A Few Notes on a ‘Soft’ Police State
Ben Stein
by
Gov. Gavin Newsom ordering Californians to remain at home (YouTube screenshot)

So, yesterday evening as I was sitting at my computer, along came a call from my very dear friend Mike Visser. He lives in Canada, but he had just seen on FNC that our governor, “Pretty Boy” Gavin Newsom, had just ordered us Californians to stay indoors and in our homes for the foreseeable future.

The reason, of course, is the highly contagious coronavirus which apparently has spread like wildfire all over the Golden State in the last two months. Gov. Newsom had also said that if current trends continue, something like 55 percent of Californians would contract the virus. Immediately thereafter, for the first time ever in my time in Beverly Hills, I saw numbers of police cars cruising the streets of Beverly Hills. The police officers were looking at anyone on the sidewalk or in cars. I could see this from my window.

Now, let’s be fair about this. Newsom’s order does not apply to persons going out for groceries or for medicine or toilet paper (the new gold) or to walk their dogs or just to get a breath of fresh air. So it’s not that horrible.

But it’s horrible enough. My phone and email and texts just blew up with people who are terrified. Just scared to death. I was scared, too. I don’t want to live as a prisoner in my own home, as much as I love my home. And I have more than one home so I can go to other locales to get some fresh air. One of my homes overlooks the Malibu Beach, so that’s fresh air indeed. Another is 10 floors over the skyline of LA, so that’s not so bad either.

But I feel as if I am in a police state. Now, Newsom has emergency powers authority. But if you study the language of those powers, it’s implied that these powers are meant for wartime use, and there’s nothing in there about illness.

Still, all government behavior in a constitutional democracy is subject to being reasonable. Newsom could not, for example, order the California National Guard to invade Oregon and seize Medford.

So, what is the reasonableness behind this lockdown? That 55-percent contagion rate figure, by the way, turned out to be totally made up. It came from thin air and had no real-world correlatives. That’s no way for a governor to behave. I assume of course that it’s about the highly contagious nature of the coronavirus. And apparently it is highly contagious. But it’s not insanely contagious so far.

But let’s dig into it a little bit. I’m writing this at 2 p.m. PDT on March 20, 2020. We in California have had roughly (and I emphasize roughly) 20 fatalities from this disease. That’s 20 too many, I assure you. But, this is a state of roughly 40 million souls. So we have had roughly far less than one-hundredth of one percent fatality rate, and yet we are being turned into a police state, albeit a “soft” police state, as one might say. And there were no public hearings about this, not even one day’s worth of hearings. The governor presumably consulted someone, but we do not know whom.

This is a serious state of affairs. Yes, the virus is serious, too, but while it’s highly catching, its fatality rate is mercifully small. Even in China, even if we discount for their dishonesty by a lot, the fatalities rate is small compared with swine flu, when the fatalities rate was immense — roughly 600 times the rate so far for COVID-19.

Does this merit a police state, even a “soft” police state? We have about 20,000 dying a month from the effects of cigarette smoking. So, what’s next? Arresting people as they buy their smokes? Pulling people over if they are smoking? And are we really forbidding freedom of assembly even for worship? I have a super-close friend who is a Christian pastor. His Sunday services are canceled. The LA police department have just told my pastor friend that any worship of more than one person is a crime! Doesn’t this violate the Constitution? And if our goal is to keep people alive, why do we permit the very widespread advertisement and sale of alcohol, when alcoholism causes about 35,000 deaths per year?

Something requires a lawsuit here to ventilate these issues before a judge and jury. Pretty Gavin Newsom is the governor, but even he is answerable to higher laws.

And whatever happened to “we the people”?

Ben Stein
Ben Stein
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Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes “Ben Stein’s Diary” for every issue of The American Spectator.
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