Updated: Apr 11
We were all endowed with certain unalienable rights. Among these are life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. What do we do, then, when someone claims that our liberty is infringing on their natural right to life? Even further, what if they claim that our regular, everyday life is, itself, infringing on their right to life? This idea isn't a new one and the debate over the balance between liberty and public health will rage on long after Covid fear is gone. Some believe the government represents a protector, I'd say they're correct, but those who view the government as protectors will most often get wrong what exactly the government is supposed to protect. Many people tend to forget that we are endowed by our creator with unalienable rights. The bad news for government then, is that they are not our creators and so do not have the ability to give or take from us our natural rights. Their job is, indeed, to protect...to protect our natural rights. That's the government's main job.
When people speak of liberty, most are not talking about complete freedom, though anarchy does seem to be the most freedom one can possibly have. Instead what they mean is what Thomas Jefferson referred to as "rightful liberty". We can't have a civilized society where complete freedom to do as one pleases is accepted. What we can do is have a principled limitation on the exercise of freedom. Jefferson described such a principle as "rightful liberty" as follows:
"Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual."
Could Jefferson ever have known that there would be a time that the patriots and tyrants would be those wishing to institute mask mandates and lockdowns under the pretenses of public health and those resisting such orders? Not likely. What is likely is that this type of behavior is precisely what he spoke of in his letter to John Adams' son-in-law:
The people can not be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have had 13. states independant 11. years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century and a half for each state. What country before ever existed a century and half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve it’s liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.
Tyrants and patriots are not a new concept and will not be a concept that fades. Patriotism falls anywhere between a profession of dedication to your country and giving one's life in it's service. So long as people are on the earth, other people will attempt to exert control over them. People are the most precious resource on the earth and if you control them, you control everything. We call these people tyrants. Those who seek to control other people and take away their liberty in so doing.
One way to control people is by force. Another is by fear. If you can scare a person enough they will do just about anything, however irrational their actions might be. Tyranny can occur in either of these ways even though we tend to think of tyranny in terms of control by force. People are also intelligent and prideful, though. If a person has been tricked into fearing something they shouldn't they aren't likely to admit it, instead they will probably double down and find more reasons to convince you (and probably reinforce their own belief) that you, too, should be fearful. They'll use psychological tactics like guilt tripping, gaslighting, anger, intimidation and character assassination in order to convince you to also be fearful. If you refuse to join them in their fear they will tell you what a moron you are and how you must be stupid for not believing the science (that's the favored trick of 2021, appeal to experts).
It's easy to do when half the politicians in the country, the entire media, trained medical practitioners, and half of society more generally are validating these fears. Then again, a recent article by Katie Herzog outlines how professors of medicine at top medical schools in the U.S. are now denying, in class, widely known biological truths to appease the woke *"people" in place of the descriptor I'd prefer* of gender ideology, but I digress... The point is, medical professionals are no longer worthy of trust when they constantly hide the ball and deny widely-known anatomical truths. Plus, the media is simply taking cues from these woke medical professionals and parroting them. "Oh you some kind of epidemiologist now" they'll ask you. Memes float around criticizing the high school friend who dare question Fauci's recommendations. Which recommendations you ask? Oh that's easy, remember the one at the beginning of the pandemic? No, not at the very beginning. Yeah the one before the fourth one but after the second one, all of which contradicted each other. Yeah, if you disagree with that one, which means you agree with the current one, then that's totally cool. But, if you agree with recommendation number four and not six, which again contradict each other, then you're just plain stupid, bro. Keep up!
So the unelected bureaucrats have become the tyrants whose sole focus it is to reduce the number of deaths. Can you blame them? that's all they know. Their focus isn't on anything but saving people from Coronavirus and it's easy to question, at times, if that's even the case. Giving them the benefit of the doubt and assuming their entire focus is saving people from Covid, that's still a huge problem because things exist other than simply staying alive or preventing mild to severe illness. Sure, staying alive is very important, but what are we staying alive for, exactly? To live a good life I presume. So if these people eliminate life as we know it in the mean time, which they very much seem to be doing, then what are we living for?
There are still plenty of people in this world who much prefer not living to a life without liberty. That is, out of the "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness" one part is prioritized for these folks...liberty. With liberty, the third piece takes care of itself because you can pursue whatever it is you like, here that's happiness. So what we seem to have now is an intersection of life and liberty. At it's core, because viruses are just a part of normal life, we have a dilemma of life allegedly infringing on life. Doesn't sound right but let's go with it. In that case, we must defer to liberty. No one person's life is more precious than another so we have no other choice, really. Well, there's tyranny but...... At this intersection, some seem to think they are incapable of staying alive unless people's liberty is infringed on. Illogical considering the survival rate is over 98% and 99.9% for people under 50? Yeah, I'd say.
We are discussing here a natural pathogen. If it were extremely deadly, as in it killed even 10% of people infected, then they might be correct. We aren't talking about that though. We are talking about something that kills less than 2% of people it infects. Turns out that less-than-2% death count resides largely in one small demographic of our population, the elderly. Before someone reads this and exclaims excitedly, "aha, but ANYONE can die from Covid" let me qualify. With rare exception, this is a disease that seriously effects one demographic. Not that any demographic is more important than another but historically we recognize that younger people are most in need of protection so that society can continue.
When someone reaches the age where Covid is most deadly, they are fairly close to death anyhow, statistically speaking. My 80+ year old grandmother lives with me. My wife and I take care of her to the best of our ability and love her a ton but we also understand that she will eventually die, likely sooner than later. That's life, elderly people die. They also are not contributing to society to the degree that younger people do and are done reproducing.
Callous as it might sound to some, it's a reality (like biological sex in humans). When we are discussing a deadly illness and how it might affect us as a people, triage is important. We should do what we can to protect the elderly and other extremely high-risk populations but only at a reasonable cost (and by cost I don't mean just financial cost) to the rest of us. We deserve some consideration as well. How about us 30-somethings that are going to have to live with the consequences of these decisions we made which gave grandma that precious additional two years of life? Now our lives for the next 50 are worse, thanks a lot. What about the time we lost that we will never get back? That's time that the elderly got to enjoy 50 years ago, what about us? Those are memories with our children we have lost that they enjoyed with their children long ago. The psychological damage and lost relationships our kids have to endure are real. There is a real human cost to these decisions that take from the rest of us our liberty in order to protect, largely, a small demographic.
So, for how long do we let these tyrants continue to take precious time and resources from us in order to benefit a small subgroup among us. Notice what I'm not proposing. I'm not suggesting that we become tyrants against the elderly...I'm suggesting the bureaucrats stop being tyrants to us for the benefit of their own careers and in the name of a tiny demographic. The elderly should be free to live their lives as they see fit. We should do what we can to protect them to a point. That doesn't mean we should be willing to sacrifice it all, all our liberty, all our freedom, all our money, our businesses, our homes, our children's well-being. We should take reasonable precautions. We can debate what reasonable precautions are but right out of the gate, giving up all of life's most enjoyable things is not reasonable. Requiring people to risk their own health for the health of another no matter how small the risk is not reasonable. And at this point, it seems, people may be beyond a willingness to be reasonable even if you think those things are reasonable. That's because you have pushed them to that place with so many unreasonable demands and requests, many of which were followed for some time.
Your right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness ends where it intrudes on my right to pursue the same. You might argue that spreading a virus that hurts another is precisely that kind of infringement. It's not. Viruses are part of life. They spread now, they spread yesterday and they will spread tomorrow. We will never stop the spread of viruses as long as we actually live life. Viruses serve important purposes for all life on our planet. Some people get viruses and recover, those people live on with immunity. Others get viruses and die, that means their body was not strong enough or built for survival and those weaker genes are not passed on for future generations. Viruses make us stronger. Am I saying that we should never try to prevent viruses from spreading? No. I'm saying that it's a natural occurrence with a purpose in nature and cannot be attributed to any human who happens to get and then spread a virus. I'm saying that there are reasonable precautions like washing hands and social distancing which don't economically and psychologically injure people.
It is not an aggression upon another to pass along a natural pathogen, especially unknowingly, and is therefore not the same as an infringement on the right of another as an assault, rape or murder may be. It's not even as culpable as a trespass on another's property...It's not culpable at all, it's just living...and the passer of the virus has as much right to live as the one being infected. Where the right to life and liberty come into conflict, deference should be given to liberty. This is especially true in the case of Covid where simply exercising one's right to life is what is being considered an infringement on another's right to life. Liberty only makes the argument stronger but me living my life is not an infringement on you living yours, liberty aside.
A.G. Miller is a father, husband and community member who resides in Tulsa, OK. He is an Army combat veteran, former police officer, and business owner who graduated summa cum laude with B.S. in business management and currently attends University of Tulsa College of Law where he will graduate with a J.D. in 2022.
"Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual." -Thomas Jefferson