So, there’s a proposed, temporary mask ordinance before the Whitewater Common Council tonight. Needless to say, there’s been a lot of talk about the measure (and so a lot of emails sent my way – thanks much for these messages). Readers have asked what I think of the proposal. I’ve offered a simple answer: I’d like to see the proposal, and hear it discussed, before deciding.
In the packet for tonight’s agenda, there’s an agenda item about the first reading (and mention about UW-Whitewater campus’s pandemic plan), but no other information: no listed item sponsor, no accompanying packet memorandum, no other information about the topic. (The first reading of this ordinance has less accompanying agenda-packet information than many advisory items have.)
Obvious point: I am in favor of people wearing masks. There has always been a Libertarian Case for Masks, a case requires personal responsibility to assure a common good apart from government action. Objections to masks only lead to limits on free association:
Where mask-wearing has taken hold — in Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea, for example — life has proceeded in quasi-normalcy: Many businesses and schools are open, and people are free to socialize. The comparatively repressive East Asian democracies have retained more civil liberties than the U.S. thanks, in part, to the rational behavior of their citizens.
But the anti-mask crowd now advocates eschewing one’s individual interest in favor of empty symbolic gestures [opposing masks] — an example of the irrational behavior that statists use to argue against free markets.
Personal responsibility asks no more of someone than a cold, rational calculation (offering warm, humane results). It does, however, ask for some discipline, deliberation, and discernment.
In this proposed, mandatory-but-temporary ordinance enforcement matters. The least one should expect is a discussion from those city employees or council members who placed the item on the agenda, and from those who will enforce it. (Enforcement should be related to this public health matter and not be pretextual.)
Requests to take a side, before one has heard from those proposing the ordinance, and heard from those enforcing it, don’t make sense to me. In these years since FREE WHITEWATER began (2007), I have represented no faction, interest, or group in the city. In all this time, I have been an emissary of one, so to speak. The more time that passes, the more sensible this approach has proved to be.
The session (on masks and other major items) begins tonight at 6:30 PM.