Ten Principles of the Reopening

Ten Principles of the Reopening

Overlooked in all of the debates over returning to normal life, the virtues of masks, and more is…


Here are ten principles of reopening. The core of these concepts is that tolerance and respect is actually in our best interest.

1. Governors do not dictate how many people will come out and resume their lives. People make those decisions. Significant physical distancing was already occurring before the governors acted, and not everyone will rush back to normal life – likely, most people will continue to act with caution. This will have a continuing effect on the economy.

2. The decision To Act or Not To Act can be called Human Action. Economics is the study of human action. We are not merely money-driven creatures. Each human being has their own unique risk profile based on a combination of a) the circumstances in which they find themselves and b) their personality. You determine the “price” of action – risk and reward – for everything you do, and so does everyone else. Some will be ready to act before others.

3. Just because you’re not willing to take a particular (peaceful) risk does not mean others should be blocked from it. Rage towards another person or a law (force) against a peaceful behavior that you don’t like is an anti-empathetic act. You don’t know the individual circumstances that cause another to act as they do. Tolerance is socially vital. Far better to inquire, if you’re concerned, and then to listen to the response in good faith.

4. Moreover, we need explorers who will take greater risks to open things up for the rest of us. We want to get back to normal life where we could shake the hand of a friend, exchange warm hugs, and go to concerts or sporting events. Many of us are unwilling to be the first to venture out. Others will do that for us. And if they have done a bad job of weighing the risks, they will pay the most direct and harshest price. But if their calculation is correct, then they reduce the risks sufficiently for more of us to join them. Lord willing, that soon means all of us.

5. There is no objective best practice for the whole of society, to which 100% must adhere. Nearly every question has more than two sides. You might believe, with tremendous passion, that you know what’s best. You might even have studies to back your claim. But other studies can be produced (with relative ease) and counterclaims can be made. What we have is a war of competing studies – and someone must still take the first step. Maybe we should pause and ask polite questions of those with whom we disagree? Perhaps being humane requires humility.

6. Nearly all of what you know about the world is third or fourth hand. First hand are the observers. They share their data with experts. Experts rely on reporters or analysts (third hand), who in turn deliver it to you. The result is that headlines are more powerful than facts. Given that we each are busy observing our own lives, most of what we know are the headlines. Can you at least see why a given claim is disputable and reasonable people can come to different conclusions?

7. He who controls the headlines sets the agenda. No actual conspiracy is required. Incentives matter. Headline writers have long known that fear and conflict sells better than good news. In other words, clickbait is real. Sometimes, all you have to do is read past the headline to find out that the title was sensational and misleading. Have you actually studied the matter in some detail?

8. Regarding the war of competing studies, there’s a common tendency to label those who disagree with us as stupid or malevolent. I’ll confess, I’ve done that. But it’s hardly ever true. Personal values are powerful, and we’re more open to studies that reflect our values and more critical of those that contradict our beliefs and preferences. But the world is vast, and there are so many ways to be wrong! Before we ask another to do so, can we consider the remote possibility we’re wrong?

9. We’re better humans when we feel existentially free. In times past, being Protestant or being gay might have been considered a threat to society. Those societal fears were False Evidence Appearing Real. Fear is a powerful force that contorts values. After the fear passes, we (and if not, our children and grandchildren) discover that the fear didn’t bring out the best in us. If only we could apply that wisdom in foresight!

10. Where possible it is good practice to consider the fears of others and accommodate them, even at a tiny health or happiness reduction to ourselves. Empathy for others is too often undervalued. Seeing a person who is afraid should evoke some sympathy. There’s no heroism in scaring others. It’s also counterproductive to persuasion. That is, people will better understand why you disagree with an established position if you figure out a considerate, gentle method to present it.

All of the aforementioned statements are principles. They apply broadly to a variety of fear situations, both the one we’re experiencing in the present and others that will come.

If there was an “11th principle” to cover, it would be this: Politicians and the drive-by media thrive on fear. You can choose the better path of respecting others. Don’t let them turn social problem solving into a partisan battle.

Make your own decision. You are free to live your life by your values. But please make consideration for others part of the calculation. Or, in a word…

Be Kind.
Jim Babka is the Editor-at-Large for Advocates for Self-Government and the co-creator of the Zero Aggression Project.

Comment section

10 thoughts on “Ten Principles of the Reopening

  1. Why are so many on the right so ignorant of why the at-homes and lockdowns are even done?

    It is NOT just to reduce risks to you.
    It’s also to reduce your threat to others. This is communicable. At least 1/4 of the infected never have any symptoms. The others can take up to 14 days to see any symptoms.

    Can you, at this moment, attest you do not have covid-19? (How would you know?) If not, you’re claiming some unalienable and/or God-Given right to infect and/or kill innocent people. That’s what original (pro-liberty) libertarians would say.

    Too many libs today are anti-government, no longer pro-liberty. The two are not the same.

  2. There are no 100% solutions. How do you know the next time you drive to the market you won’t inadvertently kill a pedestrian? All you can do is take reasonable precautions, with reasonable being individually determined. Conscious intent and informed decisions will benefit society the most. Be kind and think of your fellow man in your decisions.

  3. Perhaps you have been reading too many NYT articles and watching too much MSNBC and other liberal media propaganda. It is neither all about me, nor all about you. It is about individual freedom of thought and activity for everyone, as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others. You have the right to “self-distance” or “self-isolate” to your heart’s content; I also have the right to pursue my own desires to enjoy the fruits of life in the outside world, including making a living and feeding my family. I won’t tell you that you must quarantine and neither should you dictate to me that I am not free to enjoy normal activities. At home lockdowns are done to establish a modicum of control over the populace, nothing more. It is an experiment to test how submissive the public will be to a propaganda of fear.

  4. Jehovah God gave us free will, freedom to choose, and He did not anoint any bureaucrat with power or authority to override anyone’s free will, freedom to choose. So, the first thing to do is to stop groveling at the feet of the tyrant politicians and their hordes of sycophantic bootlickers.

  5. @MikeHihn: As a health care practitioner in a city with a high rate of HIV, I’ve known for a long time that all of us normal healthy people are great big bundles of disease culture that can kill a severely immune-compromised person. My hesitation to work with an AIDS patient would be concern that I might make them sicker. Yet for years my professional code of ethics stated that we can warn AIDS patients, and take steps to protect them, but it’s THEIR responsibility to stay away from all of us “healthy” immune carriers of rhinovirus, staphylococcus, streptococcus, Epstein-Barr Virus, Aspergillus fungus (you knew that an AIDS patient’s body will grow mildew, right?), and more–more than anybody’s ever even listed.

    I don’t think that’s changed.

    For me and for most active “healthy” people, all the evidence indicates that COVID-19 is going to be just another chest cold that I probably won’t notice when I have it. One more virus in an abundant existing supply. We’ll get it, we’ll spread it, and we’ll think nothing of it because, like all the staph and strep and EBV we’ve been carrying around, it’ll do us no harm. COVID has been thought to be related to SARS. There was a minor panic over the SARS virus too. What happened? SARS wasn’t all that deadly, either.

    For some people, it’s not that COVID is going to be worse than rhinovirus; it’s that rhinovirus could still kill them, too. Those people know who they are. Our society has needed to build more awareness of them and more ways they can engage with other people, non-suicidally, for a long time. Forcing everyone to live in a bogus simulation of their lives is not my idea of a good way to start building that, but it’s *a* way.

    I don’t think we need a lockdown. I do think we have long needed a few tweaks, like:

    * Public transportation…with separate compartments, no plopping down and rubbing knees and elbows with strangers.

    * More work from home in more spacious offices. Absolutely no barging up behind co-workers to read over their shoulders, no matter how low their status may be, and no breathing down people’s necks, even if that seems like the easiest way to “monitor” or “supervise.” (I let a client stand behind me while dictating. I picked up her “little summer cold.” I shared it with my husband. He shared it with a fragile child who developed pneumonia next week and died that fall. Yes, we healthy adults DO need social distancing.)

    * Social etiquette that respects people’s personal space. For instance, remembering that church is a place to worship God, not a place to run up and grab casual acquaintances while coughing in their faces.

    But it’s NOT TRUE that COVID is so much worse than SARS or swine flu or Zika or Ebola or H1N1 or any of the other virus panics that it justifies totalitarianism. Even more than we need to think about ways to integrate medically fragile people into polite society, I think we need to oppose the dictatorship people are trying to build on the COVID panic.

  6. This is a particularly difficult situation for liberty. Liberty relies on conscious choice. I have to choose to not interfere with your liberties, just as you do for me. In the case of a virus that can be spread without conscious choice, liberty is difficult to hold onto. I want you to be able to choose not to wear a mask, but I also don’t want you to spread your disease to me – you making me sick is violating my liberties, but me forcing you to wear a mask (for my protection) is violating your liberty.

    We can see how conflicts occur easily – you want to hug grandma, but she doesn’t want to hug you back – who is right? She took away your ability to hug, but you also took away her ability to not be hugged.

    I think intelligence can be applied to this situation. The only reason we fear this virus is due to its ability to hide from us. Excluding the malicious, no one wants to get another person sick with a potentially lethal disease. If you can prove to me that you are not sick, and I can prove to you the same, then a handshake or hug should be fine assuming we both consent. To maintain our liberties, we need this knowledge first, otherwise we are doomed to fall into conflict. A society built on Liberty has no place for ignorance.

  7. Any violation of our natural rights is unacceptable. In a free society, individuals decide what risks they will take, not the state. What else do you need to know?

  8. @Kent In a free society, individuals decide what risks to take *towards themselves* (not others), not the state. You are not allowed to decide risk for other people. If you were, then you would be violating their natural rights. You as an individual should not risk the lives of other people. You may risk your own life, but only in a way that doesn’t risk other lives. For example, you may think that you are free to carry volatile explosives, and blow yourself up. And you are. But you are not allowed to carry those explosives in a location where other people may be killed. Not without their consent first. That is true liberty, anything less is anarchy.

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