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What Happened to Liberty and Justice for All?

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The “Pledge of Allegiance” when I was a kid was just a series of sounds we would make to start the school day. Look at the flag on the wall. Hand over heart. Say words we do not understand. 

Later, researching this thing, I concluded that the pledge originated as mere prattle to instill patriotism during the Spanish-American War, and also bully new immigrants into giving up native loyalties. I’d say the pledges but not with enthusiasm. 

And yet: last night, I joined others in saying the pledge at an event. I choked up at one point. Why? It was these words: “liberty and justice for all.”

Every word of that matters. Presumably liberty means that you can go places, do things, say stuff, associate as you want, worship as you choose, work, open a business,  live your dreams, unimpeded by arbitrary authority – all of which has been massively compromised during the pandemic due to egregious government policies backed by mass panic. 

We had to give up our liberty to fight a virus, they said. And yet here we are, surrounded by ill-health, broken lives, shattered childhoods, wrecked communities, and the virus just keeps on keeping on. 

The word “all” matters here too. All. Not just people who are vaccinated against a virus from which the vast majority of people face no severe threat. All includes all groups. We don’t have biological tests for whether and to what extent people have liberty and experience justice. We certainly would never exclude anyone from public life – by force – by failing to comply with an edict from a bureaucracy that was never approved by any legislature and which fails in a court of law. 

And yet here we are. I’ve spent the last several days in New York City. It seems like the crisis never goes away. It began on March 12, 2020. Millions fled the lockowns. The situation seems actually worse today. Every public building – museum, diner, theater, bar, restaurant, library – has a sign barring the unvaccinated. You walk in and it’s the first thing that happens. They check your papers. 

Like many New Yorkers, I avoided this as best I could but I briefly made a mistake, thinking that New York was still an open, happy, enterprising city. I opened the door of a small bar, as a normal person would. The man demanded my papers. I shuffled around and flashed a passport and a card (please don’t ask me about my vaxx status; I object to sharing it). I was let in among the “clean” while the “unclean” had to shuffle around in the cold and eat from the trucks of food vendors. 

The experience was utterly degrading and unAmerican. It shocked me how badly it feels. It’s grotesque. 

On Twitter, people say, what’s the big deal? You have to show identification to drink. Right but this is about age and age doesn’t discriminate. This new proof is about whether you have accepted the government’s shot. It’s a biological pass that heavily segrates. There is a reason this has never been a commercial norm. It’s in no one’s interest.  It’s utterly wicked and unAmerican. 

Sure, anyone can get a fake and millions do. They use them. But not everyone is willing to lie. Some people would prefer to live a life of integrity. Government is making that very hard to do. 

Have a look at the data on vaccinations. I’m assuming that at least half these people were forced into vaccination under the threat of losing their jobs. Others have just fled the city altogether. Here is where it stands now. See who is being excluded. 

It’s striking that there are more in the 18 to 24 group than the 75 and older group who have gotten the jab, despite the thousand-fold difference in risk from Covid. This signifies the disastrous public-health messaging that has taken place throughout this pandemic. People even now have no clue who is at risk, even though we’ve known that since February 2020! 

But have a look at ethnicity. Only half of blacks are vaccinated. Half of blacks in the city are simply barred from restaurants, movies, and so on! Astonishing. Infuriating. Who cares? I’m not even sure. How is this even possible? How is this even happening? It’s a moral outrage. Every establishment objects but they go along lest they be shut down. 

The great civic message of the summer of 2020 was: Black Lives Matter. I guess the message didn’t stick. The signs still appear on lawns in posh Massachusetts neighborhoods but these people can’t be bothered to notice what is taking place in the state next door. 

What’s more, none of this makes any epidemiological sense. The vaccinated still get Covid and still spread Covid. Serious studies have shown that the threat to the vaccinated is not in any way intensified by the presence of the unvaccinated, many if not most of whom possess much more robust and lasting natural immunities. Again, we’ve known this for longer than a year. Why all these policies based on bad science, bad economics, bad sociology, discrimination, and outright lies? How is this allowed to go on?

More than 25,000 restaurants and bars in Manhattan have already gone out of business. The ones remaining are attracting fewer than half the customers that they once did. Vast people have fled the city so it is very difficult to find and attract workers. Workers can name their price these days, vastly increasing costs. Ingredients are hard to come by. The port clogs are hopeless and high-end restaurants are having to charter their own flights to and from many places in the world just to maintain their menus. 

Meanwhile, as the city plunges deeper into crisis, prices are soaring everywhere for everything, profoundly harming all venues from bars to restaurants to transportation to hotels. If you can possibly avoid the place for now, I would strongly suggest that you do so. Many residents now regret not having left a year and a half ago.

As for crime, it is out of control. There’s so much of it, it is not even reported. A bar owner on the Upper East Side told me that he witnessed a thief grab a woman’s purse in front of his place. She wouldn’t let go. He dragged her down the street screaming and then turned the corner. She finally let go, scraped up and bleeding. People stood by in shock and then went on with their lives, because such scenes are completely normal. 

What are the cops doing? They are busy enforcing vaccine mandates. No one can go anywhere inside in this city without flashing proof of vaccination. The cops themselves will fine any business $5,000 for letting even one person in without a card, real or fake. 

Sometimes the cops even circle the restaurants and demand them of customers! Enjoy your dining experience, everyone! 

During the pandemic, and the closures, many restaurants set up outside dining, basically building another version of indoors outdoors. It was very expensive to do and the results were sometimes ridiculous. But the saving grace here is that the city didn’t charge the restaurants for the extra space, given the emergency. 

That didn’t last long. Now the city is going shop to shop and assessing fees on outdoor dining areas. These can be $50,000 to $100,000 — even more than it cost to put them up. This is happening at a time when many of these establishments are barely surviving. Their customer base has collapsed, labor is expensive, and food and drink are ever more difficult to come by. 

The whole place has a feel of demoralization. Many people who refuse the vaccination and refuse the fakes just sit at home and order food in. They cannot go to movies, shows, bars, or restaurants. Yes, there are plenty of speakeasies, but they take enormous risks. Nothing seems quite real. 

The mayor who did this to the city – by executive edit – is out of office January 1, 2022. He is deeply unpopular. Hated. And he seems not to care. He is demanding that all workers in NYC get vaccinated, even though this would exclude half of the minority populations from earning a living. He is literally willing for people to starve rather than allow for natural immunity! He is roping in the children in his schemes too. 

Now he is talking about running for Governor. What a joke! The new Mayor may or may not roll back this insanity. Everyone is waiting to see. 

Meanwhile, cases are going through the roof in the city. By some measures, cases are higher than they ever have been, even as deaths are not yet rising. New York City was the absolute worst in stringency from March 2020 onwards, and the only thing they have to show for it is wreckage. 

Instead of noting the astonishing failure of forced masking, venue closures, and mass vaccination mandates, the mayor is doubling down during his last days of possessing the power to wreck the lives of millions in what was only recently the world’s greatest city. 

Liberty and justice for all! It’s a good idea. New York City should try it. Maybe it too would experience a Florida-like boom in business and immigration instead of recession and exodus. If this keeps up, the only moving thing in the city will be the newest variant. 

Author

  • Jeffrey A. Tucker is Founder and President of the Brownstone Institute and the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press and ten books in 5 languages, most recently Liberty or Lockdown. He is also the editor of The Best of Mises. He speaks widely on topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.


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