Beginning Saturday morning, every business that was not deemed ‘essential’ by Dictator Sununu’s executive order was forced to close its doors until at least May 4th. The reasoning behind the edict involves keeping people a safe ‘social distance’ apart from one another. Thankfully, the list of businesses and personnel that are considered ‘essential’ is quite extensive, and includes: Nutritionists, social workers, mechanics, movers, storage workers, truckers, state-run liquor stores, vegetation workers, bicycle repairmen, pallet manufacturers & distributors, foresters, exterminators, plumbers, electricians, janitors, weathermen, welfare department employees, pet stores, auto stores, laundromats, dry cleaning, banks, and pretty much anyone in any sector that even remotely involves IT, emergency services/support, or sales of anything that anyone could consider useful.
One sector is not considered ‘essential’ by the Dictator, though: The entire fitness field.
Sununu was contacted and has not responded to an inquiry about fitness being left off of the humongous list of essential businesses.
Morbidity by the numbers
Annually, heart disease is the #1 cause of death in the US and New Hampshire. Each year, nearly 3,000 NH residents die from heart disease. Another few thousand die from strokes, diabetes, kidney disease, COPD, and other conditions that are greatly mitigated (if not totally cured) by physical exercise. For comparison, COVID-19 has killed two people in New Hampshire over the past three months. It’s hard to predict the slope at which contagious diseases might spread.
However, we must carefully consider whether using the force of law (armed enforcers of the state punishing those who disobey) to keep gyms closed will provide a greater net benefit to mortality than keeping gyms open. Imagine that gyms, health clubs, fitness classes, & martial arts may reduce mortality by a few percentage points, in which case it is not sound policy to force their closure. If gyms didn’t help anyone stay healthy or if the government were quarantining everyone in their homes due to a consensus of medical experts that it will save a million lives, then this policy would be appropriate.
Keep in mind that even if gyms are legally allowed to remain open, free people could still choose whether to train there and business owners could still choose whether to keep their gyms open. Shouldn’t we have a choice?
“Millions of Americans suffer from illnesses that can be prevented or improved through regular physical activity:
- 13.5 million people have coronary heart disease.
- 1.5 million people suffer from a heart attack in a given year.
- 8 million people have adult-onset (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes.
- 95,000 people are newly diagnosed with colon cancer each year.
- 250,000 people suffer from hip fractures each year.
- 50 million people have high blood pressure.
- Over 60 million people (a third of the population) are overweight.”
-United States Center for Disease Control
According to the CDC, exercise saves millions of lives per year. Over a third of all Americans would benefit significantly from spending more time in a gym. In New Hampshire, open gyms offer an even more profound benefit. Opioid-related morbidity and mortality affects New Hampshire more than perhaps any other state. Teens (and adults) spending more time in a gym for recreation means less time misusing opioids. Exercise is also linked with improved mood, confidence, and less depression and anxiety.
While we are examining the numbers in a logical and data-based manner and keeping our emotions aside, let’s look at the largest detriment to human health: alcoholism. Harvard Medical School, The Lancet (a world-renowned medical journal), and the CDC agree that alcoholism has a strong correlation with heart disease, liver disease, stroke, hypertension, and many other conditions that kill large numbers of Americans. These statistics are hardly shocking. People know that alcohol causes the above diseases and conditions, and that it contributes to fatal car accidents, overdoses, obesity, depression, and suicide, not to mention all of the relationships alcohol destroys. Knowing this, we are left to wonder why the Dictator chose to keep the state-run liquor stores open during this health emergency?
Aside from the anti-fitness executive order likely being a net negative for the health of granite staters and the economy, forcing gyms – or any business – to close indefinitely violates personal freedom, economic freedom, and property rights. Such a policy begs the question: Do politicians own gyms or do people own gyms?
Are legislatures obsolete?
Now that nearly every state has established that Dictators have unlimited authority to pass edicts with the full power of law and need only justify the orders by claiming that the laws are ‘urgent’ or ‘emergent’ or for ‘public health’, why can we not do away with entire legislatures? Are we merely pretending that people have a say in the government by voting for representatives and senators if Dictators can pass any law single-handedly whenever they desire? Since so few legislators are now pressured to vote with their party leaders most of the time, should we just make it official?
In these difficult and uncertain times, policy makers, healthcare professionals, and many others are doing everything they can to protect their communities from the Wuhan Virus. There seems to be a consensus that people should avoid crowds as much as they can so that the virus can be spread as little as possible. If the government believes that they have the authority and the justification criminalize socialization, they should close all businesses, including liquor stores, bicycle shops, and force forestry and vegetation workers to stay home. If Sununu believes that people should be trusted with the freedom to choose how to live their own lives, he should allow fitness centers the option of remaining open for business. I am confident that once the Dictator sees the statistics, he will allow fitness centers the option to reopen.