As another Independence Day has come and gone, and as a sharply divided America marches inexorably onward to her two hundred and fiftieth anniversary in 2026, I find myself reflecting on what has happened to our beloved country due to the coronavirus epidemic of the last several months. Specifically to date, the virus has infected millions of Americans, killing more than 100,000 of these; has spawned a climate of public anxiety, fear, and isolation, in turn leading to increased mental illness and various forms of abuse; has shut down millions of businesses deemed “non-essential”; has sparked unprecedented growth in the medical services and sanitation industries; has provoked authoritarian public safety measures unilaterally imposed by national and state government on individuals, voluntary associations, schools, churches, and businesses; has unrelentingly dominated mainstream media coverage; has precipitated a major economic recession resulting in double-digit unemployment and temporary shortages of essential goods; and has led to the most expensive economic stimulus law ever enacted, generating a massive increase in our already gargantuan national debt.
Taken together, the COVID-19 emergency and the broad scope of the official response from government, health care, business, the media and entertainment industry, schools, and churches has dramatically and profoundly altered the landscape of American society overnight. The individual aspects of this response to our national public health crisis—which itself has been just one small part of a worldwide health emergency—have tended to be interlocking and mutually reinforcing, forming a remarkably effective matrix of national defense against a dangerous invisible enemy. Indeed, the nationwide figures for infection and death from the coronavirus to date fall far short of the apocalyptic predictions from certain medical sources early this year.
Understandably frightened by the threat of a rapidly spreading virus that they were told had no cure, the great majority of American citizens unquestioningly accepted the litany of stringent government restrictions on their public and private lives, from social distancing and bans on gatherings to closure of schools and businesses and stay at home orders, as necessary to protect the common good in this particular situation. They were entirely willing to sacrifice certain liberties to which they were accustomed for the sake of safety and survival, and they generally trusted that government was acting in their best interests.
There is no question that strict national and state laws based on expert recommendations from the CDC and NIH have greatly limited the spread of the virus and reduced its death toll. But did the gravity and risks of the threat actually require such a sweeping, dictatorial response? Should the recommendations of a sprawling and inefficient federal bureaucracy automatically become the law of the land without discussion and consideration by the people and their congressional representatives? Did slowing the spread of the virus and reducing infections and deaths really warrant this massive government intrusion into our daily lives, infringing on our God-given and constitutionally protected rights to freedom of religion and assembly and speech and movement and commerce? Did the American public and church leaders act prudently by quietly accepting and obeying such laws? Did the public health crisis justify the nearly wholesale government shutdown of the economy and the lasting consequences that ensued, or a stimulus package that adds trillions of dollars to a crushing national debt already in excess of $20 trillion? Can select provisions of our Constitution and some semblance of fiscal responsibility be legitimately set aside in a national emergency?
The key question of how far government can rightly go to protect our national security without encroaching on our cherished civil liberties was extensively debated in the early years of the War on Terrorism. Both security and liberty are essential to the common good and to the survival and prosperity of any nation. It is the responsibility and the challenge of duly elected government both to keep us safe and to protect our freedom in such a way that security and freedom are harmoniously balanced. All of the above yes or no questions can be more or less summed up in this one: Are public safety and national security more important than human freedom and individual liberty? Those who would unhesitatingly answer “Yes” place themselves in direct opposition to our nation’s Founders, who unhesitatingly answered “No” to this same question more than two hundred years by daring to rebel against the tyrannical British Crown. As Patrick Henry famously cried out: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!” And Benjamin Franklin calmly remarked in the same vein: "Those who would surrender their cherished liberty, for a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty, nor safety." The South Dakota governor's comment that people should have the freedom to get sick and die may have generated a storm of protest, but it was certainly in keeping with the Founders’ perspective. Such ardent champions of human liberty, limited government, and fiscal restraint would not have approved of the federal and state governments’ wholesale interventions against the coronavirus, complete with record-busting deficit spending to try to revive an economy consigned to limbo by their own heavy-handed policies.
Classically educated, devout Christian, and wise men that they generally were, the Framers were aware that ancient Roman law provided for a temporary dictator in times of war and crisis. They certainly foresaw that our nation would also experience various kinds of crises and emergencies in future decades and centuries. Yet they were also painfully aware from history and their own experience as British colonists of the perennial truth that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Thus the Constitution and the Bill of Rights that they painstakingly crafted to guide our nation do not include any provisions allowing any part of them to be set aside during a national emergency. The purpose of this deliberate omission is clear: Americans’ God-given and unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are to be respected and protected by government at all times, regardless of the circumstances in which the nation finds herself. Individual liberties may not be sacrificed on the altar of national security. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights have no expiration date.
Unfortunately, faced with the coronavirus epidemic, our government has apparently and unilaterally decided that protecting the public health is more important than preserving the individual liberties of the American people. Yet even a casual look at the draconian state and federal response to the pandemic reveals that the sinister agenda of big-government socialism is at work. Unelected federal bureaucrats, Democratic state governors and elected representatives of both parties have all taken advantage of the virus situation to enlarge the size of government far beyond its proper and reasonable bounds, in the process catering to special interest groups that run the political and media show in Washington and state capitols, running roughshod over the Constitution, and abandoning any pretense of fiscal conservatism. For example, the $2 trillion CARES Act, with its chunks of pork-barrel spending for Big Agriculture and the performing arts, is an outrageous travesty of justice because it adds further weight to our already unsustainable national debt burden. And the same governors who have shuttered thrift stores, libraries and movie theaters and severely restricted public gatherings for worship in their states have kept Planned Parenthood abortion mills running full bore and allowed massive public demonstrations in large cities to proceed unhindered. Such blatant hypocrisy is a staple of corrupt and godless socialist government, and it clearly demonstrates that such politicians cannot be trusted to guarantee public safety, let alone individual liberty.
What is even more shameful than this corrupt and unconstitutional government, however, is that we the people of the United States as a whole have quietly tolerated and passively accepted this new level of government tyranny and fiscal recklessness. Sadly, this is just part of an early twenty-first century trend in which we have been gradually relinquishing many of our God-given and constitutionally protected rights, especially our privacy rights, to big government and big business, the two great enemies of the common person. We’ve allowed the federal government to take over our health care through the Affordable Care Act. We’ve allowed the Supreme Court to redefine marriage and sex contrary to natural law. We’ve allowed cell phones and other electronic devices to track our location and movement and send that information to a government database. We’ve allowed websites and browsers to track our Internet habits and preferences. We’ve allowed Microsoft unrestricted access to our private emails in Outlook. We’ve allowed Apple admittance to our digital storage files. We’ve allowed state government to tax our Internet purchases. We’ve allowed eBay and PayPal to track our buying and selling habits and sell and rent that information to third parties. We’ve allowed software vendors to sign us up for unwanted automatic renewal just so we can purchase their software in the first place. We’ve allowed Congress and our President to spend tens of trillions of dollars we don’t have. And now we’ve allowed our leaders to confine us to our homes, shut down our restaurants and businesses and schools and libraries, ban unnecessary travel, forbid us to gather in a church building or anywhere else, and spend trillions more dollars we don’t have.
Apparently, our cherished human rights and fiscal responsibility are not so cherished anymore, because we are too timid and unwilling to fight for them when they are threatened or to hold our government accountable when it tramples on them. Two centuries ago, America was “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” but now it seems to be the land of the chained and the home of the cowed. Like the grumbling Israelites in the desert, we seem to prefer slavery to freedom. If we now truly value safety above liberty, then we certainly deserve to be neither safe nor free.
The great pandemic of 2020 is a moment of reckoning for the American people. Will we timidly continue to allow big government and big business ever-increasing control over all aspects of our daily lives until we find ourselves imprisoned in a corrupt socialist police state? Or will we courageously stand up and boldly demand that our leaders govern in accordance with the Constitution and fiscal sanity, thus simultaneously ensuring our security, prosperity and freedom? The choice we make will determine not only our future, but the future of the twenty-first century world.
How ironic it is that the coronavirus epidemic originated in Communist China, whose repressive anti-religious government has been trampling on the human rights of its vast people for decades and whose leaders are now positioning the country to replace the United States as the leading world superpower, thus threatening the liberty of billions of people. In a written statement published by ZENIT on April 3, Cardinal Charles Bo, the Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar and president of the Asian bishops’ conference, publicly and courageously denounced the authoritarian Chinese Communist Party (CCP) government for deliberately allowing the virus to spread throughout the city of Wuhan for three weeks and intimidating, arresting, and imprisoning doctors and journalists who attempted to warn the Chinese public of the threat during that period.
Indeed, it is not only possible, but likely, that the radically secularist CCP regime deliberately orchestrated the release of the virus from their state-controlled lab in Wuhan as a biological weapons experiment on their own people and the rest of humanity. If that is the case, then we have been offered a terrifying glimpse of the brave new world the Chinese Communists are planning to create within the next few decades. If their short-term goals were to sicken millions and kill hundreds of thousands, to spread fear and panic through media propaganda, to close churches and cripple voluntary associations, to restrict freedom of movement and association, to isolate and confine hundreds of millions, to promote government takeover of public and private life, and to damage thriving free-market economies, they could hardly have done a better job in all of those areas. With one tiny virus, the CCP has powerfully influenced the entire world, including its ideological arch-enemy, the United States.
The COVID-19 plague--which is actually among the smaller and less devastating epidemics of ancient and modern history--should sound the alarm to freedom-loving people everywhere that the once sleeping giant of Communist China is now awake, aggressive, and dangerous. Politically, economically, technologically, militarily and in many other ways, China has been gearing up for many years now to take over the world by the middle of this century. Given the glaring distinction between America’s traditional Judeo-Christian values and the atheistic ideology of Communism, this will have profoundly negative consequences for the entire human family, as tyranny will replace freedom around the globe.
If we do not wish this grim future to become a reality, then we must immediately take concrete steps to strengthen our own country and develop a comprehensive long-term foreign policy plan so that we can effectively fight, and win, a lengthy "Cold War" with the Chinese Communists, just as we did with the Russian Communists in the last century. To begin with, we should fiscally discipline ourselves by balancing the federal budget within four years and cutting our 14-figure national debt in half by 2030. This all-out effort will require unity, education, wisdom, determination, courage, and perseverance in order to be successful. The United States versus China will be the signature foreign policy battle of the twenty-first century. If we the people of the United States will recover the Founders’ zeal for liberty, return wholeheartedly to our Judeo-Christian founding principles and to the Constitution based on them, and place our trust in God, then we will not only enjoy the twin blessings of liberty and security in harmonious coexistence for ourselves and our children, but the rest of the world will be a more free and secure place for our brothers and sisters in the human family.
Copyright © 2020 Justin D. Soutar. All rights reserved.