Liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker. But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us, at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood.John Adams
After weeks of weathering the government imposed economic shutdown, some Americans are voicing their frustration by taking to the streets. States across the nation, from New Hampshire and Florida to Idaho and California, have seen protesters calling for the re-opening of the economy.
While there are those who quickly dismiss these developments as a “twisted, paranoid and racialized version” of liberty (according to a New York Times article), the zero-sum ramifications of the economic shutdown vindicate the demonstrations.
By mandating the closure of “non-essential” businesses for the sake of public health, the government has forced those whose livelihoods depend on “non-essential” businesses to make sacrifices for causes that are not those people’s responsibility in the first place.
Public health comprises the health of each individual member of society. No one person (outside of a contractual agreement) is bound either rightfully or legally to look after the health of another. Nor is the ability of services to care for the sick (i.e. hospitals) the burden of any party other than the service providers. Yet, various state and local governments have passed legislation that coerces people who work in “non-essential” sectors to endure unemployment and poverty for the supposed protection of public health and to “flatten the curve” so as not to overwhelm hospitals.
Of course it would be virtuous to sacrifice ones financial well-being during such traumatic times, but there is no virtue in sacrifice when people, whose circumstances do not induce them to make such sacrifices, are impelled to suffer. Such a scenario is simply redistributing hardship to one group of people so that another group may be alleviated.
Furthermore, the consequences of the government imposed economic shutdown could offset any progress made in quelling the Coronavirus.
Suicide hotline calls have sharply increased over the past weeks. One Los Angeles, CA based mental health service saw an 8000% increase in calls within a month. The burden of financial straits, anxiety about well-being, uncertainty about the future, and lack of human connection have been categorized as factors that may exacerbate suicidal urges. Considering that the 2003 SARS outbreak led to a significant increase in suicides among people aged 65 and over, it is possible for a similar pattern to occur due to the shutdown.
It [the shutdown] is the perfect storm for someone who wants to isolate or hurt their partners…You can’t tell somebody to leave because there’s no place to go
The prolonged stress of the shutdown coupled with the indefinite closure of numerous courts raises the likelihood of violence and makes it harder for victims to retaliate.
Also, people who are unemployed may be relegated to living in the slums or on the streets where crime is highly concentrated. Taking into account the millions who are now unemployed, the indefinite length of the shutdown, and the bleak economic outlook, the possibility of an increase in criminal activity poses a considerable threat.
Though the dangers of the Coronavirus are in the forefront of general concern, the measures taken to suppress the spread of the Coronavirus have dangers of its own. Millions of Americans are having their lives ruined by the poverty, violence, and erosion of rights stemming from government mandated precautions. As noble a cause as the preservation of life may be, ensuring survivors face hell on earth as a result provides ground for scrutiny.