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John Stossel / Apr. 22, 2020

Government Goes Too Far

I'm "social distancing." I stay away from people. I do it voluntarily. There's a big difference between voluntary — and force.

I’m “social distancing.” I stay away from people.

I do it voluntarily.

There’s a big difference between voluntary — and force.

Government is force. The media want more of that.

“Ten states have no stay-at-home orders!” complains Don Lemon On CNN. “Some governors are still refusing to take action!”

Fox News’ host Steve Hilton agreed. “Shut things down! Everywhere. That includes Utah, Wyoming…”

But wait a second. People in Utah and Wyoming already socially distanced just by living there. Why must Utah and Wyoming have the same stay-at-home rules as New York?

I find it creepy how eager some people are for authorities to boss us around.

That’s the topic of my new video.

In Raleigh, North Carolina, people gathered to protest a “stay-at-home” order. The police arrested a protester and tweeted, “Protesting is a non-essential activity.”

I bet they got a chuckle out of that. But our Constitution guarantees Americans the right to “peaceably assemble” and “petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

The coronavirus doesn’t override the Constitution.

Protests also erupted in Michigan, where Gov. Gretchen Whitmer imposed some absurd rules. She declared, “All public or private gatherings of any size are prohibited.” Her executive order stopped people from seeing relatives and banned anyone with more than one home to travel between them.

Big-box stores are allowed to stay open, but they must not sell things like carpet, flooring, furniture, garden supplies, paint, etc. So, Walmart stores are open, but some of their shelves have tape blocking certain products.

That’s just dumb.

Gardening and painting can be done far away from other people.

So can exercise. But in California, police chased down and arrested a paddleboarder paddling in the ocean. He was far more than 6 feet away from anyone.

In Encinitas, California, police fined people $1,000 just for sitting in cars to watch the sunset at the beach. Yes, inside their cars. The police said, “We want compliance from everybody (because of) lives that we’re trying to save.”

But it’s not clear that demanding total compliance is the best way to save lives.

Sweden took a near-opposite approach.

Yes, they encouraged older people to stay inside and sick people to stay home. They didn’t want hospitals overwhelmed. But otherwise, Sweden is carrying on almost as normal.

“Closing schools, stringent measures like that, closing borders, you cannot do that for months or years,” said epidemiologist Anders Tegnell of the Swedish Health Agency. “What we are doing in Sweden we can continue doing for a very long time. I think that’s going to prove to be very important in the long run.”

The long run matters most.

Since a vaccine is probably at least a year away, the Swedes reason that the best protection is what epidemiologists call “herd immunity,” a critical mass of people who get the disease and then are resistant to it.

The hope is that once enough people get coronavirus, there will be enough immunity to prevent mass outbreaks later. Many of the most vulnerable may then be able to avoid ever getting the virus.

The jury is still out on this experiment. More than 1,500 Swedes have died, five times the death rate of neighboring Norway. But if Swedes acquire “herd immunity,” their death rate will be the first to drop.

Other European countries agree that lockdowns are not sustainable.

Last week, Denmark reopened nursery and elementary schools. Germany opened retail stores this week. Norway opens schools next week. Austria reopens shops to people who wear masks on May 1.

That seems smarter than the “absolute shutdown” promoted by so many American authorities. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has threatened to “shut off water and power” to homes of people who do not shelter in place.

Shut off water and power?

Politicians rush to limit our choices in the name of “keeping us safe.” They don’t even want to think about places like Sweden or the argument that leaving us alone might make us safer.

They just like pushing people around.

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