Eduardo Vidal | Sunny South Florida | April 2020
This month’s column will address the question of “Takings in the Time of Virus.” As everyone knows, in the United States the vast majority of economic activity has been halted by government orders, at both federal and state levels, at least through Thursday, April 30. This halt has occurred in order to slow down the spread of the Wuhan Virus, a product of the totalitarian Communist government of China, but in the United States such a halt must comply with the requirements of our Constitution, and in particular the Bill of Rights, Amendment V, which provides: “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
Our private property includes our right to work freely, in order to pursue happiness as proclaimed in our Declaration of Independence, and at least to provide for ourselves and our families, so that we can be independent and self-reliant, and do not become a charge upon the public. Many people consider that their work is their calling, and so pursue it to the best of their abilities. These government orders to stop working constitute, in effect, a taking of our private property, which includes our right to work and engage in economic activity.
The evidence is overwhelming, however, that this government-ordered shutdown is destroying our economy, and therefore our ability to work and earn a living. During the last two weeks, nearly 10 million workers have filed for unemployment compensation. The stock market is down by around one-third from its all-time highs reached earlier this year. Most economic forecasters are predicting not only a recession, meaning two consecutive quarters of economic contraction, but also a full-fledged depression.
The so-called CARES Act, enacted by the federal government on Friday, March 27, represents an attempt to compensate us for our private property that has been taken, but whether it adds up to just compensation is questionable. These federal reparations do not come close to compensating us for all our private property that has been taken, and in any event government dependency is no compensation for the independence and self-reliance of a job.
The federal government does not have adequate resources, even with all the printing presses of the Federal Reserve going at full blast, to compensate us for shutting down our economy. In fact, these bailouts will only make things worse, further increasing our already nearly-unsustainable federal debt, and the only way for government to obtain the resources that it requires is to let us get back to work, plus further tax cuts and reasonable deregulation to spur economic growth, so that we can have a V-shaped recovery, instead of the L-shaped recovery from the last financial crisis. It is typical of government that first it creates a problem, then pretends to solve it and fails to do so, then calls for more government intervention to solve the continuing problem, which only results in the problem getting worse, and so on it goes.
Then there is the question of what public use or purpose is served by this economic shutdown? Our public health experts claim that only a total shutdown of all activity can prevent the Wuhan Virus from killing millions in the United States this year, so they persuaded our governments to shut us down almost completely, with no end in sight. Yet during the first quarter of this year, fewer people died from the Wuhan Virus than from seasonal flu, childbirth, malaria, traffic accidents or abortions. Most of the fatalities from the Wuhan Virus also had other underlying medical conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, lung disease, weak immune systems or the like, plus they tended to suffer from the curse of old age. Heck, shutting down gyms is contributing to the spread of obesity, thereby making us more vulnerable.