American life cannot be normal during an outbreak like the coronavirus. If we were going about “business as usual,” more people would get infected. There are debates about whether or not that’s a bad thing as an overabundance of caution can be more harmful in the long-term than the outbreak itself, but let’s stipulate for now that some precautions should be taken. If that’s the case, how do we know if government has gone too far.
The folks over at the Brennan Center for Justice have put together this handy flowchart to help us determine whether a new or proposed law, mandate, or executive order is appropriate, legal, and properly implemented. There’s a great risk to our freedoms in play today as governments at every level are imposing draconian measures for our “safety.” In many cases, these measures are not backed by science. In other cases, they’re unambiguous examples of government exploiting a crisis to insert their unrelated pet projects into legislation or decrees.
Arguably the biggest risks in this situation are the remnants that are not properly walked back. We’re seeing power grabs at multiple levels of government spread out across the country. Most Americans are allowing it to happen without rebuke because the fear of the coronavirus is currently greater than fear of oppression. But just as so much was never walked back following 9/11, so too will new laws and ordinances persist even after the coronavirus crisis subsides.
Here’s how they Brennan Center for Justice determines whether a law or mandate should be implemented:
“During a crisis, it might be necessary for government officials to implement measures that would be inappropriate during ordinary times,” writes Brennan’s emergency powers expert Elizabeth Goitein. “But that does not mean we must blindly accept any encroachment on our rights and freedoms as necessary. Indeed, emergencies provide fertile grounds for governments to expand their powers in ways that are often unnecessary or dangerous.”
We cannot rely on government to keep checks and balances on itself as it pertains to civil liberties. The people are ultimately responsible for protecting our own rights from oppression. This excellent flowchart can add clarity to the discussion.