The Libertarian Party of Tennessee’s Statement on the COVID-19 Outbreak

The concept that Tennesseans must cede more authority to a strong central government thrives more than ever in times of uncertainty and fear. The government’s natural course is to “never let a crisis go to waste” by seizing more power for themselves and this situation is no different.

The Libertarian Party of Tennessee (LPTN) stands strongly against this concept and believes that the actions of informed individuals and the power of the market are the most effective tools to improve public health and protect civil liberties during this time of crisis.

Tennessee is a diverse state. From dense cities like Memphis or Nashville to farmland and mountain towns across the state, each locality will have different challenges to face during this COVID-19 outbreak with each requiring different approaches.

With a top-down approach, the State and Federal government have made several missteps in responding to this crisis.

  • The Governor has overstepped his authority with his mandatory “stay-at-home” order, overriding local governments’ individual responsibility to do what’s best for their constituents. Arresting people for traveling will do absolutely nothing to stop the disease and will result in the opposite of improving public health. 
  • The economic consequences of shutting down the economy are already having negative public health consequences in the form of suicides and domestic violence. These concerns need to be balanced with consideration of the public health impacts of forced quarantine.
  • Tennesseans’ right to assemble has been severely infringed by mandatory state-wide orders. Police officers shutting down Easter Sunday church services and other gatherings of people is unprecedented and shocking.
  • Federally, the government has made it extremely challenging for private medical providers to administer testing to the public, making it even harder for state and local governments to understand the scale of the crisis they’re facing. 
  • The Federal Government has also taken advantage of the crisis to provide corporate bailouts to companies they deem worthy, promoting more cronyism by picking and choosing which companies will outlast the crisis. The focus on primarily supporting large corporations creates an environment that props up monopolies. Only a minority of the money allocated in the stimulus bill went to protect individuals and families, the ones most affected by this crisis. 

Libertarians across the country believe that it’s up to individuals to take responsibility to slow the spread through social distancing and self-quarantine measures. The role of the Federal and State government in a crisis of this nature is simple: 

  1. Get out of the way of the market by working with private partners to make tests, masks, ventilators, and other medical supplies widely available to the public.
  2. Track the scale of the crisis to provide data to the public as well as medically-sound best practices to slow the spread.
  3. Encourage local governments to make the best policy decisions to protect all of their constituents.

In conjunction with these actions, the LPTN is calling for the following policy actions:

  1. Immediately lift any state-wide mandatory “Stay-at-Home” orders, deferring to city and county governments to make the best decisions for their localities.
  2. Release prisoners convicted of victimless and nonviolent crimes to halt the spread in our already overcrowded prison system.
  3. Avoid arresting or detaining people for violating “Stay-at-Home” orders.
  4. Work with private partners to provide widespread testing, allowing the state and local government to truly understand the scale of the spread.

Our hearts are with any and all Tennesseans currently suffering from COVID-19. We encourage Tennesseans across the state to act responsibly and sensibly to protect themselves and those around them. Whether that’s voluntarily continuing self-quarantine or a continuation of social distancing practices, we all have to do our part to flatten the curve. Tennesseans have overcome challenges before and this will be no different.

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