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OPINION

Altruism Is Not a Government Program

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

If there is no native, authentic drive behind a requirement for self-sacrifice, the bill eventually comes due, usually in the form of degraded trust, electoral retribution, or worse, violence.

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Altruism is not a government program. Compelled sacrifice is a very real possibility when the people have granted authority to a representative government, but there is no duty-bound obligation to adhere to proposed mandates. You must, of course, suffer the consequences where a legal authority has the means to conjure violence and force compliance—but you cannot force a man into altruism, especially when that man believes that the actions you are trying to compel don’t help at all, or that they are harmful. 

Applying this to our COVID-19 policies, the stay-at-home orders were indeed a great sacrifice for many, many families. If you failed to follow those mandates you could be detained, arrested, fined, and imprisoned. On the other hand, it is perfectly reasonable for one to feel a sense of pride in performing an offering that you believe will help others. Authentic belief is the separating motive between compelled behavior and a willing sacrifice. Altruism can only be had with a trust that one’s actions will indeed make a positive difference. You cannot legislate morality as the saying goes. 

The problem is that there is almost zero evidence that any of the COVID-19 mandates had any positive effect on the outcome of the pandemic. After the examination of four hundred studies, the Brownstone Institute concludes, “Nearly all governments have attempted compulsory measures to control the virus, but no government can claim success. The research indicates that mask mandates, lockdowns, and school closures have had no discernible impact on virus trajectories.”

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Nothing the Government Forced on Us Worked 

Social distancing, lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, masking, and quarantines: all of these had no measurable effect on the course of the pandemic. An obligation to sacrifice one’s freedoms, wealth, time, happiness, ease, and comforts to stop a disease can only hold efficacy when there is proof that the sacrifice works. We don’t call it to love when a mother cat licks her kitten to death. We call it obsession… 

The Institutions Failed and Keep Failing

 For masks, the incredible mesh of confusion and ridiculous policies greatly degraded one’s trust in any other interventions. You must wear your mask on your way to a table, but you can take it off to eat. Your preschool child must don the mask for most of the school day but must remove it to take a midday nap lying next to the other children. The chaos ran deep in every walk of life and sometimes differed per county. One restaurant in Los Angeles County was barred from hosting dine-in hosts, whereas a restaurant five hundred feet away in Orange County welcomed maskless diners all day long. Common sense was nowhere to be found, and its absence inhibited any sense that the measures taken were for the “greater good.” 

The governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, whose actions during the pandemic stood out in sharp contrast to those of almost every other governor in the country, implemented legislation that put specific triggers in place to ensure that no county health director could declare an emergency with unending powers.4 The county must prove with data-driven analysis that there was truly a need for compelled action on the citizenry in reaction to a health crisis. For most of the pandemic, a simple roll call of cases rising was enough to shut down entire school systems and businesses with only hours’ notice. Unlike almost every other legislative or executive initiative, there was no specific justification needed to implement these. In many cases, color tiers and trigger levels were set by the state or the county to automatically implement some type of intervention. These proved to be unwieldy and moved like a goalpost on wheels. 

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In the end, the government could compel you to action, but it could not truly claim that action as a willing sacrifice. If there is no native, authentic drive behind a requirement for self-sacrifice, the bill eventually comes due, usually in the form of degraded trust, electoral retribution, or worse, violence.

Justin Hart is the author of the new book: Gone Viral: How COVID Drove the World Insane and chief data analyst and founder of RationalGround.com, which helps companies, public officials, and even parents gauge the impact of COVID-19 across the country. 

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