Gov. Lee, putting healthy people into a quarantine and cities into “lockdown” is a temptation.
I urge you to turn your back upon it and to flee so that you will not be enticed, heeding as you may the clamor of many.
To follow California Gov. Gavin Newsom and others in opting for command economy methods is to yield to panic and fear in spite of God’s promises and God’s law.
A mass “lockdown” is an imprisoning of the people in their houses and apartment units apart from any proof that any one of them is sick, and apart from any lawful conviction for a crime or public offense for which they might be held individually liable and subject to the court.
A lockdown is the same concept as that of “pre-crime” — detention or arrest apart from any judicial conviction of an offense on grounds that the individual might commit a crime or is statistically fingered by software to likely commit a criminal act.
The concept of pre-crime enforcement is alien to our jurisprudence and common law system of justice. So is the idea of an executive decree from your office of a mass lockdown upheld by criminal sanction and seizure despite an individual’s constitutionally guaranteed rights to be free from arbitrary state action under due process protection.
The pre-crime or regulatory spirit is marketed as preventing torts, wrongs, frauds and deceptions ahead of time by creating state-commissioned cartels that regulate individual trades and occupations, whether podiatry or hairdressing. If the plumber is regulated, so this thinking goes, the homeowner is guaranteed he won’t have a leak. By presuming the worst of people in the trades and imposing regulation, we obviate the need for courts, and prevent wrongs before they happen.
The pre-crime and regulatory spirit, ostensibly seeking a good end, would force the people to avoid sin, to be good, to manage their business and callings for the good of others under a presumption of carelessness, negligence, evil intent or malice.
Lockdown and curfew hold in contempt the ordinary Tennessean and visitors in the state. In decades past, government fell for this argument and has operated regulatory and professional licensing schemes. But you and other Republicans are working to throw off much of this abuse in the marketplace. The general assembly is returning many occupations to their harmless and innocent practitioners.
You are working, in other words, Gov. Lee, to throw off the “pre-crime” mentality that underlies the state’s regulatory claims as against the people in Tennessee in an otherwise private and free economy.
All about you, physicians, political allies, advisers and friends urge “strong” and “proactive” and “forward-leaning” measures to thwart the spread of the microbe.
Where statists are wrong
Rather than view ordinary people in the worst light as helpless and malevolent, the free market and liberty perspective proposes the concept of amity of interests, self-help, mutual aid and Christian mercy. These ideals are not mere theories, but the basis of prosperity in this state and in every part of the country where they operate.
Those who clamor for tough tactics reject these ideals. They invie you to presume the worst of human nature and denigrate the overall character of the 6.5 million people in the state. They rely on force to bring about a reduced infection rate. They rely on threat, handcuffs, warrantless arrest, fines, jails, courtroom proceedings, fines and loss of liberty to protect the mass and to protect any one individual man or woman or boy or girl.
Regulation implies distrust of humankind and the need for a messianic overlord in any particular area of the economy so that no customer will be harmed and that no provider of goods and services will act irresponsibly.
Your good steps thus far
“Mandating the closure of a business means mandating the elimination of a paycheck for hard-working Tennesseans who have families and obligations to meet,” you told members of the press. “It’s a very serious thing to mandate the closure of a business.”
You also said, “We’re never going to be able to mandate people’s behavior in their homes and in their yards and in their neighborhoods — in part because you can never enforce behavior that you mandate. *** But you know, nothing is ever off the table. We all know that. We don’t know what’s coming. We don’t know the enormity of this crisis. There are decisions that we make today that we might not have made a week ago. And there may be decisions that we make in two weeks that we wouldn’t make today.”
The pressure to “go all out” in a war upon Covid 19 is tremendous. But your comments indicate your commitment to a moderated and reasonable state response, a contrast to collectivist and imperial decrees in California and New York.
You have spoken of the need among the people to pray to God for grace and mercy and for people to be trusted to do the right things among themselves. You have appealed to their good sense and their mercy and their interest and self-preservation to limit the microbe’s reach.
You have advised the closing of public schools, leaving it to local authorities to best decide what to do.
You have let people such as mayors Andy Berke and Jim Coppinger to determine how far to impose limits on business locations where people congregate. Your premise in so doing is in keeping with the American system of federal — or confederated — government, with decentralization a recognized benefit and local discretion a sign of mutual respect.
Protect open society
Quarantines of people who are not sick will damage them more than they might be injured by the flu. The AP has repeatedly said the “vast majority” of people who get Covid 19 fully recover. New cases in China have come to a halt. Deaths in badly scarred Italy are 99 percent among people with pre-existing pathologies. The Seoul government halted infection using soft isolations and apps while respecting South Korea’s “open society” ideals. At many points there is room for optimism and limiting the damage, just as in 1999 mass computer upgrades limited the damage of the Y2K “bug.”
To use military and police force to prevent the operation of a free market economy and to force people into isolation under threat of warrantless arrest will wreck tens of thousands of small businesses. And big ones, too. It will bring people to unmanageable isolation and prevent the use of means of communication that is the lifeline in today’s Tennessee. Do you think that the Chinese communist party, the first in this crisis to act on Coroniavirus with an overnight lockdown of millions, acted on right principle?
Essential to human communication is movement and travel, usually by car or truck, but also by rail, scooter, motorcycle and bike. Any order that prevents the free movement of people will bring further damage and further bankruptcy across the landscape than that being reported daily.
Militarizing and politicizing the state’s medical response will bring these people to their knees and will mark a change in relations between the people and the state. It may also wreck the relationship that you have with the people pursuant to your oath of office.
Once you use force and police to prevent the operation of the economy and the movement of people in their free will relationships, you are crossing a line into a police state worse than the one we have.
Protected from warrantless arrest
The use of arrest powers must be limited to the traditional causes of arrest, that being than an officer seeing a person commit a public offense in his presence or threatening a breach of the peace, pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. Title 40-7-103.
The law limits the power of arrest without a warrant to a dozen enumerated grounds and to the general qualifier of a “public offense” or threatened “breach of the peace” committed in the officer’s presence. This standard is already widely abused across our state, as I have steadily reported at TNtrafficticket.us, my news platform.
Given that State of Tennessee does not protect its people against the operation of forbidden general warrants (see bill of rights, section 7, “general warrants *** ought not be granted”), it is easy to see how this illegally operating system in cities and counties will scale up if you panic.
Militarization will require concentration camps in each county. Jails are already full, and people arrested outside of due process will quickly become throngs and crowds of individuals who have to be kept under concertina wire and in tents. Is that a circumstance you are willing to create?
Will it not follow that you will have to act consistently with compulsory vaccinations apart from informed consent — vaccines that will have gone through no long-term double-blind tests, on animals or on other people?
Once you make a decision to approve arrest of people who have committed no public offense, non-infected people who are merely pursuing their private necessities and public duties, you have made a break against us and a breach against us in violation of your oath to uphold the constitution.
This rupture will have many consequences beyond the financial ruination already in progress in Chattanooga and other cities.
Sir, consider most earnestly our constitutional guarantees. Our practicing of our rights is not a threat to good government and to civil order and public health. The rights of 6.5 million individual men and women, boys and girls in our state cannot be quietly laid aside by a proposed “strong response.”
God-given, constitutionally guaranteed, inherent and unalienable rights are not inconveniences to your administration. They are not pawns you can sacrifice to preserve kings and knights. They are, rather, the means by which the people do their duty one to another, protected from interference by authorities and police.
Please do not make us prisoners in our houses and in our towns, threatened with arrest for going to work, going on errands, going to church, going to a child play date at a park, seized for being on the road for an erstwhile “nonessential” activity or without a good “explanation” for the officer.
Perhaps, if we consider God’s covenant, we might see how such a step proposed on your part is His judgment against us for being so inhospitable and so collectivist in our thinking. Many people reject the arrival to others outside the U.S. who yearn to live in a free country, absent fear of police, local lords, drug gangs and poverty in places such as Mexico and Honduras.
Maybe we may deserve being imprisoned in our locales under God’s wrath and covenant and under God’s chastening hand against us for this evil view that many of us hold about immigrants and strangers and aliens. What we want done to them, our own governments now propose to do unto us.
That could be called poetic justice.
That could be called God’s just anger at our disregard for his command to protect and welcome aliens and strangers. (“Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother” Zech 7:10. “One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you” Exodus 12:49. “You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” Exodus 22:21, etc)
Neighborhoods not safe
A lockdown may invite people to act like neighbors. But neighborliness is not a strong American trait. We are an automobile-centric culture, and most Tennesseans don’t know many, if any, neighbors dwelling near. American culture is not personal, familistic, or lococentric. It is full of institutions and networks, but has little community and nominal family life. Neighborhoods generally just districts, with little cohesion and unity among people who live on the same blocks.
In the epidemic, people may feel effusions of goodwill toward neighbors. But the impulse will have little with which to work, because relations among neighbors are distended and nonexistent, with little past connection that cannot be built on short notice.
I request that you persist in your current perspective. Please continue having a high regard for the people in our state, of not viewing them as inert material, mere human plastic that can be molded and reshaped to serve public interest and public health.
Count on them to fulfill necessaries such as social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing. If you esteem the people of Tennessee, Gov. Lee, they will esteem you. They will protect you and defend you from the flak you are getting from the press and from those in your inner circle.
Please, sir, hang tight.
Andy Sher, “Tennessee Gov. Lee: Churches ‘risking people’s lives’ with large services during COVID-19 crisis,” Times Free Press, March 20, 2020. https://www.timesfreepress.com/news/local/story/2020/mar/20/gov-lee-churches-encouraging-large-services-risk/518734/
Brett Kelman and Joel Ebert, “Sources: Despite coronavirus outbreak, Tennessee governor won’t mandate business closures,” Tennessean, March 20, 2020. https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/health/2020/03/21/tennessee-governor-bill-lee-wont-mandate-coronavirus-closures/2883295001/