Royal Alexander: With Prudence, We must fully reopen now

As Americans and Louisianans, we have had it explained to us, perhaps hundreds of times by now, that we must address this virus with caution and prudence.  We’ve had indelibly imprinted into our minds the need to social distance, wear masks, vigorously wash hands and disinfect with a religious fervor. 

The large majority of us, no doubt out of concern for our families and neighbors, have implemented some, if not all, of these measures.  Wisely so.  However, we are now at the point that by continuing to limit and hamstring our economy, we are risking fundamental damage to it.  We have to remember that it is a strong American economy that not only powers our country and our way of life, but also provides us with the means to render aid across the world—as we are now doing, for example, in assisting many other nations with medical knowledge, resources and supplies to fight the virus. 

A strong, vibrant economy, therefore, is nothing less than the lifeblood of our American way of life.  It always has been.

I put aside for purposes of this article the sweeping and often incoherent restrictions of our civil liberties we are enduring and note that, at a time such as this, when we feel anxious and overwhelmed, it’s easy for us to forget an important fact: government can render aid, information and recommendations as to defeating this virus but it cannot fundamentally restore our economy;  government creates nothing; manufactures nothing; is not an entrepreneur.  It’s not supposed to be, but neither is it supposed to inhibit the efforts of those who do create jobs and wealth. 

Its legitimate role in our lives is to, within the specific limits of the power our Constitution grants it, create an environment in which the opportunity exists for all of us to thrive with hard work and commitment.  That is why, when government acts, it is doing so based upon the taxes it has extracted (a power granted under Article I, Section 8) from us.  Simply, it has taken the fruits of the labor of millions of Americans and made, ideally through our elected leadership, policy determinations about where that wealth and those resources should be deployed—as it’s doing now with trillions of dollars to fight the virus. 

That’s the deal. For this reason, when we undermine our national, state and local economies such that we strangle and crush this vibrant, wealth and job-creating economic engine, we put ourselves in peril.  At some point, government will run out of our money.  I’m not even certain we can defeat this health crisis without a strong economy.  As U.S. Sen. John Kennedy has succinctly noted, this virus is bad but poverty and economic devastation are also bad.  

America is great not only because America reflects the values that we do; America is great because our economic strength, via our free market system, has created and sustained the very best way of life that’s ever been devised.  We have flattened the curve, hospitals will not likely be overwhelmed (some field hospitals have never had even one virus patient) and, while we should do so with prudence, we must fully reopen and unleash our economy now. 

Royal Alexander is a Shreveport attorney.