Capitalizing on a crisis to expand authority is not a new phenomenon. Good emergency policies need to be implemented for the sake of the common good. However, these measures can get out of hand and lead to encroachment on personal liberties and rights.
All too often, temporary emergency measures become permanent. Overreaching policies can extinguish social and economic life. Expanding authority must be prudent and temperate, lest it becomes worse than the problem itself.
In times of chaos, strong emergency measures suspending normal rights are sometimes needed to keep order. However, the minute the measures are not needed, they should be immediately lifted. The sure sign of a leftist, nanny state mentality is when dictatorial powers are retained.
Abuse of Authority Appears at Every Level of Government
Many are complaining about measures that show signs of abuse. For example, Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) is not allowing residents to visit friends and relatives, or to stay in their second homes or vacation rentals inside the state, with few exceptions. These private properties generally have little to do with public interaction.
The Agency of Commerce and Community Development in Vermont is asking retailers such as Walmart, Costco and Target to prohibit the sales of non-essential items. Such items include clothes, consumer electronics, furniture, home and garden and paint. Currently, the entire state of Vermont has less than 800 cases of infection and two-dozen deaths. It is difficult to see what good could be realized by these prohibitions.
In Brighton, Colorado, police arrested and handcuffed Matthew Mooney in front of his wife and six-year-old daughter for playing ball in an empty park. There was a sign that allowed groups of four to use the park. This overreaction by the police is symptomatic of an overzealous controlling mindset that only instills panic and fear.1
Mayor Greg Fischer (D), of Louisville, Kentucky criminalized a Holy Thursday drive-in church service held at a parking lot. On-Fire Christian Church stated that they had followed the rules of physical distancing, and parishioners stayed in their cars during the service. Despite their compliance, Kentucky State Troopers recorded license plate numbers and placed quarantine notices on parishioners’ windshields intimidating those who broke no laws. A judge later ruled in the church’s favor.2
Judge Clay Jenkins (D) from Dallas County, Texas, tweeted, “Do you know of any smoke shop, craft store or other non-essential business (not covered by @CISAgov) ignoring my #SaferAtHome order and putting profits over public health in your area? Report on http://DallasCountyCovid.org so we can shut them down ASAP.”3
Such posts damage the spirit of community by encouraging neighbors to turn against each other. The incident quickly set off a firestorm of responses. It ultimately resulted in the Dallas County Commissioners’ overturning Jenkins’ unilateral decision by allowing many small businesses to reopen while respecting physical distancing.
Imposing Technology to Control Society
Another area of concern is the use of technology to control society. There are proposals to use mobile phone location tracking to identify those exposed to or infected with the coronavirus. Once a measure like this is in place for health reasons, it can be exploited for political purposes to obliterate people’s privacy and rights. Communist China already uses this type of control.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is in use in countries like Russia and China. Russian facial recognition systems are currently employed to identify those who are breaking quarantine. At the same time, China has installed thermal scanners to identify and refuse entry to people with fevers at its train stations, regardless of cause.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the company, Clearview AI, has begun talks with governments proposing the use of its facial recognition software to track people infected with the coronavirus. This software is very efficient in identifying individuals and their movements.
If these countries are using authoritarian actions and technology to control their subjects, it is frightening to envision how these measures could be abused in the hands of leftist socialist politicians in the U.S. Their use under the pretext of health could later segue to violating human rights.
Understanding the Disease Is Fundamental to Making Wise Decisions
The key to making wise decisions lies in having the right data. In the case of the coronavirus, that means two figures, a numerator and denominator. The numerator reflects how many people die from a disease. The denominator must indicate how many people become infected with it. Divide the numerator by the denominator, and the result is the percentage of people who die from a disease.
A team from the University of Bonn, Germany, tested a random sampling of 1,000 people to determine how many had antibodies from the coronavirus. Fourteen percent possessed them, and two percent were already infected. When considering the overlap between the two groups, they concluded that fifteen percent of the population had been infected. The vast majority of those who contracted the virus experience little or no symptoms. They also possessed antibodies that often give the holder immunity from the disease.
The German study and others like it have suggested that lockdown is the wrong approach because it hinders society from reaching what is called herd immunity. As the population is exposed, most will develop antibodies that prevent the additional spread of the virus on a large scale.
In addition, when considering the denominator, calculations must only include all those infected that are officially tested as in Bonn and other places, then the fatality rate goes down dramatically. Many scientists believe the rate will be close to that of the seasonal flu.
The questions to be asked are simple: Can the safe treatment of COVID-19 be done without provoking an economic collapse? Can this treatment be done without taking away American rights and freedom? Must so much debt be incurred to treat the illness and its consequences?
There is no future for a country in which citizens are not allowed to go to Mass, receive the sacraments, work for a living and have social interaction. The measures inflicted by uninformed policymakers will bankrupt the nation both financially and spiritually and set the stage for a bleak future. Under the guise of protecting health, America is looking more and more like Wuhan, China.