As a professor of political science and a constitutional scholar I can tell you that public safety is a legitimate concern for government. It's one of the reasons we institute government. We can argue about the extent to which government can control activity in the name of safety, but it's clear that a pandemic does need a government response!We have an opportunity here to find the best balance between safety and liberty by working together instead of fighting amongst ourselves.
Governing during this crisis is complicated by people ignoring instruction. MSN reported today that people in Lincoln Park and the Lakefront areas have been ignoring the governor by going out and mingling en masse in public areas. This is entirely counterproductive to what the mayor, the governor, and the president are hoping to accomplish with restrictions on our daily activities! The whole point of social distancing during a pandemic can be seen in the graph below. By limiting public activity, we keep the spread of the virus slow enough for our medical system to be able to handle new cases. If we exceed this capacity, the pandemic will spiral beyond our ability to treat patients and the death rate will increase dramatically!
To this end, we need to give our government some leeway in handling this and future pandemics. Criticizing government officials isn’t going to really help the situation and can even make it worse. This pandemic is unprecedented in many ways and has garnered the largest government response in history. We need to expect that the experts and elected officials will not get this perfect. To that end, we shouldn’t be criticizing the mayor or the governor in their response to the situation. Their teams are doing what they believe are best for the safety of the people they have been charged with serving. Neither should Governor Pritzker be criticizing President Trump for the very same reasons!
There’s a lot to be said about the negatives of politicizing this crisis. Governor Pritzker has tried to build political capital by attacking President Trump. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is trying to use the crisis to push spending that has nothing to do with the pandemic. Instead, let’s continue to pull together in developing the best possible course of action in such scenarios. Let’s learn from our mistakes, grow through learning and consider how we can better respond together in the future. We will ultimately find the right balance between safety and liberty. We the People can help this process by cooperating with government so we can find that balance. After all, we are better when we act together!