There is a bit of noise about East Quincy Barber Shop reopening. Mr. Betts and Mr. Engel are speaking up for the impending need to lift Covid restrictions, but the District Attorney is doing his job, and doing it right.
I, too, worry about rising authoritarianism. But this is not President Trump breaking the Constitution by taking military funds to build a wall, nor is it Governor Newsom promising not to hijack our vehicle taxes and then doing it anyhow. This is a legitimate, legally bounded need to sacrifice for the good of all. It is based on actual facts, real danger, and authority limited by conditions and need.
During World War II, Chester Bowles had the difficult job of running the US almost as a command economy. Americans do not like that kind of control, but they had a war to fight. Bowles had the best insight into the role of penalties in service of collective sacrifice that I have ever heard.
He wrote that, as a rule of thumb, the public falls into three groups. About 10 percent will obey the rules, no matter what the rules are. About 5 percent will break the rules, no matter what they are. Everyone else wants to cooperate, but will quickly refuse to do so if they get the feeling that obeying the rules means they are getting cheated (he used a more colorful word than “cheated”).
The government should not be vindictive, but it cannot turn a blind eye. Penalties must be measured to assure everyone who cooperates with a noble cause that their sacrifice is respected. If, as restrictions are being lifted, we all make the effort to get out and shop local, Mr. Betts will have no trouble covering the cost of justice.
Scott Corey, Quincy