The cowboy sits at his table in the saloon. He pulls a bullet from his pocket. He pulls his six-shooter from it’s holster. He loads the bullet into the barrel. He spins the barrel. He points the gun at his head. He pulls the trigger.
No harm done.
“Russian Roulette” as portrayed in the movies.
But even if it had been <bang> and the cowboy died, no physical harm would have come to anyone else.
Watching social media as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds I have seen some people indignant at the suggestion that they can be told what to do in any situation. Stay home. Not congregate. Not “have fun.” Not see their friends. Get a haircut. Indignant that anyone, especially “the government,” tell them anything like that. They exhibit their indignation under the banner of “personal liberty.”
Now imagine the same cowboy. He pulls out his bullet and his gun, he loads the gun, he spins the barrel, and this time he stands up and starts waving the gun around at the other patrons of the saloon and pulls the trigger.
No harm done?
Wrong. Plenty of harm done. Nobody got hurt or died. But they could have. There was a 1 in 6 chance that the gun would fire. A 1 in 6 chance that someone could have died.
As a society we consider that unacceptable. It is unacceptable that someone brandish a loaded weapon in public, even if it is likely that it will not fire. We prosecute people who do so and we (sometimes) remove them from society by sending them to jail. Your personal liberty ends when your choices harm or have the potential to harm others.
In a pandemic we are all cowboys, and our hands are guns. But the bullets are invisible and undetectable. There may be a bullet. There may be 6. There may be none. We have no way of knowing. If someone waves a gun around in public they are punished for it. We are asking people to minimize activity that will turn their hands into loaded guns.
Someone explain to me why that is unreasonable.