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Do we open the country, or do we stay safe? Whose rights triumph?

I have interacted with and read about a LOT of people who want to assert their constitutional rights to free assembly, etc. and do whatever they want to do in the face of this viral pandemic. In my State of Wisconsin, we have had some protests on this, and various talking heads opine about the Governor's restrictions and how they deny people their rights.

But, I know that in Wisconsin, the Governor has temporary extra-legal powers during a crisis and I suspect that many other states also give their guvs similar temporary totalitarian powers in order to deal with crises. We, as a country, have exerted extra-legal government authority many times since the Civil War and courts have not stepped up to prevent emergency measures in any significant way.

Sure it hurts people, but so does disease and war. My right to be protected from you infecting me is as important as your right to go about your business. In times of crisis, rights often conflict and sometimes my rights, or, for example, the right of the military to have shoes to prosecute a war takes precedence over your rights to go to a bar or to buy new shoes (that happened in WWII). THAT is why state constitutions often give guvs temporary totalitarian powers and why courts have not told them they cannot do that.

Conflicting rights are messy and dealing with the mess will always make someone unhappy. That is a given. But, it is flat wrong to say that your right to do whatever you want always trumps my right to remain safe and healthy.

My $0.02.

Comments

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Jersay Peet

I agree that those attempting to make certain government-imposed restrictions a "Constitutional Rights" issue are misguided, and you've explained the reasons well. The obvious issue that elected leaders must struggle with is how to hit that "sweet spot" of timing, where a community/region/state is safe enough to gradually open, without waiting SO long that its economic underpinnings are ravaged.

I live in the southwest area of New Mexico with a county population of just under 30,000 people residing in just under 4,000 square miles. We have had 14 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and 0 deaths...BUT we've tested about 1.7% of the County's population, roughly the same rate as the USA, but below the 3.1% of the overall New Mexico rate. Most of New Mexico's confirmed cases are in pockets of Albuquerque up north, and the Native American Reservations. Do we "open up" by counties, regions, etc....or does the risk of people moving from areas with higher rates to those with lower rates outweigh the benefits? Meanwhile, small businesses are barely surviving, even with the Fed. Govt. assistance. And realistically: How much longer can we keep printing money?

It's turned into a "Damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation, those decisions will continue to be used as political fodder in this election year.

Steve

Yes. I do understand the strain of quarantine on people. I also know how scary novel viruses can be. But, both are great uncertainties at this point. I am not an economist or policy maker, so I try to stay away from those areas. I am a scientist and prefer to write on what I know. When I talk about how dangerous the virus is, it is not in order to say that I believe that we must continue to quarantine. I don't know what will happen if the quarantine is lifted. I am glad I don't have to make that decision.

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