Opinion: Governor needs to reconsider business closings
April 12, 2020
These are extraordinary times. They call for extraordinary measures. But let’s not give up our liberty — especially when government’s “help” in trying to save us from ourselves doesn’t make any sense and won’t prove helpful.
Recent executive orders from New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham are undoubtedly intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But they are not all well-reasoned and won’t stand up to scrutiny when this is over.
Take for example the governor’s list of “non-essential” businesses that must close until the virus is under control.
Furniture stores, arts/crafts stores, flower shops, liquor stores and most other specialty shops are all effectively closed until who knows when. But their competitors — national big-box stores that sell everything from chicken nuggets to garden tools — are allowed to stay open.
The purpose is for life to go on as normally as possible while we try to shelter in place with things we need. The result is crowds in the stores that are open, which defeats the whole idea of social distancing. Meanwhile the mom/pop shops that seldom had crowds big enough to make a basketball team may never recover from the governor’s good intentions.
If it’s truly necessary that we stay away from each other — there is plenty of evidence to support that theory — then a better idea would be to let every private business stay open, and ask that each limit sales to curbside. That’s a more level playing field, and it’s a reasonable option for containing disease by keeping crowds small and individuals six feet apart.
We all get it. A nation’s health is more important than its economy right now. But our government’s “aggressive public health actions to mitigate the spread of the disease” are only favoring some businesses over others; they’re not necessarily preventing anyone from getting sick.
The great majority of our residents are staying home and wearing masks and keeping their distance from others because they want to stay healthy and they don’t want to be responsible for anyone else getting sick — not because they were ordered to do so.
If this goes on much longer, Lujan Grisham needs to review her policies — for the sake of liberty and fairness, and most importantly for the sake of public safety.
And whatever temporary measures we’re able to stomach for “the greater good” must certainly end when the pandemic ends.
Ted Galen Carpenter, writing for The Future of Freedom Foundation, warned us last month:
“Governments invariably exploit crises to expand their powers — often to a dangerous degree. That certainly has been the track record in the United States throughout our history. Worse, a significant residue of expanded powers always persists after the crisis recedes and life supposedly returns to normal.”
As an example, Carpenter cites the Espionage Act of 1917 — implemented during World War I — which is used today to punish whistleblowers and intimidate investigative journalists. “Barack Obama’s administration even waged a campaign to harass and intimidate journalists who published leaked material,” he wrote.
And the so-called Patriot Act, in response to 911 attacks, has led to “legendary” abuses of the Fourth Amendment and its protections against unreasonable search and seizures.
“That measure was a crucial building block in the growth of the current pervasive surveillance state,” Carpenter wrote.
Yes, we need to shelter in place as best we can and listen to the advice from medical professionals about limiting contact. But beware of government edicts that limit our freedom to choose how we do that.
— David Stevens