By Evelyn Pyburn
As we watch the crackdown coming once again with children being forced to wear masks and employees of retail stores being required to wear masks, and as we listen to the rising crescendo of media invoking alarm and fear, we should pause a moment and thank our state legislators and the governor for passing laws that prevent local governments from imposing restraints on individuals and coercing businesses into serving as pseudo law enforcement to bully the public into compliance with local mandates and ordinances.
Given the current rise in hysteria and masked faces, one has to believe that if it were not for these restraints on the power of government, we would all be once more wearing masks, standing yards apart, cancelling events, and businesses would be closed. Our economy would once again be circling the drain.
Those demanding the wearing of masks assume hallowed ground because they believe they are “trusting to science.” Maybe they are right about the science. To believe so is their choice, but that is just the point – EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE A CHOICE! The issue IS NOT ABOUT MASKS or science – it is about individual freedom, by far a more sacred issue. And, there is nothing sanctified about using force – most especially the force of government — against your neighbor.
We can deal with a disease or almost any adversity so long as we have the freedom to do so. Winning and holding that freedom is no easy thing, and that is what Montana lawmakers understood.
While it is astounding that so many people can so little understand the concept of freedom, life in 2020 seemed to make clear that it was necessary for the state legislature to redundantly pass laws to reinforce the Constitution, and fortunately last year Montana had representatives who had the fortitude to do so.
While it is heartbreaking to see the spirits of little children being broken by being forced to wear masks, it is quite terrifying to think that the coercion against businesses could destroy our economy.
Leaving people free to live their lives as they see fit is necessary to sustain our economy, which is every bit as important as protecting our health. The very essence of “economy” is people living their lives. How could that not be important?
While we are made well aware of the risk to life because of COVID, there seems little thought given to risks to life because of disruptions to the market place.
Part of the reason that people may be indifferent to the economic catastrophe is that we hear so little about impacts on business compared to the persistent and frenzied reports on every nuance of COVID. If someone sneezes while getting a COVID vaccination it makes headlines, but people losing their businesses, homes and life-savings passes little remarked upon.
There certainly is no official tracking of every nuance of the plight of business owners, as there is for the minutia of changes regarding COVID. For business owners it has been a lonely and desperate experience watching years of work and dreams evaporate. Sleepless nights and the anxiety of meeting the next payroll or just covering living expenses. The past year has been a nightmare for them. Not only were they forced to operate at reduced capacity, often an impossibility, and to change how they did business, including turning away customers, but in dealing with employees who were given greater incentives not to work than to work. They were threatened and bullied by bureaucrats who abused their power to intimidate business owners. With no other legal means to enforce local mandates, bureaucrats twisted the arms of business owners with threats of removing licenses or maliciously enacting other measures against them. This too our legislators stopped.
The impact on local economies was undoubtedly different from community to community. The degree to which people lost jobs and incomes depended largely upon how much a community’s economic base was dependent upon government employment. Government employees did not lose jobs (perhaps not a one, since data shows that government employment actually increased during 2020). So, counties with government employment making up a large part of their economic base (university employment or being the seat of state government) did not see their employment drop to the same degree as those counties more dependent on private sector businesses. So maybe that is why some communities push back harder than others.
Again, little data has been complied about the impacts of unemployment and closed shops. We don’t even really know how many Montana businesses have folded or failed to start (an economic factor every bit as important to our future). It’s likely though— if Montana follows the pattern of some states – it’s likely that one-third of our businesses failed over the past year.
How one deals with threats, risks and adversity, whether it is to your health or livelihood, is a matter of individual choice and we all need the freedom to make those choices and to find answers without engaging the use of force against others – against our neighbors. That is not only how one lives in a free society, but it creates the kind of society in which we want to live – it is for this that we should thank our political leadership.