My neighbor is one of the last of the reasonable Democrats—the kind who can disagree with me about Trump without popping a blood vessel. It’s refreshing to get his take on things, which goes beyond “All Republicans are white supremacists” or “When are you going to stop believing the Big Lie?”
Last week, he and I were talking about the recent CDC declaration that vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks outdoors. We agreed that this was a good thing, and he even admitted that Biden, Fauci, et al ought to lose the mask when appearing outside so as “not to confuse us.”
So far, so good. The conversation shifted to mask-wearing indoors, and here we had a bit of a disagreement. I was following the science in saying that we are near the point of herd immunity now, so there’s really no reason to wear a mask indoors unless, perhaps, you’re visiting someone in a hospital. My neighbor shot back that since we don’t know who’s been vaccinated, and since many who haven’t been vaccinated will lie about it (he assumed), an indoor mask mandate should stay in place.
I asked him if he thought the mandate should be imposed by the federal government, by state and local governments, or by businesses as they saw fit; he proceeded to think his answer through out loud. The federal government, he said, has no business mandating the wearing of masks at all at this point.
Should state and local governments do it? He was conflicted. “On the one hand,” he reasoned, “it really should be up to businesses to decide if they want to make their customers wear masks or not. The problem is, you’re going to have business owners in areas of high risk who decide that they don’t want their customers wearing masks. That is a health risk.”
My answer was, to whom? If you’ve been vaccinated, the chances of your becoming infected are minuscule, as are the chances of you infecting somebody else. It is the unvaccinated person who decides not to wear a mask in a crowded room who poses the greatest risk—to himself. Forcing him to wear a mask would be as big an affront to liberty as forcing an overweight person to choose from the heart-healthy menu.
“So, Will, you think the owner of a restaurant shouldn’t be able to tell fat people that they can’t order certain things? I thought you were a libertarian.”
For the record, I am a conservative with libertarian tendencies—but I digress. My neighbor had made a remarkable concession for a Democrat: Business owners should set their own rules and standards, free of government interference.
“I agree,” I told him, to which he coaxed me into formerly stating that if a business wants to mandate the wearing of masks from now until the end of time, that’s, well, their business.
I saw my neighbor again yesterday and told him about a restaurant owner in Mendocino, California who has posted signs in his window which read, “$5 FEE ADDED TO ORDERS PLACED WHILE WEARING A FACE MASK.” In addition, Chris Castleman has stipulated that anyone overheard bragging about being vaccinated will be assessed a five-dollar fee, as well.
“That’s preposterous,” my neighbor bellowed. “He can’t do that!”
I reminded him that, like our hypothetical business owner who forces overweight people into dieting, this real-life restaurant is owned by Mr. Castleman, and thus his policies are his business. My neighbor’s knee-jerk response was to dive back into the Democrat play pool and insist that the restauranteur was being reckless and putting lives at risk. I went over the science with him again, but he didn’t want to hear about it. Clearly, he thought, this man needed to be stopped.
But why? Who is harmed by this policy?
The ancillary part of the story, I told my neighbor, is that all fees are optional and that any fee actually collected will be donated to charities that support domestic abuse victims. Isn’t that a good thing?
“No,” he answered unequivocally. “He is setting a bad example.”
So much for his high regard for libertarianism. As it turns out, even for fair-minded Democrats like my neighbor, when it comes to masks, business owners are only free to choose if they choose mandates.