The Coronavirus, the Constitution, and Natural Law

New Warhorn Media post by Tim Bayly:

@tbbayly may agree almost wholeheartedly with what is written, but I find much of it unsatisfactory.

So far as I am aware, the federal government is offering nothing but guidance, and all of the actual legal restraint on the movement of people, closing of business, etc. is happening at the local and state level. So to impute these actions to the federal government brings confusion rather than clarity.

Regarding the morality and constitutionality of local and state actions, I’d wish articles like this to face the fundamental issue squarely, which is the sizeable number of people who would likely die should the restraints be lifted. The article says the fatality rate in countries with good medical care is less than two percent, but considering that many countries have accomplished that low rate by imposing more severe restrictions than we have in the U.S., it undermines the argument of the article. Other countries have accomplished that low rate by very extensive testing and tracing with less general restraint, but the U.S. lacks the ability to do that.

Without extensive testing or tracing or restraint on the gathering of people, the high contagiousness of the disease and the fact that it can be spread by people with little or no symptoms means it will quickly spread through the population. So let’s conservatively say 20% of the population gets infected at the same time and the hospitalization rate is 4% (twice the upper limit on the fatality rate suggested in the article). Running the numbers for my county, 4% of 20% of 3.25 million people is 26,000 people, which is three times the number of hospital beds in the county. Thus, one must either let the hospitals be overwhelmed or declare a policy that most people suffering from COVID-19 will be left to live or die on their own. Either way, there is no longer good medical care, so the fatality rate will go up, especially for the non-elderly without infirmities who benefit most from hospital care. Multiply the number for my county by a hundred to get a number for the U.S. as a whole: 2.6 million needing hospital care.

Of course, there is a lot of uncertainty so the number might be higher or lower, but whatever it is, it seems unlikely to be inconsequential. So why not squarely face the issue that more people may die from an epidemic than our nation has seen in a century, but in full acknowledgment of that likelihood nevertheless make the argument that it is better to suffer those deaths and maintain natural morality and our Constitution? (Or, for other people, maintain jobs and the economy?) Note that I am not asserting that people who hold those views are necessarily wrong, but I think for the purpose of clarity it is good to be open about what the trade-offs are. (The same goes for the lock-down advocates.)


Agreed. And some of them acted before the federal gov was even recommending things.

Absolutely. Here’s an example. Contact tracing as done by some countries (as far as I understand it) requires everybody to install an app on their phone so their location can be tracked and they can be ordered to self-isolate if somebody they came into close contact with tests positive. Would you rather have US governments do that to you or order everybody to isolate themselves. It’s not at all clear to me which would be worse. (But I’ve been operating under the assumption that quarantines are better because they will end.)

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Amen to everything you wrote Joel Norris. I would add, why does this writer (and so many other conservative voices) focus so much vitriol on the $1200 checks people will be receiving? Not saying it is a good or bad thing, but the funding for it only amounts to a small fraction of the bill that was passed. Why not focus on the trillions of dollars being printed and given to banks and large corporations at zero interest so they can then nickle and dime the common man, and then inevitably give themselves exorbitant bonuses in a couple years time!?! Or the pork barrel spending that was chambered and ready for the right crisis to come along!?! No, instead the greatest travesty to many conservatives is that the little guy may actually get a pittance out of this package.


You’ve just put your finger on an issue which I think has been avoided (at least it’s been ignored) thus far in these discussions, viz. the political dimensions of the decisions taken by the civil magistrate in the United States.

Civil libertarians, for example, are decrying the danger of the stay-at-home orders and similar restrictive decisions by local, state, and federal governments. But consider, please - if indeed the only options are (1) impose the restrictions (even if “unlawfully” by constitutional standards) in order to dampen the spread of the epidemic, or (2) maintain all the civil liberties of movement and association in full knowledge that the death toll will range into the low millions - if these are the only options, which one do you think can be successfully pulled off by the political party in power at the time?

Looked at another way - if no restraints were imposed, and if the price for that decision was a death toll in the millions, do you think any political party not in power would not exploit that dire result in order to dethrone the civil magistrates who refused to impose the restraints on movement and association? Do you think the civil magistrates in power do not think along these lines?


In fact it appears that several governors (mostly or all in the GOP?) have refused to do what “everybody” is recommending. I think they have taken a real political risk, which means there will be a cost to them if people think they are wrong. And people are already decrying them (along with Trump) for wasting time and not taking action soon enough.

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Woot! Woot! And the decriers (mostly or exclusively loyal to the Democratic party) are doing this even though (1) Trump’s shutting down travel from China, and soon thereafter from the entirety of Europe, was done against the howls of opposition from these same decriers, who (2) spent January trying to dethrone Trump via impeachment instead of raising an alarm about the pandemic brewing in China.

I’ve watched the body politic in the USA for around 60 years (i.e. since I was 10 years old; my family was always talking about religion and politics, heatedly so too). My conclusion, now that I’m entering my dotage, is that American voters are profoundly (and, possibly, irremediably) double-minded, so that the primary aim of political parties is to deploy whatever carrots and sticks are effective in moving the herd in the direction they prefer. I am, therefore, pessimistic about any return to “normalcy” in the wake of this pandemic. It has enough power, in the hands of our political handlers, to work permanent and irreversible changes at all levels of our national life. The political powers that be will not waste such a grand disaster to arrange matters so as to enhance and protect their powers.

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You must have missed his statement: “Nobody seriously disputes the right of local government to keep the contagious off the streets for a week or two to prevent the spread of diseases or of the federal government to put a block or two off limits during wartime military movements.”

Again, did you miss the statement above?

Then John writes:

The individual payments are not need-based, and thus particularly pernicious in their debasement of our national civic character, nakedly appeasing and pacifying individuals directly. Yes, of course it’s mind-numbing to read through the larger amounts given to PBS, Kennedy Center, National Endowment for the Arts, and so on; but the corruption of the electorate is so destructive. And this is not even to mention theft-by-inflation by which we rob future generations yet unborn.

Our Governor Holcomb’s order explicitly places “religious institutions” in the category of “Essential Businesses and Operations” stating “religious gatherings” are permitted “provided they adhere to the CDC’s guidelines on social gatherings.”

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BTW, just tweeted: "Our Governor Holcomb’s order explicitly places ‘religious institutions’ in the category of ‘Essential Businesses and Operations’ stating ‘religious gatherings’ are permitted ‘provided they adhere to the CDC’s guidelines on social gatherings.’”

We have already held a funeral service observing social distancing and we are contemplating a drive-in Easter Sunday service, although it may not be held due to fear that people driving by would misunderstand.

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My understanding is that those who make under $75,000 annually will receive the checks in full, with the amount tapering off until reaching zero once one makes $99,000 annually. Certainly some will receive money that do not have a need for it, but would it be so easy to create a means-testing system other than a simple metric like annual income, that can be rapidly implemented to get funding to families who need it desperately? I don’t think so. And again, the total for this direct payment is $250 billion out of the $6 Trillion that has been dolled out thus far.

In a federal reserve system, where money can be printed off on a whim (yes, at the expense of future generations) it is not surprising to see our bloated federal government resorting to its favorite activity. The question is how that money will be allocated, and I’d personally rather see as much money be widely distributed to the masses as possible, as opposed to giving it to the elites, who as we saw in the 2008 crisis, cannot be trusted to do anything but cast off their toxic assets and create their “golden parachutes.”

I’m afraid the country that we all long for, one of fiscal responsibility, stewardship of what we have been blessed with for future generations, has long ago dissolved into a multi-cultural pagan mish-mash. To pine for the good old days before the 1965 Immigration Act when we had a homogeneous population with a culture centered around self-responsibility and sustainability seems delusional. The genie is already out of the bottle. We are no longer that nation.

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Yes, and now it seems to many to be particularly justified. What a shame.

5 posts were split to a new topic: Is the money individuals will be “given” by Uncle Sam going to be reclaimed?

No. I didn’t miss that statement. What I saw was the following statement:

What is being done now is virtually a complete ban on most travel. It is clearly contrary to Supreme Court opinions that hold unconstitutional the confinement of people to their home state without due process, a sort of return to the old English writ ne exeat regno.

The implication is that the federal government is doing it, which it is not. And it is false anyway. I can still get in my car and drive to Tennessee. Ohio isn’t preventing me. The closest you get is FL requiring people arriving from New Orleans to self-quarantine for two weeks. Likewise, I might not be able to find a flight to Ethiopia right now, but the US isn’t gong to prevent me from going, though Ethiopia might prevent me from arriving. As far as I can tell, the comparison to the old English law that prevents you from leaving the country is specious.

Then the next paragraph:

At least in peacetime the federal government is constitutionally forbidden to deprive citizens of any reasonable use of their property without fair compensation. That is exactly what the government is doing when it closes restaurants and stores.

Now he explicitly claims the federal government is depriving people of the use of their property. It isn’t, to my knowledge. Can anybody point out where this is happening?

In other words, though there may not be as much subsidiarity as we want to see, he seems to have stepped away from reality to make his point. Each state is free to do what they want. Even Washington D.C. is refusing to use the model that the White House uses as they prepare for the “surge” they think is coming. Yet he pretends that not only the federal government but international authority is being invoked. That’s crazy talk.

As to the cash payouts (and yes, the centralization they cause), and the 10 person rule, I’m in complete agreement. Grocery stores are not limited to 10 people. I’ve argued elsewhere that church services are not like grocery stores, and they aren’t. But they ought to be doing the same thing, which limits the number of people gathering on the basis of the space available and following procedures to keep people safe. The procedures would simply need to be different for services. I think there is a good case to be made for challenging this rule (at the state level) as being unconstitutional, but I’m not a lawyer. :slight_smile:

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You and Joel didn’t mention his attribution of the initial quarantines to local governments and his explicit approval of them.

As for travel bans, you blur the distinction between what is strictly legal and what is the present state of affairs, practically. As he said, “most travel.” Planes are flying empty not simply because people don’t want to fly, but because of the national/federal cloud that has descended from doomsday DC every minute on TV. Most people would think they’d be incarcerated if they tried to show up at an airport and fly.


Really?!? Nice!

Yeah. Pastors’ taxes are very weird. You’re treated as both an employee and self-employed. You basically get to deduct your housing twice. It’s not worth trying to explain further. lol.


That’s because he acknowledges that such would be legal but then goes on in the next sentence to contrast that with what he claims is actually happening: “What is being done now…” At least that’s how I read it, and I can’t figure out what else to make of it. He is explicitly saying that what is happening now is unconstitutional (at least regarding travel). If that is the case, then the government does not have the authority to do what they are doing. I don’t see how else to read it. I don’t mind (as I did above) making an argument that some bit here or there might not be strictly constitutional and need to be worked through. Another example: I’ve been concerned about the enforcement I saw against a pastor and church (linked elsewhere on this site) because it actually appeared from pictures that they may have been taking appropriate steps regarding distancing.

But I don’t think it’s right to claim that the current travel restrictions are wholesale unconstitutional, which again, seems to me is certainly what he argues by mischaracterizing what is being done.

Agreed. But it’s not the federal government bringing the fire and pain on people who would dare to think about traveling. It’s the media. Besides, most travel is not flying, which is the only thing the federal government is involved in at all.

Edit: I should probably add that I think much of what the federal government does is actually unconstitutional… :expressionless: Interstate commerce and all that.

Yeah, son, you probably should add that. And I fulsomely agree! Love,

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One of my favorite security experts has this to say about the tradeoffs:

I think the effects of COVID-19 will be more drastic than the effects of the terrorist attacks of 9/11: not only with respect to surveillance, but across many aspects of our society. And while many things that would never be acceptable during normal time are reasonable things to do right now, we need to makes sure we can ratchet them back once the current pandemic is over.

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The reason people aren’t traveling is that there is not much reason to do so. Business and professional meetings are cancelled. Why go on vacation if you will be confined to your hotel room the whole time? Why visit grandma and take a chance at infecting her with a deadly disease?

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