Is Wolf a ‘tyrant’ or merely ignorant?

Is Wolf a ‘tyrant’ or merely ignorant?

Gov. Tom Wolf, many of his arbitrary and capricious coronavirus pandemic-related restrictions on public life deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge in Pittsburgh, was slapped again – hard – by the same judge when he sought a stay pending an appeal to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.

But the governor, hardly nonplussed by the double-barreled rebuke, will move forward with that appeal.

As attorneys who filed the original lawsuit challenging Wolf noted in their brief opposing the stay:

“Despite the complete lack of evidence, defendants continue to assert that further constitutional violations are needed to protect the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania from themselves.

“If such assertions were true, surely, defendants would have been able to produce some expert testimony or evidence in support thereof. None was produced and the time for such unsubstantiated rhetoric has long since passed.”

Or as long-ago social essayist Albert Jay Nock once put it, in the macro sense:

“Like all predatory or parasitic institutions, (the state’s) first instinct is that of self-preservation.

“All its enterprises are directed first toward preserving its own life and, second, toward increasing its own power and enlarging the scope of its own activity. … It is ruining its own people in order to preserve itself … to … extend its own authority.”

We see this kind of behavior from elected and appointed leaders all too often and invariably in the name of “the public good.” Gov. Wolf has a particular affinity for it. But like all other practitioners, they fail to consider all consequences.

The governor’s coronavirus restrictions on public life – a mishmash of confusing and contradictory edicts and, lest we forget, at least one secretly cut deal – resulted in yet to be fully assessed damage to the commonwealth’s economy and likely for years to come.

Here’s another example: Wolf’s full embrace of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) will make the electrical power grid less reliable at a higher cost and with miniscule (if even that much) benefit to the environment. It is what it is: an underhanded taxing scheme.

Then there’s Wolf’s push for mandatory paid statewide sick leave. Never mind that the preponderance of the evidence shows little discernable benefit to employees who come to work sick anyway but serious damage to the already thin bottom lines of businesses forced to offer such a benefit.

It’s bad enough in “good” times and asinine public policy in pandemic times in which so many businesses have been destroyed by Wolf’s unconstitutional edicts.

Indeed, the word “tyranny” comes to mind in all this. After all, as Aesop reminded in, coincidentally, “The Wolf and the Lamb”: “The tyrant will always find a pretext for his tyranny.”

Or from “The Republic,’ as Plato put it: “The people have always some champion whom they set over them and nurse into greatness. … This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector.”

That said, to elevate Wolf’s actions to “tyranny” gives him too much credit. For you see, Wolf’s behavior is not calculated but rather is born out of fundamental ignorance – of markets, of human behavior and of the concept of self-governance itself.

But to paraphrase the line from “Dune: House Corrino,” the science-fiction novel of two decades past, when the person shepherding such policies is a wolf (or a Wolf), the flock become only so much meat.

And that applies to the tyrant in the same measure as it applies to the ignorant.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).