I mentioned the other day that a pub/restaurant in Kendrick, Idaho had reopened for business. The state police showed up, but were kind of stymied because one of the customers inside was the lieutenant governor of Idaho. And there are also wheels within other wheels. Hardware Brewing Co. — for that is their name — just received notice that they might have their liquor license removed for their effrontery, which is more than a little dismaying. Correction at bottom of the post.
It is as though some of our state officials were jealous of the inverse glory that Texas officials had covered themselves with when they arrested and sentenced Shelley Luther. They want a little of that public opprobrium for themselves.
This brewpub in Kendrick is owned by Doug and Christine Lohman, and we are on the brink of discovering if the solons of Idaho are about to make them household names all over the country. Why not? Why not have a rerun of that sorry Texas business here in Idaho?
This might be a good place to mention how it will go, and this observation almost makes me feel sorry for the judge who lectured and sentenced Shelley Luther. I stop short with almost because of him lecturing her about being selfish, which led to her exquisite comeback about how feeding your family is not selfish. So why do I almost feel sorry for him then? Because he was just implementing the orders from above, and even though he looked both ways, he did not see the bus coming, the bus that he was about to get thrown under. Right after the underling judge did what the governor’s order authorized, the governor and attorney-general denounced it. “How dare you apply what we required?” And that is how it will play out here.
If somebody from our state government drops the hammer on the Lohmans, and there is no outcry, then the state government will go lumbering right along, crushing even more small businesses. But if they do this, and there is a public outcry (as I can assure you there will be), then the authorities at the top will be as indignant as a room full of wet cats, and they will say things like, “how could this have happened?,” and we will all be reassured that “steps will be taken.” Oh, good.
The Emperor Has No Crisis
According to our law, extreme measures can be taken when there is extreme peril to the lives and safety of the people on account of an extreme emergency. And this extreme peril is bluntly defined in terms of the capacities of our protective infrastructure — hospitals, etc. — being overwhelmed by this said condition of extreme emergency. American folk music has a better take on what this is supposed to mean than do our modern politicos. You know, “fire on the mountain, run, boys, run.” You know, “the levee’s gonna break.” You know, “there was six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline.”
But, lo! As it turns out, our public resources are all exactly the opposite of overwhelmed. We have had minimal cases of coronavirus here, and no deaths. Hospitals, like other businesses, are laying people off. In a genuine extreme emergency, our emergency services — now follow me closely here — would not be laying people off. They would be hauling doctors and nurses out of retirement, they would be recruiting volunteers from the community to serve as orderlies, and the tent hospital they set up would have actual patients in it.
So the politicians who are doubling down on this outrageous call of theirs have been backed in to the untenable position of saying to everybody, who all have the faculty of sight in their heads, “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”
Now if you don’t have a crisis to respond to, then you are left with the limited option of responding to those people who are acting like there is no crisis, or, more to the point, that there is no crisis of the magnitude you have been describing to them. Nobody is walking up and down the streets of Kendrick Idaho, calling out in woeful tones, “Bring out your dead.” If that were happening, then Hardware Brewery would be a makeshift hospital, and we wouldn’t be having this particular discussion.
Constrained and Unconstrained Vision
One of the more useful observations made by Thomas Sowell — and there have been many — is the difference between the constrained vision and unconstrained vision. The constrained vision for governance holds that there is no way in tarnation that rulers can know all the facts on the ground, all the ins and outs, all the variables, and that there is therefore no way that they can possibly run all the details of our lives. Advocates of the constrained vision therefore want to limit themselves to process questions as much as possible, and not to outcomes.
The unconstrained vision sees their own appointed and authorized experts as lords of the earth, capable of making shrewd decisions that extend into every corner, and these decisions somehow do not bring disaster with them. That’s the theory, at any rate. In practice, they do bring disaster with them, and the shrewdness was somewhat overstated.
Both the constrained and unconstrained vision believe in equity, but the constrained vision believes in equity of process, while the unconstrained vision believes in equality of results. The constrained vision wants the starting line to be the same for all the runners, wants them all to be able to start running when the gun goes off and not before, and takes no interest in which runner actually wins the race. It is the job of the runners to determine who is actually the fastest. It is not the task of the event organizers. But the unconstrained vision wants a photo finish every time, with equality of result being of paramount importance.
This relates to COVID how? The unconstrained vision has affected our response to the coronavirus in at least several ways. An insistence on what the unconstrained call “fairness” means that you cannot curtail flights from China because that is racist if you are not at the same time curtailing flights from the most coronavirus-free country in the world. If New York state has to lock down then it is unfair if South Dakota doesn’t have to. If one government school in Seattle was fully equipped to move all their classes online, they still have to shut down because it wouldn’t be fair to the other schools that weren’t so equipped. So this view of equality is that everybody in the world has to be doing the same thing if they are “doing their part,”which is why you might see a lone bicyclist out on a bike trail twenty miles from everybody, toodling along with his face mask on. The other view of equity says that the results don’t have to be the same if the conditions are different. Maybe Kendrick, Idaho ought not to be taking direction, however indirect, from Gov. Cuomo.
The second way it has affected all of this has to do with that unwarranted assumption of competence that I referred to earlier. Those in the grip of the unconstrained vision think they can master all the variables. They think they can dictate “rational policies” from their political Olympus, and not have the results of whatever it was they have dictated go sideways on them. But it always goes sideways on them.
Those with the unconstrained fever don’t even think twice about walking up to an economy that was chugging along with trillions of dollars worth of goods and services in the pipeline, and just turning the spigot all the way to the right. All they did was “turn it off,” in order to help fight the virus. We here in Idaho need to take special care to see to it that the virus doesn’t spread into the Wilderness of No Return. I mean, there is an occasional hiker out there! And he might not be wearing a mask!
Special note: In what follows in the remainder of this paragraph, I am not asserting that the coronavirus is the same thing as the flu. Fine. It is not identical with the flu. But we still have to recognize that the flu is in fact an airborne infectious disease, and can you believe the negligence of our elected officials? I mean, every year tens of thousands of people die from it, and we have just been letting that happen — when the solution was apparently in plain sight all along. All we have to do to eliminate flu seasons entirely is wreck the economy every flu season. Flu and COVID are not the same, but they could be fought the same way, could they not?
Those with the unconstrained vision are always consistently surprised by the unintended consequences. One of the words in very common use when reporters write about what just happened to them is “unexpected.”
But the consequences are not unexpected by those who are required to comply with these diktats from on high. Every small businessman, two days into the shut down, had already done the basic math problems. When will the savings be gone, when will the layoffs begin, and when will we have to close for good?
So when people say that civil disobedience under such circumstances is fomenting a disrespect for the law, I would reply that what is actually creating disrespect for the law is when men under the thrall of the unconstrained vision make decisions that assume their own omniscience, but which decisions reveal themselves on the ground to be contradictory, inconsistent, chaotic, and absurd.
And then when the faraway bureaucrats come in to punish those who actually know the situation, they cannot be surprised when all of the public’s sympathy lies with the people who are declining to comply with the ongoing insanity.
Making command and control decisions like this is far beyond the competence of any human being, even in a small municipality. Here in Moscow, for example, our local officials decided to kill our town’s thriving farmer’s market — but in the interest of looking judicious, they decided to do it as slowly as possible. They will only allow the sale of produce, for example, and nothing like jewelry, because, as everyone knows, a virus cannot be transmitted by a man handing you an apple the way it can if a woman hands you a pair of earrings. Science. And if you want your package of Sisters Cookies, you have to go a few blocks north on Main Street and buy them at the grocery store, but you cannot purchase them down at the farmers’ market. Ah, the wisdom of decisions when made by people who will pay no price for being wrong! Sowell again.
So Let’s Get Fox News on This, Shall We?
So back to Hardware Brewing Co. I will try to keep you apprised of what is happening there. Whatever happens should not happen quietly.
You know that sound a spotlight makes when it comes on — something like kllewwwggg? So if and when it comes on, I trust that it will identify by name those officials who agreed to follow the directives of their superiors who will shortly disown them. These are the underling chumps who decided that they would, under color of the law, violate the civil rights of peaceable citizens just trying to make an honest living.
So who wants to be that Texas judge, making muffled noises from under the bus? I can see some functionary in charge of Idaho liquor licenses saying, even now, “Me! Let me do it!”
Correction: When I first posted this, I passed on a rumor that the sheriff and his deputies were inside Hardware Brewing having a drink, which turns out not to have been the case.