Yesterday was the anniversary of the WHO declaring the Covid19 pandemic. Today is the anniversary of Nancy and I being in lock-down. Yesterday a number of people on television were amazed at how bad the pandemic hit the United States of America. Clips of the former president minimizing the pandemic from the start of the pandemic to his leaving office. Yet, yesterday the Attorney General of the State of Texas filed a lawsuit against a Texas municipality for trying to maintain a mask mandate in the face of the Governor of Texas lifting the statewide mask mandate. https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/11/us/texas-mask-mandate-attorney-general-austin-travis-county/index.html The argument the Texas AG makes is that a locality mandating masks is contrary to the explicit intent of the Governor’s lifting the mandate to restore the economy.
Keeping the economy going has been a theme of former President Trump and most Republican governors for the past year. Texas has been particularly intent on opening its economy from any lock-down and mask-wearing requirements. The theme in Texas has been that a mandate that calls for wearing masks and limiting or shutting down business violates their “freedoms and liberties.” The thing about “freedom and liberty” is that without “equality” both “freedom and liberty” are at best illusions, and at worst words to placate people who are being prayed upon by the economic interests behind keeping the state open for business during a normal pandemic. Never mind that “your personal freedom or liberty” from not following public health guidelines (or even mandates) become a personal right to spread a deadly disease, the Covid19 virus. In fact “your personal freedom or liberty” from not following public health guidelines becomes an indiscriminate license to kill some of those you may infect. Exercising what you call freedoms and liberties when exercised by all, will cause the death of some, and thus your exercise of your freedoms and liberties results in the inability of others to exercise their liberties and rights because you have killed them by transmitting the disease to them.
A mask-less person might argue that a) they don’t have the virus, or b) if they had it they didn’t know. Either way, this particular virus can take days to manifest its presence, or never give signs it is there at all (asymptomatic carries). So they are not at fault for spreading it. Unfortunately, the nature of the virus is such that one does not know immediately if one has caught it and because it is so widespread (it is a pandemic after all), one has to take precautions not to spread it. Then too, if one had been wearing a mask one would likely not have caught it in the first place. Look at the population of medical personnel who have successfully avoided infection by wearing masks and other personal protective equipment for the year during the time the pandemic has been declared.
Strangely most people who insist on exercising their freedoms and liberties will tell you that a person’s freedom stops at the end of other peoples noses. And they would add they are not striking anyone in the nose. (“Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Zechariah Chafee, Jr., and the Clear and Present Danger Test for Free Speech: The First Year, 1919” Fred D. Ragan The Journal of American History Vol. 58, No. 1 (Jun., 1971), pp. 24-45 (22))
Ironically, breathing through one’s nose is the primary way people catch the Covid19 virus. The virus would not be in the air for a person to catch unless someone carrying the virus is breathing without a mask has very recently, or is currently, in the vicinity. So, they are extending their freedom and liberty directly, by air, into someone’s nose.
Setting aside Trustees of Dartmouth College v. Woodward, 17 U.S. 518, and successor cases that treat corporations under the law as if they are people, the major trade-off between masks, social distancing, washing hands and economic entities is with small, largely unincorporated businesses for these smaller entities must stay open to continue to be viable economic units. Major corporations have various stream of income that will largely continue through a pandemic and are unlikely to have to close their doors. Indeed, in one looks at the equities market valuation of major corporations during this past year, the New York Stock Exchange for example,, closed at a record the day before yesterday. So the major corporations are doing relatively well (actually making out like bandits).
Small local businesses are going under during the pandemic. Those that stay open have lost revenue and had to lay employees off. As long as mask mandates and limited occupancy is in place, small, local businesses will continue to fail. However, if the mask mandates and occupancy limits are lifted too soon, some of the owners and employees of these small businesses will become infected and some will die. One has to wonder if business failure is worse than the death of the owners, the owner fatalities, and the owner’s employees (not to mention customers who are infected and die from a contact in the small, local business.
I am not aware of any, in Texas, for example, efforts to shore up the finances of the small, local businesses. For in most states the firms were on their own. Yes, the first Covid19 Relief package back in 2020 did have some provision for assisting small businesses. But that did not go too well in the application.
So what is the problem? Succinctly put, it is that Members of the US House of Representatives and Members of the US Senate are elected because of campaign donations which largely come from moneyed interests (major corporations are moneyed interests). So our representatives seem to be acutely more aware of major corporate needs than they are of smaller, local business needs. And clearly, our elected national representatives are much more acutely aware of moneyed interests than they are of the needs of the rest of us. So, even at the national level, the health of the economy has been of greater import to lawmakers than the health of individual citizens (former President Trump’s mask-wearing and pronouncements [untruths] underscore this point).
So in the tension between the health of the economy and the health of the citizens it was foreordained that the economy, at least the economy represented in the New Your Stock Exchange and other markets would win. Putting it another way, we all may have freedoms and liberties, but we all are not equal we are just consumers for those who are “more equal.” (George Orwell, Animal Farm)
NOTE: This will also appear in Deartedandjody today.