For months, much of the airtime at National Public Radio (NPR) has been devoted to interviews and stories that ramp up the coronavirus scare and advance all manner of draconian government action in the name of countering coronavirus. The effort can reach ludicrous extremes as it did on Sunday at the NPR show All Things Considered when show host Michel Martin interviewed Jessica Flanigan focused on this question: “Is there a basic libertarian view about public health measures like face masks?”
The description of libertarian opinion regarding whether people should wear face masks and whether governments should mandate mask use that Flanigan, a professor at the University of Richmond, provides will ring preposterous to many people familiar with libertarian ideas. But, many other people who listen to the interview will be tricked by the nonsense.
So, what do libertarians think about masks according to Flanigan? First, she says she thinks libertarians believe people should “wear masks and stay home.”
Second, Flanigan addresses what she terms the “harder” question of if government should “enforce mask mandates and lockdowns.” In the subset of “government spaces,” though, Flanigan sees no tough issue, declaring mask mandates there to be “totally fine.” As far as on private property, she says libertarians support mask mandates as long as government shows it has first “tried less burdensome ways of addressing the virus first — so, for example, putting more resources behind expanding access to tests and medical care, provide more PPE [(personal protective equipment)], invest in contact tracing.” (Of course, libertarians have often criticized these types of government actions, including contact tracing that is just a new way of implementing mass surveillance, in addition to mask mandates.) In the end, Flanigan concludes the libertarian approach to government imposing mask mandates on private property is to weigh risks and benefits to come up with a pro or con answer — a big “it depends.”
The reality is that many libertarians vigorously oppose many of the purportedly anti-coronavirus actions promoted by NPR and other coronavirus fearmongers in the media. Contrary to Flanigan’s representation, many libertarians abhor wearing masks that have not been shown to provide protection against coronavirus but that do cause negative health consequences, as well as oppose government mandates that people wear masks anywhere. Just don’t hold your breath (or keep preventing your healthy breathing with a face mask) waiting to hear that information at NPR.
Reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.