From Drafting Doctors to Stealing Equipment, Politicians Violate the Limits of a Free Society

A pandemic becomes an excuse for treating people as playing pieces in a game.


If you're wondering if New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio really means "draft" when he calls for drafting medical personnel from around the U.S. to care for COVID-19 patients in his hard-hit city, the answer is an unequivocal "yes." He really does want to drag doctors and nurses from their jobs elsewhere to assigned positions in New York City.

Bill de Blasio isn't alone as a government official who sees in the crisis an opportunity to go full commissar. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is stealing ventilators from upstate hospitals to give to facilities downstate. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is similarly snatching medical supplies from private firms and facilities to use as he sees fit. And President Donald Trump has invoked the Defense Production Act to force medical equipment manufacturers to abandon customers beyond the bordersand even to sell to only the federal government.

In context, de Blasio's insistence that medical providers are playing pieces to be pushed around a game board at his whim is the next logical step down the path the political class has already chosen.

"Mayor de Blasio today called on the federal government to institute an essential draft of all private medical personnel to help in the fight against COVID-19," de Blasio's office announced on April 2. "The United States must mobilize a national response to meet the rapidly growing demand for medical personnelfirst in New York and then other localities throughout the country."

Debate ensued as to whether the mayor meant actual involuntary servitude for doctors treating patients in locales not called "New York" or whether he wants a voluntary national service. So, I asked.

"Just to clarify, is the mayor explicitly calling for conscription of medical personnel around the United States, to be deployed to COVID-19 hotspots?" I queried New York City Hall.

"Yes, that's correct," city officials responded.

So, the mayor does intend to attempt to force doctors and other health care providers to leave their own responsibilities behind if the government determines them to be less pressing than those of New York.

As it turns out, the skeletal structure of a medical draft exists as the Health Care Personnel Delivery System, administered by the U.S. Selective Service System which oversees the country's vestigial conscription apparatus. "If needed it would be used to draft health care personnel in a crisis. It is designed to be implemented in connection with a national mobilization in an emergency, and then only if Congress and the President approve the plan and pass and sign legislation to enact it," according to the official description.

At least de Blasio has a basis in lawalbeit, coercive and immoral lawfor his conscription plans. Andrew Cuomo just seems to be testing the limitsif anyof New Yorkers' willingness to let him rule by decree.

"If they want to sue me for borrowing their excess ventilators to save lives, let them sue me," the governor responded to protests about the state's plan to send National Guard troops to seize 20 percent of ventilators from hospitals in upstate New York for redeployment to facilities in New York City.

Oddly, even as New York officials call for coercing people and equipment into state service, the governor's website boasts of over 1,000 donated ventilators and 85,000 volunteer health professionalsincluding 22,000 from out of state. Maybe they don't count without the threat of prison.

The same taste for the whip prevails in New Jersey where Murphy authorized officials "to commandeer personal services and/or real or personal property. This includes medical supplies and equipment from private companies and institutions…"

Do private firms and local facilities have that equipment earmarked for their own communities? That won't matter if state officials have different priorities.

For his part, Trump invoked the Defense Production Act in recent weeks in a rage that medical supply companies are working overtime to meet demand from customers who aren't on his personal list of folks who should be at the front of the line.

"The Trump administration quietly invoked the Defense Production Act to force medical suppliers in Texas and Colorado to sell to it first—ahead of states, hospitals or foreign countries," reports Kaiser Health News. "Firms face fines or jail time if they don't comply."

That was before the White House told American companies to stop exporting N95 respirators and other protective masks manufactured in the U.S. to overseas customers.

The likes of de Blasio, Cuomo, Murphy, and Trump engage in gratuitous 1930s-style total-state reenactments at least in part because that's who they are and a pandemic is as good an excuse as any to push beyond the boundaries of a free society. But politicians go full commissar also because they win praise for "exercising leadership," especially in its distilled, strongman form.

"Many governors and health officials have been pleading with President Trump to use his authority under the Defense Production Act to get the federal government more directly involved in the buying and distribution of items like ventilators and face masks," Politico reported at the end of March.

Even political opponents who have spent years calling the president a dictator begged him to take on actual dictatorial power. Then, he did just that.

Cuomo, for his part, wins lavish praise for his camera-hogging and his authoritarian posturing. "If a media darling has emerged during the coronavirus crisis, it's Cuomo," says Alex Shephard of The New Republic. The press devotion is so unseemly that a recent Columbia Journalism Review piece suggested that journalists might want to bring just a little more perspective to their coverage of a very flawed politician.

Naturally inclined, as they are, to treat people as pawns, it would be a shock if government officials were to resist loud, public demands that they be true to their inner authoritarian nature. But authoritarianism isn't some magic solution to our problems. Dictatorial actions paper over competing needs, rival priorities, and the likelihood of unforeseen consequences.

"The Buffalo Niagara region needs everything it has, said local elected officials and health care leaders," the Buffalo News noted of responses to the New York governor's ventilator grab. "Kaleida Health, Catholic Health, Erie County Medical Center and two smaller hospitals in Niagara County last month reported having a total of 363 ventilators," which might make a difference for the local community but would be lost amidst the demands of the downstate metropolis.

Likewise, there are "significant humanitarian implications of ceasing respirator supplies to healthcare workers in Canada and Latin America, where we are a critical supplier of respirators," warned 3M after the president's restrictive order. "In addition, ceasing all export of respirators produced in the United States would likely cause other countries to retaliate and do the same, as some have already done."

Forcing people to do what you want does not mean you've made the situation better.

As for de Blasio's plan to conscript medical providers… it's worth noting that a proper draft begets proper draft resistance.

"I wouldn't go," my wife, a pediatrician, told me when I asked what she'd do if she received a draft notice. "My family and my patients are here."

My wife spends part of her week these days masked, goggled, and gowned so she can screen patients in her clinic's parking lot, determine appropriate treatment, and minimize further infections. Yes, COVID-19 is in rural Arizona and so are many other ailments requiring care, even if people and concerns here aren't on the radar of far-away officials.

Bill de Blasio and other members of the political class may think the pandemic empowers them to enforce their priorities on people everywhere, but what they think is right and important isn't the final word. The rest of us can and should push back. We must be willing to say "no" at least as forcefully as bullying politicians issue their commands and invoke their thuggish laws.

NEXT: Why You Shouldn’t Trust Anyone Who Claims 80 Percent of America’s Drugs Come From China

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  1. I’ll be interested to see if the NY cops show up somewhere to collect equipment and the local cops decide to not let them collect.

    Ironic wasn’t Reason wanting Trump to do something and then he did with the DPA to make sure America had what it needed? are they now saying we have plenty of supplies and don’t need to make sure American goods stay in America or is this teh silly line about free trade. i don’t know what Reason stand on any more

    1. BTW i saw one state now wants the police to pull over any car with out of state license unless on certain federal highways. i hope a few people get sued to hell for that BS since I’m pretty sure its illegal to target people like that.

      1. Delaware. Joe Biden’s state.

        Delaware police are pulling over Pennsylvania drivers, as some cross the border to buy alcohol

        The courts wont allow people to successfully sue. The fact that all these police actions like this are unconstitutional matters not.

        Stopping vehicles without probable cause. Telling Americans that they cannot travel from one state to another. Tyranny.

        1. Delaware is interfering with interstate commerce. Businesses open in Delaware are not to be patronized by non-Delaware residents.
          I seem to remember the Constitutional convention was called partly because assholz in NY were not letting ferries from New Jersey and Connecticut pick up passengers in NY though it was fine for NY ferry owners to do so. Interstate commerce clause was put in there for this specific reason.

          1. Back in the early ’90s, when I was going to school 15 minutes from the Delaware border, the PA police would hang out at the big liquor stores there (PA has state stores). They would look for PA plates, and then intercept them coming back into the state.

        2. Telling people they can’t cross a border is tyranny?

          1. “Telling people they can’t cross a border is tyranny?”

            Next question.

        3. Telling Americans that they cannot travel from one state to another. Tyranny.

          How does this square with your reading of Article 1, Section 9, Clause 1? I thought Congress had the capability to regulate the migration of free persons?

          1. Congress did this?

            Jesus Christ dumbass, why do you fucking idiots completely shit the bed with these weak fucking gotcha attempts.

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  2. I can wait for sanity to return without stories of the NY national guard in combat with local police protecting their own hospitals and factories.
    What would the good governor do if Trump nationalizes the NY Guard to prevent him from going all fascist?

    1. Sorry, sanity is gone for good.

  3. A pandemic becomes an excuse for treating people as playing pieces in a game.

    To be fair, politicians and bureaucrats have always viewed us that way, they’re just dispensing with the pretense now.

  4. New York City always thinks that it is the center of the universe. Yesterday, I heard a health official there say that everyone admitted to a New York City hospital for Covid-19 will be offered (subject to the patient’s doctor’s approval) a course of Hydroxychloroquine. This drug is from the 26 million tablets that the strategic stockpile has or has acquired.

    I live about 80 miles from New Orleans which has a higher mortality rate from Covid-19 than anywhere in New York. I would be willing to bet that for a patient in New Orleans it will be harder to get Hydroxychloroquine than it was to get a boat ride out of town after Hurricane Katrina.

  5. Yes, COVID-19 is in rural Arizona and so are many other ailments requiring care

    Look, JD, you don’t seem to understand. People in NY are obviously more important and more worthy of being “saved” than people in bumfuck Yavapai County, AZ. So if a few AZ gomers have to be sacrificed to save NYers then those hicks should be happy to give their lives in exchange for their betters. These are NYers we’re talking about, they’re better than you, and they know it! /sarc

    1. Yes People who live in Blue states are more important because they pay higher taxes, that help the Welfare Red States drain from the USgov and, Blue state have lower percentages of Divorce, high school drop outs, teen pregnancies, welfare recipients, unemployed…, Red states are a drain on America, they don’t pay their fair share in taxes. When they says “We need to come together” they mean give them handouts while demonizing those who support them!

      1. Where does you food, fuel, lumber, steel, electricity, etc come from dumb fuck?

      2. You shitlibs use that argument, and it’s based on one study about federal expenditures in a state vs. taxes out. So it’s not about welfare; it includes military salaries (you know, those underpaid people who protect your sorry ass). And the other dirty secret is that in many red states, the welfare recipients are the “blue” people. Southern states have the highest percentage of blue people.

      3. Yes, red states are awful. It would be best if we split up the country and went our separate ways.

        April.6.2020 at 6:00 pm
        “Yes People who live in Blue states are more important because they pay higher taxes,…”

        Higher rates of flu cases, much higher rates of AIDS cases; in general a drag on the medical costs of the US, you cherry-picking piece of lefty shit.

  6. >>A pandemic becomes an excuse for treating people as playing pieces in a game.

    Being Establishment becomes an excuse for treating people as playing pieces in a game.

    1. Seeking political office or law enforcement is generally a good indicator that the person likes treating people as playing pieces in a game. And that’s the problem. The people who want those jobs are often the least qualified for the fact that they want the job in the first place.

      1. yeah nobody who wants power should ever be granted power.

  7. The very people who want to command and control the economy during a crisis would just as soon lock people up for price gouging or some other word describing them wanting more pay to come to NYC to be a doctor or nurse. Resources are scarce. Diktats will not change that fact. If Cuomo, De Blasio, and Trump want to increase the supply of doctors, ventilators, or respirators, then the appropriate way to do that is through pricing signals.

    These guys either don’t understand the most basic laws of economics, or worse, they don’t care about them.

  8. “Just to clarify, is the mayor explicitly calling for conscription of medical personnel around the United States, to be deployed to COVID-19 hotspots?” I queried New York City Hall.

    “Yes, that’s correct,” city officials responded.

    New York City could probably use a giant dose of fuck you from the rest of the country right now. In the long run their corrupt leadership might be forced to focus on preventive problem solving that doesn’t rely on everyone else.

    1. It’s especially hilarious now that new hospitalizations are down 75% over the course of a few days.

  9. Fuck DeBlasio in the face. My wife is a Nurse Practitioner, and she has been offered a NY travel contract for $13,000 for one month in the trenches of a COVID-battling hospital. THAT is how you fill the need, with economic incentives. If we didn’t have 3 small children at home, she would have done it. We know tons of travel nurses who would leap at the chance to make that kind of pay for the risk, and some probably are.

    If he thinks he can conscript her into service in his mismanaged shithole, he can come knocking on my door. I’d like to have a word. I’d like him to explain how if he and Cuomo are so great at their jobs, why are over 40% of all COVID deaths in the US each day are coming from their city and state. Helluva job.

    1. Help me understand…. You’re raggin” on DeBlasio & Cuomo, yet someone in NY offered your wife some bucks to go there. Who exactly offered the ‘incentive?’

      1. I could be wrong, but given that the offer was to work at a specific hospital, it seems that it was the hospital, a presumably private entity, making the offer.

      2. What is the mystery here? Do you not understand the difference between:
        (1) We are offering you a good salary to work for us, which you are free to agree to or not; and
        (2) We are forcing you to work for us, whether you agree to or not?

        (1) is free enterprise, (2) is slavery.

        Note, as he said, his wife might have taken the offer, but they have three small children at home, so she turned it down. IOW, she made a free decision based on her family circumstances. That works under (1), not under (2).

        1. He refers to himself as observant but seems anything but what his name implies.

          1. Maybe it is meant as ironic, like nick naming a 6’5″, 300 lb biker Tiny.

  10. They learned all this from the Dem god F.D.R. One of my grandfathers was a farmer back then.They made him destroy some of his crops to keep prices up. Didn’t mater they live off what they grew too. He hated that man. My other grandfather was a coal miner and bootlegger. That’s another story.

    1. Of you don’t like what FDR did, why do you utilize the programs? If you were truly moral, you would not take advantage of programs you demonize!

      1. Because we are forced to pay for the programs rather we want to or not.

        1. Between what my brother and I pay in FICA, we could easily take care of our parents in retirement and have money left over.

      2. Are you the newest dipshit troll? Can’t say I think much of your username, at least most of the trolls are creative enough to use something that isn’t their email.

      3. I think the argument is, why not get back some of the money, taken from you against your will?

      4. Forced utilization with no option. They get paid before the worker does! If the government was honest or moral as you say they’d allow me to invest my own 12.6% of income they currently steal and they could simply fuck off. But that isn’t an option now is it?? Seems like a winner for government, one less account to manage. But then they wouldn’t be able to rape said programs of my money and charge me administrative fees now would they?

  11. We must be willing to say “no” at least as forcefully as bullying politicians issue their commands and invoke their thuggish laws.

    Can we proclaim Tuccille as the One True Libertarian?

  12. Unicorn Ramblings:

    “If they want to sue me for borrowing their excess ventilators to save lives, let them sue me,” the governor responded to protests about the state’s plan to send National Guard troops to seize 20 percent of ventilators from hospitals in upstate New York for redeployment to facilities in New York City.

    1 – Don’t worry, the government says you don’t have any reason to own a gun…

    2 – Conflating “borrowing” with seizing by force?

    3 – If I were running one of those upstate facilities, I might consider pulling a vital component out of any ventilator that wasn’t in use.

    1. I’d put people with rifles in the upper story windows

  13. The irony is that, as progressives are stripping rural America of medical supplies for urban hotspots, they are still proudly crowing about how bad it is going to be once it reaches rural red areas that “aren’t properly prepared, it will show them how backwards they are”. Pretty sure the Rev and several other similar progressive trolls have done exactly that over the past couple of weeks here on Reason.

    1. As a side note if you look at first case reported data, many more rural states reported the first cases around the same time as more urban states, however, the spread has been far slower in rural America. Even in states that haven’t issued stay at home like the Dakotas, Wyoming and Arkansas.
      A further btw, Governor Bullock can go fuck himself.

      1. It is becoming pretty clear that to the extent this whole thing is a problem, it’s an urban problem. Particularly urban areas of the more shithole persuasion. The parts of the country that aren’t dumps like Detroit and the Bronx have gotten duped. Thing is, I’m not sure they will even recognize it and learn their lesson. They will be too busy groveling and kissing the feet of the State for protecting them from something that would have been nothing in their communities anyway.

    2. Progressive states pay more in taxes and get less handouts than Red states that are welfare states. It’s about time Blue states get what they pay for, and Red states get less because they pay less into the USgov.

      1. Where does you food, fuel, raw products, most American manufactured products etc come from? Also, the whole they pay more taxes is a red herring. Rural states tend to have lower cost of living, ergo their workers make less, meaning they pay less taxes. However, red states are still forced to pay for government mandated programs, tend to have huge (in the west) areas of public land and national parks, tend to have higher than urban and coastal state retired military and retired people overall (many who moved to red states from blue states as a result of our lower cost of living). These all, by law, receive huge payments from the federal government. None of these are the fault of red staters, but due tend to be the result of policies forced on red states by blue states.
        Also, due to our lower cost of living and our lower wages, more of our people qualify for assistance such as reduced lunches and free lunches, because these are based on federal income data. These federal income data is severely biased to the right because of high cost of living blue states. A family of five in Montana making $80K a year can live quite comfortably, can you say the same about that same family in New York or California? I am purchasing 99 acres for $60,000 grand. Is there any blue state that can boast the same?
        Your problem, like all progressives from blue states, is that you one a one size fits all approach, and you base that approach on your own experiences. Then you go around whining that red states get more in taxes then they pay in, without understanding the underlining reasons for that discrepancy. The discrepancy is a result of the very policies you push.
        Finally, consider the differences in economic drivers. Most red states tend to have economies heavily geared towards producing commodities. They tend to have less publicly traded companies and corporations as a result of this type of economy. As a result, they pay less in capital gains taxes and corporate taxes. Even an incorporated family farm (which tend to by the majority of the so called corporate farms) may make a million dollars gross, but because of the high overhead cost of farming, their net is far less. Finally, the majority of these commodity producing businesses are small, privately held, and thus are taxed differently then the businesses urban individuals are more familiar with.
        Your problem is that you are presenting a limited data set without understanding the variables that contribute to that data set. Therefore, you create a narrative that fits your own bias.

      2. Also, we would love for you to “give us less” if that meant you left us the fuck alone. Stop pushing your coastal, one size fits all environmental regulations, stop trying to control our public land (better yet give the fucking land to the states and allow them to manage it), stop enforcing stupid agricultural laws, stop trying to enforce unscientific timber management laws. I can go on and on. We would gladly trade your so called handouts for a little more freedom.

        1. All the items you list (at 6:41) are controlled by the Feds, not the states – not even blue states.

          1. Yes. Which but they are policies supported for and pushed mainly by politicians from blue states. Which is what I said, isn’t it?

          2. Do you read what people actually wrote or just argue the straw men you create?

        2. They cannot understand the concept of “my freedom is not for sale”

          Being bought cheaply themselves, they insist that others ought to accept servitude at whatever rate their masters offer.

      3. Jesus Christ on a bike, stop repeating this lie. Do some fucking research and cite a study. You will find that ONE study on this counted military (all all federal) salaries and all federal expenditures as what you erroneously call “handouts.” There are of course handouts in all states, and in the red states, those handouts go to the blue people.

    3. I’ll be watching to see if this happens – good point.

      1. It’s only a good point if you don’t understand why the difference.

  14. “From Drafting Doctors to Stealing Equipment, Politicians Violate the Limits of a Free Society”

    The USA has not been a free society for a century. To call it one now when the government is involved in every single aspect of your life is pretty much a strawman.

  15. I didnt see anything about Trump refusing yo help Blue states, even stealing supplies meant for them being delivered from other countries in this article, only a lot of demonizing Democratic politicians. Trump knows his behavior will lead to the death of thousands of people in states that don’t kiss his but! Trump and his supporters are enemies of America and common decency!

    1. Considering almost all the aid from the federal government currently is going to blue states, your entire post is bullshit.

      1. Time has a way of equalizing things, especially this kind of thing. Don’t be afraid: you will get yours, too, when needed, if only the feds would do their fucking job with ‘our’ stockpiles. You’ll get hit by the next wave soon enough. Cross your fingers the feds actually get a clue before then.

        1. We’ve had it as long as you’ve had it like I pointed out upthread. Did you bother to read what I actually wrote. By the way, it is less likely to do damage in my county which is over twice the size of Rhode Island, with a population of around 10,000 then it is in a densely populated city like New York. The population density would severely slow the spread. Even in states such as Washington, California, New York, Florida etc with large outbreaks those outbreaks are almost exclusively contained to large urban areas.

        2. Also, thank you for proving my point upthread about progressives warning/hoping for a major outbreak in red States. I wonder if you just can’t help yourself.

          1. I can’t wait until the States’ Jack booted thugs come to drag me away and chain me to a ventilator in the city.
            That is the only way I would not start walking back to my hospital in the suburbs.
            Once this precedent is set, they will likely chain me to an abortion clinic operating table and force me to provide the “human right” of abortions.
            As a doctor and a gun but, this is where I think we will the start of a shooting war

            1. If you are going g to try sarcasm, can you at least attempt to make it congent. I haven’t had enough coffee yet to decipher the gibberish you typed.

    2. Enemy of America? Nope. Enemy of you? Absolutely.

  16. I saw this NY bullshit on a few places on facebook last night. From the looks of things, the folks from NY City couldn’t understand why they shouldn’t be able to steal from the rubes, while all the upstate NYers were mostly of the opinion that NY City deserved what it got, and that they wouldn’t let NYC-ers just take their stuff, stuff that they expected to need soon.

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  18. Have the intellectually superior fuck nut woke dumb asses in NYC stopped riding the Subway yet?

    1. I feel for the people who are riding the subway. For the most part it is the poorer, working class. They have been deemed essential and because of the high cost of living and the fact the city has discouraged private car ownership (especially among the serfs) the serfs are now forced to herd into crammed subways and buses to go serve the ruling aristocracy. And most of the aristocracy is staying at home, able to work from home while the peons can’t afford not to risk infection. Considering that the poorer workers also probably have higher risk factors and poorer health (obesity, diabetes etc) they are much more likely to succumb. They will also be the hardest hit by this government created depression.

  19. Seven score and fifteen years after the Civil War ended, the Democrats are _still_ the party of slavery.

  20. Perhaps if they stopped turning away young White males from medical schools in favor of a more “diverse” future – they’d have enough medical professionals.

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