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Opinion: Don’t let a ‘pro-business’ stance destroy federalism

You are concerned about setting a precedent of government involvement with business. I agree with your sentiments. Your concerns are not unfounded. But unless they are put into proper perspective, I maintain that they are misplaced.

I believe it is important to clearly set forth who our shared opposition is. It is not the shopkeeper. It is not the mere business owner wishing to engage in commerce. Rather, it is the governmental agency (federal or local) that wishes to coerce businesses into enforcing for them what they could not constitutionally do themselves.

State Rep. Adam Schnelting

The federal government is already coercing and enticing corporate America to be a quasi-branch of government for them. Therein lies the problem. The government is already involved. The government is co-opting private businesses to utilize them as an arm of enforcement.

You and I do not believe that business owners’ desire is to be co-opted into an enforcement agency. The reason corporate America engages in such pandering at the expense of a free society is that they wish not to be in governmental crosshairs; nor do they want to be labeled as shirking a certain “corporate social responsibility.” The reality, however, is that businesses just want to be left alone to transact business. 

What we in the legislature can provide them is cover — cover to return to normalcy. We can do this by eliminating the question of their role in the enforcement of public health policy.

Our role as statesmen is to use judgment in our deliberations when the issues are more nuanced in nature. Let us take a step back and review this issue from a 30,000-foot view for a moment.

The government has already used our “social contract” to set many precedents of involvement with business. These precedents can be found in every labor law on the books, every discrimination law, liquor licensing, prohibitions on the sale of tobacco and pornography to minors, and the list goes on. Government involvement in business is a precedent that is already set and will continue to be debated for centuries to come. 

The more pressing question is the one that now lay before us. Will we allow society to set a precedent of requiring passports to engage in commerce or simply to buy groceries? Not for COVID-19 only but whatever mutation and whatever national crisis shall come hereafter. 

There comes a time when you must prioritize between two impending dangers. I believe that time is now.

Allowing corporate America to be coerced into an enforcement arm of the federal government is a dangerous precedent with far-reaching consequences.

This is the precedent that I’m most concerned about at present.

What good is our system of federalism if we don’t exercise it? How can the state be a check or balance if the state refuses to use its constitutional authority to balance out ill designing men in high places?

Someone said, “I don’t believe the government should inject itself into this discussion. It’s a matter for private business.” 

The irony of that statement is interesting since it came from someone who supported “right-to-work” legislation — legislation that called for the state to intervene in contracts between private businesses and labor organizations to ensure no one was forced to join a union.

When the federal government has it wrong on an issue, the state is the check to provide balance. Else what is the point of federalism? The state doesn’t get the luxury of checking out when times dictate otherwise.

Inaction in the face of tyranny is equal to being an accomplice. If a check — in this case, the state — fails to push back against unconstitutional mandates from the federal government, what then have we left of our Republican form of government?

The only thing that can effectively fight government is government.

The individual who believes the government should not prohibit vaccine passports based on “principle” needs to consider the point of a “principled stance” isn’t just the maintenance of an opinion. No, the chief aim of a statesman’s principled stance on an issue is to ensure that the constitutional liberties of their countrymen continue in perpetuity.

Suppose government can set this precedent of co-opting businesses now. What other manner of passports can they require just to buy groceries or engage in commerce? What other manner of passport will they require in order to be a full-fledged member of our shared economy? 

This is a dangerous precedent. One that I hope some of my colleagues will ponder and take to heart as this session considers a bevy of legislation relating to vaccines, passports, and so on.