Those in governmental power often abuse their authority to choose the winners and losers in our economy. This has grown so ubiquitous that we hardly bother to call it out anymore.
COVID has now allowed them to step it up to a higher, more obscene level, empowering them to select who is essential, who is critical and who is not.
No longer content in choosing who gets to win and lose in a game we all say should be on a level playing field, our leaders now cherry-pick who gets to go on the field to even play.
In Denver, liquor stores are deemed essential. Recreational marijuana shops are essential. Cigar shops are not. Hardware stores like Home Depot, which sell washers, dryers, and other appliances are essential. Stores like Appliance Factory, which sells the same appliances, but not hammers and nails, is not.
Do we really need to explain the dangers of this new precedent? Those without political sway can quickly find themselves on the wrong side of this coin, which health boards, mayors and governors keep flipping in the air.
Does the political clout of waiters and waitresses outweigh those of lawyers? Guess which one of these occupations is deemed critical in Colorado today?
If you need to see your medical doctor today, you may. If you need to see your chiropractor, acupuncturist or homeopath, you may not.
Other people are choosing what services are critical to you, who is critical to you. My God, those in power are deciding, by fiat, if YOU are essential.
To me this is a debasement of all we hold dear. To others it is how we operate for the “best” of society.
I can’t think of a more fundamental illustration of the clash between the collectivist and individualist mind-sets that underpins most of our political battles.
Collectivism requires assumptions to be solidified: What is it that we, as a group, value? What do we, society, think is important?
But however well-intentioned, those elites are human, and they are subject to special-interest pressure and their own personal values and tastes. Maybe if more in power smoked cigars than drank wine, cigar shops would be open and liquor stores closed today.
Let me oversimplify to illustrate the difference. Collectivists think the primary value to work is to get money. Thus, a forced minimum wage is prized
That might even be true most of the time. But others may value a job for factors outside of the wage. They might desire the job because it’s close to where they live, or it has more flexible work hours, or it’s in a field that excites or impassions them, and therefore that person would work for less than what the collectivists deem the minimum.
Imagine two women who are neighbors. One runs a small but growing accounting firm out of her house. The other is a stay-at-home mother whose children are now finally of school age. The mom has some extra time to learn a new skill, like accounting. The accountant next door can only afford $5 an hour for an assistant.
By hiring the mother, the accountant gets to grow her business. The mom gets to learn a new profession while having the flexibility to be there for her young kids. A huge win for both ladies. But minimum-wage laws make this consensual and mutually beneficial relationship a crime.
By law these two women can get married, if that’s the relationship they value, but an employment relationship is deemed too perverse, to exploitative to be legal.
If you believe these two women must be barred from their chosen relationship for the good of the larger society, where other workers could be exploited, you likely lean toward a collectivist mindset.
And for the same reason today a beautician must be barred from coloring the hair of a consenting customer even if they are both wearing masks.
The question comes down to who should decide your worth. Your well-intentioned elites? Your customers? Yourself?
COVID has brought this battle of values to the surface, naked for all to see.
Collectivism has won.
I only hope someone in power deems you essential.
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.