Criminalizing the Good Citizen
by Mike Arcati
Aug 05, 2020 | 1465 views | 0 0 comments | 125 125 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Last month, I watched in dismay as I saw the blatant disregard for the law.

The barriers were torn down for these criminals to have their way. They crawled and climbed with their little hands all over that jungle gym. Their parents sat idly by, also committing violations while sitting closely on a park bench talking without masks.

Under the COVID-19 emergency orders of the governor and mayor, these parents and children were breaking the law. They broke the law by acting human.

The COVID crisis has taught us the limitation of government regulation over natural human behavior. Despite the executive orders, threats, and fines, people conduct natural human activities.

By criminalizing natural human behavior, such as walking without a mask, the government has made the good citizen a criminal.

Is it scientifically more responsible for a person to wear a mask? Yes. However, it is more efficient to have people control each other’s natural conduct through social pressures rather than criminalizing it.

We learned this lesson during Prohibition, when alcohol became illegal and the government arrested people for drinking beer. Last year, the city repealed a law that prohibited dancing in a bar. Yet, here we are again criminalizing natural behavior.

When you treat adults like children, they will act like children, because you have removed their instinct to be personally responsible. People will rebel when told they cannot act in a way that is natural.

This probably comes as no surprise to a parent of a teenager who has a curfew. While in the Service, I was a Navy officer assigned to an Army command oversees.

Each Service Branch has its own culture. The Army has a culture to treat all members, regardless of rank, the same. The Navy has a tradition to give more leeway to members with higher rank and experience.

Each culture has its benefits that attracts particular personalities, and it has worked over the centuries.

However, the Navy officers were not accustomed to the tight restrictions the Army asserted on its members. Then I witnessed responsible grown adults, who usually follow orders, break these restrictions and play a childish cat-and-mouse game with Army commanders.

In another ridiculous executive order, the governor has decreed that anyone traveling from numerous other states must quarantine for 14 days. He has conceded that there is really no mechanism to enforce this edict.

However, he encouraged neighbors to report on each other. Now we have also created a culture of snitches endorsed by the state?

Maybe you are a parent that planned and paid for a summer vacation in Florida. You are taking all the precautions by driving down and isolating your family while there.

However, once you return to New York and go to the store to buy groceries with a mask on, you are now a criminal?

People should be encouraged to act responsibly through information and opportunities to act appropriately. The better message would be to inform travelers of the spike in COVID-19 in other states.

Furthermore, once travelers return from those locations, they ought to be encouraged go to a testing site to ensure the safety of the community. Testing site location information could also be provided.

Rather, the message we are getting from our state leaders is “we don’t trust you to act like adults.” Well, now we should not trust our leaders to stay in power because they don’t know how to wield it responsibly.

Mike Arcati is chair of the Libertarian Party of Queens and a practicing attorney in Forest Hills.

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