Following President Joe Biden’s announcement of a slew of vaccine mandates for private-sector employees, federal workers, federal contractors, and so on, many have decried the illegality of such mandates. 

Whether these policies sink or swim will soon rest with our courts. It’s a blissful safeguard to have, but the emphasis on legal authority misses a serious threat. Let’s assume our Constitution speaks little to the government’s authority to limit freedoms in times of true national emergency and to lighten those restrictions for those deemed lesser risks.

The underlying question is: Do we trust our selection of leaders to define a national emergency appropriately and identify who poses a greater or lesser risk to others? 

Without our commitment to preserving our nation, in the wise words of Learned Hand, “no constitution, no law, and no court” can save us. When our Founding Fathers trusted us with self-governance, they did so with an asterisk. In the Federalist Papers, James Madison argued that “without sufficient virtue,” self-government was unattainable, and “nothing less than the chains of despotism” can restrain the people “from destroying and devouring one another.” President John Adams too warned our young nation: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

We’re in trouble. 

Even if our courts save us from today’s government tyranny, the institutions that teach and uphold virtue from generation to generation are crumbling. For example, throughout the 20th century, roughly 70% of people in America belonged to a religious congregation, and now, the number is below 50%. As for cultivating morals in the home, that too highlights a crisis. The United States has the highest rate of children living in single-parent families out of a survey of 130 countries. One-parent households are by no means less virtuous, but one person simply has less time. And if morality is bred by the daily habit of being a good neighbor, social media and COVID-19 have separated us.

Under the shadow of this declining moral structure, our coronavirus policies have grown more despotic and senseless by the day. As Bill Maher asked, why should he be regulated like a high-risk obese person? Because senselessness has replaced safety as the main point. 

Lockdown proponents have created morality where we and our institutions have left a void — masking and vaccines are defined as morally good. Arbitrarily defining “the good” generates a cycle of power and control. People who oppose lockdown policies are bad, leading lockdown leaders to win elections and raise the “morality” bar ever higher. The elongated pandemic emergency, with its mandates and explosion of the welfare state, has shown us liberal leaders are not capable of defining a national emergency or identifying who or what presents a risk to our nation. 

We let our liberal politicians define right and wrong for the sake of winning elections and power. Transferring moral definitions out of the hands of liberal politicians requires that we rediscover true morals to replace the fake ones. With our churches emptied, our families broken, and our neighborhoods masked, there may be one institution salvageable: our schools.

Sadly, they’ve discarded Advanced Placement classes and grades in favor of critical race theory and gender fluidity and force kindergartners to sit alone and eat. There is hope, however. The immense recent engagement at school board meetings and the emergence of school choice as a necessary policy should give us some hope. In a functioning school, children can learn about the founding principles, delayed gratification, and integrity. They can develop a set of morals. Given the influence our schools have on the future of our nation, it’s our duty to preserve them. 

Our courts and a cadre of lawyers will take on the battle for our nation today. But the victory will be short-lived unless we rebuild our nation’s institutions to carry virtue to the next generation.