The only reason the gardai have been given emergency powers to stop well-off urbanites heading to the coast this weekend is because there happens to be an emergency.
It's alarming that, weeks into this crisis, and it already feels like months, that needs to be restated. But it does, mainly because ideologues on both right and left are struggling to adapt to the new world the coronavirus crisis has created.
What they have in common, apart from a fear that personal freedom is under threat from these new powers, is an equally unshakeable conviction that the Government in Ireland is constantly itching to instigate a police state and is simply using Covid-19 as an excuse. Some in uniform may relish their new role a little too much, but there isn't the slightest shred of evidence that the Government wants to do this any longer than is absolutely necessary, not least if the economic damage caused by the lockdown is to be reversed.
The time-limited nature of the new powers should reassure even the most mistrustful of authority.
It's not unreasonable to be unnerved at the sight of guards turning back cars on the road. Checkpoints are for Cold War movies set behind the Iron Curtain, not for a holiday weekend in Ireland. There are also plenty of reasons to question whether the lockdown may end up doing more harm than good. The International Monetary Fund is now warning that the economic effects of a global cessation of activity may be more severe than the Great Depression, while the Economic and Social Research Institute adds that it could cost Ireland €5bn every three months in welfare supports alone.
All those now piously informing naysayers that lives matter more than money won't be so blase when the economic damage translates into poorer health. The Centre for Economic Policy Research estimates that a 1pc fall in employment could lead in due course to a 2pc increase in the prevalence of chronic illness. As more companies follow Debenhams into liquidation, it's the low paid who will suffer most.
The dark clouds on the near horizon make it essential to interrogate the arguments behind the lockdown. None of those questions will be answered, however, by hopping into your people carrier and heading off to the west of Ireland for a few days. That's not challenging the status quo, it's just being a selfish, inconsiderate jackass.
How many of the middle-class families who are lucky enough to own a second home, and who appear to think they have a natural born right to decamp to it whenever the sun shines, would be shaking their heads in snobbish disapproval if residents of less swanky estates around Dublin spent the weekend hosting boisterous house parties? The disastrous effect on the spread of the coronavirus may be just as severe in either case. "But we wouldn't step outside the door of our second home" is not a rational argument. It's simply a plea for special treatment.
The only solution to a disease that regards every human being as both a host and a legitimate target is ungrudging collective compliance. Social distancing does seem to be working. The number each affected person goes on to infect in Ireland has gone down from four to one, according to the latest figures.
Likewise, all the countries which have been worse affected by Covid-19 have seen clusters traceable to large movements and gatherings of people. Hence the concern that this weekend could become "Ireland's Cheltenham".
It is worth stressing that most people are obeying the rules, but, like that contested philosophy of herd immunity, it needs an overwhelming majority of people to act in a way that is to the benefit of all in order for the theory of social distancing to work, and there's still a not insignificant proportion of people who just can't or won't get on board. What alternative is there than to physically stop them?
Not all rights are equal. The personal right to behave as you wish, and the right of someone else not to die as a result of it, are staggeringly asymmetric. Too many are still not getting that. Traffic levels are not back to normal yet, but they're rising steadily, and not just when the sun shines.
What should disappoint those who value liberty is that appeals to people to do the right thing have not been sufficient, making more draconian enforcement necessary. The assumption that people are rational agents who, left to their own devices, will do the right thing, not just for themselves, but for society as well, becomes harder to defend when they mulishly refuse to do what has been explained to them literally saves others from death.
The Government did not immediately move to grant draconian powers to the guards. They asked people first to willingly consent to a lockdown. It seems that too many still need to be threatened with punishment, like children, before they do the right thing. Again, this should be much more concerning to those on the libertarian right.
The far left has always believed in the virtue of State coercion. Social democrats and conservatives are supposed to take a more benign view of human nature, and it's this desire to treat people as adults which is being eroded by widespread non-compliance with reasonable restrictions. They might think they're defending freedom, but libertarians are actually helping to erode it right now.
The conservative philosopher Roger Scruton, who died in January, believed that "staying on the right side of the law was not merely a duty... it was also a liberation. For it guaranteed that you were safe, that no busybody could give you orders". That's the nub of it.
Rights come with responsibilities, and privileges with duties. If you stay within the law, then the law will never touch your life, and no one in uniform or from the Government will ever need to speak to you in an official capacity.
Libertarians will retort that you're not really free in this scenario, because it's only by complying with the law that you stay free of its constraining power. That's true to an extent, but you're free in a more meaningful sense, insofar as you have kept the State at arm's distance, and isn't that the greater blessing for someone who cherishes their personal freedom?
You're still free to choose to drive to the west of Ireland over Easter. You just have to be prepared to suffer the consequences of that decision. If that means being stopped by the police, and possibly fined, then don't complain. You knew what you were doing.
But even if some sinister cabal in government really was rubbing its hands in glee at finally being able to unleash the guards on an unsuspecting populace, there is more than enough time to square up to them when the Covid-19 crisis is over. Now is the wrong time to be arguing the toss about some temporary and still relatively modest restrictions on personal freedom in return for a greater good.