In The News Quiz February 1, 2021
Civil Liberties and Public Health: Mandatory Masks During the COVID Pandemic?
Should Americans be required to wear a mask in public places during a pandemic? Strong civil libertarians—echoing the “don’t tread on me” sentiment that helped spark the American Revolution—say “no.” Individuals should be free to determine their own destiny insofar as possible, they claim, pointing to a long tradition of limits on government power in the U.S. (Compare civil liberties, which restrict government action to protect individual rights, to civil rights, which require government action to secure goods such as the right to vote.)
Anti-mask rallies appeared across the nation during 2020 and early 2021. Partly this owed to President Trump and allies at times denouncing mask-wearing. An iconic moment came when Trump, after a serious COVID case requiring hospitalization and special treatment, returned to the White House; he appeared on the Truman Balcony and—with a small crowd cheering below—dramatically ripped off his mask. Although “anti-maskers” appeared in several other countries, only in the U.S.—given a long civil-liberties tradition of resistance to government mandates—did wearing a mask become a significant political statement. This even as the U.S. led the world in both number of cases and deaths from COVID.
Read the following articles that detail some of these issues:
- Dr. J.T. Roddy & J. Muehlbauer, “Redefining Self-Interest: The US Response to COVID-19” (2020)
- E. Stewart, “Anti-Maskers Explain Themselves” (2020)
- AARP, “State-by-State Guide to Face Mask Mandates” (2021)