Freedom, Liberty, Covid-19 and the Constitution

Freedom is applicable only to persons.  Many of us – me included — believe every person has a natural right to freedom. That right means the ability to do whatever you wish, without interference from other persons or the government, so long as it does not infringe any of the natural rights of others. Liberty refers to a person’s rights with respect to the government.  The government is created by the people.  The Constitution begins, “We the people of the United States, in order to….”  The Constitution goes on to define the powers the people have given to the government of The United States, and not more! The Bill of Rights further establishes specific rights to liberties of the people, and other rights not enumerated shall not be construed to be deniable or disparaged by the government of the United States.   

During the last week, the press and some individuals have attempted to place a heavy burden upon the President to show leadership and act upon the spread of the Coronavirus across the United States.  The government had in fact acted through the State Department to provide humanitarian aid to China to prevent Covid-19 from becoming out of control in China, and thereby spreading to other countries.  In fact, China reacted on its own with a powerful, but somewhat tardy response.  A team of medical experts chosen by the World Health Organization (WHO) spent twenty days in China and reviewed in extensive detail the actions and results.  Afterwards, the WHO mission prepared a document indicating China’s success and the reasons therefor.  They specifically identified that it would be very difficult for other countries to duplicate all the measures China was able to implement because their powers for action might be limited.  (The Liberty of the people places limits on our government to achieve what government tyranny is able to achieve.)

The United States in particular is a country to which the final observation of WHO applies.  For more than the last three years, the press and individuals have opined that the President desired to establish himself as a tyrant, specifically in the mold of Russia or China, whose tyrants Trump mentions favorably to do business with.  The freedoms and liberties of the people of the United States does in fact prevent the ability of the President, or the Congress from “locking down” King County Washington, to pick an example.  That prerogative (if that is what it is) is reserved to the Governor of a state to do, if necessary.  In fact, Governor Cuomo of New York has exercised it extensively.  The police power is one specifically that was in the mind of the Founders to not include among the powers of the Federal government. Now, only the day after the President apparently “signaled” it is okay for the people to act, it is happening. I fully expect nearly every business that is not what one would consider as a public necessity is going to shutter itself until the Coronavirus threat is signaled “all clear” in particular states or areas thereof.  

It might be a one-page subject by itself, but what might be learned from the current situation is this.  Prepare a disaster plan for the next animal-to-human virus transmission, as it is certain there will be one again.  Everything that needs to be considered is already on the table for inclusion in such a plan so that the infection does not reach a stage where the last resort is to shutter the whole nation.  It is not possible to create tests, treatments and vaccines ahead of the infection, but it is necessary to consider keeping the problem contained to the “community” and to cordon off the transient source of infection sooner than has been done.  That is the province of CDC, and to actuate the research labs to determine what the infection is.  Another thing to do is to decentralize the government from Washington, DC.  It doesn’t all have to be in one place, and there are other very good reasons that decentralization would be a benefit to the nation.  Its ineffectiveness is a product of its size and scope of undertaking.  And finally, the public should encourage more private leadership such as businesses, religions, foundations, et al have responded correctly and before a command from the government to do so.  I am enthused by their immediate effectiveness. The people – through private institutions – have preempted the federal government in exercising their own powers instead of the President or Congress acting through an unconstitutional police power. March 14, 2020