Opinion: Our freedom is vulnerable

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Nonessential stores, like this one, are ordered closed to customers under Gretchen Whitmer's order. Photo by Matthew Kornmeier '21.

Matthew Kornmeier '21, Section Manager

During unprecedented times throughout history, like these, there are always concerns as to what liberties the government can take even if it seems like the right thing to do or is backed by good intentions. In fact, in times of uncertainty we historically see government taking liberties that infringe upon our personal freedom.

For example, amidst the Korean War, the Defense Productions Act was passed forcing manufacturers to produce wartime products. Although this seems like a well-intentioned request, private business owners were being forced to do what the government wished, and in essence were experiencing aspects of a command economy. Following the attacks on 9/11, the federal government took large scale measures to monitor communications in the U.S. by collecting data from big communications companies in order to help combat terrorism. Although this seems like a good reason to do so given the circumstances, we later found out through a whistleblower inside the government that they were profusely violating personal freedoms of Americans in the process.

We see a similar scenario with the recent outbreak of COVID-19. In Michigan, the Governor has shut down all “non-essential” businesses. She has banned the sale of household items such as carpeting, paint and plant seeds but did not ban the sale of alcohol, legal marijuana, and lottery tickets. We are also told that we cannot go to church, be out on the water or even travel up north to vacation homes. We cannot meet in groups and are ordered to stay home at all costs.

All this begs the question, under what authority is the governor allowed to so extensively control our lives? It is a completely subjective matter as to which businesses are essential, and it is no coincidence that the most essential businesses in governor Whitmer’s opinion are the ones that produce the most state tax revenue such as lotto tickets, alcohol and legal marijuana. The reality is that all businesses are essential in sustaining the lives of working Michiganders and Americans.

Initially these actions were to mitigate the amount of patients being admitted to hospitals so our medical system was not overloaded. Yet there has not been any issues regarding medical capacity throughout the entire pandemic and even less so now that our numbers are declining in the state of Michigan. Now that there is less risk of overloading the medical system it should be completely the decision of the business owner as to whether they should open or not.

Being wrapped up in all the fear associated with this pandemic, we fail to recognize the violation of our civil liberties, and that is the scariest part. Our freedom is most vulnerable in times like these and we fail to understand that in our world today. We think we are immune to government tyranny in our modern and cushy world since we are so far removed from the days when people had to fight for their freedom. The truth is that in times of hardship it is easiest for the government to go beyond their enumerated powers to achieve personal agendas.