Will life after COVID-19 be normal? |
By Doug Badger |
Sun Sentinel, March 5, 2021 |
Can the federal government ban evictions? Seems like a pretty straightforward question. But the answer touches on a deeper one, as yet unsettled: Will life after COVID-19 be normal?
Consider what a federal judge said recently when he struck down a Centers for Disease Control ban on evictions, which the Trump administration instituted last year and the Biden administration extended: “Although the COVID-19 pandemic persists, so does the Constitution.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the U.S. and the Western world in myriad ways, altering many of our cultural sensibilities.
Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the inversion of the constitutional order. Before the pandemic, we presumed that we had the right to run our businesses, worship in our churches and move freely about our neighborhoods. We understood the government’s protection of health and safety as a prerequisite of liberty, not a reason to restrict it.
We are acclimating to the idea that liberty is contingent on government officials’ assessments of the latest COVID-19 metrics. Are new cases rising or falling? Are hospitals getting crowded? Have enough people been vaccinated?
Some restrictions are sensible and necessary. Others are misguided and counterproductive. But the most crucial question is this: Has the pandemic permanently altered our understanding of the prerogatives of government?
Our understanding of government power and of liberty are at risk of permanent distortion.
Normal isn’t government permitting us to exercise our liberty. Normal means that we needn’t seek the government’s permission to exercise our liberty.
At some point, we will return to churches and schools, shops and offices, theaters and stadiums because even the most overbearing governments will grant us leave to do so. Things will, in that sense at least, be normal again.
But in another sense, they may never be.