Dictate in haste, repent at leisure. On Tuesday, health officials in Los Angeles County issued a ban on most Halloween activities, including trick-or-treating and outdoor gatherings. After an avalanche of criticism — and no small number of declarations of defiance — the county reversed itself yesterday and rescinded its ban.
They’re still recommending against it, which is what they should have done in the first place:
Trick-or-treating is not canceled in Los Angeles County after all.
A day after banning the Halloween tradition this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, L.A. County public health health officials reversed course on Wednesday, saying instead the activity is “not recommended.”
Still, health officials are advising against going door-to-door to get candy.
Had the county simply advised against trick-or-treating — which seems like pretty good advice — few people would likely have objected, even if they weren’t inclined to heed it. By making it a diktat, though, Los Angeles raised the stakes and all sorts of questions about abuse of power and authority. It also raised a good point about enforcement; exactly who was going to be on the streets to put an end to street urchins demanding tasty treats, anyway? Aren’t people in LA agitating for fewer police and fewer police interactions these days?
Apparently, though, the county’s health officials haven’t actually learned that lesson. They still have kept in place a full ban on a wide range of other activities, including outdoor gatherings with “people outside your household”:
Halloween movie nights at drive-in-theaters, Halloween-themed meals at outdoor restaurants and Halloween-themed art installations at outdoor museums are among the permitted in-person activities. But, again, public health officials said these all must comply with current protocols. …
Halloween activities that are still not permitted under the health order include carnivals, haunted houses, festivals, and live entertainment — as well as gatherings, events or parties with people outside your household.
This still demonstrates the same arbitrary and capricious attitude toward power and authority as it did two days ago. There are daily protests in the streets of south LA over the police shooting of Dijon Kizzee; does the county intend to enforce the “inside the household only” restriction on those outdoor gatherings? If not, then this is not a science-based decision — it’s a politically based decision. Outdoor gatherings with mask use and proper social distancing is no more risky, and likely much less risky, for COVID-19 transmission than these densely-packed protests with shouting and more-than-occasionally violence. And again, this comes at a time when those demonstrations are against police enforcing laws at all.
Irony isn’t the only reason to point this out, either. Threatening enforcement of these diktats on peaceful celebrants in their own homes while ignoring public demonstrations with higher risk is a very good demonstration as to why we need to limit government power. Especially when it comes to unaccountable, unelected bureaucrats.