by Becki Gray
Former Senior Vice President, John Locke Foundation
As you would expect, John Locke Foundation’s policy recommendations in response to COVID-19 outbreak and in discussions on how best to recovery once the crisis is over, have focused largely on free market solutions. We believe that offering help to people who have lost jobs and businesses shut down because of government orders is a good idea in the short run and that getting people back to work, businesses back in business and the economy back up and running should be paramount as we recover. We hope for a quick and reasonable transition back to where we were, where free markets flourish and opportunities abound.
Thousands of businesses have closed; some from direct government lockdown, some from lack of customers due to government actions. Some government entities have used a troublesome heavier hand with strict curfews, restrictions on access to property, tight definitions of “essential” services, even using police powers. There is talk of tracking people’s movements thru cell phone activity, a state wide curfew, a mask mandate and even more restrictive and onerous government action. This is troublesome on many levels and clearly an infringement of civil and constitutional rights. When this kind of government action is taken, freedom is in peril.
We believe that freedom comes with responsibility. That’s why we include in our organization’s vision and mission the importance of personal responsibility. To paraphrase, we envision a North Carolina of responsible citizens, transforming government through personal freedom, and personal responsibility.
During this COVID-19 crisis, response and recovery, never has personal responsibility been so important. Public health experts from around the world, our country, state and local governments have been consistent in their instructions: Wash your hands. Disinfect surfaces. Stay home. Keep a safe distance from others. If we do our part, we can come out of this crisis quicker and come back stronger. It all comes down to personal responsibility. And then the government can back off, must back off.
COVID-19 concerns are real. We have to accept that disruptions in supply chains may change the price of goods temporarily. That’s why gasoline prices are the lowest they’ve been in decades and the price of eggs and ground beef may have gone up a few cents. Accept these disruptions. If you are faced with real price gauging, like $80 for a jar of hand sanitizer, don’t buy it. The market takes care of things like this. If there’s a shortage of masks, make some or buy them from your friends and neighbors. Support your favorite restaurant by getting take out of delivery and tip well. Pay your cleaning service, nail tech or hair stylist through this interruption in service.
Coming out of the COVID-19 crisis is not going to be easy. Recent models suggest stay at home orders may continue until June. Businesses are struggling and will continue to struggle. How long many of them can stay afloat is the big unknown. The sooner we can come out of the crisis the stronger the recovery will be. Government can help but they can’t do it all, and shouldn’t. Markets and personal responsibility have a very large and critical role to play.
We recognize that balance at the John Locke Foundation. That’s why our COVID-19 response policy recommendations encompass private and public solutions and why our recovery policy recommendations will offer a balance between private and public responsibilities. It will work for COVID-19 recovery, just as it’s always worked. We’re not only convinced the right balance will work, we’ve made it our mission:
JLF seeks a better balance between the public sector and private institutions of family, faith, community, and enterprise.
Why? Because it works.