July 29, 2021 Reading Time: 3 minutes

As everyone is aware, governments have been mandating restrictions on people’s behavior in response to the Covid pandemic for more than a year. Cases are on the rise around the US, and in response, governments are retaining existing mandates and reimposing mandates that had previously been repealed. Covid not going away, but the mandates in response to Covid should.

Los Angeles is reimposing its mask mandate, some New York legislators are proposing to follow Los Angeles by reimposing mask mandates, North Carolina is extending its Covid mandates, and talk of continuing or reimposing mandates is taking place nationwide. Meanwhile, in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis, who has downplayed the increase in Covid cases, has been accused of killing people with his anti-mandate policies.

Mandate supporters must recognize that the mandates themselves have caused much of the harm, economic and otherwise, for the past year and a half. The economic aspects are obvious. Governments have forced businesses to close, prevented “unessential” workers from keeping their jobs, and disrupted the supply chains of businesses that were allowed to remain open. Meanwhile, people out of work have had more mental health problems, drug issues, and suicides.

The essence of the issue is not whether the benefits of mandates outweigh the costs. It is whether people should be free to decide for themselves how to respond to Covid rather than have government mandate what they must do.

One thing we must recognize is that Covid is never going to disappear completely. Like the flu or the common cold, the virus is likely to remain. What policies should remain to deal with it?

At this point, everyone in the United States (except young children) have access to a vaccine, so people can choose to get vaccinated and be highly protected. Sure, it’s still possible for vaccinated people to get the disease, but much less likely, and with much milder consequences. That’s why even though the number of new cases is spiking, the number of deaths is not. Many of the most vulnerable have chosen to get vaccinated.

People who think it is prudent to shelter at home, to avoid large crowds, or to wear masks, are free to do so without government mandates. Meanwhile, the spike in cases is almost entirely among the unvaccinated, who have made their own choices. In one way they are doing everyone else a favor when they get the virus and help build herd immunity.

The spike in new cases is among those who have chosen to remain vulnerable. Everyone should not face mandates because some have made these choices. Meanwhile, those who are vaccinated face a very small risk. It’s not zero risk, but in pre-Covid times, people interacted with others and risked getting the flu, the common cold, and other communicable diseases. Covid risks are analogous, for the vaccinated.

Recognizing the Covid will never completely disappear, and that those who want to can get vaccinated to protect themselves from it, it is time to set aside “temporary” emergency policies.

A year and a half of restrictions on individual liberty is too long, has given the government too much power, and has set a bad precedent that is likely to have negative effects on our liberties down the road. Florida is one state that has taken the path of freedom over mandates. That’s one reason I’m happy to be a Floridian.

Reprinted from the Independent Institute

Randall G. Holcombe

Randall G. Holcombe

Randall G. Holcombe is DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Virginia Tech, and taught at Texas A&M University and at Auburn University prior to coming to Florida State in 1988. Dr. Holcombe is also Senior Fellow at the James Madison Institute and is Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California.

Dr. Holcombe is the author of twenty books and more than 200 articles published in academic and professional journals. His books include Political Capitalism: How Economic and Political Power Is Made and Maintained (2018) and Coordination, Cooperation, and Control: The Evolution of Economic and Political Power (2020).

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