If you’re like me, you think the state stay-at-home guidelines should be maintained without regional exemption. Arguments for local relaxing of guidelines are focused on the cost to the economy before it focuses on the cost to the people. Proponents try to claim that reopening is for the people, but polls suggest the majority of folks are more concerned with their own lives than the economy.
Let me start by saying, businesses are not more important than people. Sure, people are reliant on the work businesses provide in a very real way, but that’s a relatively recent development of the social contract (it’s also why we have governments, but I’ll come back to that point.) Businesses won’t exist without people. People can exist without business.
“But businesses are sacrificing everything right now.”
Sure. So are the people. Opening businesses too early is asking the people to sacrifice more so that businesses don’t have to. It puts the value of businesses above people.
The language used to argue for relaxed guidelines focuses on fierce independence. Even if the big cities need orders, we rural folk are a “different culture” and naturally don’t need to be told to social distance, to wear a mask, or what businesses are essential.
First, the “different culture” argument assumes small and big cities have no interaction. The virus doesn’t recognize municipal borders. This is a medical issue. Medical textbooks aren’t different based on population. Medicine is medicine. COVID-19 hit big cities first because of the population density and higher level of transit. That gave us outside of the metropolitan areas a warning so that we can protect our communities. We don’t have as many relative cases as Chicago… YET; if we don’t protect ourselves, we will.
Second, anyone suggesting rural communities naturally socially distance hasn’t been to the grocery store lately. Even under stay-at-home, aisles are getting crowded as people ignoring the guidelines thwart the efforts of those who are trying to follow them. I put an angry face on under my mask to discourage conversation and even that doesn’t work sometimes (and if you think businesses can self-regulate, read any page from history).
The biggest issue is that if we are trusted to self-regulate, those that can, probably will. Recent surveys suggest that most people won’t be patronizing businesses more than they have to if the local stay-at-home orders are relaxed because they don’t want to be the first victim of the second wave.
The main point though, is that it’s a false dilemma. Businesses and business-leaning leaders are pretending that if we choose to protect ourselves, we will force businesses to die and that will be worse than COVID-19. This argument ignores the role of government.
If our government does its job, to secure the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (originally property), both the people and the businesses can maintain until this is over. Government relief programs are working to preserve institutions and people all over Europe, we might as well try them too.
“America and Europe aren’t the same.”
True. But we’re dealing with the same virus and clearly what we’ve tried over here isn’t providing enough relief to people and businesses. To quote a president, “What do you have to lose?”
Don’t take my word for it, look to the tweets of that President. Even Trump has said there should be more relief to local governments for business and citizen concerns.
We are a country of the people, by the people, and for the people. We are not of, by, and for the businesses. Get the priorities straight.
Adam Moderow is a Highland Community College professor, assistant for the Freeport High School Speech Team, Eagle Scout, and a firm believer that tea makes everything better. You can follow him on Twitter at @adamoderow.