Foreign Policy Blogs

Emergency Powers Not Becoming a Permanent Destiny

Empty shelves and Masked Citizens: Photographer: Justin Chin/Bloomberg

With the necessity of applying emergence powers to governments in this and other times or economic, political or heath crises, there needs to still be a culture where the governments are consistently held to account for their use of powers and their actions in relation to the operation of a healthy democracy. No one in the world would be content with a government agent summarily taking their home or arresting them and their family without just cause in the application of justice, but many Emergency powers under Acts of legislature can be greatly abused by governments. These nations who are at risk of losing part of their constitutional rights permanently are those who before their actions on COVID-19, did not have governments that treated the freedom and justice in their society with the respect it deserved.

One of the first detrimental elements of governments that may use Emergency Powers to go beyond its normal reach are those economies that relied on deficit spending during times of healthy economic progress to ensure their control and power over society. Often these type of governments rely on several entrenched interest groups that operate to the detriment of average, everyday citizens. With the shifting of the public purse towards specific interests of those in power, the country suffers. When there is an immediate need to direct funds towards those who produce wealth and work in a society, the cupboards are often bare. This quick dash for cash is almost never taken from the takers who previously profited in a healthy economy, and in many cases the much needed help; via medical or other emergency equipment, is taken by those same people who punished the makers in society previously. The long term issue is that they never get into a healthy economic position again because it is already known that the permanent damage in the long term will not recover from short term stimulus. Without investment, the lost powers during in an emergency may never fully recover either as the takers need to ensure their actions against their own society are never discovered.

We have already seen what can occur when those societies that lack human rights have to deal with an outbreak. Since individuals in dictatorships have little value, saving them also has little priority. In healthy democracies individual rights are fought for and formed the basis of many of their systems of governments. When those rights to property, free speech and freedom of expression are targeted during emergency crises, they are often done not to help society and promote information to help the general public, but are done to hide the truth from the public the government claims to help by using those absolute powers. When a government in a productive time operates by means of altering facts, abusing the justice system and threatening truth tellers in society for holding them accountable, their past actions show that any amount of power will lead to immediate corruption. Corruption is always bad for the economy as we see above, but it also has the effect of permeating the entire systems and infrastructure of a society and spreads like a virus in itself. When the top is corrupt, the rest of the structure quickly learns that the only way to get ahead is to operate within a corrupt system. It is almost impossible to get rid of corruption once it takes place. This is why Emergence Powers and the Acts that enshrined them in many constitutions were placed in with caution. It takes generations to build a healthy society, but often only one generation to destroy it completely.

When we heard messages from leaders, the messages can only be effective and galvanize us all to act to protect the weaker members of our society if everyone contributes towards positive actions in our society. When a government asks much from its citizens, but only commits to the words and ignores the deeds, it creates complete chaos in a society. A lie in the case of the current pandemic should be considered as a criminal act when leaders have knowledge that their acts can hurt people and get them killed. The long term effect of such lies means that any positive actions are questioned and not relied upon. Often characteristics of those governments come from those that are self-interested, corrupt or come from a truly horrific dictatorship that pay little to no attention to their own people. This means, if your country is run by a dictatorship or one that has those dictatorial tendencies, you must rely on smaller, more democratic sub-governments that operate compassionately or push for a change in government and hope that the effect and losses in society are minimal. In all cases, neighbours needs to support neighbours, and communities need to be strong, healthy and open to freedom so the damage is not permanent. These communities must take account of their governments during crises and afterward so that the loss of democratic values does not become permanent.

 

Author

Richard Basas
Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration

Contact

Great Decisions Discussion group