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Guest opinion: Government precautions to fight COVID-19 must not infringe upon personal liberty

It is not the proper role of government to force closure of private businesses or criminalize peaceful gatherings over an arbitrary limit, or to force healthy citizens into quarantine.

Ashlee Jessen shouts to motorists as Utahns rally against a state stay-at-home request at the City-County Building in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 18, 2020.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Force creates fear, nonproductive behavior and economic chaos. This is not the time for fear, but for clear-headed thought. We need rational government leadership at all levels, and our capacity to unite and work together. The state of Utah is doing a good job keeping the people informed so the people can make wise choices and govern themselves. This is working, and most Utahns are trying to do whatever is necessary to be safe. Anne Schlafly Cori, chairwoman of the National Eagle Forum, wisely said, “In previous pandemics, the sick were isolated. In this pandemic, every single person is isolated.” In 42 states, the governors have issued statewide stay-at-home orders. Fortunately, Utah is not one of these states.

Our personal liberty is the most important thing to protect, and we all need to recognize that with liberty comes responsibility. It is not the proper role of government to force private businesses to close. This will force small-business owners, the foundation of our economy, to lose their businesses, and employees to be out of work, causing lives to be ruined and families put at risk because there is no income for food, rent and the necessities of life. There are no financial reserves to carry them through this crisis. Even when the pandemic is over, large and small businesses and their employees will have to live with the reality of the financial dilemma forced on them by government, and the general conversation will be focused mostly on the economic catastrophe and its ongoing fallout.

Government does have a proper role in any situation of this nature, and that role should be to facilitate and provide every resource necessary to prevent contamination from the coronavirus, as well as developing and distributing all possible solutions and materials for those who ultimately contract the disease. Government has the responsibility to disseminate, without spin or agenda, the most current, accurate and relevant information regarding threat status and local conditions. Government has the authority to close the public schools in order to protect the children and their families. It is appropriate for government to determine and disseminate realistic guidelines for private businesses. This will help them protect themselves and the public and promote consistency and continuity. These defensive measures are appropriate for the common good.

Applying force in our current situation, individually or collectively, is not appropriate within the scope of the proper role of government, or necessary in promoting the common good. The only exception may be in a specific situation to protect individual lives in imminent danger. We have seen the result of government forcing closures in the private sector. They are devastating and economically catastrophic, both individually and collectively. Under no logical or rational definition can this be seen as working for the common good. The same result would be achieved voluntarily by virtue of realistic individual and corporate responsibility and self-interest. That is the virtue and reality of a free society and the free market. My husband Don and I have made the decision to stay in our home to protect ourselves. We are in the “high-risk” age category, and Don had major heart surgery recently. We did not need the government to force us into quarantine. We also believe most Americans will make wise choices without government coercion. We have already seen this happen as churches and private schools have made the choice to close their doors without government mandates.

Most individuals and businesses, given the truth about their situations, will do the right thing. Blame is easy but counterproductive, and at this point, irrelevant. Both the federal and state governments, if they want the public’s faith and trust, need to restore fundamental liberties to the people and private businesses.

Now is the time to stand for liberty. It is not the proper role of government to force closure of private businesses or criminalize peaceful gatherings over an arbitrary limit, or to force healthy citizens into quarantine. Urgency and panic have prompted acceptance and we cannot, must not, accept any unwarranted infringement on our liberties.

May God bless us, and may God bless America.

Gayle Ruzicka is the president of the Utah Eagle Forum.