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  • Arne Mortensen

My May 2020 Kelso Longview Chamber Newsletter posting

Updated: Jun 8

Some readers probably do not know about the monthly Kelso Longview Chamber Newsletter, so I present here. Even though it is now almost three weeks old, it still seems to be on the mark. You can read it on Page 10 of the Kelso Longview Chamber Newsletter or read it below.


I’m never quite sure what is of interest to the readers of this high quality monthly newsletter. Today I will try another, gasp, departure from accepted, so I will not be telling how wonderful things are going or bore with the litany how the BoCC is helping you. And I will not tell you what you can find out easily via documents on the County website. I will dwell on the high-level concepts surrounding our current lock-down that is killing business.

The issues of lock-down and defining essential business are an active topic for the BoCC. Below are two parts of this continuing story:

What is an “essential business?”

Who decides? Who was made the master of “essential?” Until the citizens decided to abdicate their right and obligations to decide this for themselves, they and the free market decided.

Consider a time before the current COVID-19 edicts:

A business lives or dies by satisfying a customer’s [essential] needs. No government entity decided whether the business is essential. At least that is the way it was in the US … not so in the USSR, and we know what happened there.

We explore this a little more. If a business has a foul smell or is dirty or hires surly staff, people do not shop there, and the business will die. Again, the government did not have to order the people not to shop there, they decided that for themselves. A competitor with better service would prosper while the weak company would die; that is how it worked in the US, but not in the USSR. Here the people decided; in the USSR, the government decided, and we know what happened there.

The likely hood of being attacked is much greater in a bar in a tough part of town than say, in a lingerie shop in a posh area. Should government shutdown all bars? Really, are bars essential? Government might say no, based-on whim and a sense of hubris that they know what is best for you. That is not how we operate(d) in the US; that is how they operated in the USSR, and we know what happened there.

Now we explore the current scene controlled by Covid-19 concerns:

What has really changed? Why is the individual freedom of association abridged? Why is the 2nd amendment suspended? Where in the Constitution is the phrase, “you have these rights unless the government declares an emergency?”

We know about infectious diseases in general. And that has sufficed to keep people safe, for example, from pandemics, such as STDs. Why is this pandemic any different? Granted, we do not know as much as we would like about Covid-19, but we can be cautious and follow the suggestions intended to mitigate contagion. The people do not need the government to shut down any business; the people will decide whether to patronize a business based on their own private assessment of what is essential and what their own personal risks are. Businesses that the public deems too risky will not be patronized; that is how "essential business" should be defined!

It is sheer madness to abdicate your responsibility to your safety to the government. It is a road to destruction to yield your rights to the politics of the moment. That history lesson is written in blood and human misery.

The Constitutions:

The other key part of the story is the fundamental law of the land as expressed in both the State and Federal Constitutions. None of the governor’s orders are in compliance with either Constitution. Our Constitutions do not have modifiers that permit the subversion of rights for any cause; those rights are absolute. Marbury vs. Madison was an early test of this concept. A more recent test is the Miranda Court that said, “There can be no rule making or legislation that would abrogate the Rights protected in the Constitution.” What many call law, is not law.

Let’s consider Article 1 of the Washington State Constitution:

  • Section 1 is violated by the governor and the legislature frequently; it takes a key issue, though, to illustrate this point.People should not be force to commit economic suicide, a consequence of the lock-down.I believe the various well attended protests and the many letters sent to the Governor indicate that consent is not there.

  • Section 2 names the US Constitution as the supreme law of the land. The proscriptions about assembly, churches, due process, etc. are violated by the Governor’s orders.

  • Section 7 also is under assault. You can’t fix your plumbing unless we give you a permit, and we aren’t issuing a permit.

  • Section 12 is interesting. Some businesses are “more equal” than others, in Orwellian parlance. So, some businesses can operate, and others cannot!

In accordance with the Washington State Constitution, we, elected officials, swear an oath of fidelity to the US and State Constitution. In small and large points, this oath of office is subordinated to expediencies of the moment. Maybe there are some exigencies that require that, but that road never fails to destroy the very essence of the Republic, so it is hard to argue that it should be taken.

On Tuesday 21Apr2020, in a 2 to 1 vote, the BoCC extended the declaration of emergency in Cowlitz County. The original vote may have been justified because so little was known about Covid-19 and the risks were high. The real sway, though, I am afraid, was the concept that state and federal money would flow only if we declared an emergency. A lesser but notable sway was the concept of streamlining actions, such as purchasing. We all admit that streamlining is good; so why do we not do that normally? The public should be very afraid every time an emergency declaration is made.

Aside from inconvenient Constitutional issues, there are common sense issues. No one seems concerned about the costs and consequences. What does this lockdown cost Cowlitz County? … No answer.

Another issue is the quagmire of “information” that is released daily. Maybe you can sift through WHO documents and learn the truth; I can’t. But what I can see is the destruction of lives as we take jobs away and tear down businesses. Does sheltering indoors help? I just saw an article that said it does not. There is plenty of fodder for discussion. But, shouldn’t the primary goal of any service be Hippocratic? Should not government live by the motto, first do no harm? I am certain that our Covid-19 response has long lasting negative consequences on the economy.

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