During a crisis, it might be necessary for government officials to implement measures that would be inappropriate during ordinary times—including measures that affect civil liberties. But that does not mean we must blindly accept any encroachment on our rights and freedoms as necessary. Indeed, emergencies provide fertile grounds for governments to expand their powers in ways that are often unnecessary or dangerous.
When government officials—whether federal, state, or local—take steps in response to the coronavirus pandemic that impinge on civil liberties, how should we assess those actions? The flow chart below offers some basic, general questions that can help in determining whether the government’s action is reasonable and necessary, whether it raises concerns (and therefore requires close vigilance), or whether it simply should not be undertaken.