By Jeff Lowe
Balancing freedom and security is a constant dilemma for those in leadership positions. Medical advice and reasonable precautions should be taken seriously in a potential crisis or period of emergency. At the same time, people must remain free to gather if they choose - for church, business or private events - without government interference.
Every life is immeasurably valuable. Steps to protect vulnerable people should be considered along with the long-term implications that emergency measures will have on our freedom.
Some cities and states have ordered restaurants, bars and - in the case of Austin - funerals, weddings and religious services to be shut down if they involve more than a certain number of people. That number has shrunk repeatedly, from the 500-person limit imposed last week by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to the 250-person limit issued by Austin city officials on Sunday, to bans on the assembly of 10 people or more in Austin as of March 18.
By the end of the week, Cuomo banned "non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason."
The Bill of Rights guarantees the “right of the people peaceably to assemble,” with no mention of a specific number, and the “free exercise of religion,” which includes gathering in person for worship if a congregation chooses to do so.
Also, the ability for business owners to decide when, where and how to operate their companies is a key factor that separates free-market economies from socialist systems.
Health professionals are working tirelessly to treat and prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and that hard work should be appreciated.
Other industries also have very real needs to stay in business, to provide a living for workers and their families, and also to provide consumers with valued products, such as food, medicine, hygiene items and other necessary items.
Medical authorities are right to urge caution, as it is their job to promote health in or out of an emergency. Government, however, has a separate role.
The Declaration of Independence says governments are instituted among men to secure the God-given rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
When government restricts the normal course of people’s daily lives and their right to interact with other citizens, some amount of freedom is lost. It is crucial to safeguard against a long-standing government takeover of the private sector.
Both major political parties are susceptible to the temptation to seize power in a crisis. But what will happen any time in the future when epidemics, including seasonal viruses, pose a degree of risk to people’s lives?
One infectious disease specialist, Michael Osterholm, raised the possibility in an interview with CNBC: “Do we envision an America that for the next 18 months will be in complete lockdown?”
A complete lockdown or suspension of free commerce would be as illogical as banning citizens from all driving simply because there is the risk of a fatal crash.
As individuals, let’s take reasonable steps to stay healthy and virus-free, and choose faith and freedom over fear and government control.
JEFF LOWE is a staff writer for the Lampasas Dispatch Record.