COVID-19 and Resisting Government Malfeasance

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the governments of the United States have mistreated the citizens of the country by destroying their means of making a living and limiting their freedom of movement.  Government powers have been used to shut down enterprises, knowing full well that people's livelihoods depend on their operation.  Government edicts have prohibited people from moving freely in small localities and even between states.

Individual citizens have the right to move about and do work for the purpose of maintaining themselves and their families as long as their work is not harming others.  The government's judicial system is authorized to interfere only if that work does such harm.  A tradition has developed that the executive branches of our governments can, in the event of an emergency, interfere in these rights to work and to move about, but the understanding always has been that the interference would be a temporary, stopgap measure that would be withdrawn as soon as possible.

The COVID-19 pandemic was at first a mysterious adversary.  Its infectiousness and deadliness were unknown.  So the citizens initially accepted the imposition of limits to their innate rights to move freely and work, but since the arrival in our country of this new virus, we have clearly learned that:

  1. COVID-19 is not as deadly as initially feared.
  2. The risk of death is very much limited to those who are elderly and infirm.
  3. Various low-cost and low-risk medications effectively treat the disease.
  4. Public health officials cannot accurately forecast the spread of the virus.
  5. Tabulations of deaths from the virus are inflated.
  6. Nobody knows how effective masks are.
  7. And government directives are arbitrary, inconsistent, and contradictory.

Our governments cannot credibly refute any of these seven lessons learned.  They have had a year to deal with this supposed emergency, yet they offer no specifics regarding why it should continue to be treated as such.

We the citizens, therefore, must hold our governments responsible for an ongoing denial of our right to work and move about.  With each passing month, it becomes increasingly clear that these governments are reluctant to surrender a source of power over us that they have no right to exercise.  The time has come to reject their authority.

The problem we have is that a significant portion of the national population supports these illegitimate limits on our rights to work and movement and, indeed, peaceable assembly.  Those who support this governmental overreach are often unaffected by it.  Government employees continue to work, or at least to get paid whether they work or not.  Knowledge workers and office workers who do not have to be in a specific place where actual calories get expended to any significant degree feel limited adverse effects from government policies regarding COVID-19.  Unemployed people and others who are sustained by public assistance also rarely suffer much from the regulations and stipulations placed on the productive populace.  Most of those who suffer from governmental limits on work and movement are blue-collar workers and employed families in which both spouses must work to pay the bills.

The many people who continue to support strictures base their view on the notion that the virus is an existential threat.  But where is the evidence?  That over 300,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 is weak evidence since the great majority of those deaths occurred in people who already were sick with other diseases.  The estimated incidence of comorbidities in those who die is very high — perhaps more than 90%.  COVID-19 may have been the prime cause of death in some instances, but not all of them.  Automatically coding COVID-19 as the cause of death even when comorbidities are present obviously leads to significant overcounting.  

Most of those who view COVID-19 as a continuing existential threat have little skin in the game.  Their relative immunity to the negative consequences of quarantines and lockdowns allows them to focus their attention on the potential benefits.  For them, it is easy to ignore the illegality of imposing limits to work and movement based on the poorly documented existence of a temporary emergency.

Those of us who recognize the brazen lawlessness of current governmental actions to deal with COVID-19 have an obligation to resist this overreach.  A first step would be to stop humbling ourselves before social norms and authority figures.  

Not wearing masks ought to be a default position.  We should avoid putting social pressure on those who do wear them, but unless we are at high risk of transmitting or contracting the disease, we should go wherever we want, whenever we want, and however we want without wearing a mask.  When challenged, we might ask for the specific data supporting the idea that masks are effective, but we should not argue the case, and as soon as the issue becomes contentious, we might readily don the mask.  But never should we do so apologetically.  If most of us behave this way, it should begin to force a reasoned discussion of the matter.

We should move around in public as we wish, not just alone, but in groups as large as we commonly did before the pandemic — all without wearing masks.  In private premises open to the public, we should be immediately ready to conform when asked to don a mask, but we should not do so until specifically asked — even when there is a posted notice that masks are required.  The same holds true even for public facilities like airports, bus stations, sports arenas, or health clinics.  We must behave in this manner even in places where we know authority figures are likely to be the ones who insist on a mask — police stations, for example.

We should travel free of worry about consequences.  If a bus is running from our place to New York City, and we want to go to New York city, we should take it with masks in our pockets.  If a community has a 10:00 P.M. curfew that we know is not universally enforced, we should ignore it.  If the authorities have been systematically enforcing the curfew and fining or incarcerating those who ignore it, then for now, we should not break the curfew, but if our initial soft resistance is ineffective, the day may come when we must defy the standing order at personal cost.

For now, the aim is just to establish that a large part of the American population does not believe that mask-wearing or limitations on freedom of movement are legitimate government actions.  This will do nothing to alleviate the unjust alienation of citizens from their work, but at this stage overt, resistance by individual enterprises will only bring down excessive punishment, and complaints from the unemployed will go unheeded.

We must start with what is feasible.  Challenging government diktats regarding masks and personal movement confronts governmental overreach where it is most vulnerable.  If enough people resist in this arena, the governments will not be able to cope with the large numbers and geographic spread of this resistance to the rules — especially if the resistance is neither violent nor totally uncooperative.

This is just the start.  For now, we should passively resist directives to wear a mask or to limit our freedom of movement because this can drain the resources and sap the will of central authority.  In the process, we become visible, and this will stimulate a sense of solidarity among freedom-loving citizens.   

In the long run, though, our objective will be to eradicate all governmental efforts to control the individual.