Rule of Law for Thee but Not for Me

May 19, 2020 Updated: May 19, 2020


Like true apparatchiks, those at the reins of unconstitutional power thanks to COVID-19 have determined that their decrees are too onerous or absurd to apply to themselves.

From Neil Ferguson—the Nate Silver of pandemic modeling—who was caught meeting with his married lover, to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who deemed her hair needs essential, these elites are ready with excuses to dismiss criticism of their social-distancing dodging actions. One wonders why a “mask and gloves” are adequate protection for Mayor Lightfoot’s salon needs but not for other Chicago residents.

Scotland’s chief medical officer, Catherine Calderwood, twice visited her second home, and after public outcry, resigned from her government position. The wife of the billionaire governor of Illinois J.B. Pritzker reportedly left her insolvent home state to wait out the pandemic at their $12 million Florida dacha. And recently, Michelle Obama reportedly had the audacity to tell Washington, D.C. residents to stay home two days after Barack went golfing in Virginia.

Worse still is the hypocrisy of Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine, who moved her 95-year-old mother out of her assisted living home and into a hotel amid the state government’s orders that those who tested positive for COVID-19 be admitted to elderly care facilities.

But it was an angry New Yorker spotting Mayor Bill de Blasio, having been chauffeured to a park 11 miles from his home, who gets at the heart of the matter. “His actions tell us who he really is. Austerity for the working class, privilege for the ruling class,” the man tweeted.


What is disturbing about our elites flaunting their own decrees is that it signals a turn toward the modus operandi of a banana republic.

Escape hatches of the elites and shadow economies—two phenomena that have quickly sprung up amid various states’ responses to COVID-19—are hallmarks of authoritarian nations whose laws are incongruent with human nature and the demands of reality. Soviet Russia is a classic case. Members of the Party’s inner circle had their dachas in the countryside and connections to goods and services of which the general population was deprived. As for the rest of the people, to do more than eke out a basic living without political connections was unthinkable.

But this outcome is written in the very philosophy of communism, which calls for the “politicization” of the masses at the hands of a cadre of elites. That is, the political visionaries must force the population against its will along the path of progress. Those tasked with so noble a goal could not possibly be forced to obey the same laws and standard of living as the peons, the purported beneficiaries of communism.

The response of many American elites to the pandemic seems to reveal a similar psychology. Rules for thee but not for me. That the oligarchs, from whose pens these decrees have been issued, are flagrantly disregarding them suggests that the end goal is a lofty and altogether unattainable one. Why should an entire population do what even the authors of the laws cannot?

The extreme lockdown measures in response to COVID-19 are out of keeping with the demands of practical necessity. This apparent contradiction was the undoing of the Soviet empire and it will soon be the undoing of our own little trial with totalitarianism.

The curve has “flattened,” whether due to the lockdown measures or not, revealing that preventing the health-care system from being overwhelmed was not the goal, or citizens would not still be under lockdown. What then is the goal? Like other “wars” on fill-in-the-abstraction—poverty, drugs, terror, climate change—the “war on coronavirus” will undoubtedly cost a fortune and will not be won.

This latest utopian dream, that political control backed by fear and select scientific opinion can help us to defeat or escape a virus, is as chimeric as the classless society dreamed up by Marx. The qualitative result, however, is much the same: austere measures for the general population and exemptions and workarounds for the elite.

The well-connected have always found a way around the rules by which the rest of us must abide. From the 17th century Plague of London to now, the elite have fled calamities to their country estates while the rest of us remain in order to make a living. A startling graph recently published by the New York Times illustrates the exodus of the wealthy at the time that de Blasio closed the city’s schools.

In demanding that we shutter our businesses and churches while they wait out the pandemic from the comfort of their country homes, the elites in this country have shown us that it’s high time we stop pretending they are our “public servants.” Some officials, to be sure, merit the title. But many, as recent events demonstrate, are bona fide democratist commissars.

Given how pervasive the abuses are, we must ask if the United States is not beginning to resemble a banana republic. The real risk to the rule of law is overbearing laws that are widely ignored and arbitrarily enforced, something that has become widespread during this COVID-19 panic.

Emily Finley holds a Ph.D. in politics from The Catholic University of America and is a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University. She is the managing editor of Humanitas, a journal of politics and culture, published by The Center for the Study of Statesmanship.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.