RIP, U. S. Constitution: Our New “Pandemic Surveillance State”
Byron King, Managing Editor, Whiskey & Gunpowder
While most Americans are unafflicted by coronavirus, the Constitution — certainly, the Bill of Rights — is ready for a trip to the morgue.
You may not (yet) fully appreciate the tightening grip of government. After all, you’re probably at home. Perhaps you work remotely, or you keep to yourself and do your thing. All while you await whatever comes next. The hard hand of the state has not tapped you on the shoulder.
When you venture out, however, you’ll soon detect that many traditional American freedoms are suspended. We’ll see how many of those “freedoms” come back in the weeks and months to come as the biologic problem fades and power-politics begins to overwhelm.
Let’s dig into this…
Start with the fact that you’re at home, per government order. Perhaps you can go outside for a walk or exercise, or to do yard work or buy groceries. Still, in a legal sense, it’s mass house arrest. No due process. You committed no crime. You did nothing wrong. But you must stay at home because there’s a medical issue that has prompted “disaster” orders in all 50 states.
Things might be relatively laid back where you are. If so, good for you. You’re lucky. But across the country, there are places with tight restrictions, curfews and enforcement patrols by police. In other words, it’s medical martial law. Ask yourself, is this normal in America? Has anything like this happened across the republic in the past… oh… 236 years?
“It’s the virus,” they say. And medically, that’s a valid point. Let’s respect the math and science here. We’re confronting a nasty, infectious disease.
In fact, due to the lockdown of the past month, it appears that the U.S. will keep overall virus deaths under 60,000 by the end of July. Had there been no lockdown, statistics indicate there would have been over 2 million virus deaths by July.
So yes, every day of lockdown, and of enforced “social distancing,” has been important for keeping more people alive.
Meanwhile, you’re still homebound per government order. As a matter of law, your state governor locked you down, not President Trump. And you’re supposed to stay at home until told otherwise by… by whom? By the government, of course.
Don’t worry, the talking heads and spokespeople promise. Sooner or later you’ll be liberated. In one way or another, you’ll get your walking papers.
Perhaps parole will come from your governor. Or maybe President Trump will issue a national declaration, instructing governors what to do.
Actually, those two possibilities have moved an unsettled legal issue to the top of the current debate. Exactly who has “power” to set the nation free? And American politics being what it is, right away we have a Constitutional matter of state versus federal. Uh-oh.
But let’s stick to the immediate point, which is that in almost every part of the country people are not supposed to go out except for very specific reasons. We are living under a new form of feudalism, as I discussed recently.
You can leave your home for food or health care. And you can go to work — but just to work, mind you! — if you hold a job that your governor has labeled an “essential” part of the economy.
Again, I get it. The idea is to promote self-isolation. Restrict public contact. Lower the risk of people catching the bug. Break the chain of transmission for coronavirus.
But it strikes me that some of our political bosses — definitely some governors — seem to enjoy their newfound power of control way too much.
Just as the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
Consider the governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer. She recently restricted what so-called “essential” businesses like grocery stores can sell. As she put it,: “If you’re not buying food, medicine or other essential items, you should not be going to the store.”
Whitmer ordered big-box retailers like Walmart and Target to shutter entire sections of their stores. In effect, the governor has barred customers from purchasing “non-essential” items such as auto parts, paint, hammers and nails, even gardening supplies down to seeds.
In Michigan, gardening ist verboten!
This draconian policy, according to the governor, is intended to limit unnecessary foot traffic in public spaces exempt from the state-wide shutdown.
But wait! Not all foot traffic is unnecessary. As the Detroit Free Press noted, “In-store purchases of Michigan Lottery tickets are still permitted.”
Lottery, yes. But buying a can of paint or a bag of seeds is a no-no. And so is buying a U.S. flag in Michigan. Off limits… Seriously.
Michigan Costco store. “Caution,” because flags are off limits.
Clearly, Whitmer has an odd set of priorities. She’s fine with lottery tickets, likely because Michigan needs the money. But people are barred from buying seeds — meaning they can’t plant a garden during this so-called “war” we’re waging. Let alone purchase a U.S. flag, representing the very political system that gives these politicians such power.
If you are a Michigander and don’t like what’s happening, I suppose you could take the governor to court. But wait… most courts across the U.S. are closed too, per the virus. (More to come on that topic in a future issue!)
The national lockdown, and associated government control, reflects a dangerous a new political ethic taking hold in the U.S. It’s part of a long-term trend. Indeed, it’s no stretch to argue that the U.S. has long been moving towards a “post-Constitution” form of governance.
For example, Congress long ago ditched any semblance of an entity that can act only pursuant to “enumerated powers” of the Constitution, Article I, Section 8. And the “executive power” of Article II has long trended towards what has been termed an “Imperial Presidency.” Meanwhile, Article III judges — from district courts to Supreme Court — have long been rewriting basic terms of the Constitution to mean whatever the politics of the day demands.
Looking ahead, it appears that from local to state to federal levels, we’re experiencing the bow wave of a “monitor-and-control” system, coming into effect under the guise of public safety, all because of an invisible virus. This looming new system includes extensive control of the economy by government, via diktats over what is “essential” or not.
Long ago, Confucius noted that it’s important to call things by their correct names. Okay… We’re staring down the barrel of a “pandemic surveillance state.”
Technology has brought us to the point where every American can now be tracked, if by nothing else but mobile phones. The justification for tracking is that if you encounter anyone who later is found to have coronavirus, all parties can be “alerted” and referred to quarantine. Whew! Dodge that viral bullet, eh?
Apparently, we’re not supposed to worry about this loss of privacy and freedom of movement. We’re not supposed to worry about this loss of ability to work and earn a living under government lockdown. Not supposed to worry about the prospect of “medical apartheid.”
The heck with that old-fashioned Constitution. After all, everything will be fine, right? It’s all going to be overseen by a new species of bureaucrat; an enlightened "expert" who knows about public health. It’ll be good for you… right?
While it’s all coming into play, most courts are closed just now. How reassuring.
Maybe we should take comfort in the thought that even the devil enjoys a good laugh now and again. Because as we walk through this dark door into the surveillance future, some things are just plain ridiculous.
For example, in the name of preventing the spread of virus, an average citizen can now be arrested just for swimming in the ocean, like this paddle boarder who was recently busted in Malibu. (Truly, I can’t make this up.)
Maritime police arrest man for paddle boarding. Photo by LA County Sheriff Office.
Let’s sum it up… You’re likely stuck at home. If you leave, there’s no “right of assembly” because of the virus lockdown. Protests are “not essential,” per police who made a recent bust in North Carolina.
Courts are closed. Churches are closed. All this while most businesses are closed unless deemed “essential” by government authorities.
Right now, your traditional American liberties are gone. You just don’t know it because you’re under lockdown at home. And looking ahead, we have yet to see any firm guidelines for reopening not just the economy, but the Bill of Rights.
Preliminary forecasts from a variety of think tanks predict something like a “rolling” lift of the lockdown over 18 to 24 months. But even that has the caveat of intermittent periods back in lockdown, depending on new virus breakouts. Try planning your life around that…
Along the way, our government officials will surely pat themselves on the back for all their brave actions that lowered mortality. We’ll be told ad nauseam how the end justified the means.
Sad to say, we’ll likely see more government controls in the months and years to come. Heck, lockdowns may become the new “norm,” even for the seasonal flu.
Meanwhile, RIP, U.S. Constitution, 1789–2020.