The Economist recently published an article comparing how COVID-19 has affected blue states and red states differently.  During the pandemic, states with Republican leadership and constituents tend to travel more, purchase more, and have remained employed statistically more than Democratic-led states.  According to the article, these differences perpetuate the ongoing divide between the U.S. political parties, as both sides continue to go at each other with barbs and criticism.

Republican states wonder why they should be required to bail out Democratic states that they feel are less fiscally responsible and appear to have a higher mortality rate with the virus.  However, that data alone doesn’t tell the whole story.  Many Democratic states tend to have higher congestion with their larger populations, which is likely the reason for higher mortality rates and not necessarily poor leadership.  More people in close proximity, like in big cities, makes the virus spread more than it does in rural communities.

Regardless, here’s why I think many states are handling this whole situation wrong: We don’t need the government to tell us what to do.  What we can or can’t do should always be our choice, and the government should leave that up to the individual.  If I want to go to my gym and work out during the pandemic, that should be my choice.  If the gym owner wants to open their gym, that should be his or her choice.  No one is forcing one or the other to show up and work out or to have the business open. 

The government doesn’t and can’t know what’s best for 350 million individuals throughout the U.S.  It’s an age-old problem: you can’t lead and make good decisions based on the whole of society.  It breaks down immediately, even for the simplest situations — including your own family!  For example, my wife and I don’t, and can’t, treat our four kids the exact same.  They are individuals with different personality types, and they react and adapt best based on different feedback and interactions from us.  One size doesn’t fit all and never will.

The government is trying to mitigate the damage from the pandemic and protect people from getting sick, but it’s not as simple a solution as mandating that businesses remain closed.  By the same logic, the government shouldn’t ever let us drive cars again because some people are going to be killed and hurt: every year in the U.S., 38,000 people die and 4.4 million are injured in car accidents, according to the National Safety Council.  We can’t be saved from everything.  A pandemic is a unique and difficult situation, and I am not asking anyone to underestimate the dangers that come along with it.  In fact, it is the exact opposite: people and businesses are informed enough to understand what is safe in their community and their situation.

There is no doubt that the devastation to the overall population by keeping the economy closed will far outweigh the benefits of having fewer people contract the virus.  The choice is simple: it should be yours and mine.