We have a new form of government. One we did not consciously select.
This is just one of the bizarre elements of the ongoing Wuhan virus crisis and subsequent lockdown. What is remarkable is the fundamental abuse of power we have endured.
In reality, the government has on a very basic level, ignored structural protections of our constitutional system. It has curtailed rights to assemble, to worship, to engage in free enterprise. It has participated in unconstitutional takings, restricted the movement of individuals, and inflated the currency. Each one of these factors is important to liberty and the future of the country.
It happened so quickly, amidst such fear, it is astounding to see how easily this crisis has been allowed to slip through the institutional protections of liberty. With hardly a notice, we now have a new form of government. Without much prodding, many people gave up their liberty and then resented those who were not willing to give up their liberty.
The unelected bureaucrats acted swiftly but the courts acted slowly, if at all, to protect our liberties.
The Founders of this nation were greatly concerned about controlling power since the abuse of power is the hallmark of a tyrannical government. They were great students of history and philosophy. As such, they set up legal and institutional procedures to both limit power and to see that those who exercised power would be accountable for their actions.
They gave us an intricate separation of powers, keeping legislative, executive, and judicial powers separated and distinct. The various loci of power were to compete with each other, to check and balance one another in order to limit the exercise of power. The many sublevels of the federal government were to compete with each other, or so we believed, creating internal separations. Uniquely, we began with a written Constitution and a specific Bill of Rights, limiting the government’s reach.
All of this structural protection rests on the notion that government only exists to protect the inherent rights of individuals granted by God, and that government operates legitimately only upon the informed consent of those being governed. No class of people was born to rule others. And no class of people was born to be ruled either—the only system the world had previously known.
The government would protect the natural rights of the people, and for the most part, to otherwise leave them alone. The people could, and would organize many private voluntary organizations to undertake tasks that required large social cooperation. It was a good plan and it worked pretty well for a long time.
How did this system work in the current crisis? It didn’t. Our liberties were largely suspended in the name of safety.
An unelected administrative agency, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control, a medical apparatus founded in 1946 as an extension of post-WW II malaria control), took actions and assumed powers beyond anything ever imagined. The CDC is not subject to consent by those governed, subject to little in the way of internal checks and balances, and it determined the degree to which a novel mysterious virus from communist China was an imminent health hazard—and what to do about it.
These problematic agencies often flex executive, legislative and judicial powers all under the same roof. A very narrow sliver of the medical community made controversial, sometimes unsupportable, and arbitrary decisions with huge consequences for everyone. A single bureaucrat, Dr. Anthony Fauci, known mainly for his work in the early 1980s with HIV/AIDS, became a policy czar, or even dictator, promulgating regulations and edicts, without scientific consensus, let alone checks and balances.
That’s it? All that’s needed is their opinion and you must comply?
Every other societal factor from the economy’s health, preservation of private wealth, personal freedom, to adherence to our Constitution gave way on the basis of fear—with thanks to a compliant mass media and administrative pronouncements. As the governor of New Jersey so breezily put it, “The Bill of Rights is above my paygrade.” Such hubris. Such audacity.
Using the skeletal form, but not the spirit of federalism, governors, and mayors across the country violated—in the name of public health and safety—most of the cherished freedoms of this country. Almost all these “laws” were in fact mere proclamations. Based loosely on statutes granting emergency powers (sometimes), usually for civil unrest (or nothing), the public obeyed. Mass media failed to question or challenge the usurpations, in mass dereliction of their ethical codes. The one Supreme Court case with any bearing got little attention, Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905).
Asking citizens to “stay off the street” or even quarantine, is different than shutting down someone’s business, a “taking” without compensation for “public health and safety,” a phrase that seems to have no limit. It is as Chinese communist as the virus itself. We have quarantined the healthy, instead of just the sick.
Our leaders destroyed the wealth and economic lives of countless individuals, leaving the nation deeper in debt than its already deep dark pit. We will be lucky to avoid depression, hyperinflation, or both. In addition, they have set a dangerous precedent: the government will send out checks to people it has harmed with money created with no corresponding production. In fact, by forcing people not to work, they forced people not to produce. Further, they have acculturated millions to accept and expect support from the government.
Many governors took their instructions from an unelected malaria-derived agency and proceeded to enforce rules while ignoring their respective legislatures or state judiciaries, which remained inert. Light lockdowns, heavy lockdowns, long and short terms, arbitrary lists of what got locked down—food stores vs. gyms vs. churches a bewildering variety of choices, with no self-limiting characteristics. The rules clearly need to be re-written. Even for short-term emergencies, this kind of discretionary power should not belong to anyone—and resistance to arbitrary rule was quickly squelched by a press that screamed “believe the scientists,” whose actions were undelegated, beyond belief and self-contradictory.
What it really meant was “believe some scientists”, while banning the view of other scientists.
Where are the limits to their power? Apparently, there are none. What will be the next “crisis” that science says must be handled by depriving us of our liberty? Will it be another pandemic, environmental concerns, social inequality? Heretofore, only in the case of war, were our liberties curtailed. Where in the Constitution was such power granted to white-frocked health experts?
You would think that like a declaration of war that suspends liberties, the state legislators should at least vote on granting extraordinary powers to a governor, or the city council, or to a mayor. We learned no consent was needed. No check, no balance, no limitation on their arbitrary and capricious use of power. Just a recommendation from the unelected folks at the CDC, whose knowledge was lacking and policy proclamations contradictory. They get to decide when we can have some of our rights back and we willingly comply, against our best self-interest, from abject fear they have instilled in us.
What we have is a new form of government. One that has infected us with greater risk than viral infection. It is ugly, and it is dangerous to our liberty. It is a government without checks and balances and without a Constitution.
We are not a nation to be ruled by proclamation. We need to be inoculated against this novel abuse of power. What, in the end, is the difference between wielding the power that comes from the barrel of a gun from the power of the pen? No difference really because if you don’t obey the power of the pen, you wind up complying with the power of the gun. The gun, or the use of coercive force, in the hands of the government, is what the whole American experiment was set up to resist.
As we move through 2023 and into the next election cycle, The Prickly Pear will resume Take Action recommendations and information.