Today’s pandemic is an even more valid justification for sweeping exercises of executive powers by governors wielding states’ police powers. Governors know that to the axiom “to govern is to choose” there should be added seven words: “always on the basis of imperfect information.” What is not justified are attempts to use today’s real emergency as an excuse to rewrite the nation’s social contract in order to accustom Americans to life suited to a permanent emergency.
Progressives’ flirtation with the preposterous Green New Deal (the end of beef, and of airplanes, etc.) is so revealing because it envisions federal micromanagement of the economy and individual choices forever. Consider also the somewhat successful attempt by the House Democratic caucus to lard the current economic rescue legislation with innumerable extraneous extensions of federal power over society. This illustrates progressivism’s eager embrace of temporary crises as hammers to pound Americans into the permanent solidarity that socialism promises — until it produces permanent cynicism and bitterness about the inevitably political allocation of wealth and opportunity.
Inconveniently for progressives, every war must end, no crisis is forever, and individualism — the American idea: the pursuit of happiness as each defines it — reemerges through fissures in the solidarity produced by transient crises.