Home>Articles>Coronavirus and Leviathan: Is Gov. Newsom Exploiting a Crisis to Expand State Government Power?

Governor Gavin Newsom (Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Coronavirus and Leviathan: Is Gov. Newsom Exploiting a Crisis to Expand State Government Power?

Many measures implemented during crises were retained for decades

By Lloyd Billingsley, March 15, 2020 8:08 am

Executive Order N-25-20, issued on March 12 by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, “readies state to commandeer hotels & medical facilities to isolate & treat COVID-19 patients,” and also “readies the state to commandeer property for temporary residences and medical facilities for quarantining, isolating or treating individuals.”

The governor explained that the measures would help the state “get through the next few months, so we don’t overwhelm our health care delivery system.” The governor has previously given Californians cause to wonder if he has something more permanent in mind.

“We’re committed to universal health care.,” Gov. Newsom told Politico last year. “We will lead a massive expansion of health care, and that’s a major deviation from the past.’’ The governor made it clear that “universal health care means everybody,” including foreign nationals illegally present in the United States. While presidential candidates were studying such proposals, the governor said, “California is doing. We’re implementing.”

As California Globe reported, “the state Health and Human Services Agency and the Office of Emergency Services have been put in charge of needed building and facility commandeering if the need arises.” Californians might wonder if conditions approach that threshold.

As the time of the governor’s executive order, the federal Centers for Disease Control were reporting 198 cases of COVID-19 and four deaths in California, a state with nearly 40 million people. By contrast, the 2009-1010 swine flu epidemic (H1N1) affected 22 million people in the United States in the first six months, with nearly 100,000 hospitalized and nearly 4,000 deaths. According to Wikipedia, California suffered 10,545 cases with 8,589 hospitalizations and 657 deaths overall.

The governor has not named a “health czar” to handle the coronavirus crisis, in the style of his “energy czar” Ana Matosantos, who doubles as his cabinet secretary. If state seizures of hospitals are part of the governor’s plan to impose government monopoly health care, the test would come after the crisis abates.

As Robert Higgs showed in Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, many measures implemented during crises were retained for decades. Withdrawal of taxes from workers’ paychecks is one such measure that has been made permanent.

Californians have cause to wonder how a state takeover of hospitals, medical facilities and “property,” would improve health efficiency. The state Department of Motor Vehicles, also staffed by political appointees, forces Californians to wait hours for simple non-emergency tasks.

Gov. Newsom has not announced support for stepping up cooperation with federal border enforcement that would prevent possible carriers of  COVID-19 and other contagions from entering the United States. Likewise, it remains unclear whether the state’s sanctuary city law would allow carriers to defy quarantine measures, just as they defy federal immigration law.

At this writing, the state has not commandeered any hospitals, medical facilities or “property” to combat the coronavirus. For his part, Gov. Newsom has not stated whether he has been tested for the virus, in the style of President Trump.

The president announced Saturday he would be tested, but “only because the press is going crazy.” He was tested and was found not to have the coronavirus. 

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4 thoughts on “Coronavirus and Leviathan: Is Gov. Newsom Exploiting a Crisis to Expand State Government Power?

  1. A welcome reminder of examples of specific ways certain politicians have expanded, then retained, unwelcome programs and taxes during real or perceived crises.
    Another clue that the COVID-19 response politician response in California reflects a desire to be expansive of government, not protective of the citizenry: I’ve been hearing the (union giant) California Nurses’ Assoc. out and about in public, screaming and scaremongering about their not being prepared. “Not enough nurses! Not enough training for nurses! Not enough ventilators! Not enough space for patients!” What does that tell you?

  2. I just heard that Trump’s negative Covid-19 test result has been overruled by an Obama appointed judge in Hawaii.

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