Just a few weeks ago, the term social distancing hadn’t entered our lexicon. The Angus Barn was my new favorite restaurant. I enjoyed my investment statements, and my biggest concern for the baseball season was whether the Colorado Rockies would trade Nolan Arenado.
Now? Social distancing dominates our lives. The Angus Barn is closed, except for take-out. The stock market has tanked. I’m imagining a summer without the “Boys of Summer.” And I’m one of the lucky ones.
The coronavirus crisis has been jarring. We’re all justifiably worried about our families, friends, and communities. We can’t even take comfort in each other out of fear of transmission. I’m a hugger, and I haven’t touched a person in more than a week.
In a matter of days, our state went from reveling in an economic renaissance to the fear of economic insecurity, with tens of thousands of North Carolinians wondering how they’ll pay their rent and buy groceries.
Even with the economic uncertainty, a recent poll from sister organization the Civitas Institute reflects North Carolina’s optimism. Likely voters are concerned about COVID-19, but not panicked.
But there’s something more that my John Locke Foundation colleague Jon Sanders nailed in a recent blog post, “This isn’t a fight we expected, but know this: it’s a war a free society is uniquely geared to win.” He goes on to quote President Reagan in his first inaugural address, “We as Americans have the capacity now, as we’ve had in the past, to do whatever needs to be done to preserve this last and greatest bastion of freedom.”
In a free society, with great challenges comes great innovation.
At the John Locke Foundation, we didn’t wait for some grandiose, centralized governmental plan to deal with this crisis. Within days, our policy innovators released a series of free-market solutions to help elected officials make sound decisions as we all navigate these uncharted waters.
We’re seeing the results right now, as state leadership relaxes regulation and saves lives. We’re witnessing the creativity and innovation of the private sector from bringing online classes to kids to telemedicine to doctors opening their own drive through clinics. Some companies already have changed their business model to survive.
When we put our faith in the brilliance of individual ingenuity versus the command and control of a massive bureaucratic state, we solve problems and people thrive. We can’t stop every crisis from happening, but we can create an atmosphere of freedom that encourages creativity and innovation to lessen the impact.
As we rebuild our economy, we have a once-in-a-lifetime moment to expand freedom.
Imagine a North Carolina with no certificate of need laws, where doctors decide what equipment they need to best treat their patients.
Imagine a North Carolina where parents have a slew of unrestricted options on how to best educate their children that aren’t dependent on a lottery or a limited Opportunity Scholarship.
Imagine a North Carolina where taxpayers have voice in the size and scope of government they want and are willing to fund.
Imagine a North Carolina where every resident pursues a profession of his or her choosing, free from burdensome licensing requirements and regulations.
Imagine a North Carolina where worker freedom is enshrined in our constitution. These are just a few examples. There will be more freedom–forward policy suggestions.
Naturally, we’ll have detractors who desire a very different state that preys on collective fear, seeing this crisis as their opportunity to force us into a top–down, governmental command–and–control regime.
They’ve already published their goal to “seize the initiative in building new, strong and lasting systems that are largely insulated from the political fray and designed to work automatically — regardless of who is in power.” These systems are to be “global” in scope, stripping us of our state and national identity and leaving us with no recourse to vote these “systems” out of power when the controlling body becomes tyrannical or unresponsive to our needs.
Of course, there is a role for government, as is clearly defined in the U.S. and our state constitutions. That’s the battle.
As coach Herb Brooks said to the 1980 USA hockey team that pulled off the Miracle on Ice, “Great moments are born from great opportunity.” Or, in our case, great challenge. We have a moment to usher in an era of expanded freedom. This is our time. Now we must go out there and take it.