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Individual liberty strengthens the common good

Our nation was founded on the unique principle that individuals acting in their own self-interest will overcome the greatest of challenges while keeping government power in check.

Adhering to this principle is especially critical during times of crises when government tends to gain momentum from the circumstances of the day to increase its control and citizens’ dependency.

Protecting individual liberties allows citizens to act in ways that benefit themselves and their families –  even during hard times – by finding better solutions to problems, thus contributing greatly to the common good which forms the basis for a stronger and freer society.

For example, allowing individuals to fully exercise their Second Amendment rights may be even more important during a pandemic when temptation increases for criminals to seize upon the opportunity presented by thinner resources for law enforcement and a generally stressed-out public to engage in malicious enterprises.

Individuals motivated by the crisis and concerned about reduced police patrols and prisoner releases decide to protect lives and properties by purchasing a weapon not only – and obviously – act in their own self-interest, they also contribute to the common good by deterring potential attacks and freeing scarce law-enforcement resources for use elsewhere.

While states certainly are entrusted with more power than the federal government – including during crises – trusting individuals to act in their own self-interest should also be state government’s default position and will yield the most favorable results.

That’s why small-business owners and pastors across the commonwealth can be trusted as much if not more than politicians in Frankfort to advance and protect the common good during the current pandemic.

No business owner in his right mind wants the reputation of placing his customers in harm’s way simply because he stubbornly refuses to take simple steps to protect them.

No pastor wants the type of blowback caught by leaders of two Hopkins County churches when several parishioners who attended their joint revival service in mid-March caught the virus with some losing their lives.

Ensuring Kentuckians know what’s happening and allowing them to use that information while accepting the risk and responsibility for how they respond is a more-appropriate role for government and would likely result in less harm to our economy caused by the sharp, steep and sudden downturn we’ve experienced in recent weeks.

Too many Americans buy into the notion that someone who says “I’m from the government” is somehow more qualified to tell Mom and Pop how to run their corner store and keep themselves and their customers safe, or worse, shut the business down and force it into bankruptcy.

A recent study by the UK Institute for the Study of Free Enterprise claims that Frankfort’s policies of social distancing and forcing businesses to close has saved 2,000 lives.

Yet while the data may be credible to support that assertion about lives being saved, should we dismiss the possibility that the results would be just as good – if not better – without government’s heavy-handedness?

To say otherwise is to admit: we don’t trust individual Kentuckians to do the right thing – including love their neighbor – without some politician sticking his crooked finger in their face.

Thin-skinned politicians who think they know or care more than individuals citizens – and therefore are somehow more qualified – to control and completely alter the lives of the citizens they’re called to serve to display a form of arrogance from which we might consider ridding ourselves before the next crisis strikes.

Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at and @bipps on Twitter.

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