Texas announced on Friday that they would become the first in the nation to open their economy back up in incremental steps beginning Monday, April 20th. On Thursday, April 16th, the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) team were at the Austin, Texas capitol for one of the first in the nation protests to stop the economic shutdown which they believe is limiting individual liberties around the country. I talked to YAL’s Vice President of Grassroots, Justin Greiss, about their demonstration.
“This was a grassroots operation where the YAL team decided to head over and make sure our message of getting back to work was conveyed.”
As you scan the entire country and take note of how different states are handling the Coronavirus concern, the Texas governor Gregg Abbot is not one of the most tyrannical in his solutions. So, why protest him?
“Governor Abbott has of course not been as heavy-handed as other governors in the Coronavirus Lockdown. However, there is still full reign at the county and city level to pass whatever they want –whether it is unconstitutional or not. Here in Austin, we are getting slammed with orders.”
Greiss clarifies that, “living in Austin is much different than living in God’s country of Texas (rural Texas).” He admits that parts of Texas are not being harassed that much. However, he adds, “in almost every state, businesses are still closed, but it is nothing like we’re seeing in Pennsylvania and Michigan.”
Most of the heavy-handed policies that Greiss takes extreme issue with are from different governors and localities throughout the country, and Austin’s mayor particularly, but “ultimately the governor is going to have the power to put the state on the right track. But I wouldn’t say it was a traditional protest in the way that we are mad at him. It was a way for YAL to send a message to Governor Abbot that people want to get back to work.”
Greiss is adamant, “this is a health crisis [Covid-19]. There is no conspiracy here; it is a health concern.” He goes on to say, “that doesn’t mean we can’t intersect that with a very valid concern for the looming economic crisis that this has caused and –possibly most importantly– the civil liberties crisis.”
“To be clear: this is a health crisis, economic crisis, and civil liberties crisis.”
“Our message is we need to give people choice to get back to work. People across the country are practicing social distancing. When it was voluntary people were thinking twice about handshaking, were diligently washing their hands, and generally avoiding unnecessary touching with other people. There is nothing wrong with that.”
He points out that stores were making changes months ago by taping the floor to show customers the proper distance to stand from one another. The innovations in the way stores operate continue to change including, “small-town hardware stores limiting how many people can be inside at once.” As Greiss puts it “the market provides because businesses want to keep their doors open and they’re willing to make sacrifices to do that.”
Another concern that all those at YAL have is, “70% of Americans have less than 100 dollars in their savings account”. There are ways to prevent a deadly virus outbreak without completely destroying livelihoods and civilization as we know it. “Nobody that is having a rational conversation is advocating that we go back to carefree living. People do not want to get sick. People who are in the vulnerable populations can/should stay home. Let people who are not in those vulnerable categories go back to work.”
It is helpful to remember that the sort of wide-spread shutdown of our country has never been done before and “automatically assuming that we should try the heavy-handed approach is fundamentally wrong.” When this wreaks economic havoc and oppresses civil liberties, “I don’t see where the [heavy-handed] argument stands at that point.”
After vigorously defending voluntary social distancing, Greiss tells me that civil and economic liberties ultimately rest on the individual who is responsible for him or herself. “Those in government are not going to know what’s better for me than myself.”
This is a health crisis. This is an economic crisis. This is a civil liberties crisis. It can be all three at the same time. You can advocate for smart policy that relies on the free market to handle many of these problems while trusting Americans who are pursuing their American dream.
– Justin Greiss