The World Health Organization Revisited; Individual Rights

Two things today (4/17/20). First, there is a vast misunderstanding of the World Health Organization around the US. (WHO) It’s been promoted unwittingly by the President’s own seeming ignorance.

WHO operates on two different gears. In times of crisis, like now, it’s usually found wanting. That’s because the top of its hierarchy takes over at such times and the top is composed of political appointees. Their appointment is the object of backroom negotiations between various Third World tyrants, China, and others, included the US, who are usually distracted. The current head is an Ethiopian communist. How did that happen?

Most of the time, the work of WHO is performed by professionals with no strong or visible political inclinations. With them, WHO managed to practically eliminate the scourge of small-pox, to reduce greatly the reach and danger of malaria. WHO has also been the main force behind campaigns of vaccination, including in areas where strong resistance exists. (No, I don’t mean loopy Santa Cruz, where I live; I was thinking more of Pakistan.) The pennies WHO costs me personally each year are undoubtedly one of the best investments I have ever made, its recent missteps notwithstanding.

I think, and I hope, that the president’s suspension of the major American contributions to WHO is only a pleasantly devious way to get the head of its head.

Second topic. For what it’s worth, here are the two things that triggered me to make the C-virus second fiddle in the concert in my mind. First was, the prohibition on surfing in Santa Cruz. Now, I am a water man but I never surfed and my surfing days would be quite behind me anyway. That prohibition demonstrated the sheer irrationality presiding over such decisions. And the panic among officials. Alternatively, as several FB friends have pointed out, the prohibition might have been a hypocritical way to keep “outsiders” out of Santa Cruz. That would have been a gross abuse of power: Punish me for the evil others might do which the authorities probably don’t have the right to repress anyway. (Go ahead, speak it aloud.)

The other thing that turned my head around was the growing impression that governments at the state and local levels were demonstrating a royal contempt for civil rights. The prohibition of surfing in my town was a first signal. (See above.) Then I began to realize that denials of civil rights were happening all over this great country. This very morning, Rush Limbaugh played a recording of the governor of New Jersey declaring that questions about civil rights were “above his pay grade,” a governor of a large state. (And his political affiliation is…?)

What worked most into the deep recesses of my lazy mind were the mention of several prohibitions of religious gatherings in different parts of the country. Yes, they sounded reasonable, sort of, in health terms. And, yes I am an atheist (even though I actually am in a foxhole). But look, the First Amendment does not say, ” …except when there is a risk of sickness.” And, if you disagree you should openly ask for a suspension of the Constitution and let those who ask for and implement it eventually pay the political price.

There can be no unspoken exceptions to the constitutional democratic order. Can there be?

5 thoughts on “The World Health Organization Revisited; Individual Rights

  1. Granted that **some** (a very few cherry picked examples) of the restrictions are not well thought out, there are other issues here.

    Do governments have the power to quarantine? I ask this in a sense rhetorically because this has always been the reality. So are you arguing that governments do not have the power to issue quarantine orders ever?

    In what sense are Churches or other religious expressions being singled out in these orders? That’s the key point. If there is a ban on gatherings of more than X people, or a ban on gatherings in general and religious gatherings are treated the same as all other gatherings, then religious expression is not being specifically targeted.

    • Thanks. I don’t know the answers yet. I believe the questions are well worth raising for the many to discuss. The interference with religious meetings is especally sensitive because of this country’s peculiar history. I am thinking: What, even religious gatherings? I think you are misusing the word “quarantine.” The traditional power of government to quarantine was applied very slectively, to the crew of a ship, for example. Ordering indoor a whole population cannot rest on this more than imperfect precedent. Ordering a whole poulation to commit economic suicide cannot rest on that precedent either. We should vote on this, at least. Of course, I also believe that emergencies are normally used to limit the freedom of individuals.

  2. Here is a very short argument for the constitutionality of public health measures that limit what would otherwise be protected liberties:
    This isn’t to say that there are no constitutional issues worth addressing:
    Nor is it to say that every measure has been appropriate (see comments of this post):
    But I don’t think your post really grapples with the rationale behind the stay-at-home orders. It’s irrelevant what quarantine measures have been employed in the past if those measures have no bearing on the biology of the pathogen we’re actually facing. The coronavirus is highly contagious, but spreads asymptomatically. We lack the testing resources to test everyone who ought to be tested. So there is no physically possible way to quarantine one part of the population and allow “the others” the liberty to act at will without nullifying the whole point of any quarantine protocol. In that case, we may as well do nothing. But doing nothing is not a viable option unless we want to invite mass death on an unimaginable scale.
    I have yet to hear a cogent argument against the strategy used by the governors of New York and New Jersey. The only criticism that makes sense is that it should have been employed earlier. But once employed, it’s been, on the whole, sound.

    • Again, you are attributting to me sophisticated arguments I have not made. The legal opinionofan emeritus professor citing precedent is just this, an opinion. Thre are others on the other side

  3. (Preceding itsem sent by mistake. It ws unfinished) . In any case, I never intended to enter into a debate on the subtleties of constitutional law for which I would be rather ill-prepared. Rather, I joined my small voice to the voices of the many who estimate many government measures to be exaggerated, at least, and likely abusive. I don’t see how fining a sufer surfing by himself in the ocean is not a gross violation of civil liberties. I don’t even think that forbidding surfing in general is legitimate. Instead, it demonstrates that officialdom has gone crazy with power as happens in every emergency. Such responses are merely exaggerated supposing that the epidiomologic information on which the restrictive measures are based is correct, which seems les and less plausible. In general I am cool to the idea of bowing to specialized legal opinion in connection with the defense of rights plainly described in the Constitution and in the Bill of Rights. After all, neither document was written for law professors. I am pretty sure, they were written for me.

Please keep it civil

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