One Neck to Put A Boot On

Our tyrants in government collude with corporate titans to oppress us.

Like so many others trapped in this ongoing nightmare of America's utterly over-the-top pandemic response, your humble correspondent has taken the opportunity of enforced domesticity to engage in some home repairs.  Fortunately, despite the royal pretensions of our governor, he hasn't gone full-on fascist like the ruler of the unfortunate residents of Michigan: our hardware stores are still allowed to sell whatever supplies they choose to make available.

Which is not to say that all such stores made the right choices.  Our local Home Depot shortened its hours and enforced long lines at the entrance to only permit a handful of shoppers inside at a time.  I am not a patient person at the best of times, rarely suffering fools gladly nor tolerant of pointless pettifoggery.

So, in the best American tradition, I took my business and my dollars to Lowe's, which was continuing to operate entirely unchanged.  Sure, they forced their longsuffering employees to wear useless and potentially harmful facemasks, and wasted countless trees placarding the false virtues of antisocial distancing, but there were no impositions actually enforced upon me.  They gladly accepted my money with a minimum of needless fuss, in happy exchange for the commodities I desired.

Thus far, nothing in my story is the least bit un-American. Not even the epidemic of either deliberate malfeasance or stupidity: as P.T. Barnum famously observed, there's a sucker born every minute.

Those who choose to believe that the Black Plague and the End of Days are upon us are perfectly welcome to beshroud themselves while standing in interminable lines; with characteristic all-American boldness and undiminished mercantile fervor, I myself choose to proceed to that place which will relieve me of my dollars most efficiently and with minimum of politically-correct virtue signalling.  Each option has its legitimate market and contented customers; what's not to like?

But that reckons without the ermine-trimmed daydreams of our Governor.  Haughtily aghast to see people not bowing the knee to his own unfounded fears, and despite the fact that, by all accounts, we are over the (vastly smaller than predicted) hump of coronavirus infections, he chose Memorial Day weekend to announce - nay, demand - that all his subjects signify their obeisance by wearing masks in public.  Of course, nothing so gauche for him - he himself declined to follow his own royal decree, demonstrating both how useless masks are on people who aren't sick, as well as highlighting the inherent absurdity and pointlessness of his decree.

Again: there's nothing wrong with encouraging any behavior he cares to endorse from his gilt-trimmed bully pulpit - that's merely wrongheaded.  For individuals to freely choose such attire is nothing more than their natural American rights, certainly no more preposterous than most of what passes for clothes these days anyway.  As for a hypocritical politician, that's so commonplace as to be unworthy of note.

Requiring these actions of all, with the false but solemnly-pronounced force of law backed by threats of fines and imprisonment is another matter entirely.

Now, in a truly free country, his listening audience would have shown the Governor the respect he deserves by the use of two fingers, one on each hand, and gone on about their business.  That's not the country we live in.

Nor, as we're rapidly discovering, is it the country we even know how to live in anymore.  And for good reason: thanks to two centuries of increasing gigantism, our overgrown government need not worry about stomping on a myriad of tiny independent ants that are the free citizens and small businessmen.  No; it only needs to throttle the relatively small number of giant businesses that control most of the economy.

Consider the now-famous Karl Manke, septuagenarian barber of Owosso, Michigan.  He owns a small barbershop in which he has plied his trade for 6 decades.  When his Governess demanded that commerce stop, Mr. Manke refused - and despite all the efforts of the oppressive tyrant in Lansing, he still wields his scissors on behalf of willing customers.

In order to close his shop, Governor Whitmer would have to personally close it, and keep it closed using government employees.  She's actually tried, but failed, because the police were unwilling to use force against an old man.  Mr. Manke tore up the health department orders, and a righteous judge declared Mr. Manke entitled to the full due process of law to revoke his business license, which takes months.

Even if his license were eventually revoked, what of it?  It's just a meaningless scrap of paper to a free man.  Again, to actually stop him cutting hair, Whitmer's Gestapo would have to use physical force and haul him away in irons, a prospect rendered unpalatable by current events.

Contrast this with any of the large chains of hair salons - Fantastic Sam's, Supercuts, you name it.  They all shut their doors with nary a peep.

What of the individual people who worked there actually cutting hair?  Nobody cares what they thought: they didn't own the store.  Nor did the managers, nor yet their immediate bosses.

The shutdown orders came down from corporate On High.  One man, or at most a handful, made the decision to terminate the livelihood of countless thousands.

So, all the government needed to do was to pressure that handful of wealthy, powerful men, to get its way.  Everybody else had no choice but to go along, because what else could they do?  The actual haircutters couldn't break into the locked store, that would be breaking and entering.  The managers couldn't unlock the store against orders from corporate, that would be trespassing.  The most patriotic among us recognize those as crimes worthy of punishment.

A nation of small independent businessmen cannot so easily be oppressed; there's too many of them to do it effectively.  A nation mostly run by a handful of plutocrats, though, is going to be far more readily cornered and then led around by the nose.

This was, of course, foreseen by our Founders.  In fact, no less than the founder of the Democratic Party, President Thomas Jefferson himself, warned against the power of giant corporations.

Now, his primary concern was that they'd become more powerful than the government.  In a sense they have: they're able to push policies like open borders, political correctness, and untrammeled immigration, which a sizable majority of the American public have opposed for decades to little effect.

But Mr. Jefferson also realized the importance of personal independence for a free people - something which, today, has become quite rare.  He opposed large cities for, among other reasons, the fact that most city-dwellers earned their keep by working as someone else's employees and thus were dependent on them.  Family farmers, while literally dirt poor, at least were able to grow their own food and provide for the bare means of existence through their own efforts.

Today?  We are trapped in a complex web of interrelationships, where every cord ultimately ends tied to a giant corporation or the government, and usually both.  It is the sad experience of just about everyone we know that neither of these entities has the slightest concern for the welfare of the thousands and millions of peasants who're dependent on them.

Consider the original revolutionary Bostonians, who refused to pay unjust British taxes.  That's not even possible today: you can't not pay sales tax because the stores won't sell goods to you.  You can't not pay income tax because you never get the tax money in the first place - it's withheld from your paycheck by your employer.  And so on.

Thus it is with our newly anointed King's commands: he doesn't actually have to send round mobs of official mask squads.  Indeed, he's said he won't - and why would he?  He simply needs to state the requirement, as he's done.

The giant corporations who do most business will rush to obey, "freely" requiring masks on their own private property as every private property owner has a natural right to do.  To the extent that small-business competitors even exist anymore, there will be so few that, if any dare to stand up, the overwhelming majority of potential happy customers will live too far away to patronize them.

At least there seem to be enough freedom lovers to keep Mr. Manke's barber shop in operation.  Perhaps he can serve as an example of the way things ought to be, and were once upon a time.

Read other articles by Hobbes or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments

Menards requires a mask to enter, as the sign on the door says. Also no one under 16 is allowed into the store. We went once ,but not again. Menards chose this rule, I choose not to shop there.

May 29, 2020 4:55 PM

You are totally correct. Masks are folly, their efficacy is not proven and their negatives overwhelm whatever positives one can attribute to them. The only time I'll wear a mask is at my hospital doctor's office where they provide it. Meanwhile, I love Lowes stores and shop there often.

May 29, 2020 11:35 PM

Six months ago wearing a mask into a bank would have invited police presence. Not today. Covid-19(84) has now given us excuse to hide our identities from security cameras, facial recognition software and government's prying eyes. I wear a bandanna that covers my whole face and ears, sun glasses and a nondescript ball cap. What's not to like about the mask requirement?

May 30, 2020 4:36 AM

What's been amazing is the contrast in rules and enforcement from state to state. I made my annual trek from FL to MA recently . The difference was striking. FL did its thing on a county by county basis. Thinking being that things will be different in Miami Dade than the citrus grove counties of central FL. My county never shut down golf courses or beaches.... recreation is a necessity. A few rules changed but nothing bothersome. In MA the beaches were basically closed for Memorial Day and the 2 month suspension of golf was lifted. But you had to walk and couldn't us a cart. As well a wear a face mask. Tough on us old guys. And yes the case/death metrics for FL is better than MA's . And that's with FL having far more seniors , tons of refuge seeking New Yorkers, and 4 cruise ship ports.
I assume the science should be the same for everybody. The difference has to be the autocratic proclivities of the leaders.

May 30, 2020 9:15 AM

Agree with Centurion. Recall being asked to take my prescription sunglasses and baseball cap off in my bank. I refused and closed my accounts and went to a credit union.

June 1, 2020 11:52 AM

I'm a little late to the comments here, and while I generally agree with Centurion, it's not gonna matter that you can't be seen on cameras or recognized by your face, since they'll simply be able to track everything you do, everywhere you go, and everything you purchase electronically after cash is banned.

July 21, 2020 10:02 PM
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