Reason, Emergencies, and Self-Government

By Angelo Codevilla:

In the time of COVID-19, the primary practical problem is that any number of persons who hold positions of power have taken to exercising their statutory authority—and often much much more—to please themselves or to act out their dreams of power.

As panic over the COVID-19 virus has gripped the country, the alarm has made it possible for many government officials to advance agendas that portend permanent accretions of power to themselves and diminution of others’ freedoms.

There is nothing new about claims that ordinary people must surrender their goods and freedoms in exchange for salvation from real, hyped, or imagined emergencies. These instances have occurred in societies ruled by magic, in ancient democracies and empires, in the context of religion, as well as under the presumed aegis of science. Plagues, comets, famines, anniversaries, computer problems (remember Y2K?), and global warming, have provided the fear. Power stokes panic, which perverts all judgment and emboldens the willful.

In Western civilization, and in America especially, the specific consequences of such panics are smaller than the corrosive effects they have on the civilization and the regimes themselves—based as these are on reason. What follows sketches the larger problem.

. . .

This civilization is based on the book of Genesis. And the United States of America is based on the Declaration of Independence. Both affirm that the universe is created according to reason, and is intelligible by human reason; both also affirm that all human beings are created by one God, equally in the image and likeness of God. As Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger summed it up in his 2006 Regensburg lecture, “Not to act reasonably, not to act with logos, is contrary to the nature of God.”

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