I’ve wrestled for several weeks now over the response by federal and state elected officials to the CCP coronavirus pandemic, pitting the Constitution versus medical experts. In a rush to seem like they haven’t lost control, many of our leaders have thrust headlong into every recommendation made by the medical experts. Lockdowns expanded to every corner of American life. Understandable, as they all sincerely believe that quelling a public panic is vital, and saving lives is their number one goal. And yet, I can’t escape the conclusion that this blind trust in medical experts and blanket lockdowns was a massive mistake.
I am not a COVID-19 truther, like some of my friends. It is self-evident that this is a serious disease that needs an all-of-society approach to contain. The Chinese government, through both incompetence and malice to the outside world, subjected all of humanity to a new virus that caused untold destruction. We had no choice but to face it head-on.
Instead of trusting public policy to the medical experts, however, our leaders should have told those medical experts that we want to slow the spread of this pandemic while maintaining civil liberties. Doctors take the Hippocratic Oath, a set of ethical guidelines that define how they practice medicine for the benefit of the patient. (See below for the entire Oath, which consists of much more than simply, “First do no harm.”) Elected officials similarly take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, which could similarly be boiled down to a promise to do no harm. The Constitution protects the rights of the individual, not the power of the government.
The Framers of the U.S. Constitution did not take pandemics into account, because they didn’t fathom the concept that leaders could postpone inherent rights in an emergency.
Instead, by their insistence on uncritical and unquestioning faith in experts in the medical field—but not in experts in societal compacts as defined in our federal and state constitutions—our leaders have proven their lack of faith in the institutions and their natural predilection towards despotism.
The initial framing of the orders to the medical experts was the fundamental flaw for too many governors, especially in Democratic/blue states. We need to shut down all gatherings, we were told, regardless of size or social distancing. Small businesses across America shuttered, many forever, to slow the spread of the pandemic. Governors told churches to close their doors, ignorant of the clear language of the First Amendment, regardless of the notion that parishioners could easily practice social distancing while praying in pews. Governors set about to define essential businesses and nonessential businesses.
This ignored the fact that the income from productive work is essential to those employees and their families.
What if, instead, our elected leaders told those medical experts to slow the spread of the pandemic, but we can’t afford to destroy our way of life in the process? What if the governors expressed less enthusiasm and glee overexerting control, and more about representing the will of the people? What if they had listened to citizens who said, “You have gone too far,” instead of ordering more stringent lockdowns in response to protests?
What if our elected leaders had taken seriously their responsibility to represent instead of ruling?
The lack of urgency at the beginning, followed by panic after the NBA and NCAA halted the basketball seasons, caused a significant amount of confusion among everyone. Our elected officials can be forgiven for succumbing to this confusion as we all tried to figure out what needed to be done. What can’t be forgiven, however, is their utter lack of faith in individual liberty as ensconced in the Constitution.
Here’s what should have happened. Every governor should have taken the guidelines from the president and federal health experts adapted them to the needs of their state on as local a level as possible. Rather than entering pacts with other states (pacts, by the way, of questionable legality) and applying blanket rules shutting everything down, they should have taken the best information available at the time and given the state and county health officials two concurrent goals:
- Slow the pandemic, prevent as much loss of life as possible, and relieve the strain on our medical providers; and,
- Do so in a way that honors life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Not every region needed to be shut down like the big cities. Not every business was incapable of operating under social distancing guidelines. Not every hair salon or sit down restaurant had to lock its doors and fire all the employees. Not every church had to cancel services.
Making matters worse, federal and state officials engaged in the impossible task of defining an essential business.
This all could have been prevented, and the economic disaster blunted, had our leaders simply had faith in individual liberty, individualized decisions, and different circumstances dictating different responses on a much more local basis.
Instead, the disruption to our way of life will be severe, and long-lasting. The virus didn’t do this. The response to the virus did.
The entire Hippocratic Oath, via Encyclopædia Brittanica:
I swear by Apollo the physician, and Aesculapius, and Health, and All-heal, and all the gods and goddesses, that, according to my ability and judgment, I will keep this Oath and this stipulation—to reckon him who taught me this Art equally dear to me as my parents, to share my substance with him, and relieve his necessities if required; to look upon his offspring in the same footing as my own brothers, and to teach them this Art, if they shall wish to learn it, without fee or stipulation; and that by precept, lecture, and every other mode of instruction, I will impart a knowledge of the Art to my own sons, and those of my teachers, and to disciples bound by a stipulation and oath according to the law of medicine, but to none others. I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous. I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion. With purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practice my Art. I will not cut persons laboring under the stone, but will leave this to be done by men who are practitioners of this work. Into whatever houses I enter, I will go into them for the benefit of the sick, and will abstain from every voluntary act of mischief and corruption; and, further from the seduction of females or males, of freemen and slaves. Whatever, in connection with my professional practice or not, in connection with it, I see or hear, in the life of men, which ought not to be spoken of abroad, I will not divulge, as reckoning that all such should be kept secret. While I continue to keep this Oath unviolated, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and the practice of the art, respected by all men, in all times! But should I trespass and violate this Oath, may the reverse be my lot!
Jeff Reynolds is the author of the book, “Behind the Curtain: Inside the Network of Progressive Billionaires and Their Campaign to Undermine Democracy,” available now at www.WhoOwnsTheDems.com. Jeff hosts a podcast at anchor.fm/BehindTheCurtain. You can follow him on Twitter @ChargerJeff.