John Locke Update / Research Brief

How long? Cooper wants drastic local crackdowns and fines to become “normal”

posted on in Civil Society, COVID-19 Series, Economics, Law & Regulation, Rights & Regulation
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(Image courtesy of Kari Travis’ Sept. 11, 2020, Carolina Journal article, “Greensboro billboard challenges Cooper’s lockdown, use of science, data.”)

“Give me,” she says, in prelude to words that inspired Americans and future Americans the world over, “your tired, your poor, / your huddled masses yearning to breathe free….”

Huddled? Masses? Breathing free? Such concepts enrage the governor who rules by unending “emergency management,” his administration, his prescreened media, and his social allies happy to answer his Kremlinesque call for public snitching.

Did we have any idea, really, how long Gov. Roy Cooper planned to rule unilaterally, turning Executive Orders always presumed to be for short-term crisis management and never without concurrence of other statewide elected executive officers, the Council of State? Back in the spring (of 2020, for those reading this in the distant future trying desperately to determine how and when we lost our collective minds), it was only the cynics who dared suggest out loud this economic self-sabotage under the guise of keeping hospitals from being overwhelmed would last till election day.

Cooper was sure to manage the electorate into thinking that progressing from one “phase” to the next till full reopening would be separated by mere weeks. Few if any could have imagined these orders, their suffocating constrictions against small businesses and personal restrictions against citizens, would persist for months or years still to come. After all, pandemics don’t.

Few if any on the outside, that is.

Cooper has been dropping hints that he isn’t actually planning to let go of the reins of the power he grabbed illegitimately. On April 15 he gave his “New Normal” press conference, telling us his “subjects” plain as day what he had in mind.

We, full of that can-do American spirit, had agreed with the overarching message of the time that “We’re all in this together,” and in our optimism we missed the sly import of Cooper’s “new normal” talk. We actually thought we were all in this together, working to restore normality. Cooper meant to impose a permanent change of life on us with a drastic reduction in individual liberties, a drastic increase in executive authority, and consequentially a greater, forced reliance on government.

On August 17, in an interview with WNCN news anchor Vanessa Ruffles, state health bureaucrat Mandy Cohen let the cat out of the bag that the Cooper administration wasn’t planning on getting back to normal (i.e., the “old” normal, or normal normal) at all in 2020. She suggested it might be “mid-2021.”

Notice the hedging: We’ll likely achieve relative normalcy early to mid-2021.

You will comply or else

Last week provided another disheartening glimpse at the twisted “new normal” envisioned by Cooper: local governments cracking down harder on people and businesses than the governor’s orders, backed or prodded by the frenzied karenocracy.

The Cooper administration sent letters on October 20 to county leaders requesting “additional local actions to improve compliance” with Cooper’s orders. The actions requested by the Cooper administration included:

  • Imposing stricter orders than the governor has already leveled
  • Fining businesses for not enforcing the mask mandate
  • Severely curtailing groups of people
  • Cutting off alcohol sales even earlier
  • Shutting down bars and clubs
  • Restricting restaurants even more
  • Shutting down certain businesses, entities, and venues, which would include even churches, as “imminent hazards”

These requested crackdowns were preceded by, no joke, a discussion of the importance of being able to “win the hearts and minds of North Carolinians.” From his press conference October 21, Cooper gave his idea of winning hearts and minds, one snitch at a time:

When you’re in a retail establishment, I recommend going and telling one of the employees or even more, preferably the management of the retail establishment, that someone is not complying with the rules. … I’ve encouraged [businesses] to do this, to be forceful. A number of law enforcement have said, although we may not necessarily enforced the mask mandate itself, if we get a call from a retail establishment saying that someone is there who will not wear a mask, we will go and use our trespassing laws to try and remove or to cite that person that’s on the retail establishment.

The next day, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest alerted people to the Cooper administration’s follow-up examples of “sample ordnance language” they intend for counties to adopt for such crackdown orders:

The examples Forest provided showed Cooper trying to get gatherings limited indoors to just 10 people or fewer (just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas!) and 25 people outdoors, and to have alcohol sales cut off by 9 p.m. Pay attention to the enforcement wording, however:

  • Parts i–iv lay out rapidly increasing fines for noncompliance, starting at $200 and going to $1,000: “The first violation on a civil citation within a rolling one (1) year period subjects the violator to a civil penalty of ….”
  • Parts v–vi would only allow zero to maybe one warning given out to a person or business prior to socking them with a fine for noncompliance: “No more than one (1) warning may be given within a rolling one (1) year period.”
  • Parts vii–viii adds fines for not paying the exorbitant fines within 10 days and makes sure each visit by an officer in response to noncompliance, possibly even the same day, counts as an additional violation and therefore subject to compounding fines.

From this we see the governor expects (a) multiple violations, (b) escalating fines, (c) slapped on people without warning, (d) immediate payment, and (e) this crackdown behavior to be going on well beyond a year from now.

In short, Cooper wants to criminalize the normal normal. But he wants the counties to do it for him. For now.

Rule in perpetuity?

That “rolling one (1) year period” is a piercing alarm that Cooper doesn’t plan on these crackdowns ending any time soon. So to the cynics last April: no, not even by election day. At this point, not even “one (1) year” past election day.

Cooper’s second term promises perpetual emergency, rule by his “orders” rather than laws passed by the legislature, with enforcement backed by citizen snitches. I’ve seen films like this before, but normally they had to be redubbed in English.

Of course, that was in the old normal.

Jon Sanders is an economist studying state regulations, that spreading kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. Serving as Senior Fellow of Regulatory Studies and also Research Editor at the John Locke Foundation, Jon gets in the weeds of all… ...

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