I have been following with interest letters in the Opinion section regarding COVID-19 safety versus the economy and personal liberties. Gardner Hathaway ended his/her letter paraphrasing Benjamin Franklin’s “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety” [“Depriving People of Livelihoods Is No Solution,” July 15, Xpress]. I was concerned that the man who stated, “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately” would imply anything other than cooperation.
So I did a quick fact check to find that Mr. Franklin was not writing of personal liberty at all, but about a tax dispute. The General Assembly of Pennsylvania had to find a source of funding so that towns along the frontier could protect themselves, according to Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. From an interview with Mr. Wittes discussing the safety versus liberty quotation: “It is a quotation that defends the authority of a legislature to govern in the interests of collective security. … And Franklin was dealing with a genuine security emergency. There were raids on these frontier towns. And he regarded the ability of a community to defend itself as the essential liberty that it would be contemptible to trade.”
Let’s bring Benjamin Franklin’s thought that “the ability of a community to defend itself as the essential liberty that it would be contemptible to trade” into the discussion on what to do about COVID-19. We started 2020 knowing nothing about this virus, especially about what it was capable doing to the human race. By now we have heard of the precautions needed: masks, social distancing, sanitizing/washing hands, etc. We have felt the effects of lockdowns, both good and bad.
We also know two more facts:
1. That the CDC states that 4-6 weeks of everyone following the precautions needed would defeat this coronavirus.
2. Economists have stated that as long as this coronavirus is present, the economy is not going to rebound, because not enough people are going to take chances when their health and life, and those of their loved ones, are at stake.
It only makes sense then, for both our health and our economy, that we work together as a community, the community of the entire United States to defend ourselves against this virus. Other countries have already proven that this method works. As my children would say, “It’s a no-brainer.”
It is time for us to all hang together before we end up all hanging separately.
— Jan Wilson