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COVID Pandemic Proves One-Size-Fits-All Government Mandates Aren’t the Answer

June 7, 2021

If there’s one lesson the pandemic has made abundantly clear, it’s that one-size-fits-all government mandates are never the right solution, particularly when those mandates impact private property and businesses. Because politicians are fallible human beings, government mandates are often misguided and counterproductive. That’s certainly been proven in the past eighteen months—which revealed instances of government withholding approvals of safe medicines, overtly lying to the public for the “greater good,” forcing nursing homes to take actions that ended up costing many lives, and forcing businesses to abide by mask mandates, curfews, and occupancy restrictions.

For example, politicians in Tucson imposed a senseless and illegal curfew, the governor of California adopted a complicated and ever-changing list of restrictions on businesses—despite the fact that they were operating safely—and the governor of Michigan banned the sale of car seats, and ordered the closure of certain sections of department stores. Arbitrary and broad-based mandates like these—that take no consideration of local circumstances or the particular facts of a particular business—don’t enable people to decide for themselves what risks are worth taking, and therefore transfer the power to decide from people to bureaucrats. 

But bureaucrats don’t answer to customers—they’re paid whether or not they get the answer right. That lack of incentive means that instead of competing to innovate, they typically try to freeze things in place by imposing what they consider the “one right way” of doing things—even when the evidence is incomplete or nonexistent. That’s how you get things like rules forbidding the use of rapid testing for COVID, or bureaucracies halting the distribution of safe vaccines in ways that scare people away from using them. In medicine, as in many things, the best solutions arise from letting adults negotiate with each other, come up with new alternatives, and bear the responsibility for their own decisions.

Read the rest of the op-ed at the Daily Independent.

Timothy Sandefur is the Vice President for Litigation at the Goldwater Institute.




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