Anybody watching the news in any state in America is reading about the closure, by state and local governments, of many businesses. Most of them, but not all, of those businesses are in the hospitality trade like bars and restaurants. They could be closed for weeks, maybe months.
Many Americans are employed in those jobs and that’s why an economic rescue package is being devised by the Trump administration. But, what about the question of closing down businesses in the first place? Should state and local governments have that right or are the nation’s leaders overreacting to what is basically the flu?
Any state where the free market is run by the government is not totally free. That gives the state the power to decide who will prosper and who will fail, who will eat and who will starve.
Granted, the current public health situation is precarious. But not all states are screaming the sky is falling. Texas has not closed bars and restaurants yet and may not do so at all. They may order some limitations on sales. But that is a far cry from throwing people out of work and some businesses into bankruptcy.
And what gives the state the power to choose winners and losers? That is the proper function of a free market. When one place is closed down and another allowed to stay open it works like a state subsidy to the business that is open. One also wonders if political donations have anything to do with who is open and who is shuttered.
Where in state Constitutions is there the granting of this economic life and death power to government? Where is it in the federal Constitution?
And as we are trying to fight a health crisis, the stress related to material privation could drive some to depression, disease, and worse. How is that making the situation better?
It may not be, and questions should be asked about the limits of state and local governments in this regard.