by Frank Ryan | April 14, 2020

In my lifetime I have been witness to some fairly catastrophic events. While in Eastern Europe, I witnessed the aftereffects of the fall of the Soviet Union.  I served in Iraq and briefly in Afghanistan.

In our own nation, I have seen the dot.com bubble bursting in 2001, the collapse of the housing market in 2008, and now the pandemic of 2020.

There have been panics throughout the history of the world. In the United States there have been the panics of 1819, 1837, 1857, 1873, 1893, 1929 as well as the most recent financial calamities.

The panic of 2020 is different however and we must understand those differences and realize that panic is NOT the answer nor the solution to COVID-19 at all.

Today, more than ever we must have faith.  To have faith is to trust, to trust is to believe and to believe is to have faith.  It is the triangle of solid leadership.  We must have faith in God and in one another and our responsibility to one another.

In the Panic of 2020, the economy had been so strong in its underlying fundamentals that the triggering event, a pandemic, should be easy to overcome because of that underlying strength.  The economic difficulty though is that we, and we alone, hold the key to whether the cure is worse than the disease.

It is clear that the pandemic is real. It is serious. People’s lives must be saved. It is not, however, an issue over which the financial ruin of the world should be a potential consequence unless we will it.

It is difficult to attempt to put the coronavirus in perspective while people are dying but the panic of 2020 and the cure that some governors are putting in place may actually trigger an economic disaster and concurrent loss of life far more devastating than the disease itself.

To be clear if we, as citizens, overreact to the panic of 2020, we jeopardize placing the entire world in a deflationary spiral that most of us will be dealing with for the rest of our lives.

In the Marine Corps, we rate our noncommissioned officers and officers on a trait, a leadership trait called presence of mind or effectiveness under stress which reinforces the ability of the person to operate effectively, mission focused, and with the ability to lead under periods of extreme stress.

Great leaders can frequently have their message distracted and damaged by other leaders and citizens who lack that singularity and clarity of focus under stressful circumstances.

In the case of the coronavirus, it would be clear immediately, that saving everyone is an impossibility and as painful as that is to deal with, it must be dealt with for the greater good and survival of all. It is painful but it is real.  Perfect solutions are not possible.

The great leader deals with the difficulties at hand, provides guidance and leadership, and strives to stabilize the current situation while preparing to rebuild.

It is an irresponsible person that would not lay down partisanship and politicization for the greater good of society and the people who will become the pawns and victims of their sensationalizing of an already difficult situation.

The responsibility to deal with the reality of the crisis is a civic responsibility.  This does not mean that we are not to question but it does mean we have a responsibility not to sensationalize.  Screaming fire in a movie theater is not a right of freedom of speech by any stretch of the imagination.

The Bill of Rights gives every American rights, freedoms, and liberty. The Bill of Rights and Constitution enumerate where my rights start and your rights stop and vice versa. It serves as a basis for public discourse.

Rights without responsibilities end in tyranny!

Our nation is at a crossroads. Whenever the lines between rights and responsibilities become blurred, government almost always oversteps its bounds as we are seeing in so many states limiting movement, non-essential definitions and other liberty restricting rights under the guise of a declaration of an emergency during the Panic of 2020.

A government that feels you are not capable of making sound, rational choices and decisions is supplanting your wisdom and self-determination with those of the collective good in their minds.   The concept of taking personal responsibility will have been lost.

If we are to avoid an economic disaster, we must all have the presence of mind to deal with the medical crisis, help reduce the spread of the disease and take personal responsibility.

Only through our emphasis on our own presence of mind and accepting personal accountability will our Nation be rebuilt.  Our Founding Fathers left us a wonderful legacy.  What we do with that legacy is our decision and ours alone.  Pay now or pay later.

Frank Ryan, CPA, USMCR (Ret) represents the 101st District in the PA House of Representatives.  He is a retired Marine Reserve Colonel, a CPA and specializes in corporate restructuring.  He has served on numerous boards of publicly traded and non-profit organizations.  He can be reached at [email protected]