Our Post-COVID Loss of Liberty

Polls now show that four in five Americans accept that COVID will be around for good, and those who have been irrationally peddling fear about the virus are finally losing credibility fast.  But significant and lasting damage to the country may have already been done. 

Remember that when we were promised “fifteen days to flatten the curve,” it was only meant to delay cases, not prevent them.  It was a pandemic, after all, and it was fully understood by public health officials and Americans that the virus would claim lives.  The idea was simply to spread the hospitalizations and deaths over time so as not to overwhelm the nation’s healthcare system.   But by our submission to the newfangled and liberty-strangling government interventions that were meant to work in service toward this goal, we effectively conceded that the rightful role of government is to manage hospital infrastructure and ensure Americans’ access to healthcare.

We may not want to believe that, but it’s true. 

Imagine you’re an upstanding citizen in your suburban community.  You pay your taxes, you jump through the regulatory hoops and pay all the licensing fees to keep your beloved little neighborhood eatery up and running, and you try to give your best to your family and community every day.  Then, one day in March of 2020, the government decides that a health emergency that might overwhelm some hospitals in some American cities is reason enough to make it illegal for you to make a living by selling a burger to your neighbor who wants to buy one. 

More than that, it’s also reason enough to force your children out of school and to shutter your church.  This is not because any hospitals near you are overwhelmed, mind you, but because some hospitals, somewhere, perhaps far away, might be overwhelmed at some point in the future.  And this understanding between the government and its citizens continues long after capacity at any American hospital is seriously stressed beyond the norm, on the grounds that the unseen and omnipresent viral threat we potentially face could emerge and ravage the hospital infrastructure at any moment.

This isn’t a far-fetched hypothetical, and this is a serious question: if our government can do all of that in an effort to manage the distribution of healthcare services, what can’t the government do to manage it?

We conservatives lost this battle as we’ve lost so many other battles.  Progressives, with all of their government, media, and corporate power, pushed beyond anything we ever could have imagined with lockdowns, school shutdowns, mask mandates, vaccine mandates, and more.  To support all of this, progressives yell on social media that “hospitals will be overwhelmed if the government doesn’t maintain tight control over everything you do!” 

Having been thoroughly defeated and demoralized by an onslaught of propaganda campaigns fostering an insane level of public paranoia, conservatives and moderates yell in response (when they’re not being actively silenced by social media, that is), desperately hoping for compromise which might trigger some understanding among those in our political opposition: “the hospitals aren’t at risk of being overwhelmed anymore, so please, government, there’s no reason to keep controlling everything we do!” 

The difference between these two positions is easy to spot.  One side believes that the virus is currently dangerous enough to overwhelm hospitals, whereas the other side does not.  The common ground in these two positions should be equally easy to see, and it’s the presumption that if the virus is as dangerous as it is in progressives’ imaginations and their propaganda, the government might then reasonably have grounds to control everything we do in order to protect and direct healthcare services. 

We’ve had robust debates about the severity of the virus.  The merits of this more important question -- whether our government even has the right to do such things to free citizens at all -- has been lost in a frenzy of institutionally orchestrated fear.

This was the question that we conservatives hoped the Supreme Court would address, but alas, they seem to have chosen to split the baby. 

While I was ecstatic to hear that the Court ruled against Biden’s OSHA mandate which would have forced all Americans working for private companies with 100 employees or more to vaccinate or test in order to earn a buck, I was furious to hear that Roberts and Kavanaugh sided with the leftist justices on Biden’s vaccine requirement for healthcare workers as a condition of healthcare facilities’ receiving Medicare or Medicaid.

I intend to read the opinions in their entirety, but the surface logic for the decisions is utterly incomprehensible. 

If the executive branch can unilaterally issue such a vaccine mandate upon private companies and workers, what is the difference between healthcare work and other work, and why weren’t both mandates upheld? 

If such federal mandates are somehow constitutional via the routinely abused Commerce Clause, then Congress would have the right to exercise that authority, not the executive branch.  And if that is the case, then both mandates should have been struck down. 

Likewise, if the federal government has no right to exercise such authority because it is not explicitly enumerated in the Constitution, then both mandates should have been struck down.

Rather than appropriately ruling that the latter point is obviously the only correct position in keeping with the Constitution’s Tenth Amendment (which has never been abrogated, by the way), the Supreme Court instead seems to have ruled is that the federal executive can violate the Constitution, but only in ways of which the Supreme Court approves.

More questions loom, especially when one considers how these rulings reflect the nature of the citizen’s relationship to our federal government.  If it is somehow constitutional for Biden to demand vaccination among healthcare workers on the grounds that the federal government distributes federal benefits, why is it not constitutional to demand that a bank teller be vaccinated in order to receive Medicare, or Social Security, for that matter?  We have all become coerced clients of the federal government in one way or another, after all, and though it wasn’t pitched that way to our great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents, a life in which the federal government would have increased control over our lives is what they signed us up for, just as we are now potentially designing a future for our children in which the government administrates healthcare and distributes resources for the collective upon its own volition rather than the individual provisions they have the ability to devise. 

This means nothing more or less than the forcible seizure of wealth and the bureaucratic rationing of resources and services based upon political considerations.  And to prove it, look no further than the Biden administration’s guidance to prioritize race in the distribution of lifesaving treatments for COVID patients -- based not upon one’s individual needs or means, but on skin color alone

What we are witnessing is both democracy and despotism existing at once in our nation.  In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville, whose prescient “tyranny of the majority” warnings capture our current social and political landscape incredibly well, writes:

I want to imagine with what new features despotism could be produced in the world.  I see an innumerable crowd of like and equal men who revolve on themselves without repose, procuring the small and vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls… Above these an immense tutelary power is elevated, which alone takes charge of assuring their enjoyments and watching over their fate.

If America in 2022 is anything, it’s an innumerable crowd of people who seek equality amongst themselves, and they are anxiously self-absorbed, securing their own vulgar pleasures in an effort to fill the spiritual hole which would have once been occupied by God.  And many of them seem to want nothing more than having an elevated government power which can both assure their enjoyment and issue soothing bromides about how it’s watching over their fate.

Photo credit: http://rebcenter-moscow.ru/ CC BY-SA 4.0 license

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