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Commentary & Opinion

Bryan Griffin: Analyzing The Data From The American Laboratory Of Democracy

The American federalist system, an intentional and inspired design of our founding fathers, gives us fifty testing grounds for government. Over a year into the COVID pandemic, we have the benefit of being able to assess and weigh fifty experimental approaches to dealing with a viral outbreak against one another.

It’s a layer of accountability built-in to the American design. And it’s a gift to the American voter to be able to take this empirical data with them to the ballot box when they are deciding what kind of state and local government they want to live under.

New York, California, Michigan, and other deep-blue states opted for heavy-handed lockdowns. Residents of these states are still bound to mask ordinances punishable with fines and penalties, and their businesses either remain largely shuttered or emerged crippled. The worst of the anecdotes from these states include New York’s nursing home debacle (and ensuing cover-up) that left thousands dead,  Michigan residents being told which aisles they can visit in a shop and how many family members they can have in their own home, and Californians ordered to shelter in place while their governor lavished himself at a maskless dinner party.

In Florida, lockdowns were lifted quickly. The state prohibited power-hungry cities and counties from using fines to enforce COVID compliance. Businesses and public gatherings were back halfway through 2020.

And yet, current data shows Florida (9,735) has experienced fewer COVID cases per 100,000 residents than New York (9,854), and is fairly close to the same rate for California (9,327).

Here’s another interesting takeaway that emerged: loving to regulate doesn’t make you better at it.

In New York, Andrew Cuomo’s vaccine distribution was so messy and incompetent that nine of his top state public health officials resigned in protest of the failure.

Meanwhile in Florida, Ron DeSantis’s regulation-adverse administration did a remarkable job at vaccine distribution.

Now, the hot topic is ‘vaccine passports.’ Some states want to mandate residents carry vaccine passports that allow them access to travel, events, government facilities, and various forms of commerce. Others see a vaccine passport as an infringement on privacy and liberty. You can guess which is which.

In a March article by Market Watch, the author makes an interesting case study of South Dakota verses Connecticut.

“Both rank among the 10 worst states for COVID-19 death rates,” the author writes. “Yet Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, imposed numerous statewide restrictions over the past year after an early surge in deaths, while South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, issued no mandates as virus deaths soared in the fall.” Connecticut ran strict quarantine periods for out of state visitors while South Dakota ran a tourism campaign to bring in more visitors.

Those same states that had such little examination of the efficacy of their actions took equally little interest in the harm caused by other COVID-related regulatory measures. They rushed to administer their poison as their antidote. Now, predictably, we hear stories like the following:

In Riverside California, a couple who purchased a home in January of 2020 is still trying to get possession of their home. The former owner took their money and has been squatting in their house since the closing, shielding himself from eviction thanks to a state eviction moratorium.  

In New York, tenants and landlords alike anxiously await the May 1st expiration date of that state’s eviction moratorium. Millions of New York tenants are behind on significant amounts of rent payments that were halted by the state during the pandemic, and landlords have been forced to carry their properties without rental income.

These states are now seeing the consequences of their governance.

With exceptions, blue states are seeing a mass exodus of residents to red states. Democratic strongholds like California, New York, Michigan, and Illinois were abandoned for Republican Florida, Texas, Iowa, and Arizona. New York alone lost 126,000 residents, or about .65% of its population. So many people have left California, it may lose a House seat for the first time ever.

Neither Florida nor Texas have a state income tax. Meanwhile, the same states that are bleeding residents are piling increasingly larger tax burdens on their remaining citizens to pay for the cost of COVID regulations, just as they have done unsuccessfully for decades in their government-led approach to other issues.

For example, over-regulated L.A. has not made a dent in its homeless rates despite extraordinarily large social programs. In fact, it has gotten worse.

How many times can a mistake be tried in succession before enough is enough? Unfortunately, when the government is big enough, true accountability is scarce.

Here’s the important takeaway: big government proponents told us it was necessary to relinquish an unprecedented amount of liberty for them to safely guide us through the COVID pandemic. Their success was similar or only marginally better than states who ran a limited-government, liberty conscious approach.

For those leaving blue states for a better life in red ones, please remember the politics that caused your exodus.

Liberty is precious. Precedents are hard to break. Unquestioning acquiescence to government authority comes at great cost.

This isn’t an argument for no regulation, this is an argument for limited and examined regulation. Also, this is a plea for those elected to office to curb their gut instinct of using executive action to tackle every problem. 

Bryan Griffin is a lawyer, author, and policy analyst at the London Center for Policy Research. He advocates for the causes of freedom and limited government.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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