Here we are in Los Angeles which is a city that used to have a strong, vibrant heartbeat.
The streets used to be lively and noisy.
There were people on the sidewalks strolling cheerfully and laughing and smiling.
Now it’s a ghost town.
There’s no traffic even on the busiest streets like Sunset or Santa Monica.
If you drive along the street the sidewalks are bare. Most stores and all restaurants are closed. It’s a ghost town and this is happening all across America.
Local and state governments have ordered stores, malls, and restaurants, and theaters closed. The schools are closed. As far as I can tell, life has ground to a halt except inside.
This is by a million miles the biggest compulsory change to every day life in America ever.
And here’s what I keep wondering: who ordered this change?
Who ordained these draconian rules and regulations?
I know that usually a mayor or a county council lawyer appears or sends out an e-mail with the orders. I know that well.
But this is a democracy.
Decisions of this kind are supposed to be made by the people’s elected representatives. I have yet to read of any legislative debates about these changes. Not even one day of debate and one night of listening to citizens’ views.
Yes, I know that time is short. I know the decisions have to be made quickly. But do they have to be made secretly by just one or two people with no legislative input?
Congress in the House of Representatives took roughly one week to debate its COVID relief bill. It still hasn’t gone to the Senate. Can it really be that immense cities like my beloved Los Angeles cannot spare eight or ten hours to follow the spirit of democracy to make the New Order a reality? Do we really want to toss away democratic principles this fast?
I just have the horrible feeling that in order to escape the evil clutches of the virus, we have escaped from our whole democratic/republic way of doing things. This is not the same country it was a month ago in many ways.
One is that it is no longer a representative democracy.
I respectfully offer another observation: at the rate we are laying off men and women, we will inevitably have a recession and a man-made one at that. One in every ten persons in America works in a restaurant.
That’s 16 million people. Their jobs are gone.
They’re usually not rich They stop buying. It has a ripple effect.
There are millions of school teachers and staff in America.
Many of them have been laid off. Some will still get paid for a while but not for long and not a lot. That has a major ripple effect, too.
Thousands of Americans work in Hollywood and on Broadway and other stage forums in America. Their jobs are gone. Millions more work as clerks in now shuttered shopping malls.
They’re gone now, too.
We are going to have a spike in unemployment such as we have never seen in a short period. That has to lead to recession and maybe Depression.
How many people work for airlines or cruise lines? They’re unemployed now, too. They get benefits — some of them — but their purchasing power is gone now.
This is a guarantee of a major league economic disaster.
I guess it’s absolutely necessary to keep this flu from spreading and killing many people.
But didn’t these changes in life and the economic order merit some serious analysis and discussion, even if rushed? I worry very much that we have lost our footing on the economy and lost our freedom and democratic way of life at the same time.
As I say, maybe it’s absolutely needed.
But couldn’t we have had some discussion of it first?
Prosperity and democracy are big things to lose.
Ben Stein is a writer, an actor, and a lawyer who served as a speechwriter in the Nixon administration as the Watergate scandal unfolded. He began his unlikely road to stardom when director John Hughes as the numbingly dull economics teacher in the urban comedy, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." Read more more reports from Ben Stein — Click Here Now.
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