If those seem to you to be contradictory statements... then one of us is missing some important context in the matter. How about we take a few moments to consider what that context is, and whether it's either you, or me, that's missing it? Sure, it'll take some time to do, but what, you got something better to do with your 'social distancing'? Seriously? Here's a thought, if you don't know that answer for sure, yet don't think it's worth your taking the time to consider important issues that are most definitely affecting you and your entire life right now, then it's a good guess that you're less interested in what's true, than in the feel-good trivia of ideological positions, how fit for living in liberty does that make you?
- I do most heartily and absolutely believe in, and insist upon, defending those essential Individual Rights that are singled out in our Bill of Rights (as well as a due regard for those not explicitly identified in them).
- I fully understand and support Govt's power to declare Quarantines.
- I entirely reject the idea that either the Federal, State, or County Governments should issue blanket lockdowns or quarantines.
And if you're one of those just waking up to the fact that our government hasn't been operating by the constitution in nearly a century, well, sorry for the wake-up call, but you've already hit that snooze button way too many times: Welcome to the Administrative State. If you'd like a chance to get back to a government where supporting your individual rights is understood to be its purpose, then you need to learn a bit more about those rights (and the laws relation to them) than just some of their names. First comes the Cause, and then the Effect.
I would have preferred different circumstances to bring this discussion about, but the fact is that the COVID-19 Coronavirus has at least brought about the necessity of 'We The People' doing what we've avoided doing for multiple decades now: having a national discussion about what individual rights are, what powers and responsibilities those rights entail, and what role Government should occupy in our lives. And we surely shouldn't ignore the question of how we should exercise and 'police' both ourselves, and those we've put into positions of power amongst and over us.
As you begin giving these issues some responsible thought, here are a few of the thoughts that just might begin jumping out at you:
Puzzles pieces or Lego blocks
- Our Individual Rights are not merely a list of stuff that THEY can't tell us not to do.
- The Law is not simply a set of rules for ruling us by.
- Govt is not a perpetual power we provide for those who know best, to do good unto us.
I saw a revealing meme this weekend, that "Having some states lock down and some states not lock down is like having a peeing section in a swimming pool." There's of course a certain humor to it that's worth a giggle, but on the other hand to think of states as being as uniform and fluid as one pool of water, is nearly as bad, as that of thinking of our individual states as being as interchangeable and easily interconnected as Lego blocks. Far more appropriate to such a meme, though less giggle worthy, would be that of individually cut puzzle pieces, making up the nation through unique states, counties, cities, wards & persons, each having different shapes, sizes, images and particular purposes in that puzzle. The generic approach of either a uniform pool, or interchangeable lego blocks, however, is a perspective that is very natural and common to the mindset of the 'Expert' who has spent a great deal of time examining various indicators and attributes of behavior which are tracked in generalized sociological, biological, medical and economic schemas of thinking, and are accustomed to focusing upon impersonal similarities, which if given no further thought beyond the range of their expertise, lends itself to supporting those collectivist positions which such experts often express as being their preferred ideology (see those calls for nationwide quarantines & lockdowns by 'experts' in healthcare, politics, economics, press & pro-regressives of the Left & Right).
But the fact is that neither people, nor cities, counties or states, can be reasonably thought of as having some common lego-like uniformity such that Wyoming might in some meaningful way be interchangeable with New York ('Social Distancing' is an entirely different proposition on a sidewalk in New York City, than on a sidewalk in Caspar Wyoming). It isn't reasonable to treat those as if they can be snapped together with policies & orders to form a single seamless shape that serves a supposedly legitimate purpose. That, however, is common to the thinking of those who have not spent a reasonable amount of time reflecting upon what it means to be human, and has not spent a reasonable amount of time thinking about the unique patterns of thought, the strengths & weaknesses, virtues, vices & habits of various cultures and ethnicities that go into making up the individual lives, which we then clumsily turn around and think of as being 'a people'. This shouldn't be too surprising, as that less common form of thinking, which was once common, was discarded by us the better part of a century ago. Ideas do have consequences, and those consequences extend outwards over time.
Yes, I object to Governors locking down entire states, as if each urban, suburban & rural locale could ever be treated as uniform lego blocks, while actually expecting to enjoy benefits, rather than lasting damage, from treating such different populations as being interchangeable. While I'm 'fine' with the President and Governors giving general advice to "Stay at home, wash your hands", even reallocating resources and closing down their particular offices and schools (which truthfully, I'm always ok with), I'm not ok with their giving particular and specific orders from their level of government, for individuals to do, and not do, 'this & that' - more on that towards the end of this.
But I also object to those 'friends of liberty!' who look at our individual rights as if they are, can and should be, dealt with and defended as uniform lego-like labels to be snapped onto some sort of 'constitutional' placeholder of 'Freedom of ___', as if 'Rights!' are absolute givens, contextless and freeze-framed onto our lives ("You can't quarantine me, that violates my freedom of association! Police State!!!"), could somehow be supportive of our individual rights, rather than undermining and torpedoing every aspect of what is required for understanding, upholding and defending them.
I am not saying that there are no such things as 'Absolutes' (Sith or otherwise). Absolutes absolutely do exist, and they do absolutely apply within a given context. But the meaning and applicability of those being identified as Absolutes, are destroyed when we attempt to apply them indiscriminately, and without regard to those contexts which initially give rise to them.
The attempt to claim an Absolute Right - whether that be Freedom of Speech or Property Rights - without regard to those reasonable contexts which give rise to them, does not strengthen those rights, it batters, undermines and flattens them into shallow cardboard cutouts, and the reactions to them invites the clamor of popular demand for government to exercise its powers to 'Help You!' without regard to any context, and serves only to eliminate what protections we do still manage to enjoy today. These would be 'defenders of liberty!', should keep in mind that using Saul Alinkey's lucky #13th rule "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.", continues to do its work in destroying individual rights, even if you somehow intended it to preserve them.
|John Finnis, Natural Law & Natural Rights, pg. 469|
Context matters: Individual Rights are neither privileges nor blank checks; Limited Govt is neither dictatorship nor anarchy in drag. If you read even just the debates over Madison's proposed amendments to Congress that eventually became our Bill of Rights, each of those proposed measures involved an extensive discussion over the context in which it would be appropriate for people to have the power to exercise those rights, and when it would be inappropriate.
In the context of a criminally insane person who fails to exercise their rights responsibly, they're afforded little or no power to exercise those rights in prison. For an innocent person to be stopped on the street under normal circumstances and questioned about his recent whereabouts, then taken to jail for further questioning, would be a downright tyrannical violation of their (and our) individual rights. But for that same person to be stopped, in the context of their bearing a strong resemblance in appearance and dress to a known criminal who had just committed a crime in that area, and who was seen leaving the scene of the crime in a similar vehicle, and who had been in possession of articles similar to what was used or taken in the commission of that crime, then in that context it would be permissible for that (innocent) person to be stopped by the police, and even to be taken in for further questioning, without having violated any of their (or our) individual rights. Furthermore, if the (innocent) person's answers and manner didn't allay suspicions, it would be a dereliction of duty for the police not to do so.
Context matters, and in the context of Quarantines, our Founder's implemented quarantines in their times, even in the 1790's when our Constitution was practically hot off the presses. They did so because as cities such as Philadelphia & New York were repeatedly being struck with outbreaks of Yellow Fever, Small Pox & Cholera, they formulated and passed laws at both the state and federal level, to allow for imposing quarantines upon persons, ships and if need be cities - and they were right, and mindful of our rights, in doing so. They didn't take those measures in an effort to abuse anyone's liberties, but to uphold and defend them in the face of a mortal threat to their "...Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness...", which is, after all, why "... Governments are instituted among Men...", right?
And by the way, despite the idiotic meme I've seen circulating among libertarians, to the effect that :
Quarantines are for confining sick people,Quarantines have always been applied to people who appear to be healthy at the moment, but who are suspected of, or known to have been, somewhere in the area of an infection, and so they were quarantined for a period of time (Quarantine: "...from Italian quaranta giorni, literally "space of forty days,"..."), not to abuse those who were quarantined, but in order to preserve the health and rights of those they would otherwise come into contact with and might reasonably be expected to jeopardize the health of.
Prisons are for confining healthy people!
Context matters, and the claim that it doesn't matter, such as J.S. Mill's pernicious notion that liberty always and everywhere means nothing more than 'the ability to act without restraint', eviscerates the understanding of what individual rights are and what liberty requires, and relegates the responsibilities inherent in exercising those rights to the sidelines. Such narrow notions of liberty serve more to hasten a wholesale loss of liberty, as the irresponsible behavior of individuals is more and more given a pass (and even an 'atta boy!') under the cover of such notions. One example of that attitude comes from the Murray Rothbard branch of Libertarians, who ascribe to 'anarcho-capitalism', who persist in philosophically 'Begging the Question' by wanting to replace government with business contracts, when it's government that is the means of preserving the rights and judicial system which makes such business contracts possible and enforceable. To think that a system of contracts, property & individual rights, could exist and persist in a (literal) state of anarchy, which, by its nature, means that there is no governance, no authority, no law, and so no means of, or final word in, resolving disputes, or of recognizing and upholding an individual's rights, property or life, beyond their own muscular or monetary ability to overpower, or at least intimidate those who might feel like depriving them of one or more of those, is an amazing feat of dropping context from your thinking (and no, proposing 'Justice Co's' doesn't solve any issue, it just creates multiple cans to be kicked down the road - here's a pithy exploding of the notion).
Individual Rights are inherent in man's nature,that's absolutely true, but without a means of implementing and impartially upholding them, they're just notions blowing in the wind (see below). Even that Libertarian idol, the Austrian Economist Ludwig von Mises (who Rothbard was a student of), called out that silliness as being "...A shallow-minded school of social philosophers, the anarchists..." (you should follow the link and read the full passage). Such 'liberty minded' folk as that, and those who lend credibility to them (such as Judge Andrew Napolitano, who is such a 'liberty!' minded constitutionalist, that he thinks the Constitutional Convention was a coup), are to my mind only just a little less responsible for the erosion of our individual rights in society today, than those of the pro-regressives Left & Right. Why? Because the shallow notions which they promote as being 'Rights!', and 'Free Trade!', reduce the deeper structures inherent in our Founders revolutionary concepts of Liberty, to that of thoughtless, flat, lego-like labels, which adulterates and erodes the 'liberty!' they prattle on so much about caring so much about, and lead directly to their rejection of Intellectual Property, which is the very root of Property (and rights), in law.
None of this should be taken as being dismissive of the fact that there are people today - lots of them (see especially James Clyburn & Nancy Pelosi... even Bill Gates (once again), and of course the 'good intentions' of our entire government) - who are attempting to seize upon this crisis in order to 'restructure' our government and bulldoze our individual rights in pursuit of their own political passions - that is absolutely happening. But peddling false notions of what our individual rights are, and entail, does not serve to strengthen our liberty, it, as all errors, falsehoods and lies do, serves instead to undermine, confuse and corrupt our understanding of what is right and true. Behaving as if we should all go out and do whatever the heck we please, and that Govt would and should have no recourse to such irresponsible behavior, will absolutely lead to conditions where bad actors will become empowered to take advantage of ever worsening conditions to the detriment of all of our liberties, nearly as speedily as would tyrannical edicts being issued 'for the greater good!'.
Our modern turn towards ideological conceptions of liberty and government, are diluting and corrupting the very thing that we profess to 'care!' about, progressively turning us into a people who are unable and unwilling to act responsibly. Such developments should call to the minds of Americans today, something that Edmund Burke said of Frenchmen a the start of the French Revolution in our Founder's day:
"...Men are qualified for civil liberty, in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites. . . . Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters...." Burke and the French Revolution IV - Online Library of LibertyBoth those who're saying "You must obey our rules!" and those saying "...I will ignore all of your rules and do as I damned well please...", are both busily forging our fetters. Stop it. Read and reflect upon that history which it would be best not to be repeated. Extend your interests beyond your normal preferences, and THINK beyond those snap judgments which when unchallenged, seem so obviously 'true'. The
Thinking beyond snap judgments
About thirty years ago now, as I became aware that much of what I'd 'learned' was largely false or misleading, and I became interested in how and what teachers had historically taught the members of their society, from the furthest reaches of antiquity, on down through the ages to the opening of modernity, and from there on down to the present day. That interest has familiarized me with an oddly wide (for today) range of materials and subject matters in literature, art, philosophy, history and so on, and having given those materials a good deal of study and reflection, I've come to a number of conclusions, much of which our Founders (most of whom were far more familiar with those materials than I am) beat me to making by the better part of three centuries. Frustratingly, communicating those ideas to others, requires much more than simply extracting catchy phrases onto picket boards and Instagram pictures, and then being liked and tweeted about in viral memes. You may very well disagree with my conclusions, but I've got to ask: do you actually disagree with me on the basis of having substantive reasons of your own for that disagreement? Or do you simply prefer not to not bother thinking about it, and so opt out of any further need of thinking, by repeating those ideological positions you're more comfortable with doing your thinking for you?
If you glance at the points in this post and either shrug them off as 'wrong' or 'right' and so give no more of your time to considering them, then you should know, as I do, that you are not interested in understanding what actually matters (which requires engaging in reasoned reflection), but instead are only interested in performing the near thoughtless action of calculating ideological positions which you already personally find to be pleasing to you. If you are of the sort that confuses that with thinking, whether you identify as being on either the Left, Right, or Libertarian, it is you that are an active part of, and cause for, our present troubles. In either case, please, read on and see if you can find some issues to reasonably disagree with me upon - either way, we're both going to come out of that with a better understanding of what we believe.
From the top
So, starting from the top, human beings live by acting in accordance with a process of reasoning (well or poorly), across all avenues of their lives - from producing the material necessities of life, to who we associate with and make agreements with, to what we say and do, reverence, revile, entertain and make light of, worship or curse.
The reason why our individual rights were considered by our Founding Fathers to be 'unalienable', is because they are derived from the nature of being human beings, and are self-evidently reflected in those actions & powers that any and every person reasons to be necessary to take in the course of their own "...life, liberty and pursuit of happiness". Our rights are as innumerable as the circumstances that a person may need to resolve or overcome in life, which is the reason for our 9th Amendment. What products follow from our having engaged in those actions, rightfully taken, are called Property, and because some portion of our lives actions were tied up in the creating of that, the wrongful taking of our property strikes at the very center of the living of our lives.
Because we are not omniscient, what we know to be true, we know by reasoning upon the reality that our senses and experiences furnish us with (and for those who might want to restrict our thoughts from there to an empiricist, nominalist and materialist views (AKA: Where the West went wrong), keep in mind that our sense of wonder cannot be contained by any one of those, and that the truths which those systems of thought do contain, are themselves contained by a higher truth that their systems of thought can't comprehend. See Gödel's incompleteness theorems, to roundly sink such notions), and yet because we are not gods, we can and do make honest errors, and we are all also - some moreso than others - at times willfully ignorant, and are even fully capable of being conveniently forgetful...or even of engaging in deliberate forms of guile and deceit, in our interactions with our fellows.
Given that, when human beings gather together to live in society with each other, they as a people have a decision to make: How are disputes between them to be resolved? Among the methods of reasoning and rules of evidence that have been evolved over millennia, there is one fundamental legal maxim which all others rest upon, and it emphasizes the need to be able to appeal to impartial judges to aid in resolving disputes between parties who are otherwise very partial and interested in the outcome of such a judgement:
"Nemo judex in causa sua (or nemo judex in sua causa"Liberty is not Freedom
Latin for 'no one should be a judge in his own cause'
Our Western understanding of Law and of Justice rests upon that, as I noted in this post on the development of Western Law, no one should be a judge in their own cause, because even the best of us will tend towards (or be suspected of) permitting himself to decide a matter because it would be to their benefit to do so, which leads right back down to the passionately savage struggles that a system of law is intended to lift our societies above. If you'd rather not read the dusty tomes of history and law to get a better understanding of that, but you do want a better understanding of how that system developed and the reasons for it, the Greek playwright Aeschylus gave the foundational Western illustration to this concept in his trilogy of plays, the Orestia, which I touched upon (and are linked to) in this post.
For those who choose to go in the opposite anarchic direction, when a person is either living alone, or within a family or clan, in the wild, their actions aren't made in conformance to impartial 3rd party judgments, but are determined by their own whims and the muscular power to do, and get away with doing, whatever it is they might want to do. That is real freedom, and it can just as easily be used to live nobly, as it can be used to live in savage brutishness. But when such people as that gather together to live in society, they have to decide whether to either continue on living under those conditions of 'Freedom!', whereupon violence, retribution and subjugation are the inevitable results - AKA: Anarchy - or they can try and devise a system of rules and procedures to get them as close to living by sound judgments, that are as true and right as possible, which then forms a basis for their system of justice.
There is of course thousands of years of tragic & bloody history, comprising both the dangers of anarchy (see Greece), and of its cure, Government. And because governments can and have been formed and organized in such way as turn out to be as dangerous and destructive as the anarchical disease they were devised to be a cure for, the playing out of those two extremes has provided much of the driving force behind most of recorded human history. Those who were raised in our Founder's era was very closely acquainted with those thousands of years of history that preceded them, and it was that their understanding of history that led them to understand that an essential set of individual rights needed to be preserved and protected, not only from the depredations of their fellows, but from those in their own governments who were charged with preserving and protecting them. To sum that up, as I noted in an earlier post upon our Constitution,
"...before going any further into it, a couple fundamentals on the Founding Fathers, Americans, and the Constitution.The revolutionary developments that America's Founding Fathers contributed to the political philosophy of mankind, was to not only recognize the importance of "to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed", but the need to also single out those individual rights that were essential to living in liberty, and which if securely fixed in both the hearts and laws of the people, no tyrant would ever be able to stand up in the face of them. The means that they found to "...enable the government to controul the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to controul itself...", was to bind our government's powers down by a higher set of laws than the active legislature could write or alter, and to do so by means of a written Constitution, whose purpose was to uphold and defend the individual rights of their people, so that "...if people can speak, associate, worship, discuss, be secure in their homes and property, secure from judicial harassment and able to defend their lives and other rights from assault, then no nascent tyranny can ever rise up any further than its hands & knees."
- One, they knew that man can be virtuous.
- Two, they knew that you can't rely upon men to always be virtuous.
- Three, Govt is necessary, for as Madison summed it up"If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controuls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to controul the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to controul itself."
- Four, as that quote points out, because govt is power, and is run by men - flawed & unflawed - it needs to be restrained by something which will be in plain sight of everyone - our Constitution"
The system which our Founders' established for us, was not created to satisfy the urge to act without restraint - which is a freedom that is possible only to the savage in the wild. Neither was its system created for Govt to primarily establish order and act for 'the greater good!'. Such systems as those, as they well knew, were not only prone to growing tyrannical, but were so in even their initial and best intentions, right from the start. Just as importantly, neither was our system of government established to secure that exercise in 'Begging the Question' known as securing ''Economic Rights'' - which are but gaudy decoration$ pasted upon the actions of responsible men, whose individual rights are already secured under that Rule of Law, so that they might enjoy the liberty to engage in society with their fellows (which is what an economy results from). Confident that disputes could be resolved reasonably and peacefully, their individual rights secured under their form of government, they could engage in "...Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness...". That is our government's purpose, its primary goal, and is what was meant by our Constitution's Preamble:
"...in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity..."With both purpose and means secured, men were finally able to put their liberty into action, and what resulted from that, was a Free Market which led to an explosion of wealth, health and prosperity, the likes of which the world had never seen - but that followed as a result of those prior first causes, not as a cause itself.
Central to their understanding of what the meaning and purpose of Justice and Law, was captured in a line from a Roman they knew well, Cicero, who had said:
“True law is right reason in agreement with nature"Law is not a royal edict. Law is not a flat rule to be blanketly applied in exactly the same manner in every instance no matter the individual circumstances. Law is right reason in agreement with nature, or IOW reasoning in respect to the reality of conditions, by systematic and verifiable means, so that its conclusions can be seen to justifiably follow from the circumstances involved.
To put it more bluntly, our system of government:
And unfortunately for those who think no further than doing whatever they want to do without any external restraints, sometimes the proper operations of Justice and Liberty will compel government to 'tell you what to do'. With the thinking exemplified by James Madison's essay on Property very much in mind, you'll see that the 'takings clause' and 'eminent domain' in our Constitution, show how wrong it is to imagine that government cannot ever, under any circumstances, touch, compel, or deprive you of your private property. The reason why those clauses are there, is that when unusual circumstances arise and such actions are determined to be necessary, by due process of law, then you should be compensated for those actions. And in times of emergency, those who have been put into positions of power within government, by the consent of the governed, may need to act in ways that in calmer times would not be permitted; that too is a reflection of the propriety of taking action within the context of the moment. Emphasis on 'moment', as when the next moment comes, We The People had better examine just how justified those actions were, and if We don't do that, you'd better believe that Govt will do whatever we let it get away with.
- ... is not established so that you can do whatever the hell you want - that freedom is free only to the savage, and only then if he's stronger than those in his way.
- ... is established to provide a means of establishing a Rule of Law that promotes Justice,
- ... is established in order to uphold and protect the lives, rights and property of its people.
Once again, Context Matters, and while in normal circumstances no govt official may enter your house unannounced, and they certainly may not do damage to your house, that changes in the context of emergencies. For example, if your house is on fire in the middle of the night, firemen may not only enter your home unannounced, but can forcibly pull you out of it, and even prevent you from reentering it. Why? Not only to save you from harm while under their authority in that emergency, but to prevent your putting them into additional danger from having to rescue you yet again. Just as that applies to house fires, building fires, and wildfires consuming entire neighborhoods and townships, similar instances can be drawn out in regards to the emergency situations faced by police when in pursuit of criminals, or in active shooter scenarios, or in wider scale disaster responses to tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.
When the emergency is over, normality returns. Lessons learned from those experiences may prompt new rules and laws, but they will be framed within the laws and norms that ruled prior to the emergency situation.
What Emergency Measures does an emergency justify, and for how long?
What this should be leading you to ask, right about now, is what is an Emergency, and for how long are those actions taken in an emergency situation, valid to continue taking?
Definition of emergency:The unforeseen outbreak of a contagious disease which poses a real threat to the health and lives of individuals in your society, certainly qualifies as the type of emergency which governments can and must act upon in order to preserve the lives, property and rights of their citizenry. When there are reasonable grounds to believe that your travelling around amongst others, could expose them to a potentially life threatening illness, there is a reasonable cause for discussing measures of restricting travel, because in that context, your freedom to move about as you please, can constitute a threat to others. That is not in any way similar to a normal travel situation being interrupted by a jackbooted official demanding 'Papers please!', and the use of the example is not one that helps the cause of liberty.
1: an unforeseen combination of circumstances or the resulting state that calls for immediate action
2: an urgent need for assistance or relief
There are of course several other factors involved in that context, which affect the reasonability of authorities imposing travel restrictions
, those and other factors would affect the legitimacy of such actions, but given the current context, and especially that of #3, in that part of the danger of the COVID-19 is that most people carrying the virus have no reason to suspect that they are carrying and able to infect others with the virus, travel restrictions are not unreasonable measures to discuss. In regards to #1 & #2 in the area of a neighborhood or township that is experience an elevated infection, or is bordered by an area which has, it is reasonable during that emergency, to ask, and if necessary enforce, travel restrictions.
- how widespread is the exposure?,
- what are the number of cases in your area?,
- are you infected?,
- have you traveled to heavily infected areas?
There are some who are going about today who object even to proper quarantines and lockdowns, that "... but I don't have the virus, so I'll do whatever I want! ". These folks seem to have somehow missed out on one of the most dangerous issues we are facing with this disease, which is at the root of our inability to deal with it at the moment, and which has elevated dealing with it to the status of emergency measures: No one, including you, knows for sure whether they are carrying the disease, and their sense that "I'm fine!", is what is most responsible for its rapid spread.
Until we're able to easily test for it, then in a time of an outbreak, it is entirely reasonable - where there are signs of its presence, and there are reasonable indicators to apply to particular areas - and it is justifiable, for authorities to go beyond the measures of simply advising people to stay at home, and to require that they don't risk exposing others to what they might be caring and cannot know for certain that they aren't infected and 'shedding' the virus. At this point in time (here where the emergency is), there's no way for anyone to know whether or not they're a danger to those who are taking a risk and going to work to provide the food and other services which the rest of us are depending upon. That fully meets a reasonable criteria for emergency measures (again, with many caveats), and it is just such powers that we delegate from our own individual rights, to government, in order for it to uphold and defend our lives, rights and property.
Any conception of Liberty which fails to see that, fails at what is central to liberty: a reasonable & responsible regard for the lives, individual rights & property of their fellows. The person that does not, or will not see that, has far more fundamental problems than these emergency restrictions to deal with, they have fundamental disagreements with our entire system of laws and form of constitutional government.
However in regards to #1 & #2, unless an entire state, or county, is known to be thoroughly saturated with infections, imposing blanket quarantines and lockdowns upon those regions, are, I think, unreasonable, unwarranted, and illegitimate.
Somewhere between the two, is a reasonable discussion to be had, and any respect and regard for Liberty, requires reasonably discussing the matter, and reasonably complying with such emergency measures that are determined to be required, for the legitimate duration of that emergency.
The main problem we're faced with today, is that too few are interested in or willing to reasonably discuss the matter, too many have jumped straight to either "You must submit!" or "You can't make me!" - neither of which shows much regard for individual rights or liberty - and too few are willing to try and find a responsible course of action for this time (and of course, we'll need to define what 'this time' covers).
Yes, in times of emergency govt can and must act to preserve the lives, property and rights of their citizenry. But that is not a blank check, either in regards to what actions it can take, or the reasons for them.
How long is an emergency, an emergency?
There comes a time when what may have once been an unexpected circumstance, begins to become a predictable, even a normal, expectation, at that point the emergency ceases to be an emergency, and all such 'emergency measures' must be cast off. It may be that new decisions and definitions of 'normal' will be warranted, but not at the expense of the fundamentals of normal behavior.
The proposal to violate those protections of our individual rights, upon the banality that "If it saves just one life, we should ___!", is not a valid reason for passing laws that violate the individual rights which our laws are established to uphold and protect. Such proposals are themselves attempts to extend and impose emergency situations upon, and into, normal conditions, and they must be opposed and denounced as forcefully as possible. Such measures, intentionally or not, will smuggle tyranny in under a sympathetic sheep's clothing, and it will naturally compound itself from there. Do not permit it, and do not treat it as a respectable proposition. It is not.
Which prompts the question: How long does an emergency last? How long can the situation endure and still be called an emergency? Days? Certainly. Weeks? Okayyy... Months...?! Possibly... one... or two, depending upon the nature of the emergency. Several Months?! I'm exceedingly doubtful about that, and I'd be very much inclined to heatedly criticize and become suspect of the motives of anyone proposing such a duration. At some point, an ongoing set of circumstances are no longer "an unforeseen combination of circumstances", and normal circumstances must be allowed to return, no matter how much matters might need to be tweaked to match lessons learned from that experience, those lessons must be made so as to fit within the normal framework and purposes of our laws. Period.
But what if those abnormal conditions which properly warranted the situation being called an emergency... don't go away? What if what had been unexpected, and so was rightfully determined to be an emergency, becomes expected? Can its continuance, or its routine return, continue to be called an emergency?
If it is predictable, if it ceases to be "an unforeseen combination of circumstances", can it still be called an emergency? I think you can find the answer to that, in the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918... and its now 'normal', seasonal, annual return. Even though it routinely brings about the death of some 20,000 to 30,000 Americans, every year, its foreseen circumstances, while warranting preventative measures, is and can no longer be called, an emergency situation.
When this Coronavirus Pandemic passes, all emergency measures passed, and those opportunistically pilled onto its back, must needs be lifted and rescinded.
Ignore one key concept and "...we should soon want bread...."
There's one more issue that needs to be focused upon, which follows after determining that you are indeed in an emergency, and after you've determined what measures in general need to be taken, you need to decide who, and at what level, it will be appropriate for those actions to be taken by?
As much as I disagree with the people hollering about their being stopped as an indication of our living in a police state, there is a thread of truth they may have tangled their thinking up in, and that is what actions are appropriate, and at what level is it appropriate for quarantines and 'voluntary' lockdowns to be issued in? Answering that involves a concept that had not yet been given a name in our Founder's era, and yet it is one which our Founders implicitly understood and acted very much in accordance with, which this line from Thomas Jefferson nicely illustrates:
"...Were we directed from Washington when to sow, & when to reap, we should soon want bread...."The understanding which that points towards was partially reflected in the nature of Federalism, where the Federal Govt mainly exercised only those powers that individual states could not, but it is also reflected within the structures of our state governments, whose laws acquire more direct power in each of our lives, in proportion to their distance from the actual circumstances to be acted upon, which is most distant at the level of the state, and moves closer at the level of the county, city, township, and ward levels.
The vital principle behind that, of allowing decisions to be made at the lowest appropriate level, oddly enough, though it was a vital in the defining of America, the word for it didn't exist in English until the 1930's: Subsidiarity:
"the principle that decisions should always be taken at the lowest possible level or closest to where they will have their effect, for example in a local area rather than for a whole country"And in the wider context of the Coronavirus Emergency, that understanding animates what Thomas Jefferson described here in his autobiography, which the preceding quote came from:
"But it is not by the consolidation, or concentration of powers, but by their distribution, that good government is effected. Were not this great country already divided into states, that division must be made, that each might do for itself what concerns itself directly, and what it can so much better do than a distant authority. Every state again is divided into counties, each to take care of what lies within it’s local bounds; each county again into townships or wards, to manage minuter details; and every ward into farms, to be governed each by it’s individual proprietor. Were we directed from Washington when to sow, & when to reap, we should soon want bread. It is by this partition of cares, descending in gradation from general to particular, that the mass of human affairs may be best managed for the good and prosperity of all…"This principle in practice, is vital to the nature of our Constitutional system of government and to the preservation of our Individual Rights, which should be understood to include not only those explicitly protected by the first eight amendments, but also those implicitly warranting protections under the 9th & 10th amendments, and to federalism, and to how, and who, writes our laws. We are not individually, or collectively, the same, or even easily snapped together and into line, to be served well by having general, top-down laws, imposed upon us. Laws are not cookie-cutters. We are more like individual puzzle pieces, than uniform lego-blocks. That understanding is what enables and permits the good people of Utah, and the good people of their neighboring state of Nevada (some of whose counties permit prostitution), to live under the same federal laws of the United States of America, while also living as law abiding citizens under the very different laws of their respective states, as well as the differing laws of neighboring communities, and it is what we should be thinking of when we hear ideologues of the Left, Right & Center, speaking of imposing state or national lockdowns.
The Federal Govt cannot, either by President Trump or Health experts such as Dr. Fauci, they cannot have useful and actionable knowledge - an awareness of relevant facts and detailed circumstances which give rise to them - of what is happening on the State level, they are too distant from the relevant reality of the moment. Likewise, the State Governors cannot have useful and actionable knowledge as to the what is comprehended by those within the state's various counties, just as those County Executives are unable to have useful and actionable knowledge of vital particulars in regards to situations of infections that are present at the various City, Township, or Ward levels, contained within them. In such situations, as President Trump has echoed, the more distant levels of government can and should compile, coordinate and direct requested resources which would aid with what the next lower levels are able to see would be helpful in handling the emergency, such actions are warranted, and are the only level where intelligent decision making can take place. With each overstepping of boundaries of separating the general from the particular, the 'stupid' slips in - see most cases of bureaucratic efforts 'to help you', whether they be public or private institutions, which end in bungles of frustration and disaster.
That is the secret power of Subsidiarity: It alerts us to the fact that truly intelligent decisions and actions can only be taken by those who are close enough to the realities of the situation at hand, and recognizes that the further removed that 'decision makers' are from those realities, the 'stupider' their decisions must of necessity become.
And I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the most egregious violator of both context and subsidiarity, the regulations, and the entire system of our administrative agency's 'Regualtory Law', and as has been repeatedly demonstrated in this Coronavirus emergency, those regulations interfere with, slow down and often prevent sensible behavior, and they kill. That is a far more insidious virus in our lives today, than any plague could hope to be.
Government can and must act to contain the spread of disease that can jeopardize the lives of those it is instituted to protect, but for it to attempt to act at such a far remove from the actual realities involved, it must needs actually jeopardize the well being it supposedly is acting to serve.
In the St. Louis Model, during the Spanish Flu of 1918, after seeing how the virus ravaged the cities of the east coast, St. Louis officials acted to quarantine buildings and blocks where the virus had been detected, and they also acted to forbid conditions that would spread the flu - which included everything from food festivals to church services. These were not assaults upon liberty, and they were no more evidence of living in a police state then, than they are now. These were emergency measures, with definite expiration dates and purposes, and they were imposed, not by the federal govt, not by the state governor, and not by the county executive, but by the mayor of the city - the lowest possible govt entity at the time with active knowledge of conditions, needs, and ability to act.
In our current situations, it is proper for the Federal Govt to act, in regards to its responsibilities of borders, interstate movement - it can, and should where necessary, shut down travel into the nation. It can also, by virtue of systems and laws that may or may not be constitutional, provide assistance to the states (which the recent 'stimulus package' was most definitely is not an example of). The states, can perform similar measures in regards to their borders and travel into and out of the state, and between counties. But IMHO, states and counties cannot, and should not, act at their level to 'lockdown' or quarantine communities by laws, each of which contains unique clusters rather than uniform conditions, which at a distance may appear to be warranted by certain hotspots in a ward or city, but are not visibly uniform in other wards, townships, cities, or counties.
So there you have it, I:
It's our responsibility to ensure that those temporary emergency measures are appropriate to their time and place, and also to see to it that they don't become permanent (see St.Louis in 1918 Spanish Flu, WWII Rationing, etc.). And if we've allowed the election of officials who openly seek to make them permanent... whose to blame there?
- I do most heartily and absolutely believe in, and insist upon, defending those essential Individual Rights that are singled out in our Bill of Rights (as well as a due regard for those not explicitly identified in them) - within that reasonable context which gives them meaning and substance
- I fully understand and support Govt's power to declare Quarantines - when made at the lowest possible level or closest to where they will have their effect
- I entirely reject the idea that either the Federal, State, or County Governments should issue blanket lockdowns or quarantines - such actions follow from the affected sites themselves, because "...Were we directed from Washington when to sow, & when to reap, we should soon want bread..."
How active have you been in forging those fetters? How active have you been in preventing those fetters from being forged?
Don't allow yourself to be 'Socially Distanced' from liberty. We get the government we deserve, if we want better, we'd better work on ourselves and ensure that we actually do deserve better.