COVID-19 over-regulation in the name of liberty

Folks on the Right have been very critical of pandemic mitigation policy over the last year and a half. Some of that has been justified, and some of it has not been. However, we should be wary of big-government solutions from the Right that are meant to counteract big-government solutions from the Left.

A primary example is state governments that try to prevent private establishments from requiring vaccines, even when the Centers for Disease Control recommends it. Florida’s prohibition of vaccine requirements for cruise lines may help preserve the personal choices of those who decide not to be vaccinated, but the order violates the private property rights and First Amendment freedom of association rights of the cruise ship lines.

No one is forced to go on a cruise ship, and people who do not want to get a vaccine could choose to take their business elsewhere. Government should not interfere, and Republicans who are supposed to be the party of free markets and economic liberty should not be promoting this kind of legislation.

With that said, state government restrictions on what local government can do in public health policy are totally different from state government restrictions on what private business can do. In our system, state governments are sovereign entities while local government is a creation of the state. Local government, then, is properly under the authority of state government. This includes the public school system. It may be good policy to generally have the most local unit of government make these decisions but it is in no way “authoritarian” for state government to limit the authority of local government.

As a broader issue, we should be wary of so-called “common good conservatism” that seeks to find solutions for societal problems in government regulations. “Common good conservatism” is often not actually conservative at all, and “common good conservatives” need to realize that the very powers they establish could be used against their interests they next time they lose an election. We should always think about how a new governmental power can be abused before we create that power.