Here is a scenario I find all too plausible: President Trump drops his surprisingly laissez-faire approach to coronavirus and shifts authoritarian. He uses the threat of a pandemic to severely restrict international travel to the United States and institutes stringent new limits on U.S. citizens’ ability to travel abroad — perhaps mandatory medical testing, biometric data collection, or vaccination before you leave; extended interviews with Customs agents to vet the reasons for your trip; or even a near-complete embargo on visits to China and other countries where coronavirus outbreak coincides, in Trump’s mind, with an economic threat to America. (“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” after all, because “it’s an opportunity to do things that you think you could not before.”)
And then, a few years down the line, after the worst of coronavirus has passed, the new rules simply never go away.
Civil libertarians like me would raise a fuss, certainly, but we raise lots of fusses about lots of things (TSA, NSA, etc.) to no real end, because once the state claims new power over our lives, it is rarely relinquished. Prevention is always more feasible than reform — which is why, as coronavirus spreads, we should have an eye to stopping our freedom of movement from being permanently curtailed.