Limiting individual freedoms is part of the government's job

Posted: 1/7/2022 19:00:47 PM Modified: 1/7/2022 19:00:07 There is a lot of talk going on about the government’s violation of indivi...

Posted: 1/7/2022 19:00:47 PM

Modified: 1/7/2022 19:00:07

There is a lot of talk going on about the government’s violation of individual freedoms.

Whether at the national or local level, there are shrill, often angry voices denouncing government intrusion. Such a discussion, however, must begin with a fundamental recognition: government at all levels necessarily limits individual freedoms. That’s part of its purpose, part of the role it was created for. In order to facilitate the community, we establish governments to create rules limiting individual freedoms.

In Northampton right now, this discussion involves public comment to our board of health on whether to require proof of COVID vaccination in order to access public places. In doing so, the Board of Health decides whether to add to one of the larger categories of government rules: those that constrain our individual freedoms in order to cultivate greater public safety.

The existing rules in this category oblige us to drive on the correct side of the road even though our preference might be contrary. We are expected to limit our driving to speeds that the government establishes as safe, even though we are sure we can drive safely faster – and we may be fined or even lose our right to drive. lead if we don’t comply. We need to make sure our cars pass inspection even though we as individuals think our tires have enough tread and our leaking exhausts aren’t bad enough yet.

We are forced to restrict our individual freedoms in hundreds of ways in order to live in community.

We can and should debate situations that pose sufficient risk to public safety to require a rule. We can highlight the spillover effects and unintended consequences of particular rules. We can argue that certain rules should allow certain exceptions. We can present facts that support changing the rule. However, we cannot say that the government is wrong to enact rules that it believes in good faith to be necessary to protect public health and safety. This is their job.

Most of us who grew up when polio, measles, mumps and other illnesses were major threats, were not only tolerant of government rules requiring vaccination (e.g. for entry to hospital). ‘school) ; we were relieved and deeply grateful that such a life changing and society changing technology had emerged. Although, for example, the World Health Organization records more than 140,000 annual deaths from measles in other countries, it is perhaps understandable that many American citizens today consider our society relatively free from measles. diseases.

However, those working in public health have gone to their lifetimes to recognize how recent this achievement is and how best to avoid a return to darker times. The members of the Northampton Board of Health, two MDs and two MDs, are all volunteers in service to our community. We have good reason to trust their judgment on these things.

When governments create rules, there are always compromises. It is to be expected that a given rule has drawbacks and does not prove that the rule is wrong. Our Board of Health is doing a very difficult thing: deciding how to weigh the pros and cons of a constraint on individual freedoms. It’s easy for those of us who aren’t on the board to express opinions and not consider all sides and all factors. I do not envy the Board of Directors for taking on this challenge and I consider their efforts to achieve it noble.

Here in Northampton, we expect our voices to be heard. How fortunate we are to have public servants who listen, struggle with the many uncertain variables, and then in the midst of the vortex of our conflicting voices, take a deep breath and make the call they feel is best for our community. Whatever they decide, some of us won’t agree, but we should all be grateful for their serious efforts.

Now retired, Kevin Lake has been a resident of Northampton since 1978. He volunteers with several local nonprofits and is Chairman of the Northampton Conservation Commission.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Limiting individual freedoms is part of the government's job
Limiting individual freedoms is part of the government's job
Newsrust - US Top News
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