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Letter: Even the earliest libertarians would’ve supported a mask mandate

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This photo shows tax lever from the 1790s with Alexander Hamilton’s name during a media tour of the new City of Philadelphia Archives in Philadelphia, on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018.

Matt Rourke, Associated Press

Alexander Hamilton, the highly libertarian founder of the earliest pro-business republican political party (called the Federalists), responds to libertarian Republicans today who don’t believe it is government’s job to regulate personal preferences, like wearing masks.

Hamilton, in Federalist No. 15, writes, “Government implies the power of making laws. It is essential to the idea of a law, that it be attended with a sanction; or, in other words, a penalty or punishment for disobedience. If there be no penalty annexed to disobedience, the resolutions or commands which pretend to be laws will, in fact, amount to nothing more than advice or recommendation.”

In other words, if there is a law to stop the spread of plague in the community, it can be enforced. Do you really think we would have an Old Testament to read today if Moses had come down from the mountain with the Ten Suggestions? 

Hamilton digs even deeper. He asks, “Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice, without constraint (aka enforcement).”

Hamilton would say this is exactly what is happening in America today. Citizens will not conform their passions to scientific reason, or public health justice, so they must be compelled to do so by force of law.

Kimball Shinkoskey

Woods Cross