Mandatory social distancing: The greatest theft of all time

Despite the supposed benevolence of social distancing for the purpose of public health, we argue that mandatory social distancing constitutes the single greatest political act of theft in history.

SOCIAL DISTANCING, but what to do at home? (photo credit: REUTERS)
SOCIAL DISTANCING, but what to do at home?
(photo credit: REUTERS)
As a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have witnessed the establishment of a new state-run religion that is based on a guiding principle that has now become an article of faith: mandatory social distancing. Mandatory social distancing has been aggressively promoted by three pernicious actors in most countries worldwide: 1) supercilious and myopic infectious disease experts; 2) the mainstream media, which has sensationalized both the spread of the virus and early reports that vastly overestimated the death toll and fatality rate of the virus; and 3) virtue-signaling, autocratic politicians, who exploited the panic to implement two extreme forms of social distancing.
The first extreme form of mandatory social distancing is the quarantining of nearly the entire population, rather than encouraging self-isolation among those who have likely contracted the disease and those who are most susceptible to its harshest effects (as in Sweden). Most political leaders went further and implemented the most draconian and destructive form of mandatory social distancing: shutting down entire industries. These shutdowns were based on an authoritarian taxonomy of industries and workers that were deemed either “essential” or “non-essential.” The end result is that most people were placed under virtual house arrest, greatly damaging the global economy for many years to come. This unprecedented public policy mistake turned vibrant cities into ghost towns and severely restricted our economic, personal and religious liberties. It even outlawed traditional religious gatherings on Easter, Passover and Ramadan.
The dictionary defines theft as the wrongful taking of the personal goods or property of another. Despite the supposed benevolence of social distancing for the purpose of public health, we argue that mandatory social distancing is indeed a wrongful act, and as such, it constitutes the single greatest political act of theft in history. So yes, let’s call it what it is – theft on a grand scale. What’s worse, the architects and implementers of mandatory social distancing plan on continuing their thievery for a prolonged period of time.
It is important to understand the nature and extent of this theft.
First, let’s start with the most blatant act of theft: private property stolen from business owners. As a result of government edicts, businesses deemed to be “non-essential” are required to close or significantly alter their operations, even after dictatorial executive orders are lifted. This wrongful theft of private property from business owners applies to theaters, gyms and recreation centers, salons and spas, museums, shopping malls, restaurants and bars, sporting and concert venues – among many others. Other manufacturing and service industries, such as construction, legal services, real estate, childcare and educational services may not have been completely closed, but their activities have still been severely restricted.
A second category of wrongful theft involves citizens who have paid for services that are either not delivered or significantly altered, due to the fact that the government has shut down the service provider or outlawed the delivery of that service. For example, parents pay for their children to attend schools in person and take part in all school activities, and yet, children receive online education only. The thievery is even worse in higher education, where universities charging high tuition and fees sent students home during the semester to learn online. Another example of service theft is that many apartment dwellers have paid for fitness centers, pools, and clubhouses in their apartment complex – but then denied the privilege of using such facilities.
A third category of wrongful theft is less tangible than the first two, but just as important. Quarantines and shutdowns have obviously severely restricted our economic and personal liberty, and now testing, contact tracing, and even government-hired “snitches” are providing a substantial boost to the surveillance state. Israel, South Korea, and many Eastern European nations are conducting cell phone tracking of COVID-19 patients and considering immunity passports. Such surveillance tactics will likely become more widespread and commonplace.
Unfortunately, the “re-opening” of economies will not significantly end the ongoing theft. Any lifting of lockdowns is subject to the approval of the architects of the state-run religion: infectious disease experts, who aggressively promote mandatory social distancing. Mandatory social distancing is now viewed as a permanent, long-term tactic against “an invisible enemy,” which cannot be abandoned. New mandatory social distancing guidelines involve not just property theft, by requiring organizations to operate at less than full capacity (e.g., airlines, restaurants, gyms, and bars), but also theft of space, which is at a premium in crowded cities. The long-term deleterious effects of social distancing mandates on revenue, costs, employment and productivity will be devastating and will ultimately lead to the demise of many firms and even entire industries.
Finally, it is important to note that the wrongful thievery extends beyond the confiscation of tangible assets, services and liberty. It also includes psychological thievery, in the sense that mandatory social distancing steals our sense of security in being physically close to our brethren. Mandatory social distancing also extends the ongoing abuse of our children, who for a prolonged period of time were unable to do much of anything except log on to a computer. Even after returning to school, students will be prevented from sitting together on school buses, and cafeterias and playgrounds will remain closed. These nefarious acts of psychological and developmental thievery may constitute the most sinister aspects of the “new normal.”
In sum, we encourage all forms of legal action against mandatory social distancing, including compensation for victims of this wrongful theft, such as class-action lawsuits. Other challenges to the ongoing wrongful theft, such as peaceful protests, are also warranted. Passively accepting the “new normal” will only encourage further egregious confiscation of private property, services and liberty in the future.
Robert M. Sauer is professor of Economics, Royal Holloway, University of London ([email protected]). Donald S. Siegel, foundation Professor of Public Policy and Management and Director, School of Public Affairs, Arizona State University ([email protected]). David Waldman, professor of Management, W.P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University ([email protected])