By AUSTIN PRESHKO / TEXAS PUBLIC POLICY FOUNDATION
“Eva, dear, did your father teach you anything last night?”
My grandmother, Eva Hahn, received this question almost daily at school in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. While the question seems innocent enough at first glance, the teachers were actually fishing for proof that my great-grandfather, Jaroslav, was teaching his daughters “non-communist” ideas, such as the unabridged history of Czechoslovakia.
While my grandmother and her sister never turned their father in, eventually the communists found the “proof” that they needed against him – testimonies of neighbors and former coworkers. Jaroslav heard from friends that a warrant for his arrest was forthcoming, and that the outcome of the trial was already decided – guilty, with a sentence of six years in the uranium mines. This was a death sentence, as the average life expectancy in the uranium mines was just under five years. He escaped with his family soon after.
History may not repeat, but we can see patterns. No one is being rounded up and sent off to camps in the United States—but government (and social media) are demanding more and more strict adherence to approved ways of thinking.
Already, COVID-19 has justified massive increases in government power and reach. The recent vaccine mandate is a perfect example of this. For government officials at all levels, it was not enough to shut down the country, shatter the economy, wreck educations, and require masks everywhere. Now, the federal government is making an unconstitutional power grab by requiring businesses to force their employees to be vaccinated or consent to daily testing.
The most disturbing part is how it would be enforced: through employee reports. The Biden administration claims this is a good thing – OSHA won’t be kicking in doors and demanding vaccination papers; instead, it will simply respond to reports from employees. These employees will be protected and rewarded under the False Claims Act, which was designed to protect whistleblowers who reported fraud to the government.
While the communists did use secret police, surveillance, and wiretaps to weed out dissidents, they also relied on a vast network citizen-informants. This system encouraged false reports—you could report a supervisor, competitor, or even just a disliked neighbor with no repercussions. The “trials” were a foregone conclusion—anyone in the system was assumed guilty. There was no justice and no due process.
We’re assured no one will go to jail over the vaccine mandate, but it sets a dangerous precedent in the enforcement of regulations—asking Americans to spy and report on each other.
If a company is reported, OSHA can dig into private records to see if the mandate is being enforced. Imagine the potential for abuse there. By nature, a system that relies on reports like this is built entirely on the word of one person against another. Since there is no trial in this situation, there is no risk to the reporter if they issue a false report—they could submit a report out of spite.
The woke crowd in America already tears people down for the most minor of transgressions against political correctness. Enforcing a mandate with informants is sure to encourage false reports against those who engage in wrongthink.
The Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who spent almost 10 years in the Soviet gulags, said of the West, “There always is this fallacious belief: ‘It would not be the same here; here such things are impossible.’ Alas, all the evil of the 20th century is possible everywhere on earth.”
Fortunately, the vaccine mandate has been temporarily stayed due to the actions of Texas Public Policy Foundation’s own Center for the American Future. However, this is not permanent and could be undone at any moment. The threat that the vaccine mandate poses towards freedom is enormous—it must be stopped.
Editor’s note: In the above photo, Eva Hahn is in the center. To her left is Eva’s mother, Maria Riha, and to right is her grandmother, Maria Zezulkova. This column, used with permission, first appeared Nov. 17 at Texas Public Policy Foundation.