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Masks in a Free Society

I think the idea of healthy people wearing face masks when they are out in public is ridiculous, stupid, silly, ludicrous, comical, unhealthy, and harmful, but I offer here a qualified defense of masks in the context of a free society and private property rights.

Not content with playing dictator and issuing decrees for their subjects to stay at home, close their unessential businesses, stop going to parks and playgrounds, and practice anti-social distancing, governors and mayors all around the country are now starting to mandate that all of their subjects wear a face mask when going out in public (unless they are protesting, rioting, or looting).

On June 18, California governor Gavin Newsom ordered California residents statewide to wear a mask when out in public. “Simply put, we are seeing too many people with faces uncovered — putting at risk the real progress we have made in fighting the disease,” said Newsom. “California’s strategy to restart the economy and get people back to work will only be successful if people act safely and follow health recommendations. That means wearing a face covering, washing your hands and practicing physical distancing.”

In my county—Orange County, Florida—the fascist mayor Jerry Demings issued an executive order on June 18 mandating mask wearing beginning on June 20: “Every person working, living, visiting, or doing business in Orange County is required to wear a Face Covering consistent with the current CDC guideline[s] while in any public place.”

Regarding businesses, the order states:

All businesses are strongly encouraged to follow CDC guidelines or industry standards (if any) on face coverings and social distancing. Businesses are reminded that Executive Order 2020-12 requires that both employees and patrons of businesses that require employees and patrons to be within six (6) feet must wear a face mask or covering, unless the wearing of the patron’s face mask or covering would impede the patron’s service, in which case only the service provider must wear a face mask or covering.

All businesses are encouraged to prohibit entry of each person who is not wearing a face covering with the exception of those below listed persons.

Face coverings are not required for the following:

i.) Persons under the age of two years old; or
ii.) Persons for whom a face covering would cause impairment due to an existing health condition; or
iii.) Persons working in a profession who do not have any face-to-face interactions with the public; or
iv.) Persons working in a profession where use of a face covering will not be compatible with the duties of the profession; or
v.) Persons exercising while observing social distancing in accordance with the CDC guidelines.

But notice also who is exempt from the mayor’s order: “This Order does not apply to employees and patrons of first response, government, healthcare or medical, veterinarian, shelter or rehabilitation, childcare, utility providers, construction, or transit agencies.”

Regarding penalties for violating his order, the mayor says that there’s no criminal penalties yet and that “our goal is to gain voluntary compliance.”

Since this order took effect, I have visited several local businesses. All of them have new signs posted saying that wearing a mask is required to enter their establishment. I have entered several of them without a mask to test the waters and no employees in any of the businesses have said anything to me. However, I do believe that the mayor has gained almost universal voluntary compliance—at least when it comes to people going to stores. In the stores I went into, I saw hardly anyone without a mask on.

Meanwhile, in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order giving store owners the right to deny entry to those who do not wear masks.

But in Wisconsin, after the state supreme court overturned the governor’s state lockdown order and mandated that all future statewide restrictions to battle the coronavirus must be approved by the legislature, the owner of a campground banned people from wearing masks at her place of business:

Masks are NOT allowed in the buildings for safety sake. They are viewed as a robbery in progress and will be handled that way.

I added no masks when entering my main building because this is the perfect time for the bad guys to take advantage of any small business and rob them because it is now “normal” to wear a mask.

Now, I do understand that there are people who wear a mask because of their delicate health situation, like cancer or a recent surgery. I know these people and their stature is much different that a 6’2″ male entering an establishment aggressively with intent to do harm.

And in Texas, a bar owner is prohibiting patrons from wearing masks as an attempt to “push back” on the “snitches” and “contact tracers” during the coronavirus pandemic. The bar posted a notice reading: “Due to our concern for our citizens, if they feel the need to wear a mask, then they should probably stay home until it’s safe.”

I support business owners in Florida and New York. But I also support business owners in Wisconsin and Texas.

Even though I think the idea of healthy people wearing masks when they are out in public is ridiculous, stupid, silly, ludicrous, comical, unhealthy, and harmful, I support the right of businesses to require or prohibit masks on their patrons even if their decisions are unscientific, politically motivated, or based on government propaganda or misinformation.

Why? Because I support the right of businesses to require or prohibit red shirts, green shirts, blue shirts, yellow shirts, pink shirts, black shirts, or no shirts at all. Just like I support the right of businesses to discriminate against anyone on the basis on race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, hairstyle, hair color, facial hair, tattoos, scars, height, weight, age, complexion, head covering, political ideology, or disability.

This is true no matter how irrational, illogical, unreasonable, or nonsensical the discrimination is. And even if it is based on stereotypes, prejudice, hatred, bigotry, racism, intolerance, sexism, zenophobia, homophobia, or nothing at all. And even if it appears to be arbitrary, capricious, subjective, unfair, or unjustified.

I support these things because I believe in a free society and private property rights.

In a free society, property rights are paramount. He who owns the property establishes the rules for entry, employment, and activity. That is true whether the property is a private residence or a place of business. In a free society, property owners would have the absolute right to refuse entrance, service, or employment to anyone for any reason.

If a business mandates that I wear a mask to enter the premises (assuming that this will be enforced), I will take my business elsewhere. I may not like the business’s decision. I may complain about it. I may try to get others to boycott the business. But the business should have the right to require masks just like it should also have the right to prohibit them. Consistency requires that one accept both premises.

In a free society, this is exactly the way things ought to work for everything.

If a business wants to sell to or serve only patrons of a particular race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, political ideology, age, or IQ, or exclude only patrons of a particular race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, political ideology, age, or IQ, then it should have the right to do so. And in a free society, it would have the right to do so. The problem is, we don’t live in a free society, as I have written about many times and will continue to do so.

But just to be clear, a government mandate to businesses that they must require their patrons to wear masks is the antithesis of a free society.

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