Many of those refusing to wear masks fail to realize that all freedoms have limits. The right to swing one’s arm freely stops at the tip of my nose. If the arm swinger persists and strikes me, that’s a battery. Laws prohibit such conduct; I can sue for damages.

Government officials have called for the wearing of face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID, though regulations differ in their level of rigor and sanctions. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

There are numerous other examples where the social contract – the larger good – limits freedom. One is not free to drive faster than a posted speed limit; not free to drive without liability insurance; not free to drive without buckling one’s seat belt; not free to park in a handicapped parking space; not free to cry “fire” in a crowded theater; not free to refuse to pay one’s property or income tax – the list could be made much longer.

Today, the nation faces a raging pandemic, people are being made ill; 250,000 have died. Public health experts have made clear that wearing a mask will deter spread of the virus – save lives. Government officials (with varying degrees of force and varying sanctions) have urged that masks be worn.

But a significant number of people have asserted they are free to refuse. To them I would say – you have no such freedom. One is never free to harm another. To government officials, I would say on behalf of those who grasp the limits of freedom: Get tougher – impose penalties. Mask wearing is a small life-saving limit to our freedom – a limit that all must be required to adhere to.

Orlando Delogu

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