By Bob Barr
As irksome as are the recent COVID restrictions imposed by New York, New Jersey, California and other states primarily run by Democrat governors, citizens should be thankful that our Founding Fathers understood and acted on the need to place clear limitations on government powers through a Bill of Rights.
While anglophiles may protest that England, too, has a Bill of Rights, it is nothing like ours that was ratified in 1791.
The British “Bill of Rights” predates ours by just over 100 years, but its weaknesses were manifest in the manner by which the colonists were mistreated by the Crown, notwithstanding being considered “Englishmen.” The 1689 Bill of Rights, for example, offered no real protection to colonists whose homes and businesses were invaded by British soldiers acting on order from the Crown pursuant to the infamous “Writs of Assistance.” Nor did that early Bill of Rights provide protection against severe censorship measures enforced by the Redcoats.
While the English version did include words supporting citizens’ right to bear arms in self-defense, they rang hollow, as when British troops moved to seize colonials’ arms and gunpowder, leading to the battle of Lexington and Concord in April 1775.
Perhaps most important in this Age of COVID, is the fact that the Fourth Amendment to our Constitution protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. While some American governors, such as New Jersey’s Phil Murphy, New York’s Andrew Cuomo, Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer and California’s Gavin Newsom would have been far more comfortable identifying as Tories back in the Revolutionary War era, at least most U.S. governors in 2020 still respect individual rights as being superior to arbitrary government decrees.
Meanwhile, over in Great Britain Prime Minister Boris Johnson has extended and expanded the scope of that country’s COVID restrictions, beyond those yet decreed by his American state-level counterparts. Were these latest restrictions not extremely serious, their crafting appears almost comical.
Families across the United Kingdom (including not only England, but Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) are restricted to celebrating Christmas only in accord with mandated “bubbles.” Yes, “bubbles.”
Bubbles are groups of households permitted by law to come together for Christmas celebration (a relaxation of the rules that apply already on other days). In Wales, this means only two households can congregate on Dec. 25 in a home, a place of worship, or in a public outdoor area. Families in Northern Ireland and those in at least most parts of England, and in Scotland, are a bit more fortunate, with bubbles of up to three households graciously permitted to share Christmas cheer or worship.
Failure to abide by such bubble restrictions can result in fines up to £10,000 ($13,500 depending on the exchange rate); fines also can be levied if a household refuses to admit a police officer seeking to determine if the household bubble is too big.
Governors in America who have exercised their self-defined “emergency powers” most broadly, would feel right at home in the U.K, where the government already has closed all pubs, restaurants and “non-essential” businesses. Interestingly, however, schools, universities and playgrounds remain open, so long as enforced social distancing rules and nationwide mask mandates are followed.
Here in America, the good Dr. Fauci tried in vain to keep people from travelling over the Thanksgiving holiday. Like Governors Newsom, Cuomo, Murphy and Whitmer, however, he too would fit right in “across the pond” in England, where people can only leave their homes for very specific and limited reasons; enforced by police roadblocks.
In our country, despite the continuing efforts by primarily “Blue State” officials to emulate Britain’s draconian COVID restrictions, we thankfully have many local law enforcement officials like Howell Township’s Chief Andrew Kudrick in New Jersey, who have courageously stood fast against what they correctly consider unconstitutional state mandates by publicly refusing to enforce them.
At the end of the day, despite our Cuomos, Murphys, Newsoms, and Whitmers, and the disappointing reluctance of many courts to limit their powers, it still is far better to be an American than a citizen of Great Britain, or any other country for that matter, thanks in large measure to our Bill of Rights.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s.