Mask Mandates, Responsibility, and Cronyism

“…if you leave home, you should wear a mask,” says D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser, who will sign an order on Wednesday mandating residents to wear face masks in public and punishing non-maskers with a fine ≤ $1,000. This puts the nation’s capital in league with over 45 other cities that have taken similar draconian measures.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is calling to further these stipulations with a national mask mandate. Both Bowser and Cuomo justify the muzzling of Americans by accounting for the lives their initiatives will supposedly save. This is presumably part of the “flatten the curve” strategy, which aims to

…ensure people get sick at a slower rate…A flatter curve assumes the same number of people ultimately get infected but over a longer period of time, which leads to a less overwhelmed health care system.

Osmosis (emphasis added)

With all the sensational noise around the government saving lives, there appears to be sparse (if any) mainstream coverage on the ramifications of permitting the state domain over health and industry well-being.

Who is Responsible for Public Health?

The nucleus of this issue lies in who is rightfully, legitimately, and ultimately responsible for “public health.” As I explained in a previous article,

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.

Furthermore, since public health encompass the sum total of individuals, it is pertinent to assess who is responsible for the individual’s health. Another way to think of this premise is to discern who has a right to impact the health status of any individual (since rights necessarily involve entitlements/ownership, which are tied with responsibility).

Considering the stipulation of rights, there must first be established standards to classify rights. The eminent economist Walter E. Williams provides a succinct framework,

In the standard historical usage of the term, a “right” is something that exists simultaneously among people. As such, a right imposes no obligation on another. For example, the right to free speech is something we all possess. My right to free speech imposes no obligation upon another except that of noninterference. Similarly, I have a right to travel freely. Again, that right imposes no obligation upon another except that of noninterference.

With the aforementioned at hand, I bring forth a formulation of rights as such:

I construct the meaning of “rights” as privileges inherent to individual existence. That is, rights are the benefits we receive from being able to control our own bodies. For example, humans have a right to opinions since an opinion is comprised of thoughts and feelings generated by one’s own mind. Expression and speech are also rights because they originate within the individual’s personal vessel (i.e., the body). Since these abilities are intrinsic to human existence and controlled solely by the individual, it is impossible for them to be directed in a telekinetic manner. What humans can do is control the circumstances surrounding an individual, forcing said individual to make a choice they wouldn’t have otherwise, but this does not qualify as controlling another’s bodily functions. Therefore, the use of one’s personal vessel is strictly one’s own privilege and no one else’s.

When extended into the realm of human contact, rights must be expressed through voluntary exchange. Any exchange that is not the product of consent necessarily entails an entity seizing use of facilities outside the entity’s personal vessel, which they have no right to do (theft). If two individuals exchange goods that each has obtained in the absence of theft, then they are participating in an action that is purely the result of each participant using their personal vessel in a way that generates a mutually fit outcome.

A person who uses their body to steal would not be engaging in a rightful act. Although the thief would be controlling his own body, thus using the bodily functions he is privileged to control, he does not have a right to anyone else’s belongings since they are not a function of the thief’s own body. The thief perhaps could be able to spy, wander, and sneak since those actions involve the use of his own body, but when it comes to taking possession of entities outside himself, he has entered a realm where his rights are only extended by others using their rights.

John A. Lancaster

Therefore, since each individual is rightly in control of their own bodies, each individual has a right to (nay, a responsibility for) their own health condition. Other entities, such as hospitals, may assume responsibility for an individual’s health by way of a voluntary contractual agreement, but cannot do so without said individual’s consent. To do so would be to assert domain over that which rightfully belongs to someone else.

What Happens if the Government Controls Public Health?

When the government officials call for coercive public health measures such as the mask mandates, they are assuming a right over each individual’s bodily health. This means that the government takes the right of health condition away from the individual and into the hands of the state.

When the state assumes the right of individual health condition, it then has control over individual action, since individual action influences health condition. Considering the multiple ways a person can influence their health (food & beverage consumption, driving, occupational hazards, medical substance side effects, etc.) the state has a free hand to insert itself into nearly every facet of a person’s life.

Though there are already plenty of agencies that oversee the previously given bracketed examples (FDA, DMV, OSHA, etc.), there is no objective standard to limit the extent to which an agency may restrict choices available to an individual. There also is no limit to which the state may employ other institutes to overlap a pre-existing agency’s realm. This means the state has an unbridled ability to dictate individual action regardless of how well the proverbial bases have already been covered.

What’s Wrong with the Government Preventing the Overwhelming of Hospitals?

It is unquestionably important for hospitals to be able to care for their patients swiftly and effectively. It is also unquestionably clear that it is none other than the hospitals’ responsibility to see that their care is up to par. Anyone who voluntarily goes into a profession assumes whatever burden is associated with that profession, even if certain burdens weren’t present during the point of entry.

A watchman’s duty to protect a store doesn’t change if there is an intruder present, even if the watchman accepted the job under the pretense that there would be no intruders to deal with.

A CEO’s performance is still of chief concern during a recession, even if the CEO counted on a booming economy when the contract was signed.

Likewise, those in the medical field have job descriptions that fall on their shoulders even if the pandemic wasn’t previously accounted for.

When the government enacts legislation to ease the burden of hospitals, it is affording favors to an institution that was in no way entitled to those favors to being with, since the burden of patients is the hospitals’ responsibility.

Taking into account the mask mandates seizing individuals’ rights to their own health condition, the legislation effectively usurps bodily responsibility from the citizen in order to coercively adjust behavior for the convenience of the health industry.

The framework of mask mandates sets a precedent that can be applied to any industry the state deems helpful to health. This process is wholesale cronyism done in the name of a noble cause. So long as the state can take ownership of the individual’s health condition and play puppet master with their decisions, citizens will be subject to grooming for special interests.

If these sort of developments continue, the life of the individual will become nothing more than clay to be molded by bureaucrats for the expediency of their chosen cronies, with the individual having only two paths to chose: that of the pawn or the criminal.

Photo by 🇨🇭 Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash

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