June 22, 2020 Reading Time: 3 minutes

With astonishing fury and in only a few months, we watched in shock as many of America’s underlying problems have boiled over in ways that have done terrible injury to this country’s liberty, prosperity, stability, and social peace. 

It’s a dreadful litany: the rise of political extremism on the left and right, the toppling of statues of George Washington, an insanely partisan press, a president who has warmed to exercising dictatorial power over trade and immigration (and claiming to have saved 4 million lives by locking down the country), a Congress that is dropping trillions like it grows on trees, and a Fed that is newly involved in financial markets to an extent it has never been in its history. 

The onslaught has sown vast public confusion about the way forward. Some people talk socialism. Others talk about crackdown, law, and order. Each side of the political divide wants the other crushed mercilessly, as if no society can exist with a tolerance toward different points of view. You would think, by watching all of this unfold, that this country never had an experience with a workable system of freedom and rights for everyone. And yet that is precisely the great contribution that America has made to world history: to demonstrate that freedom, tolerance, limited government, and federalism work in practice. 

The most disturbing feature of the current public debate is the presumption that all problems that exist need government to solve them. This attitude prevailed in the presence of a new virus. We’ve gone fully one-hundred years in this country dealing with viruses as medical matters, not political ones. The record was good: we learned how to manage them well.

That system came to be overthrown this year (with roots in intellectual error dating back to 2006, when George W. Bush first had the idea of imposing a plan in the event of a virus). 

The result was the following document released on March 13, 2020, but clearly mapped out months if not years before. “The U.S. Government COVID-19 Response Plan” (marked “not for public distribution or release”) is nothing short of a Soviet-style central plan. For all these months, this document – not the Constitution, not our traditions of liberty, not our individual choices, and not our commercial or even religious rights – became the governing document in the United States of America. 

Whatever underlying problems in America before this date, this central plan exacerbated them all. 

A government that presumes the right to shut down an economy and culture, and plan the whole of society, even for a short period, is playing with fire, even to the point of opening the gates of hell. 

Ninety days later, we find that our property is not safe. No one is safe. The lockdowns, more than any other single factor, precipitated this disaster. 

And yet, you listen to the political class speak about this and hardly find a dissenting voice. Even the U.S. President, initially skeptical of the idea of locking down, now credits his decision to acquiesce to having saved four million lives. And he is puzzled now why his poll numbers are so weak. 

We desperately need an anti-lockdown intellectual and cultural movement in this country, one that rejects the centralizing and coercive plans of both left and right. The above-linked document should never exist in a free country. Until we have leadership at all levels of society that stands ready to condemn such monstrosities, and instead celebrates the ideals on which this country was founded, the morass of disaster in which we find ourselves will likely persist and grow even worse. 

There is hope for the future, but not without a principled proclamation that there will never be compromise with the sacred principles of liberty and human rights. This is the path to healing the nation. 

AIER Staff

Founded in 1933, The American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) educates people on the value of personal freedom, free enterprise, property rights, limited government, and sound money. AIER’s ongoing scientific research demonstrates the importance of these principles in advancing peace, prosperity, and human progress.

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