Free Speech & Peace

Five steps for public officials to protect public health, regain public trust, and ensure civil liberties during COVID-19 crisis

COVID-19 has put longstanding questions around how to balance liberty and safety into sharp focus.

May 14, 2020

COVID-19 has put longstanding questions around how to balance liberty and safety into sharp focus. Americans and their public officials grapple with the dynamic while working to protect public health and maintain the public confidence necessary for successful adoptions of temporary measures and ultimately restoration of their full civil liberties.

Charles Koch Institute Senior Fellow Casey Mattox offers advice on the subject in today’s Detroit News:

For going on two months now, a majority of Americans has taken the reasonable view that supporting these kinds of restrictions are acceptable because individual actions can help save lives during the coronavirus pandemic. Most Americans gave government the benefit of the doubt, forgoing the exercise of fundamental freedoms to “flatten the curve.”

But as cracks begin to appear in that solidarity, government must adjust quickly to new information and changed circumstances — especially when it comes to actions that violate people’s civil liberties. Government overreach, apparent attempts by political adversaries to score political points and use coronavirus to claim more power for themselves, and seemingly arbitrary distinctions between some activities deemed essential and some deemed “non-essential” have helped to widen those cracks in public confidence in government.

However necessary those restrictions are, if officials want them to actually be effective, they must continue to implement and exercise their extraordinary powers in a manner that will build public confidence, not diminish it.

Mattox offers five steps to accomplish those goals:

  • Invite the public into the process.
  • Reassess, reassess, reassess.
  • Keep it focused.
  • Allow for modifications.
  • Ensure equal application.

Read the full piece here.