The Christian philosopher, C.S. Lewis, once said, “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.” The moral busybodies C.S Lewis warns of reminds me of those who would have Americans give up their liberty to combat COVID-19.
A recent Oklahoman op-ed compared COVID-19 to World War II, stating that the number of deaths from COVID-19 is approaching the number that died fighting for this country and the freedoms it protects. This comparison is, of course, nonsense. This suggests that a virus with a high survivability rate is an equivalent threat to the Nazi and Japanese regimes that brutally murdered millions. The piece uses wartime rationing of meat and cheese, a sacrifice necessary to ensure men on the front lines had adequate nutrition, to justify Americans accepting counterproductive lockdowns in exchange for additional stimulus checks and another eviction freeze.
Those that support lockdowns say that liberties are luxuries provided to us by society. In truth, individual liberty enables a free society. This freedom comes at a high and often deadly price, and it would be foolish to give it up just because Chicken Little says “the sky is falling.” To take them away is tyranny and does not make anyone safer. Giving up liberty tends to be a one-way ratchet: once you let government tell you how to live, it gets a taste for power, and you become accustomed to servitude.
Some states and cities already seem content to extend their states of emergency ad infinitum. What was once 15 days to “flatten the curve” has seemingly become “when people stop getting sick, we can get back to normal.” The goal for some seems to be the creation of a new normal, where government can lock down businesses and restrict travel indefinitely without public outcry or objection.
The arbitrary nature of the orders does not inspire confidence in the ones issuing them. Do officials presume that people’s immune systems turn to pumpkins at midnight? How else to explain orders requiring bars and restaurants to close at 11 pm? It is hard to see how closing certain businesses earlier can stop the spread of COVID-19. If these businesses spread the virus, they will spread it just as much at noon as they would at midnight. If they are safe before 11 pm, then they should still be safe after 11 pm. If anything, such an order might encourage people to crowd into bars and restaurants before 11 pm when otherwise they would have visited in more spread-out groups through the night. Similarly, restrictions on the size of gatherings make little sense. Does the virus know the difference between a group of 10 and one of 11, and avoid the former but not the latter? The most asinine government order comes from the Ohio High School Athletic Association, who declared it is okay for students to wrestle, (i.e., make lots of body contact), but it is not safe for them to shake hands before and after matches.
Of course, these restrictions do not apply to those making them. Throughout the year, politicians have flouted their own COVID-19 restrictions even as they urge everyday Americans to forgo their holiday plans. This special treatment elected officials give themselves is nothing new, but it is more blatant in a time when more and more people are restricted from participating in normal activities such as visiting family and working. Gavin Newsom of California was caught having dinner indoors with lobbyists in violation of his own orders. While he apologized, a man without the same political clout would have been fined and arrested. He is far from the only politician to get away with this.
Fortunately, there are bright spots in this fight. People across the nation are getting tired of the lockdowns and restrictions. They see the hypocrisy of their elected leaders and realize they don’t have to put up with it. They can go out and work and protect themselves and their loved ones by trusting their common sense. People are maintaining their holiday plans and traveling to meet family in spite of government restrictions and warnings. Likewise, restaurants and businesses, more and more, are opening up in defiance of government orders. Hopefully, this strain of civil disobedience continues as more people see the banality of lockdowns and other restrictions.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official position of 1889 Institute.