Well – here we are. Vast numbers of innocent, healthy, people, constrained by their government to a limited area of movement, deprived of their ability to go to their jobs to earn a living and to check on their private property – and all of those restrictions for an undetermined amount of time because the government considers these people to be a “potential threat.”
Actually, replace the word “are” with “were” in the first sentence of this article, and that’s where we were shortly after December 7th, 1941. Approximately 127,000 people of Japanese descent living in the USA, most of them citizens, were “interned,” basically locked-down, after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Why? Because they “might be a threat” – just like everyone who is now living under government lockdown because they “might be a COVID-19 threat.”
“But!” you will retort, “this is a different situation with COVID-19 than in WWII – thousands – tens of thousands of people could die!” Maybe – although the numbers of potential deaths keep getting revised down, but the threat of “tens of thousands of deaths” was also a real threat right after the Pearl Harbor attack, because the US West Coast was very vulnerable to invasion from the Japanese after the devastation of Pearl Harbor. A Japanese invasion of the West Coast would have undoubtedly resulted in tens of thousands of dead people, vast amounts of destruction to private property, and potentially deportation of captured Americans to work camps in Asia, as the Japanese had put many other conquered people in work camps.
Right now, tens of millions of Americans are restricted in their movements, deprived of their ability to earn a living, prohibited from checking on their private property, and restricted from their ability to freely associate – all in the name of “saving lives” – with a virtually unchecked power of the executive branch as “benevolent dictators.” These people, most of them I’m sure who have good intentions, seem to have totally forgotten their oaths to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States” as well as their state constitutions, which guarantee constitutional protections – even in times of crisis. In fact, the Constitution is most important during times of crisis, because that is when the temptations of vast power become even more dangerous. Read, carefully, slowly, maybe two or three times, this warning from former Supreme Court judge Louis Brandeis:
“Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.” – Justice Louis Brandeis [Olmstead v. U.S., 277 U.S. 438 (1928) (dissenting)]
Right now is when we must be most on guard against constitutional violations. For instance, with public gatherings limited to less than 50 or even less than 10 in some jurisdictions, how can people exercise their 1st amendment “right of the people peaceably to assemble for a redress of their grievances” about indefinite confinement to their homes? Also, the 5th amendment states that private property shall not be taken for public use – like a public health crisis – without just compensation. All the businesses that have been closed, or had their use restricted in some manner, have had their property taken for public use. Will the government be compensating them justly? No, and please don’t tell me that a $1,200 check from the government is just compensation for the closure of your business that generates tens of thousands of dollars weekly, if not more.
These benevolent dictators truly are “men [and women, like the governor of Michigan] of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.” They have no concept of the destruction that their unconstitutional “compassionate edicts” are wreaking on the health and well-being of actual people – as opposed to hypothetical COVID-19 patients – who can no longer provide food, clothing, shelter – and health care – for themselves and their loved ones. The self-appointed king of New York, Andrew Cuomo, recently ordered the whole state of 19 million people to “lockdown.” About a week later, this king “well-meaning but without understanding,” thought better of his dictatorial tendencies:
“‘If you rethought that or had time to analyze that public health strategy, I don’t know that you would say quarantine everyone,’ Cuomo said during a press conference in Albany. ‘I don’t even know that that was the best public health policy. Young people then quarantined with older people was probably not the best public health strategy because the younger people could have been exposing the older people to an infection.’ Cuomo said the smartest way forward would be a public health strategy that complemented a ‘get-back-to-work strategy.’”
Yep – sorry about locking you all up in your houses folks – never mind – maybe liberty and economic prosperity is a better plan. Yes, your highness, prosperity proceeds health.
What to do now? State legislatures should pass laws limiting executive branch power, in emergencies, in two fundamental ways:
- The executive may not limit the right of the people to assemble for “religious purposes” and for a “redress of grievances” during a health crisis.
- The executive branch must provide just compensation to businesses ordered closed by the government for “public health reasons” or for any other reason not stemming from criminal activity or violation of normal health codes. This restriction will make the executive branch – governors, mayors, county administrators, etc. – think twice before closing tens of thousands of businesses and wiping out millions of jobs, all in the name of “protecting the people.”
To my proposal, people will level the criticism that “the Constitution is not a suicide pact!” True, and if we are truly in dire straits, then the elected representatives of the people can quickly come together and grant more power to the executive branch. But a couple thousand new cases of a flu bug, and a few hundred nationwide deaths, was all it took for the citizens to give up their constitutional rights so the government could “save us!”
A final thought if you are still not convinced – what has always been one characteristic of dictatorships? It is when the people suffer in poverty and the leaders continue on in luxury.
Are Gavin Newsom, Andrew Cuomo, and the other benevolent dictators, and their staffs, forgoing their pay and benefits while they make decisions that destroy people’s jobs and well-being?
Nope – so if you had any doubt left about what I’ve said, that fact pretty much seals the deal.
We have opened “Pandora’s Box of benevolent dictatorship” for anytime the government deems it necessary to “save us!”, and we will rue the day when we let that genie out of the bottle.
Note: in 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, apologizing for the Japanese WWII internments and paying reparations to the survivors of those interned.