The Democrat governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, has come out with an op-ed in the New York Times today calling for a federal nation-wide mandate requiring people to wear masks. She says that that’s the way to save lives from Covid-19.
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, Whitmer fails to provide any constitutional justification for such a mandate. I know it sounds quaint to a Democrat or, for that matter, to a Republican, to bring up the Constitution in the midst of a crisis, but it’s important that we libertarians continue to call these people out when they endorse tyrannical measures, especially since it might dissuade them from endorsing even more.
When the delegates at the Constitutional Convention proposed replacing the federal government under the Articles of Confederation with a new federal government under the Constitution, the American people were leery. They didn’t want a federal government that wielded the power to do the “right” thing, even in crises or emergencies. They knew that that was a surefire way to lose their liberty and their well-being.
No problem, the proponents of the Constitution responded. By the terms of the Constitution itself, which was the document calling the federal government into existence, its powers would be limited to those enumerated in the document. If a power wasn’t enumerated, it couldn’t be exercised.
One searches the Constitution in vain for any power of the federal government to force anyone to wear a mask. The power simply does not exist. Gretchen and her cohorts could go the route of amending the Constitution to provide for such a power. But until then, the federal government simply lacks the power to enact a law requiring people to wear masks.
In fact, the Constitution doesn’t even grant the federal government the power to involve itself in healthcare at all.
Where in the Constitution does it authorize the federal government to establish Medicare and Medicaid?
Where in the Constitution does it authorize the federal government to establish the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services, the president’s task force on Covid-19, or any other law, rule, regulation, agency, or department dealing with healthcare?
Today, most Americans, including even some libertarians, have come to accept the federal government’s role in healthcare. They have become so accustomed and perhaps even dependent on the federal government’s taking care of people that they don’t care that the Constitution doesn’t authorize such power. All that matters to them is that they federal government continue being “charitable” by providing the elderly and the poor with healthcare and protecting everyone with federal agencies, departments, bureaucracies, mandates, lockdowns, laws, edicts, rules, and regulations to keep them safe from the coronavirus.
At the same time, however, many of these Americans love railing against President Trump and federal healthcare bureaucrats on how they are dealing with the crisis. The implication is that if only Trump and his federal cohorts would follow this plan or that plan, rather than their own plan, everything would be hunky-dory.
Such people still just don’t get it. The problem is not that Trump and his healthcare cohorts are mismanaging the Covid-19 crisis, and the solution is not to adopt a different plan, including ones proposed by libertarians. The problem instead is the fact that the federal government is involved in healthcare in the first place, and the solution is to get the federal government out of healthcare entirely.
In other words, to get out of the healthcare morass in which America is mired, it is necessary for the American people to think at a higher level — or outside the box, if you will. That higher level involves more than just carping and criticizing public officials on how they are screwing up and how things would be better if only different people were in charge.
That higher level is the one that was established by our American ancestors — one that involves a federal government with very few enumerated powers. In the healthcare arena, that means no federal involvement in healthcare at all.
No more Medicare and Medicaid at all, which are the root cause of the healthcare crisis that preceded Covid-19. And no more Centers for Disease Control, FDA, DEA, Department of Health and Human Services, and all laws, rules, regulations, departments, agencies, and laws dealing with healthcare.
In other words, a total separation of healthcare and the state. This could be accomplished with a clear and unambiguous amendment to the Constitution, such as: “No law shall be enacted respecting the establishment of healthcare or abridging the free exercise thereof.” If such an amendment were adopted, Americans would no longer have to be carping and complaining about how the president and other federal officials are handling a healthcare crisis because the federal government would lack the power to deal with healthcare.
Crises present both danger and opportunity. Faced with the danger of extreme healthcare tyranny by both Democrats and Republicans, Americans have the opportunity to lead America and the world to healthcare liberty and well-being. Now is the time to think about separating healthcare and the state, in the same way our ancestors wisely separated church and state.