‘Libertarian’ Republicans love local control, unless it’s about COVID safety
The Big Board, a DC bar and restaurant known for its innovative beer pricing system, has an owner opposed to District of Columbia regulations requiring masking and proof of vaccination for patrons indoors.
After receiving complaints, warnings, suspension of their liquor license, and a health department inspection that revealed food safety violations in their kitchen (including mold buildup in a refrigerator), most business owners would have complied with regulations to avoid being shut down by local authorities. authorities. Instead, they launched a GoFundMe and invited a handful of Republican lawmakers to eat burgers and pose for sympathetic press to signal their solidarity against masks and mandates.
It’s no surprise the Big Board has had its liquor license suspended for violating COVID-19 orders, or inspected by the Department of Health, since it has publicly announced that it had no intention of complying with the rules. Daring bureaucrats to enforce the law is not a great strategy for staying in business.
Two of the lawmakers, Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Thomas Massie, are Kentucky Republicans with staunch supporters among conservatives and libertarians. They have delivered principled speeches to Congress against military adventurism, deficits and debt, and heavy-handed federal regulations. On issues ranging from guns to abortion, they strongly advocate for the federal government to get out of the way and for states and cities to commit to greater local control.
But they’ve taken the opposite stance when it comes to pandemic health regulations, so much so that Senator Paul even went so far as to suggest that DC Mayor Muriel Bowser should be impeached for putting them in place. work.
Libertarians believe in maximizing personal choice and individual self-determination as long as you do no harm to others. It also means reducing government laws and regulations to those necessary to prevent people from harming others and holding them accountable for violations of those laws and regulations. Government force should not be used to prevent adults from consuming things that are bad for their health or to force people to do things that are good for their health. Whether they choose to eat raw meat, drink a bottle of Windex, or refuse a blood transfusion, adults should be able to control their own bodies.
In addition to smaller government, libertarians believe in local control. The people closest to a problem have better knowledge of the best solution than a congressman thousands of miles away. Our founders gave limited power to the federal government, leaving most decisions to the people or the states. Different states and localities will take different approaches, and the results of different policies can be compared. If a city like DC or a state like New York is going to require masks and vaccinations for indoor dining, libertarians may see that as excessive government, but other cities like Dallas or states like Florida may eliminate mask and vaccination requirements. Whichever approach is an error, we can assess from the results, and the error is not applied nationwide.
Republicans have never had a problem denying citizens of DC home rule (basic self-determination by local government) or blocking funds for the implementation of cannabis legalization and other local measures for decades. . DC even slapped “No Taxation Without Representation” on its license plates as a token protest against Congressional control of a city that doesn’t get a vote in Congress.
If “liberal” Republicans like Massie and Paul are speaking out for localism and against the excesses of the federal government on all other issues, why are they taking such a strong stance against local health codes in the midst of a pandemic that has killed over 13,000 Kentuckians and nearly 1,300 DC residents?
Many people with fringe beliefs are drawn to libertarians because our live-and-let-live philosophy supports their right to live by those fringe beliefs without government interference, and also because libertarians know what it is to to be in an ideological minority. But some libertarians make the mistake of thinking that a minority belief is automatically valid because it opposes the mainstream or government laws or regulations.
Reactance – reflexively doing the opposite of what authority tells you to do – is a particularly poor life strategy.
There is no particular correlation between behavior that is a good idea and authority telling you not to do that behavior. Sometimes the government imposes behaviors that are good choices for ourselves and for others. Other times, the government imposes behaviors that are bad choices for ourselves and others. The key is to assess behaviors based on evidence and make good choices, regardless of government mandates.
Opposites build their identity by being against the majority. If everyone is watching game of thrones, they won’t. If everyone wears a motorcycle helmet, they won’t. If everyone gets vaccinated against COVID-19, they won’t. They consider it a pride to be out of step with the mainstream, not one of the “sheep”.
It’s a good idea to keep mold out of kitchens, have working sinks for washing hands, wear effective masks to avoid spreading a respiratory virus, and get vaccinated against communicable diseases. These good ideas don’t stop being good ideas just because the government mandated them. Our society should allow people the opportunity to engage in civil disobedience – if their conscience dictates that they refuse to comply with government mandates and they are willing to accept the consequences of their principled civil disobedience.
And our society should make room for politicians who want enough money and support from opposites to side against vaccination, against masking during a pandemic, and against local control. They will receive support from opponents to stand with them against the majority of American doctors, scientists and voters.