“That which is not prohibited is permitted.”
It’s the underlying principle of American law. We inherited it from English constitutional law, which goes back at least 500 years. I suspect it was also Norman law and Roman law, going back more than 2,000 years.
Certainly, there were variations. And subpopulations had restrictions, there have always been slaves or persons treated differently. Religions imposed restrictions. The guilds had rules. But the general societal rule throughout the history of Western Civilization has been to leave individuals free to do as they please, with limited exceptions.
Until last month, when Governor Walz flipped it on its head.
Everything is banned except those few items which are permitted. Every job is banned except those deemed essential. Every activity is banned except those deemed essential. Everything is banned, except.
Hitler didn’t do it. Lincoln didn’t do it during the civil war. None of the Caesars did it.
I’m not sufficiently familiar with non-western Traditions to know about other nations: Mao’s China, Pharaoh’s Egypt, Stalin’s Russia, Castro’s Cuba. Maybe they were all totalitarian states with everything run by whim of the Chief, and everyone bowing and scraping subserviently.
And now Walz’ Minnesota. We still have people commenting on Internet sites, demanding that the boot remain on their faces, insisting that people should be punished for violating the edicts. “No, no; don’t give us any of that freedom, we don’t want it.”
If we are smart…
…well, I was about to say “if we, The People, are smart we’ll make damn certain our legislature puts some guardrails around the executive’s emergency power in the future”.
Of course, betting on the wisdom of the crowd usually breaks one’s heart.
But not always. Five years ago, the Second Amendment groups in Minnesota got Governor Dayton to sign a bill forbidding the government from confiscating guns under a “state of emergency”, and foreclosing it from shutting down gun shops unless literally every other store in the state was also closed.
So it can be done.
Will we do it?