Every Business is Essential

May 14, 2020 |

Since the beginning of this COVID-19 pandemic, we have been hearing about “essential businesses” and “non-essential businesses”.  The decision has been made, by someone somewhere as to which is which.  Banks are essential businesses.  Hospitals are essential businesses.  Construction, utilities, grocery, public works…all essential.  There is a part of me that says, “Sure.  Fine.  I get it.”, but the rest of me looks at reality:  Since we started allowing only “essential businesses” to operate, our economy has done a nose-dive unlike any I have seen during my lifetime. If this continues, we will plunge into a depression that rivals the worst in our nation’s history…and this is despite the massive stimulus packages passed by Congress and the unprecedented measures taken by the Federal Reserve Bank.  When viewed objectively and in context, it is the “non-essential businesses” that are the difference between the phenomenal prosperity we were experiencing in February and the complete economic collapse we seem hell-bent on achieving.


The arbitrary and fallacious designation of “essential” and “non-essential” is wreaking havoc on our nation and on our state.  I realize that decisions had to be made by our elected representatives under tremendous pressure, and there is considerable room for an objective person to realize that mistakes were inevitable and to be charitable in forgiving them.   However, once those errors and missteps become obvious, it is incumbent upon reasonable people to take steps to correct them.  That objectivity, however, is in shockingly short supply.  Not only are so many leaders unwilling to acknowledge those errors and attempt to remedy them, but many are doubling-down, with seemingly full knowledge of the devastation that will certainly be wrought. That is unconscionable. 


Part of the growing frustration with these extended “stay in place” orders stems from the haphazard and illogical definition of what is and what is not acceptable...and how that keeps changing over time.  For example, it has been deemed acceptable to have an abortion, but not a haircut.  Medical marijuana stores stayed open for business, but package stores were closed for weeks.  Gatherings of 5 people are acceptable, but 6 are illegal.  I can go to a grocery store that has 150 people in it, but cannot attend a church service with 50.  For two months, I could buy a pair of jeans at Walmart, but not at Bar-G Western Wear…and I still cannot buy them in a mall.  I can work in a building for 9 hours a day with 50 people, but cannot work out in a gym for one hour with 10.


Some will say, “Social distancing is essential to stop the virus.”  I understand the sentiment, but I struggle with grasping with the concept.  We are told that the virus can live in the air for hours, but we are safe if we stay 6 feet apart.  That makes no sense, unless we walk 6 feet, wait 3 hours, and then walk 6 more feet.  We were first told that N95 masks were all that would stop the virus spreading through the air, but now we are required to put a bandanna around our faces or we are in violation of the public health order. If any face-covering works, why could we not wear homemade masks to non-essential businesses instead shutting them down?   If they do not work, why do we have to wear them now?  None of this makes sense.


I completely understand not wanting to infect others, especially those in an at-risk demographic.  I keep my distance from my parents and my boss, as hard as that is, because if they were to become infected because of me, I would not be able to forgive myself.  Still, we act like everyone will live forever, unless they get COVID-19.  That is simply not true, and the notion is highly irrational.  Some 2.6 million people die in the US every year, about 7,000 every day, and we do not stop our lives for that.  All death is regrettable.  It is the result of living in a fallen world, but it is a reality we must accept.  When looking at the worst-case scenarios of COVID-19, it does not approach the mortality rates of Ebola, Marburg, SARS or MERS.  But, yes, it is deadly and it can kill you…just like thousands of other things.  We all make decisions every day.  We all take risks every day.  Every time we get in a car or on an airplane, we knowingly accept the risk that we could die as a result.  Millions of us take that risk every day, and every day, some of us die as a result.  We do not ban air travel and we do not ban automobiles.  We accept the risk.


It is up to the Individual, not the State, to determine how much risk he or she is willing to take.  Suppose you disagree with everything I am saying, and you are convinced that COVID-19 will kill you if you get it.  You want to shelter in place and adhere to 100% of the CDC/State Guidelines.  That is your God-given right, and I applaud you for exercising it.  Stay in place if you feel it is best for you and your family.  But it should stop there, with you at your doorstep.  Neither you nor our government, simply by fiat or broad interpretation of decades old law, has the right to prohibit another individual from exercising his or her God-given rights.  And it most certainly does not prohibit someone from making a living by working in a “non-essential business.”


This completely arbitrary designation of what is and what is not an essential business is simply an end-around on our Constitution and a direct assault on the liberties it ensures.  Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” I agree with that sentiment, and also with the attitude of our Founding Fathers:  “I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees.”  I am willing to accept the risk of getting COVID-19 and dying from it by frequenting a “non-essential business”.  That is the God-given right of every person, as it is the God-given right for another to earn a living in a legal “non-essential” enterprise.  


Yes, we should take precautions.  Yes, we should wash our hands. Yes, we should avoid at-risk demographics. And if we get symptoms of what could be ANY communicable disease, we should stay away from others.    Those who want to shelter in place should shelter in place.  But those of us who are willing to risk exposure in order go to the gym, or a funeral, or a wedding, or a softball game, or a church, have the right to do so as guaranteed by our Constitution.


It is time for the government to stop abusing its power and exerting its will on the people who allow and who fund its very existence.



Richard E. Bradfute is an Executive Vice-President and the Chief Information Officer for the JP Stone Community Bank

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