Pandemic and the consent of the governed

But the legal dispositions are secondary. As a practical matter, the nation’s federal, state, and municipal governments, deploying all their police agencies, could not conceivably enforce quarantines, social-distancing, and interstate travel restrictions against 330 million Americans absent the vast public’s assent.

At a certain point, a free people — nearly 17 million of whom have now filed unemployment claims in an economy that was booming just a month ago — comes to realize that the de Blasios are pleaders, not rulers. Common sense emerges in the clarity of lives torn asunder by willful acts of elected officials and faceless bureaucrats. Our DNA reminds us that governments derive their just powers only from the consent of the governed.

There is a lot going on that no one has consented to. The law is beside the point. The state and its police need the public’s cooperation. They won’t get it by coercion. If they can’t get cooperation because they’ve forfeited their legitimacy by capricious, politicized enforcement . . . well, there are worse things that can happen than a pandemic.

The preservation of a free society requires ordered liberty. The government can never forget that the objective is not order for its own sake, or for the sake of “progressive” social transformation. The point of order is the flourishing of freedom.

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