The Overton Window Breaks Quarantine

All sorts of things are possible now that weren't before - good and bad.

One of our favorite political concepts is the Overton Window and how Mr. Trump moves it get what he wants.

The Overton Window is a way of visualizing Bismark's observation that "politics is the art of the possible."  By definition, it includes all policies that could be achieved within the political environment of the moment.

In 1789, for example, it was politically impossible to ban slavery in the colonies.  The only choices were a Constitution that permitted slavery or no Constitution at all.  John Adams, despite loathing slavery with all his heart, went with the former choice.  It took a civil war to move the Window enough that slavery was no longer acceptable.  Race-based legalized chattel slavery is now unimaginably far outside the current Overton Window, and various groups are trying to raise awareness of sex trafficking with the goal of moving the Window to abolish it.

Democrats, famous for not letting a crisis go to waste, are masters at jimmying the Overton Window to make room for their favored policies.  A crisis often makes a temporary opening through which Democrats, and occasionally even Republicans, can pass laws that they would not have been able to pass under normal circumstances.

The Evils of Bureaucracy

We have bemoaned the fact that excessive government regulation leads to insensitive, arrogant bureaucracies that cause real harm to innocent citizens caught in their regulatory labyrinth.

One of our favorite examples of bureaucratic excess involved a man who was fined $50 for parking an unregistered automobile in his own driveway.  Since he was too mentally challenged to pay the fine, the city seized his $245,000 house.  The apparatchiks asserted that there was nothing they could have done - the rules required that they do as they did.  After all, they simply had to collect the money, didn't they?

When this happened back in 2008, people weren't too worked up about unreasonable bureaucracies.  There were few enough such totally over-the-top incidents that most people assumed it wouldn't happen to them and went on with life.

However, times have changed.  Our bat soup flu pandemic has subjected millions of Americans to arbitrary and senseless scamdemic rules where elected officials have told everyone, both the well and the sick, to "shelter in place" and stay away from restaurants, schools, and business offices.  They have no legal basis for diong this.  Longstanding quarantine laws allow government to force sick people to "shelter in place."  When that happens, an official posts a conspituous yellow sign on the door warning all and sundry that contageous illness is found therein.  For the rest of us, the Constitution states that no one may be deprived of liberty without due process of law, a nicety which is conspicuously absent from the shutdowns.

Instead of remaining the land of the free and the home of the brave, Americans who weren't sick have let the Overton Window move far enough that businesses have been forced closed, millions are out of work, and people can't move about as they please.  California officials have taken to boats to force surfers who're far away from anyone else to go ashore!

The lockdown was justified on the basis of computer modeling which turned out to be bogus.  Experts knew that given that we won't have a vaccine anytime soon, this highly-contagious virus would eventually go everywhere on earth.  The stated justification for locking everyone up was to slow the spread of the virus so that hospitals would not be overwhelmed.  It was recognized that people would still die, it's just that they'd die later than without the lockdown.

In the event, not one of the temporary hospitals put in in places like Central Park to handle the anticipated overflow was needed.  The two 1,000 bed Navy hospital ships which docked in New York and Los Angeles saw a bare handful of patients before being dispatched back to their home ports.  Instead of running out as predicted, we have so many ventilators that we're giving thousands of them to other countries.

We now have a battle which is breaking out partly along party lines.  Democrats want to keep the economy locked down in order to hurt Mr. Trump's chances for re-election.  Republicans want to put their citizens back to work in order to keep sales and income tax revenues flowing in.  We can also see this as a conflict between those who seek safety regardless of cost and those who seek liberty regardless of risk.

Pro-lockdown forces have justified the cost on the basis of "if it saves just one life," ignoring lives lost because of the lockdown.  They haughtily accuse people who want to go back to work of crass selfishness.

Pro-liberty types say they're aware of the risks, but would prefer to make their own decisions what risks to take, thank you very much.  They point out that the "saves one life" argument is absurd on its face - we could save 40,000 lives per year if we put speed governors on all cars so they could go no faster than 35 MPH and made everyone in a car wear motorcycle helmets.  We don't, of course, because the costs of doing that - to freedom, to the economy, to the human psyche - would far exceed the benefits.

Battle Lines are Drawn

The Wall Street Journal described the ongoing warfare as between the overclass of highly-educated professionals who can do a lot of work from home and the deplorable underclass who work face-to-face in places like Walmart and McDonalds.  The overclass has little if any skin in the game - governors, teachers, and officials enforcing the lockdown aren't losing pay.  Instead, most of them are getting a comfy paid vacation.

In contrast, the underclass are suffering hunger and poverty because their "nonessential" workplaces have been closed.

It's not that the underclass doesn't know about the virus.  They know people will die because of or of it it - just as people die of heart disease, the flu, and traffic accidents.  They also know that they will be among the millions of economic casualties unless the economy opens back up soon.

The overclass says, "Wait three months before we're safe." They reply, "There's no such thing as safe." ...

Pennsylvania's Tom Wolf said ... he'll pull state certificates such as liquor licenses for any businesses that open. He must have thought he sounded uncompromising, like Gen. George Patton. He seemed more like Patton slapping the soldier. No sympathy, no respect, only judgment.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called anti-lockdown demonstrations "racist and misogynistic." She called the entire movement "political."

Of course it's political - the models which justified the lockdown were phony, the lockdown is an attack on the Trump economy, people are figuring this out in spite of Internet censorship, and they want their jobs back.

Bureaucracy Out The Window?

There are many experts who are saying that the lockdown has turned out to be a bad idea everywhere except perhaps in greater New York City, which, thanks to its filthy mass transit system and some strategic bungling by Gov. Cuomo and Mayor DeBlasio, has suffered most of the Covid cases in the US.  The New York Post tells us that You Tube, Facebook, and Google are busily censoring "opinions and ideas contrary to official pronouncements."

Wittkowski's argument is a minority opinion among his colleagues, but still well within mainstream thought and currently is the basis for Sweden's non-lockdown approach to the pandemic. ...

"We have broadened our definition of harm to address content that goes directly against guidance from authoritative sources of global and local public health information," Twitter said in April shortly after removing two tweets by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

That same month Facebook conceded they had been working with state governments in California, New Jersey and Nebraska to remove pages for anti-quarantine events[emphasis added]

Twitter should not censor policy statements by the President of Brazil, and Facebook should not censor American efforts to petition elected representatives for redress of grievances.  This is a Constitutional right in America and a fundamental human right everywhere else - yet Facebook sides with authoritarian tyrants rather than with ordinary citizens.

Dr. Winkowski isn't the only victim.  Big Internet companies censor anyone who goes against the Received Wisdom about the lockdown - and why not?  Overclass people who work for Twitter, Facebook, Google, and the Mainstream Media can work from home.  If the lockdown ends, they may have to go back to commuting, and who'd want to do that?

The Wall Street Journal tells us of another lockdown skeptic they're having trouble silencing.

Aaron Ginn, 32, is the Silicon Valley technologist who posted an essay on March 20 titled "Evidence over hysteria-COVID-19" on the Medium website. Citing academic research and government data, Mr. Ginn argued that public-health experts were focusing too much on "flattening the curve . . . while ignoring the economic shock to our system" of shuttering businesses and schools and ordering Americans to stay home...

The day Mr. Ginn posted his article, Governor Cuomo shut down the State of New York.  That may have been justified in the New York City area where the vast majority of American cases are concentrated, but was silly for the lightly-populated upstate which lacks the fetid public transit systems which are our most effective ways to spread the virus.

Mr. Ginn's essay drew 2.6 million page views in 24 hours and a barrage of liberal criticism. ...

Then Medium took it down, saying it violated rules under a risk analysis framework we use for Controversial, Suspect and Extreme content...

Mr. Ginn has since become an informal organizer of a small battalion of well-credentialed dissenters. They include Michael Levitt (a Stanford biologist and the 2013 Nobel laureate in chemistry), John Ioannidis and Jay Bhattacharya (both Stanford professors of medicine), Joel Hay (a University of Southern California professor of pharmacy and health economics) and Neeraj Sood (a USC health economist). They and other researchers have been advising state and local governments on easing their lockdowns. On Thursday Dr. Bhattacharya and Messrs. Hay and Sood fielded questions from the Arizona Legislature about how to reopen the state's economy.

On one side, Mr. Ginn says, are ideologues heavily invested in the idea of lockdown, regardless of the cost. On the other are scientists with data that the lockdowns are overkill.

Nobody has challenged Mr. Ginn's data, only his interpretation. He acknowledges that some of his deductions may be wrong, but that's true of all fact-based science as new information is collected.

Rebellion in the Ranks

Citizens are beginning to rebel against government edicts.  They may or may not know about the many scientists who think that the lockdown is unnecessary, but they know for sure that it's hurting them beyond the point of tolerance.  They'd rather take the risk of getting back to work.

Elon Musk, the billionaire who founded Tesla, defiantly flouted government orders to keep his factory closed and started making cars again, threatening to move out of the state if the government gave him too much trouble.  He complains that it's an unconstitutional "power grab," which it obviously is.

It's one thing for a billionaire with access to the finest lawyers to defy the government, but regardless of government wishes, ordinary citizens are deciding that they're fed up with staying home.

Despite Facebook's efforts to hide information about citizens exercising their Constitution right to protest the lockdowns, people are taking action on their own as freedom-loving American citizens. The bureaucracy, of course, is pushing back, aided and abetted by the big internet firms.

CBS News explained an approach to businesses which violate the city's shutdown order:

The mayor of Los Angeles on Tuesday threatened to cut the water supply and power for any non-essential business that doesn't comply with the city's coronavirus shutdown measures. These businesses could also face misdemeanor charges for violating the "safer at home" emergency orders.

The city provided an online form so that any rat could snitch on businesses which stayed open.

ABC News tells us that a Michigan barber named Karl Manke

... reopened his barber shop in Owosso on May 4, defying Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order, which classifies barbers and hairstylists as non-essential workers who aren't allowed to operate.

As we see it, any business that provides income to an employee is essential to the employees, but what do we know?  We suspect that "essential" pot and liquor stores pay more state taxes than barbers.  NBC News tells us that many states are deciding that gun stores are "essential" in response to lawsuits asserting that the shutdown violates Constitutional rights.  On the other hand, churches' rights are even more fundamental - First Amendment vs. merely the Second - but they pay no taxes, so the boot of authority largely remains in place.

The right to provide for oneself by working isn't mentioned in the Constitution specifically anywhere.  Our current masters appear to believe that means it's not a right at all.  More likely, our Founders viewed it as so intuitively obvious as to not need mention, as with the right to breathe air, drink water, and eat food and the fact that a marriage consisted of one man and one woman.

Michigan Gov. Whitmer, who is on the short list to be Bewildered Biden's VP candidate, responded in fury to Mr. Manke's defiance:

Karl Manke's license to work as a barber in Owosso has been suspended, according to his attorney. ...

But the loss of his license would prohibit Manke from working as a barber. ...

On Monday, a Shiawassee County judge denied a request from the state to issue a temporary restraining order against Manke, which would have forced him to close immediately.  [assuming that he didn't just rip up the order - ed]

Other than the state wanting to get money from licensing fees, we don't see much reason to require licenses to cut hair - people can tell whether they like the result or not - but we're assured by incumbents that government licensing bureaus are essential to "protect the public" from lower-priced competitors.

ABC News wrote about another defiant hair stylist:

A Texas salon owner who defied Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's emergency orders and was jailed for keeping her business open walked out free Thursday to cheering supporters after the governor weakened his enforcement of coronavirus safeguards and a court ordered her released.  [emphasis added]

She had torn up an Obama-appointed judge's "cease and desist" order and refused to apologize for trying to earn a living even when the judge suggested that an apology would keep her out of jail.

In Oregon, hairstylist Lindsey Graham opened her salon and found herself under investigation by numerous agencies much as President Obama had the IRS go after conservatives.  She was fined $14,000, was told that her business license could be suspended and told that they'd take the licenses from all her employees.

Townhall tells us about her press conference:

"And, if you can possibly believe this, on May 7th, Child Protective Services showed up at my home," she said, taking a deep breath while holding back tears. "They questioned my husband and I. They questioned my child, without me present. They searched our home. And I've never expected such a violent, aggressive, vindictive thing ever could have been done to me or my family because I'm trying to earn a living, because I'm trying to work."

It's been known for a long time that child "protection" agencies do more harm than good.  Filing false child abuse charges became so common either during divorce actions or due to neighborhood quarrels that it's become a misdemeanor in Florida.  If it's not illegal in Oregon, it ought to be.

Her salon is 20 minutes from the state border; her customers can go there to get their hair done in a salon-friendly state.

The New York Post reminds us that civil disobedience is a longstanding American tradition.

Citing the Bill of Rights and the "ideals of civil disobedience," the owner of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, NJ, defied Gov. Phil Murphy's orders by reopening on Monday. Cops "formally" notified the gym owner he was in violation of the shutdown order and then wished him "a good day." The crowd cheered. Two days later, Atilis is still open.  [emphasis added]

Civil disobedience is alive and well, even in this pandemic.

Having police refuse to enforce excessive lockdown enforcement in front of cheering crowds is a step in the right direction, but there are economic and political considerations.  Back in 1996, the Wall Street Journal reported:

Thomas Hopkins, a Rochester Institute of Technology economist, estimates that government red tape costs American business roughly $600 billion a year, which figures out to about 10% of the entire gross national product. Some economists think his number is conservative. Other studies show that most small- and medium-size businesses put government regulation and paperwork at the top of their list of problems.

The article went on to point out that "the ultimate cause of crime, by definition, is a lack of respect for laws."  Government policies which are so unreasonable that crows cheer violators do not promote respect for law and its enforcement.  In 2020, the Journal followed up their point about the need for government to pass respectable laws if they expect their laws to be respected:

Prohibition's lesson: When laws are too heavy-handed, it can promote disrespect for the law in general.

Policy makers see lockdown decisions as a balance between economic damage and public health. Equally important can be community perceptions of the legitimacy of the restrictions, for these may determine the extent of compliance and ultimately the success of the lockdown program. That's a lesson the country should have learned from Prohibition.

During prohibition, whiskey was served in the White House and many Senators and Representatives engaged in the occasional snort.  The law was so widely flouted that prohibition was repealed in 1933.

We see loss of respect for law due to our war on drugs.  In some ways, the corrosive effects of the lockdown are worse - we seldom see crowds cheering people who buy illegal drugs on street corners, but crowds cheer cops who say they won't enforce the law and cheer people who're ignoring the lockdown.  When was the last time you saw a GoFundMe for a drug dealer?

We've discussed economic and scientific reasons for going back to work, but we're now moving onto fresh political ground: growing resistance to government overreach seems to be moving the Overton Window toward letting people ignore court orders and continue working without licenses.  To the extent that Americans reject the concept of requiring government permission to earn a living by their own toil, this is all to the good - but establishing a habit of ignoring court orders will cause problems down the road.

We're encouraged to see ordinary people understand the dangers of being ruled by elites who ignore their economic realities.  Is that really where our power-mad Democrat governors want to go?  Remember - laws which can't be enforced, won't be.  When they fail, so do other laws that are good and beneficial because the entire system breaks down as we're seeing all over the country.

Remember in November - or sooner if possible.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Partisanship.
Reader Comments

Our system of government was designed by geniuses who understood that power should flow from the bottom up, not the top down. This 'scamdemic' (I flat love that term)has proven that we Americans get that, and will fight on that ground -=- Whitmers, Murphys, Cuomos, Pritzkers, Newsoms of the world be damned!

May 23, 2020 3:20 PM

"Scamdemic" is pretty good, but personally I prefer "Dempanic". It's just as accurate, and more pointed against who's to blame.

May 23, 2020 3:31 PM

This article explains differences between red and blue views of politics. As I see it, blues like the APPEARANCE of caring without caring what the outcomes of their programs are. We know that welfare programs harm our society terribly, but they're such a wonderful way to signal the appearance of caring without having to actualy benefit anyone, liberals will never give them up.

Read Mr. Olasky's book "The Tragedy of American Compassion." We used to distinguish between the deserving poor who were poor through no fault of their own and the undeserving poor who were self-destructive through alcohol or drugs among other things.

Now that this distinction has been lost, we subsidize the production of fatherless children who're burning down our cities.

Here's the article:

What’s interesting is that these moral pillars differ sharply across ideological lines in America today. Haidt found that both conservatives and liberals recognize the harm/care and fairness/reciprocity values (though liberals value these a little more than conservatives). Things change, however, when examining the three remaining foundational values—loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation. While conservatives accept these moral values, liberal-minded people tend to reject them.

May 23, 2020 8:56 PM

Judge backs Michigan barber in Gretchen Whitmer standoff

DETROIT — A judge on Thursday rejected a request to force scissors out of the hands of a defiant Michigan barber during the coronavirus pandemic.

The state health department failed to show that Karl Manke’s shop was a specific threat to public health, Shiawassee County Judge Matthew Stewart said.

Manke reopened his shop in Owosso on May 4, drawing customers from across the state who were inspired by his plea for freedom from a government shutdown. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said barber shops and hair salons are risky places because of the contagious virus.

Manke, 77, has received at least two tickets for violating Whitmer’s orders, and his barber license was suspended last week. Nonetheless, he said he’s still cutting hair - “Oh, heavens yes” - including the hair of a squirming 2-year-old Thursday.

“Listen, I’ve been in this business for 59 years. She wants to come cut my hands off, that’s another story,” Manke said in an interview, referring to the governor.

Earlier, a judge held a hearing via video conference on the Whitmer administration’s request for an injunction to close the shop. More than 400 people watched online as the state argued that Manke was violating health department orders.

“People can’t simply say, ‘I don’t agree’ and do whatever they want,” Assistant Attorney General Joseph Potchen said. “It’s not how our legal system works.”

May 23, 2020 9:21 PM

New Jersey doubles down.

New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy is escalating his war on a gym in Bellmawr, New Jersey, that reopened earlier this week in defiance the governor's stay-at-home executive order. The gym has reopened throughout the week as it battles efforts by the government to keep the gym closed.

Superior Court Judge Robert Lougy approved a New Jersey Department of Health request on Friday night asking the gym be ordered to close down until businesses deemed nonessential are allowed to reopen. The New Jersey Department of Health previously issued an order on Wednesday night instructing the gym to close down. County officials posted the order outside the gym.

According to reports, the order states the gym's safety measures are inadequate because the virus is "still too great to allow for relaxation of the current mitigation measures that are in place and necessary to reduce the transmission of [the coronavirus]."

"[C]ustomers of these facilities engage in physical activities that increase the customers' respiratory activity, which in turn can increase the amount of respiratory droplets or aerosols in a confined setting."

Meanwhile, New Jersey adopted neighboring New York's disastrous nursing home directive which likely exacerbated the number of deaths in already vulnerable nursing homes and adult care facilities. New Jersey won't protect their vulnerable seniors, but they sure like flexing their muscles to keep a gym closed down.

Atilis Gym opened its doors for the first time in two months on Monday, as hundreds gathered outside to show their support. Entry to the gym was limited to members, a maximum of 44 at a time, and strict sanitation and social distancing measures were observed.

Supporters in the crowd waved American flags and displayed signs calling for an end to the shutdown. Inevitably, police officers appeared and addressed the crowd.

Police did charge the gym's owners, Ian Smith and Frank Trumbetti, with disorderly person's offenses and for violating the statewide order. Police also arrested one gym member on Tuesday for violating the lockdown and obstructing the administration of law by refusing to give officers his name. Police issued summons violations to five people who used the gym's facilities.

Smith says the gym will likely remain closed at least until Tuesday.

May 23, 2020 11:23 PM
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