For anyone who believes that the government should either help people find success in the free market or (perhaps better yet) simply stay the hell out of the way, what’s happening to New Jersey gym owner Ian Smith is nothing short of a travesty. Smith, who refuses to shut down Atilis Gym in Bellmawr to comply with Gov. Phil Murphy’s coronavirus lockdown mandates, has accumulated more than $1 million in fines so far this year.
And yet, Smith isn’t backing down.
“Governor Murphy has thrown everything he possibly could to shut us down. He has arrested my partner and I, given us over 60 citations, some of them criminal. He fines us $15,497.76 per day for every day we’re in operation. Our fines are totaling over $1.2 million, but every single day, Frank and I open our gym,” Smith said in a Fox News interview this week.
Smith said that more than 80,000 people have worked out at his gym this year without one documented case of COVID, but that hasn’t stopped the state government from punishing him for his insolence.
“What’s happening to the middle class and small businesses in America is nothing short of a complete tragedy,” he said. “I would go so far as to call it criminal. You are putting people out of business for good. You are making them reliant on big government. You are taking away their civil liberties under the guise of pretending like you care about public health.”
In case you’re thinking that Smith is some anti-science zealot who doesn’t believe that the pandemic is real, think again.
“Our COVID-19 safety protocol has been proven effective,” he wrote in September. “As expected, the simple and easy to implement practices we put into place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 met and exceeded all other required government protocol. Small businesses have been held hostage for political purposes. OUR SCIENCE IS CLEAR. We now DEMAND that our elected officials show us the science in which they used to shutter our businesses and keep us isolated. It is time to reopen this country. No more shutdowns. No more masks. Kids back in school. IN PERSON VOTING. It’s time to make some noise. Lets share this and hold these elected officials accountable.”
If the purpose of lockdowns and closures is to keep the coronavirus from spreading, then why does the state of New Jersey afford no weight to Smith’s real-time, months-long experiment? If his protocols have proven effective, would it not make more sense to LEARN from his example rather than forcefully punish him with threats and arrests and fines?
Or…wait for it…is this not really about stopping the spread of COVID after all?