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Liberty is not a luxury

“Give me liberty or give me death,” Patrick Henry thundered.

Not much gray area there.

No modifier, either.

Nothing like “give me liberty as long as it’s convenient, there’s no emergency and the politicians and health nannies agree it’s a luxury we can afford.”

During this pandemic, too many in power find it acceptable to treat our liberties as luxuries doled out by government if all risk of anyone catching COVID-19 is eliminated rather than what they are – God-given and inalienable rights.

Gov. Andy Beshear’s latest COVID-19 edict declares he’ll lift his restrictions – issued via executive orders – on venues, events and businesses which, according to a release from his office, “cater to 1,000 or fewer patrons” and the throttling curfews on bars and restaurants once 2.5 million Kentuckians get the COVID vaccine shot into their bodies.

Shouldn’t all subjects be eternally grateful for our leader’s paternalistic generosity in granting Kentuckians their freedoms conditioned upon their obedience to his arbitrary rules?

Beshear claims his mandate is based on “science and math” but fails to offer supporting evidence backing his assertions.

Where’s the scientific data for the 1,000 and 2.5 million thresholds?

Andrew Cooperrider, owner of Brewed, a Lexington coffee shop which defied Beshear’s order and was sued by the city’s health department, noted at a recent protest he organized that the governor’s latest edict isn’t “a goal,” but rather “a condition of our release.”

Setting specific and reasonable goals such as positivity and daily death-total metrics “would be a properly set medical goal,” Cooperrider said. “This is instead a condition of behavior, not a medical goal.”

This debate isn’t about the validity, safety or effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines.

It’s about who gets to decide.

Many Kentuckians have determined the peace of mind gained from taking the shot outweighs the risk of potentially harmful side effects or worse.

Others say “no” or “not yet” for a variety of reasons.

Marty Terry, who protested alongside Cooperrider, told WKYT-TV outside the governor’s mansion that while Beshear “thinks he can give us our freedoms, our freedoms are inalienable and he can’t say ‘if you get this, you can have your freedoms back.' They’re our freedoms and he swore an oath to defend – to uphold and defend the constitution(s) of Kentucky and the United States – and he’s in total violation of (them).”

Or at the very least, extremely misguided about the power temporarily loaned to him by the people.

That power wasn’t given him to hoard, keep or even keep everyone safe.

Neither is the constitutional role of Kentucky’s governor to mitigate all risk – as crass as that may sound in this age of political correctness run amok.

Rather, it’s to protect the liberty of citizens to determine and mitigate their own risks, as they – not Frankfort or Washington, for that matter – view it.

A favored tactic of Beshear is to imply that anyone bringing concerns about individual liberty or constitutional restraints on executive power into the discussion is blatantly selfish and doesn’t understand the governor’s orders are about protecting the collective whole.

He speaks and, worse, governs as if he believes our constitutionally protected liberties are exclusive of – or even opposed to – caring and compassion for others.

However, our nation’s founders rightly held that allowing individuals to act out of self-interest while accepting responsibility for their decisions will most often result in the best collective outcomes for communities, states and the nation as a whole.

Such an approach is certainly preferable to ceding our liberties to governing powers who don’t relish returning them, and, when they do, rarely return them in their original condition.

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.

Editor’s Note: The Bluegrass Beacon is a weekly syndicated newspaper column posted on the Bluegrass Institute’s website after being published by newspapers statewide.

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