New Poll Says 'Temporary Safety' Is Kicking 'Essential Liberty's' Butt

AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey
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New York Gov, Andrew Cuomo holds his face mask while talking to the media at the New York Stock Exchange, Tuesday, March 26, 2020. Gov. Cuomo rang the opening bell as the trading floor partially reopened during the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

One thing the ongoing pandemic panic is showing us is just how incredibly fragile our liberties are when confronted by political players willing to use the color of science and pseudo-science to curtail our ability to exercise rights guaranteed to us by the US Constitution.

Across the nation, we’ve seen governors and mayors enact arbitrary rules and regulations controlling the circumstances under which you can leave your home, how many visitors you can have, requiring you to sit on the sand rather than a chair, etc., etc., all under the shabby pretense of protecting us from the dreaded Wuhan virus, or China virus in the terminology of President Trump. These rules and regulations have all been promulgated by people who a) are not elected, b) not accountable, and c) who seemingly don’t know their ass from a hot rock.

More troubling is we’ve seen police forces arrest parents in front of their children for being on an empty playground, we’ve seen a mother tased for not wearing a face diaper and a high school sports event by a police officer who was not wearing one but who didn’t tase himself, we’ve seen high ranking public officials move their own parent out of a nursing home as they were signing an order requiring nursing homes to accept Wuhan virus patients, and we’ve even seen the Supreme Court agree that a governor can close churches while keeping casinos open.


The question, for me, comes back always to “how long will Americans put up with the tyranny of fearmongers? The answer appears to be “quite some time.” This from the Washington Post: New survey: Yes, Americans will give up liberties to fight the coronavirus:

Our Web-based survey was distributed by Qualtrics nationwide from Aug. 7 to Sept. 7. Quotas based on race, gender, age and census statistical division, matched to 2018 Census estimates, were put in place to ensure a demographically and geographically representative sample. Respondents were presented with either/or policy choices that explicitly emphasized public health and civil rights trade-offs, giving us a window into public opinion about what sacrifices are appropriate.

Specifically, we asked whether the government should be able to:

· Require people to wear masks in public — or not, out of respect for personal freedom

· Close nonessential businesses — or not, out of respect for economic freedom

· Require people to cooperate with contact tracers — or not, out of respect for the right to privacy

· Require people to stay at home — or not, out of respect for freedom of movement

· Restrict religious gatherings — or not, because of religious freedom

· Restrict public demonstrations — or not, because of freedom of speech and assembly

· Suspend asylum and refugee admissions — or not, protecting human rights

· Use cellphone data to track the movement of people who test positive for the coronavirus — or not, given a right to privacy.

Respondents overwhelmingly and consistently agreed the government should be able to place restrictions and requirements on businesses and people to protect public health.


I’m going to quote more text that I ordinarily would but the absence of any link to an actual document prevents it. The survey asked about support for eight specific policies: mandatory mask-wearing; shut down businesses; mandate cooperation with contact tracers; mandatory stay-at-home; curtail religious services; restrict demonstrations; restrict asylum, and give the government access to cell phone data.

As you can see in the figure below, 69.4 percent to 78.3 percent of our respondents support the government’s right to implement six of the eight proposed policies. Only 60 percent support policies designed to restrict asylum and refugee programs. The majority (58.3 percent) rejected only one proposed policy: using cellphone data to track infected people, a method primarily deployed in other countries.

There was also a link to Trump:

Not surprisingly, individuals’ party affiliations affect which policies they support. On average, Democrats support 74.2 percent of the listed policies; Republicans support 61.5 percent; Libertarians support 52.1 percent; independents, 68 percent; and those affiliated with other parties, 61.3 percent. However, as you can see in the figure below, whether respondents approve of President Trump’s job performance moderates the effect of party affiliation for Republicans, Democrats, independents, and libertarians. Across party lines, those critical of the president are more likely to favor limits on rights and freedoms to protect public health. Accordingly, Republicans critical of Trump are more supportive of restrictive policies than Democrats who approve of his performance. In other words, Trump support trumps partisanship.


On the one hand, the poll appears to be largely crap. The fact that they don’t mention the number of surveys sent out, response rate, etc. is a hint that they don’t want their work too closely examined.

Having said that, outside of a few flashes of independence, as a nation we’ve been totally supine as our liberties have been stripped away in the service of defeating a virus that is highly survivable:

On the eve of the French and Indian War, Benjamin Franklin gave a speech in the Pennsylvania legislature that has become famous. “Those,” he said, “who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” In this case, Franklin was telling Scots Irish settlers on the frontier to suck it up and deal with Indian raids because the political skirmish he was having with the Penn proprietors was the real important issue.

Our dilemma is much worse. We are sacrificing essential liberties, like assembly, and worship, and the ability to go to your father’s funeral without ending up jailed, for nothing. Not. A. Single. Thing. If we accept that, we deserve whatever the multi-degreed sociopaths in lab coats dole out to us.




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