OpinionTrending Commentary

Why the Feds Are Clinging to Their Mask Mandate

Bureaucrats cling to power. It’s their institutional predisposition.

So it was no surprise on Wednesday when the Department of Justice appealed the recent Federal court ruling that struck down the mask mandate imposed on mass transportation by the Centers for Disease Control.

As the appeal demonstrates, governments are especially reluctant to give up emergency powers. When they do, the relinquishment is grudging and only partial.

That is a big reason why big government keeps getting bigger. As economist Robert Higgs showed in his book Crisis and Leviathan, since the early 20th century, the US government has exploited every national emergency to seize emergency powers. After the crisis subsides, government power recedes, but never all the way back to pre-crisis levels. In this way, the federal government “ratchets up” its power, at the expense of our liberty, crisis after crisis.

This “ratchet effect,” as Higgs termed it, is on vivid display in airports especially. There, the travel mask mandate persisted long after the pandemic panic subsided and many other COVID policies were rolled back. And if the DOJ’s appeal succeeds, it may return and linger even longer.

The wretched ratchet effect is also manifest in the many post-9/11 airport security policies that the Transportation Security Administration continues to enforce more than two decades after the crisis that spawned them.

A curious aspect of many of these policies is how seemingly petty they are. Why is the government so adamant about travelers removing their shoes at security and wearing masks? The effectiveness of such measures has been shown to be highly dubious at best. Moreover, such compelled performances of “security theater” and “hygiene theater” don’t even seem to provide much material benefit to the government. What’s the point of ratcheting up that kind of power?

I suspect a major purpose of such petty policies is the mass inculcation of obedience. Security theater and hygiene theater are part and parcel of a broader “obedience theater.” Humiliating compulsory gestures like removing your shoes and wearing your mask are obeisances: symbolic ritual acts of self-abasement and submission.

It’s not about keeping you safe or healthy. It’s about showing you who’s boss.

Content syndicated from Fee.org (FEE) under Creative Commons license.

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  1. We were only supposed to pay federal income tax for a short period of time, we were only supposed to pay out subsidies to different factions for a limited time but yet every year they get paid, people were supposed to collect food stamps and welfare for a limited time yet we have 3rd and 4th generations living on these entitlements. The money we pay into FDIC was supposed to go to FDIC yet it is misappropriated before it is ever collected. Who allowed them to do that even the first time? For what? I bet it was supposed to be a one time thing if it was discussed at all. For every inch of leeway you give the Government they tread on 10 miles of our goodwill and patience. I for one have lost all patience with them. They do not have our good in mind. No more inches. If you allow them to take our rights during a crisis they will manufacture crisis to take our rights.

  2. The sky is falling, the Covid numbers are up, you are gonna die, stay home, mask up and let us rewrite your ballots. So transparent.

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