When the long arm of the law is necessary to increase individual freedom: covid, unemployment benefits, gas purchases and Fox News hypocrisy

Government can do real good

I saw this sign on the front door of a Myrtle Beach, S.C., restaurant a few weeks ago. When I went by there a couple days ago, it was still there. I point this out to say this: I won’t ever eat there again. It is now one of a handful of restaurants I will be personally but quietly boycotting. They chose to to publicly push the same, tired “government dependence” trope - when instead they could have decided that the market now demands they pay people a little more. These types of owners are perfectly fine when the market drives down wages and they can pay pennies on the dollar. They get upset when things swing the other way. And before anyone says it, government affects the market all the time, except in this case there is scant evidence that covid relief unemployment enhancements are the reason there is a labor shortage in some areas.

The fact is the pandemic has not yet ended, some people are waiting to find higher-paying jobs - which is the most damn rational thing in the world - and others are skittish because so few people in our area, less than 50 percent, are vaccinated. There are myriad reasons why this particular restaurant had trouble finding more help, but they chose to use the opportunity to take another broadside against government helping the poor and working-class. I can’t support that. And won’t.

Which brings me to this very interesting nugget about the Fox News Channel. During primetime, their popular hosts often bring on guests to talk down the need for vaccinations or most other efforts to help curb the spread of covid. They often do that under the guise of “freedom” and “liberty” and “individual choice.” And yet, that multi-billion-dollar corporation has an in-house covid policy that treats the vaccinated and unvaccinated differently - just the thing their top hosts claim is a horrible thing for the government to do. What’s worse is that they mostly don’t tell you that.

The truth is that there are times the long arm of the law is absolutely necessary, whether inside a corporation or a government dealing with a crisis. Given that we are amid a once-in-a-century pandemic, dare I say this is one of those times. I won’t scold people for not getting vaccinated. That’s a waste a time and unproductive. But I will say that every responsible organization has to have a policy similar to the one Fox News has for its own employees, to either get vaccinated or commit to mask wearing, social distancing and covid testing. It’s just a rational way to deal with an airborne virus in a time of hyper-partisan politics.

The more rational way would be for the government to implement vaccine mandates, like is done for public schools, and/or mask mandates. Individual choice would be to choose between those two options, getting vaccinated or wearing masks, etc.

While it isn’t quite the same given that it is not an airborne virus, we had a similar struggle in the Myrtle Beach area years ago concerning drive-offs from gas stations. A person would fill up their tank and hot tail it down the road before paying. And every time a clerk called the cops and the cops had to respond and write up a report knowing there was little chance anything could be done about it. That’s when the long arm of the law stepped in and mandated that every gas station required pre-pay. The drive-off problem was instantly squashed and the cops didn’t have to waste precious resources responding to ghosts. So why not just let the market take care of it? Because many gas stations were reluctant to implement pre-pay if their competitor didn’t do the same. It would put them at a competitive disadvantage. But because the government mandated they all do it, all the gas stations remained on an even playing field. In other words, a government regulation helped the market and increased freedom and liberty.

When we are having these covid debates, we must think beyond the surface. Covid mandates, if implemented properly and widely, will increase individual freedom and liberty, especially by making it more likely that schools will be fully opened in the fall - which helps everyone get back to a sense of normalcy, freeing us up from having to constantly grapple with the worst effects of covid.