for no real benefit except perhaps to China - and thus as Allister Heath has written, making choices which guarantee our decline compared with China, India, much of south-east Asia and even parts of Africa and south America? 

Labour and the Liberal Democrats, of course, attack the government for not greening fast enough or deeply enough!   

Wokery:

George Orwell explains powerfully and eloquently in Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm how for a regime to exercise real thought control, you have to internalise the fear to make certain thoughts 'unthinkable'. You do this by punishing their expression so anybody who has the temerity to say them is reprimanded and then punished: thus a people learn what simply must never be said or thought. What else is current 'wokery' but this? We do not have the US's written guarantee of freedom of speech. Instead we have trial by social media causing people to lose their jobs and livelihoods when they have not even broken the law - all reinforced by the endless advertising propaganda we see on television for what we are required to think, especially about climate change and suffering. I don't want to be told in an advertisement that 'we HAVE TO do something' - and that's a direct quote from a current ad. No-one has actually explained how SMART meters offer any benefit at all: rather dogmatic assertions are broadcast at us, attempting to make us feel guilty. (What I am doing in response is quietly boycotting companies, products and requirements wherever I can without inconveniencing myself.) Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP believe we are not woke enough, whilst the police are effectively instructed that rules about obstruction and damage to property do not seem to apply to Extinction Rebellion because these guys are 'on the side of the angels' thus above the law and all the rest of us will just have to put up with it or become the ones arrested!  

Labour provides no alternative to any of this, nor do the Liberal Democrats. Outside of its commitment to independence, neither does the SNP.

I know the Freedom Association is - rightly - non party-political. But this is a non-party analysis. We are now effectively voiceless in UK democratic politics - and come future elections I plan to either go fringe, spoil or not even bother because I feel I have no-one to vote for!

 

All views expressed in contributions by named authors are their own and may not reflect the views of The Freedom Association.


Hypocrisy kills (democratic) governments

The following is a guest post by Tony Brown. Tony was a Political Adviser to the former Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy and its predecessor, Europe of Freedom and Democracy. 

Experimental psychologists have conducted experiments to test whether toddlers have a sense of 'fairness'. Google the topic and you will find that children as young as 3 do. Moreover, fairness is not about equal outcomes but about equal opportunity and mutual respect. From very early years, children are aware of what is fair and what is not, suggesting it is, to some extent at least, innate - presumably a useful survival mechanism.

Historically, this has been a powerful force in history: people want to see an equal tax burden, not some, usually the poor, bearing a heavy burden whilst others - the elite or aristocracy - escape having to pay. This was a key issue in the French Revolution. The abolition of serfdom was driven by the fact that it was unfair, some were free to travel and had no labour service to perform whilst others were tied to the land labouring for their lord.  

It is a central dynamic of English history.  The Magna Carta addresses the issue of equality before the law; all must be equally subject to it. Over 400 years later, the King being subject to the law and the right of Parliament to decide the level of taxation are issues in the English Civil War. This marks an important divide in the English and French traditions: as Louis XIV imposes ever more absolute power in France, in England the Glorious Revolution and the Hanoverian Succession are both focussed on the rule not of a monarch but of law.

The question of both the Chartists and the anti-slavers has the same focus: 'When Adam delved and Eve span who was then the Gentleman?' Governments undermine all being equal before the law at their peril!

The tougher the circumstances of a people and a country the more fairness matters which is why wartime rationing is introduced, and conscription and quarantine must apply to all equally.

Boris is supposedly one of our more historically educated and aware Prime Ministers. Yet would you know it?

His government has arguably undermined equality before the law.  Declaring that some - footballers, their officials and business people at big companies - do not have to comply with quarantine regulations creates a privileged class. To be perceived as justified and fair, regulations must apply equally to all.  This is not a trivial issue. It goes right to the heart of what every toddler knows long before they can articulate it.

Moreover, Boris has allowed his government to be perceived as having one rule for us and another for them: Cummings travelling to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight, Ferguson breaking lockdown to visit his mistress, Hancock canoodling with his lover in defiance of isolation requirements.... Labour won Batley and Spen by a narrow 323 votes and it may have been lost by the Tories simply because Hancock was a hypocrite who tried to cling on. 

One of the reasons I am a libertarian who believes in low taxation, minimal regulation and wishes absolutely to maximise individual freedom and choice is because I also believe that all must be subject to the law - including myself.  I want easily obeyed, light laws for myself so I must want them for all. The more onerous and vexatious you make it for people to obey the law, the more likely they are to break it - often accidentally if it is complex and opaque enough - the more resentful they will feel.

But the absolutely worst things a government can do is to grant privileges to one group which are not enjoyed by others and for the elite to think themselves exempt from the restrictions which apply to everybody else.

I had hoped Boris was a PM who would learn from the lessons of history. Sadly, I fear I was wrong - and Batley and Spen may be the harbinger of what will eventually destroy him!    

 

All views expressed in contributions by named authors are their own and may not reflect the views of The Freedom Association.


An eight-point plan to get the country moving again

The following is a guest post by Tony Brown. Tony was a Political Advisor to the former Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy and its predecessor, Europe of Freedom and Democracy. 

I have been a trenchant critic of Government about Covid in recent weeks, provoking a number of my friends to ask 'ok, what would you do?' This 8 point plan is my answer to that important, valid question:

1. Publicly sack discredited advisors who have exaggerated the threat and provided massively inaccurate forecasts of deaths and serious illness; for example, forecasters at Imperial College. Instead start listening only to those whose more optimistic forecasts are borne out by the data;

2. State unequivocally that it is deaths and serious illness which matter and not incidence when so many cases are asymptomatic and cause no problems to those catching Covid;

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