Vaccination and Free Choice

Vaccination is a wise idea, but in a free society, we must tolerate bad choices.

This column is a rebuttal to an earlier column by Reason science correspondent Ron Bailey that argued that "people who refuse vaccination are asserting that they have a right to 'swing' their microbes at other people." That column excited significant reaction. Bailey will respond to Dr. Singer's piece, in turn.

In the 2002 sci-fi noir film Minority Report, PreCrime, a specialized police agency, apprehends people who are forecast to commit crimes. No trial is necessary because the not-yet-committed crime is considered a vision of the future and thus a matter of fact. The film’s plot challenges viewers to consider the issue of free will vs. determinism, and consequently, the morality of punishing someone for a crime not yet committed. It serves as a useful metaphor for the argument against coercive vaccination.

Some argue that mandatory mass vaccination is an act of self-defense, and thus completely compatible with the principles underpinning a free society. Unless people are forcibly immunized, it’s argued, they will endanger the life and health of innocent bystanders. But such a position requires infallible precognition.

Not everyone who is vaccinated against a microbe develops immunity to that microbe. Conversely, some unvaccinated people never become infected. Some people have inborn “natural” immunity against certain viruses and other microorganisms. (Central Africans born with sickle cell trait provide a classic example of such inborn immunity: their sickle-shaped red blood cells are inhospitable to the mosquito-borne parasite that causes malaria. But there are innumerable less obvious examples.) Finally, some people are just lucky and never get exposed to a contagious microbe.

Just like not every pregnant woman who drinks alcohol or smokes tobacco passes on a malady or disability to her newborn baby, not every pregnant woman infected with a virus or other microbe passes on the infection to her fetus—nor are all such babies born with birth defects.

A free society demands adherence to the “non-aggression principle.” No person can initiate force against another, and can only use force in retaliation or in self-defense. Forcibly injecting substances—attenuated microbes or otherwise—into someone else’s body can not be justified as an act of self-defense, because there is no way to determine with certainty that the person will ever be responsible for disease transmission.

Aside from the obviously pernicious societal precedent set by the initiation of force against those who have not yet committed an act of aggression, there are also practical issues to consider.

How would coercive vaccination be enforced? What degree of invasion of personal information and privacy would be needed in order to make sure that everyone is vaccinated? How much liberty and autonomy would members of society have to surrender in order to make a system of coercive vaccination work? And what kind of liberty-infringing precedents would be established by enacting a mandatory vaccination program?

Then there is the matter of “herd immunity.”

The phenomenon of herd immunity allows many unvaccinated people to avoid disease because they free ride off the significant portion of the population that is immunized and doesn’t, therefore, spread a given disease. Economists point out that free riding is an unavoidable fact of life: people free ride when they purchase a new, improved, and cheaper product that was “pre-tested” on more affluent people who wanted to be the first to own it; people free ride when they use word-of-mouth reviews to buy goods or services, or to see a film; those who choose not to carry concealed weapons free ride a degree of personal safety off the small percentage of the public that carries concealed weapons. So long as a person being free-ridden is getting a desired value for an acceptable price, and is not being harmed by the free riding, it really shouldn’t matter to that person. Achieving a society without free riders is not only unnecessary, it is impossible.

So perhaps allowing a certain amount of free riders could mitigate the disruption to liberty caused by a mandatory vaccination program. But then, how many free riders should be allowed? And what criteria would be used to decide who gets to ride free?

As a medical doctor I am a strong advocate of vaccination against communicable and infectious diseases. I am irritated by the hysteria and pseudo-science behind much of the anti-vaccination literature and rhetoric. In my perfect world, everyone would agree with me and voluntarily get vaccinated against the gamut of nasty diseases for which we have vaccines. (In my perfect world, pregnant women wouldn’t smoke tobacco or drink alcohol until after delivery.)

But free societies are sometimes messy. To live in a free society, one must be willing to tolerate people who make bad decisions and bad choices, as long as they don’t directly infringe on the rights of others.

A strong argument can be made that it is self-defense to quarantine people who are infected with a disease-producing organism and are objectively threatening the contamination of others. But in such a case, the use of force against the disease carrier is based upon evidence that the carrier is contagious and may infect others.

Any mass immunization program that uses compulsion rather than persuasion will, on balance, do more harm to the well being of a free people than any good it was intended to convey.

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  • Daniel||

    Ok, then make it a criminal offense to transmit a disease or illness for which there is a vaccination. If you do not want to get vaccinated, fine, but if you can be identified as the carrier/transmitter, you criminal complicit and bound to compensate the victim. If your illness causes the death of a child too young to be vaccinated, you may be charged with murder.

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    Why? Transmission of a disease is not an overt act done with any sort of ill will or mal-intent.

  • Free Society||

    People are not responsible for acts of microscopic organisms that have evolved to do what they do for billions of years

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    I agree entirely.

  • mtrueman||

    "People are not responsible for acts of microscopic organisms"

    An interesting point. But I suspect the author might disagree. He writes: "because there is no way to determine with certainty that the person will ever be responsible for disease transmission." Some are responsible for disease transmission, some aren't. The difficulty lies in determining who is who.

    Libertarians believe that people own their bodies. With ownership comes responsibility, and that extends, it would seem,to the management of the microbes that take up residence.

  • DJK||

    Test.

  • Free Society||

    You own 150 acres of woodland. Are you morally obliged to go about trapping and killing all the snakes that might bite people?

  • mtrueman||

    "Are you morally obliged to go about trapping and killing all the snakes that might bite people?"

    I'm not talking about moral obligations. I'm talking about the responsibilities that go hand in hand with ownership. If I own 150 acres of woodlands then you are responsible for taking measures against the possibilities of the animals I harbour adversely affecting my neighbours. I don't want to exterminate all my snakes so I put up a fence and/or signs. I remember visiting a reptile farm in Florida which was home to many poisonous snakes. The owners exercised the same responsible actions I just outlined.

  • Free Society||

    I'm not talking about moral obligations. I'm talking about the responsibilities that go hand in hand with ownership.

    Those are moral obligations. Property rights exist independently political forces. It's only the degree to which those rights are infringed where politics is relevant.

    If I own 150 acres of woodlands then you are responsible for taking measures against the possibilities of the animals I harbour adversely affecting my neighbours.

    We're not talking about imported and human supported species on your property. Just like we aren't talking about people who intentionally give themselves a communicable disease.

    Of the obligations that come with property rights, I can assure you that fighting wild animals to prevent harm to third parties is not among them.

  • mtrueman||

    I tried to answer this already, but out of curiousity, where do you come down on the question of Monsanto suing neighbouring farms for patent infringement? The issues have some similarity as both involve private property and fencing the unfencible.

  • Free Society||

    I tried to answer this already, but out of curiousity, where do you come down on the question of Monsanto suing neighbouring farms for patent infringement? The issues have some similarity as both involve private property and fencing the unfencible.

    It's injustice. Their patented genetic material, (which I don't believe you should be able to patent to begin with) actually invades non-modified genetic material. The real injustice is that farmers who specialize in "organic" farming and non-GMO production get their genetic material contaminated by nearby GMO crops' jizz (pollen) and they are the ones to get sued by Monsanto. This is case in point why intellectual property rights are by and large; a species of injustice.

    And I'm actually a supporter of GMO research considering all the good they do the world and the environment. But that's a separate issue from Monsanto stealing other people's wealth merely because their plants raped some other farmer's plants.

  • GW||

    You don't need ill will to be liable. This could be viewed as negligence. Most people who cause car crashes don't do so with any ill will, and sometimes they don't even break traffic laws when doing so.

    But if you could have taken steps to prevent something, then you're negligent. I can see that being applied to vaccines.

  • Andrew G.||

    Yeah, my view is that willfully not acting to prevent yourself from spreading a dangerous disease is an act of negligence. Should an outbreak occur, those people who did not get vaccinated (by choice) should be liable for damages.

  • Loki||

    those people who did not get vaccinated (by choice) should be liable for damages.

    And you would do that how, exactly? There's no way to prove for sure where the microbes that infected one person came from. There may be a way to perform tests on the microbes from one person and compare their genetic composition to the microbes from someone else who was previously infected, but that would require forcibly testing every single person who gets a certain disease, and then identifying a "patient 0," a task which would require diverting the efforts of medical professionals whose time would be better spent actually fighting the outbreak. Not to mention violating the privacy of every single infected person for what is likely a fool's errand anyway.

    So the only way to enforce a mandatory vaccination scheme is to literally start throwing people who get sick with a disease known to have a vaccine into prison, if there's no record of them recieving a vaccine (so much for medical privacy). There's simply no way to enforce mandatory vaccination without violating the privacy of every single person who gets a given disease. Nor is there any practical way of holding people liable since it would be virtually impossible to prove who's responsible for starting an outbreak.

  • DJK||

    Interesting. How would you propose we go about proving sexual assault charges? Comparing a suspect's DNA with the results of a rape kit requires forcibly taking the suspect's genetic material. It's a violation of their privacy.

  • Free Society||

    How would you propose we go about proving sexual assault charges?

    There are legitimate grounds for probable cause.

    And it's not at all impossible to prove who is patient zero. Epidemiologists are pretty certain of who brought AIDS to North America. There are all kinds of tools for this sort of thing.

    So someone unwittingly infects 1,000 people with bubonic plague. I guess that person should be executed? Their family should be ruined because their loved one was infected with a disease that they themselves did not consent to?

    Your sense of justice is lacking.

  • DJK||

    Hmmm...I don't think that I ever said anything about them being executed. I believe that I advocated for civil remedies.

    And your sense of justice would favor a person who stupidly assumed a huge risk for themselves and the thousand other people over those thousand people? That seems a little far-fetched.

  • Free Society||

    So this all hinges on your subjective assessment/assumption of what constitutes a "huge risk". There is such a thing as endangerment. But the risk has to be provably excessive for it to be a crime, a liability or irresponsible.

  • DJK||

    And it's not at all impossible to prove who is patient zero. Epidemiologists are pretty certain of who brought AIDS to North America. There are all kinds of tools for this sort of thing.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Why is overtness and willfulness relevant in criminal law. Is not strict liability the standard?

  • Free Society||

    Why is overtness and willfulness relevant in criminal law. Is not strict liability the standard?

    Do you own the microbial parasites in your body? Are they infecting your body by your own choice? Are you in control of them? Is it aggression against your neighbor if you eat food without washing your hands?

    Strict liability doesn't apply because none of the criteria for liability apply. Criminal liability is possible if you purposefully and/or maliciously infect others. Other than that, you are not responsible for acts of nature.

  • Mr. Soul||

    agreed.

    Dont forget the converse liability.

    Question: Who's liable if a vaccine kills someone?

    Answer: the manufacturer.

    But since a manufacturer cannot compel usage, govt compels. We're back to govt being all-powerful and unaccountable.

  • DJK||

    I presume that, as a libertarian, you are against drunk driving laws? And you agree that, in most cases, driving drunk will not lead to disastrous consequences (the average drunk driver supposedly does so hundreds of times before even being arrested)? So that driving drunk is not an overt act done with any sort of ill will or mal-intent? After all, I don't intend to injure or kill someone with my car when I drive drunk. I'm just exercising my rights to put what I want in my body and to go where I want at the same time.

  • DJK||

    I don't think I need to go much further with that one. Even if you agree with my reasoning in the post above, you'd likely say that the choice to engage in an extremely irresponsible manner, in view of overwhelming evidence that it's moronic to drive drunk, would not be overlooked if someone were to die.

  • R C Dean||

    if someone were to die

    Merely driving drunk would not a crime under this formula.

  • Will4Freedom||

    Actually, DJK, the Government has set precedence in this matter. The Government funds contraception and abortion to eliminate an unwanted child resulting from recreational sexual intercourse.

    Therefore, I fully expect the tax payer to fund my taxi to and from the bar of my choice. I'll pay for my own beer, though… at least until Liberals figure out a way for the taxpayer to fund the ENTIRE act of recreational sex.

  • Free Society||

    I presume that, as a libertarian, you are against drunk driving laws? And you agree that, in most cases, driving drunk will not lead to disastrous consequences

    Well no.
    1) I presume that as a libertarian, one would support more scientifically reasoned drunk driving laws, as opposed to the standard now. Where a 300 pound man and a 85 pound midget with half a liver are judged the same based on the alcohol on their breath.
    2)It's perfectly reasonable to look at endangerment of others as a violation of other's rights. But the spread of disease is not akin to drunk driving or randomly shooting your gun into a crowd.

  • DJK||

    1) It's based on the ratio of alcohol to blood volume, not "amount of alcohol" in their breath. It takes a hell of a lot more alcohol to get a 300 pound man over the limit than an 85 pound midget, since the former has a much higher blood volume and much faster metabolism (generally). Any BAC number is going to be arbitrarily chosen at some point. Do we choose to penalize at the point where 10% of people will lose motor function? 50%? 99.999%?

    2) Meh. It's all about predictable consequences. There's a predictable chance that you'll give someone a disease. Same as there's a predictable chance you'll hit someone while drunk.

  • Mr. Soul||

    Drunk driving laws are about fines, period.

  • DJK||

    If that's the case, why do they carry criminal penalties? They're about placating soccer moms.

  • BlueCollarCritic||

    @DJK

    " There's a predictable chance that you'll give someone a disease. Same as there's a predictable chance you'll hit someone while drunk."

    So then if the government can find some scientists who will testify that certain genetic traits will ead to a predictable chance that the individual will hurt someone or even kill them is that then enough to lock away that person before they've committed a crime?

  • DJK||

    Where is the culpability in having those genetic traits? Am I unaware of a cheap, easy, absurdly well-studied means of getting rid of those traits?

  • Free Society||

    Refuse a breathalyzer and see where that gets you. Different drugs affect people differently. BAC policy doesn't account for individual tolerance and that's the whole point. It does not measure what courts use it to measure; sobriety.

  • DJK||

    Agreed. That's why, as a libertarian, I'm generally against laws which make consumption plus driving a crime. If it's important in a case of injury, consider it. If not, don't.

  • DJK||

    Most libertarians I know are against enforcing drunk driving laws. They prefer to consider it an aggravating factor if it leads to injuries. That is the framework in which I'm casting the disease thing.

  • BlueCollarCritic||

    @DJK

    I am a libertarian and I for one do believe that Drunk Driving Laws should be stricken from the books. Not because people should be allowed to drink drive and then kill others but because the goal of the drunk driving laws are not about improving an open and free society. Drunk Driving laws were created from fear a fear that without them there would be a deadly drunk driver at every corner waiting to kill someone. Its not that different from the over-hyped fear of terrorism that is used to violate the liberties of Americans on a daily basis. It’s the same fear that brought about the bogus war on drugs that has cost us billions in tax dollars and has not curtailed drug use in the 3+ decades it’s been waged.

    Drunk driving laws has also lead to highway checkpoints which are a violation of the 4th amendment. Even though the US Supreme Court ruled checkpoints were OK the led justice who wrote the opinion piece on the case for the side that voted in favor of checkpoints said that even though the checkpoints were unconstitutional there were just a little unconstitutional and were therefore justified because of the high number of traffic related deaths that had been linked to drunk driving. The justice point blank said they were “unconstitutional” but that was OK because the need for them had been justified. So in our modern day United States, justifiably argued trumps Constitutionally Protected rights.

  • DJK||

    Agreed. I think this is the typical libertarian opinion on this issue.

  • DMT||

    Can I sue you for giving me a cold?

    Can you be charged for assault if you don't wash your hands after going to bathroom?

    Can I sue you for not wearing a mask and taking precautions when you've been exposed to the flu?

    This is such a terrible idea... and I've been seeing it more and more often. I would expect this from the average rank and file con / lib... but I would hope that a free-thinking person could see right through the silliness of using the state to enforce a particular action.

    Libertarians abide by the non-aggression principle... and that means that we do not initiate aggression personally... or send a government thug to do it for us.

  • GW||

    Yeah, but there's no reliable way to prevent colds or flu. There *are* reliable ways to prevent whooping cough and mumps. You've just chosen not too.

  • Free Society||

    Yeah, but there's no reliable way to prevent colds or flu. There *are* reliable ways to prevent whooping cough and mumps. You've just chosen not too.


    And that brings up a good point. All vaccines are not created equal because the diseases they inoculate against are not created equal. An influenza vaccine is far less effective at fighting influenza than a polio vaccine is at fighting polio. Some vaccines are so ineffective, it's almost nonsensical to take them. Some vaccines do have negative side effects, just like any broad category of ingested medicines do. It's not as simple as "all vaccines are bad" or "all vaccines are good" and Ron Bailey does absolutely no favors for improvement of the dialog on this issue.

    It's libertarian to freely refuse vaccinations. And it's also libertarian to freely choose to be vaccinated.

  • DJK||

    And it's also libertarian to deal with the consequences of one's choices. To be held liable (I would prefer civilly) for one's terrible decision to not be vaccinated.

  • Free Society||

    So don't I own my body? Are you going to sue me if I don't wash my hands before dinner?

  • R C Dean||

    If your reckless refusal to wash your hands leads to me getting sick, why shouldn't I be able to sue you?

  • Free Society||

    The burden of proof is on you to prove why I'm liable.
    Did I infect you intentionally?
    Does strict liability apply to the spread of microbial parasites that I myself did not consent to be infected with?
    Do I owe it to you to not get sick?
    What other acts of nature should I be liable for?

  • DJK||

    Agreed! I do have to prove that. What's your point?

  • R C Dean||

    I notice that your list of causes of action runs straight from "intentional" to "strict liability", leaving out "negligence".

    I think failure to take known precautions, leading to damage to others, is a negligence action. Its not a bad fit for either food safety or (theoretically) vaccinations, although you run into some proof problems with vaccination.

    And you run into contributory negligence, if the plaintiff failed to get vaccinated themselves.

  • Free Society||

    Agreed! I do have to prove that. What's your point?

    You don't have the information necessary to reliably do so.

    I notice that your list of causes of action runs straight from "intentional" to "strict liability", leaving out "negligence".

    No I didn't. You need to prove prior knowledge of communicable illness as well as gross disregard for the health of others. Only then could negligent liability be reasonable.

  • DJK||

    Who cares whether I have the information to prove my side in a suit? This will always be a problem with both civil and criminal remedies. Fraud cases are difficult to prove - does that mean that individuals should not be able to sue for fraud? That's a pretty ridiculous position to take for anyone who claims to follow that NAP.

    I've never argued that everyone who fails to get vaccinated will be held liable. I highly doubt that most will. That doesn't mean that there shouldn't exist an option for civil remedy.

  • DJK||

    Not at all. What you need to prove is that the legal standard, a fictitious reasonable person, would have understood the risks of not getting vaccinated.

  • DJK||

    Your argument seems to be turning on what the appropriate quantum of proof is in these cases. That's an interesting question for a philosophy of law. And reasonable people will disagree on that. But it certainly isn't something that is prima facie obvious from the NAP.

  • Rob||

    And you run into contributory negligence, if the plaintiff failed to get vaccinated themselves.

    This is what I don't understand. We seem to be arguing as in someone who refused a vaccination is able to infect anyone. Would it not be a case where they would have infected someone else who refused vaccination? As such wouldn't any person who refused to get vaccinated themselves have implicitly (if not explicitly) accepted the risk of becoming ill? I don't see a reason why there would be any liability for patient "zero" infecting others if they had all chosen to forgo vaccination. The only exception here would be if patient "zero" went out of their way to become infected with the intent of infecting others.

  • DJK||

    Rob, it's not necessarily the case that they infected someone who refused a vaccination. Vaccines are not 100% effective (nothing is), in the sense that not everyone who gets a vaccine acquires immunity - only the vast majority do. If you read Bailey's original article, that's what he's talking about with herd immunity. In a population where almost everyone is immune, a virus has very little chance of spreading. And that protects even those for whom the vaccine didn't work.

  • mtrueman||

    As I said before, you do own your body, and with ownership comes responsibility. At least if you are an adult.

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    GW: If by reliable, you mean vaccines, you would be mistaken. In a recent outbreak in India, the rate and severity of symptoms was greater in the population that was vaccinated. This has also been shown to be the case with chicken pox (shingles) as well. Herd immunity is a great idea, and makes all kinds of sense on paper, but it has not actually been tested (be kinda hard to) in the real world. The rapid decline of all these infectious diseases is also correlated with numerous other public health measures. Also, polio, which is supposedly almost extinct, is merely diagnosed as some other disease, like Transverse Myelitis, viral or “aseptic” meningitis, Guillain-Barre Syndrome (what Franklin Delano Roosevelt had), Chinese Paralytic syndrome, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, epidemic cholera, cholera morbus, spinal meningitis, spinal apoplexy, inhibitory palsy, intermittent fever, famine fever, worm fever, bilious remittent fever, ergotism, post-polio syndrome, acute flaccid paralysis(AFP).

    Vaccines appear to be a fraud.

  • Loki||

    I would hope that a free-thinking person could see right through the silliness of using the state to enforce a particular action.

    You seem to be assuming you're addressing a free-thinking person. Statistically speaking, you're probably not.

  • Major Johnson||

    Can we call this the penny for your pox law?

    So if you have a cold and I develop one after having lunch with you I can sue you? While there is no vaccination against the common cold, you certainly knew you could infect me when you invited me to lunch just so you could get me into bed, you thoughtless bastard!

  • DJK||

    See the comments above regarding efficacy of vaccines. The flu vaccine is notoriously ineffective. Others are extremely effective. We need the usual fictitious standard of a "reasonable person". A reasonable person would obviously vaccinate against, say, measles. Against flu - maybe not.

  • DJK||

    Many of us are advocating what seems like a tort law understanding of this issue. Another point to remember is that torts are expensive to litigate. I'm not going to sue you if I get the flu and am inconvenienced for a few days - it's not worth the resources I have to put into winning the lawsuit. If you give me a life-threatening disease, it's much more worth it. These systems have a pretty good way of separating out the petty cases that you've described.

  • mbokc||

    You can be vaccinated and still be a carrier. Whooping cough is a classic example. True of many other diseases.

  • DJK||

    And? That would be a good affirmative defense if one could be held liable (civilly, hopefully).

  • Free Society||

    So if you get mauled by a wild animal that lives in my woods, am I liable?

  • mbokc||

    test

  • R C Dean||

    If you think that there should be penalties (civil or criminal) for unsafe food handling that spreads disease, then I don't see how you can be opposed to penalties for spreading disease because you aren't vaccinated.

  • Free Society||

    I think it's stating the obvious when I tell you that I'm not selling you something containing containing microbial parasites when I simply don't get vaccinated.

    When I'm selling you food I'm morally obliged to handle it with reasonable regard to your health. When I'm evaluating medical options for my own body, I owe you nothing. I am not responsible for the machinations of microbes that have evolved for billions of years to do what they do.

  • R C Dean||

    Negligence actions can be brought regardless of any commercial transaction or relationship.

  • Free Society||

    Negligence suits can be brought no matter what, so? Whether it's accurate or provable is another matter. We both know that a sick person carelessly sneezing on their door knob is not the same thing as a sick employee carelessly sneezing on food they're serving to other people.

  • HeatherB||

    What if the vaccine is one that research shows is largely useless? http://www.thecochranelibrary......views.html

    What if you have had a vaccine, but it didn't take for you, or has since worn off (current research is showing that vaccine-induced immunity does not always last as long as once thought)?

  • HeatherB||

    What if you have had the vaccination and it is causing you to spread the disease? http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/20200027/

  • HeatherB||

    And, of course, who bears responsibility for children injured by vaccines? The CDC lists 8000 different possible adverse vaccine reactions, and there is a reporting mechanism...but, by some estimates, fewer than 10% of adverse reactions to vaccines are ever formally reported. Parents don't know the system exists, or that reporting is required, many doctors are less than helpful about recognizing reactions and filing reports, etc. Currently, the companies that make the vaccines are exempt from responsibility for injuries caused by their products. There is, instead, a government-run "vaccine court" that is supposed to award damages for injuries...but it is about as unbiased as the FISA court. The situation is gov't vs parents of injured children, and the parents have to pay their attorney fees, while fedgov has unlimited resources with which to defend the product of a private company. The situation is far less cut and dried than Ronald Bailey would have one believe. It's too bad he can't be bothered to apply the same depth of research to the vaccination situation that he has to psychiatric medication.

  • albo||

    But free societies are sometimes messy. To live in a free society, one must be willing to tolerate people who make bad decisions and bad choices, as long as they don’t directly infringe on the rights of others

    Transmitting whooping cough to me or my child is not an overt act like murder or assault. People often don't know they are communicable, and go about the community spreading diseases that they wouldn't do if they had been vaccinated.

    I'm not calling for mass compulsory vaccination, but if you want to attend public schools with my kids, you better.

  • Free Society||

    I'm not calling for mass compulsory vaccination, but if you want to attend public schools with my kids, you better.

    The public schools that my children are obliged by law to attend?

    Homeschooling isn't an option and there are no private schools in my area. So thanks to the compulsory attendance laws, you would compel my children to get vaccinated.

  • Andrew G.||

    Another reason we should have school vouchers.

  • DJK||

    Haha! I'm thinking of what this looks like in a free market economy. Some private schools require that all students get vaccinated; some don't. The ones with the requirement have healthy kids; the ones which don't have kids getting sick all the time. Parents pull their kids from the schools in which vaccination isn't required. And we end up with private schools which uniformly require vaccination.

  • Mr. Soul||

    from your keyboard to Gods ears.

  • Daniel||

    "but if you want to attend public schools with my kids, you better."

    Until the schools issue vaccination waivers for claimed religious or whatever reasons the parent can dream up.....

  • Loki||

    I'm afraid you've got it backwards.

    If you want your kids to attend public school and not get whooping cough or measles, etc., you better get them vaccinated. They're your kids, afterall, so it's your responsibility as a parent to take steps to keep them from getting ill. It's not everyone else's job.

  • Free Society||

    Ron Bailey's argument in a nutshell:
    1) Inaction is action
    2)It's unlibertarian to refuse to vaccinate yourself
    3)An individual owes every other individual a vaccinated neighbor. People who infect other people because they weren't vaccinated are at fault and owe compensation to the people they infect.
    4)Individuals are responsible for acts of microscopic organisms that have evolved for billions of years to do what they do.
    5)Don't evaluate your vaccination choices on a case by case basis. Get all vaccinations that you can possibly get or be the resonsible party in other people's illness

    It shouldn't be hard for Singer to kick out a few paragraphs to debunk all of that cognitive dissonance.

  • ||

    Bailey still never came right out and said he supported forced vaccinations. I'm not exactly clear what his position is.

  • Free Society||

    He isn't for coercive vaccination. The main thrust of his argument is that it's "unlibertarian to choose not to be vaccinated" because you're violating the rights of others. Needless to say, he has vastly better grasp on matters of science than he does on moral philosophy.

  • DJK||

    Not really. Bailey's just recognizing that there are circumstances in which it is possible to harm others (and have good reason to know that it is a possibility) without being overtly aggressive. It's not just vaccination. It's choosing to drive drunk or super distracted. The evidence is overwhelming that it increases your chance of hurting someone else (infringing on their right to live). While not overtly aggressive, it still causes harm. Bailey argues that it's a weaker violation of the non-aggression principle.

  • DJK||

    I'm not sure what he thinks about using the apparatus of the state to deal with this issue. It's an interesting question. It's kind of sad that there are so many here who reflexively hate this notion simply because of the potential involvement of the state. It seems that hating the state is much more important to them than individual rights.

  • DJK||

    Note that I say all of this as someone who straddles the line between minarchism and anarchism, depending on what I've had for lunch. I have deep misgivings about involving the state in anything.

  • Free Society||

    Individual rights being paramount should lead you to the conclusion that involving the state is antithetical to individual rights.

    There is inherent risk in being alive. When you get on the roadways, you run the gambit of being at the mercy of other people's level of responsibility. When you want to live around other humans you run the risk of infectious disease simply as a fact of nature. No one is responsible for the acts of 3rd parties. If a pack of wolves roams in my woods and kills some passerby, am I responsible because I didn't hunt the wolves to extinction?

    People are not responsible for acts of nature. Even if they're somewhat preventable.

  • Edwin||

    you not getting vacinated isn't an act of nature

    it's you being as stupid as Jenny mcCarthy

  • Free Society||

    Infectious disease is a product of nature a few billion years in the making, last I checked.

  • R C Dean||

    Inaction is action

    Negligent or reckless failure to take an action is frequently, err, actionable.

    If my negligent or reckless inaction in hitting the brakes causes me to rearend your car, should I not be responsible?

  • Free Society||

    You were driving and in control of an automobile, that's an affirmative action. While driving you damaged the property of others. You presumably own the car (important for liability) and were driving it by your own free choice. Do you own the microbes that are involuntarily infecting you? Are you in control of them?

  • R C Dean||

    Free, you're missing the major part of the issue here.

    We're talking about somebody who is a carrier because they haven't gotten vaccinated.

    Nobody's talking about suing people because you catch a cold from them. We're talking about preventable transmissions of disease.

  • Free Society||

    We're talking about somebody who is a carrier because they haven't gotten vaccinated.

    I get your point. But it doesn't meet the threshold required to determine that you're transgressing against the rights of others by not being vaccinated. That's the real point.

    Nobody's talking about suing people because you catch a cold from them. We're talking about preventable transmissions of disease.

    Self-ownership applies. Of course none of us possess self-ownership in a vacuum, we all affect each other in a society. The question is whether or not practicing a certain medical prerogatives on yourself, is unreasonably burdensome to the health of others. Is the likelihood of these unvaccinated vagabonds spreading deadly disease so great that we should restrict morally or legally restrict liberty? Is it so great that we should open pandora's box and accept the implications of holding people liable for the mutations and machinations of microbial creatures?

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    Forcibly injecting substances is a total non-starter. You'll find some so-called "libertarians" who advocate for this obvious infringement on bodily integrity, but they should be roundly ignored.

  • cryptarchy||

    What about forced steralization? That way we wouldn't have to worry about those pesky little germs in public schools

  • cryptarchy||

    Or how about this. Fuck You, get a better immune system

  • ||

    Then there is the matter of “herd immunity.”

    If we could enforce mandatory vaccinations to prevent the spread of a disease, why can't we enforce other behavioral norms to prevent the spread as well?

    Enforcing strict Christian heterosexual pairing norms would have HIV wrapped up within a generation.

  • ||

    Herd immunity - not even once.

  • some guy||

    And enforcing strict Catholic priesthood celibacy norms would cure all disease in a lifetime.

  • NL_||

    "there is no way to determine with certainty that the person will ever be responsible for [harm]"

    I think this is overstated. "Certainty" is not the standard, unless you add a qualifier like "reasonable" before it. There's no need to be certain that randomly firing a weapon towards a building will hurt anybody, but it's still sufficiently reckless to be prohibited even under natural law (by the average person's reckoning).

    So at some point, the dispute is over the level of certainty we need to have about the future harmful effects of a course of action. If the harmful effects are 100% likely, then doing A is tantamount to doing B. If the risk of doing A and causing B is one in a million, then that's a weak reason to prohibit A. But if the harmful effects are 20% likely, then doing A is much more removed from B and it's not clear that A can or cannot be prohibited on the basis of causing B.

  • some guy||

    This is yet another issue that would be handled easily by expanding private ownership of property. If all real property were privately owned then each owner could decide whether to allow unvaccinated individuals access.

    We are stuck with large swathes of public property, though. Given that public property exists, it makes sense to allow the managers of this property to decide whether the unvaccinated will be allowed access. In any case, forced vaccination is not necessary or moral. Making access contingent on vaccination is enough to protect property owners and individuals in public. If you don't want to get vaccinated, fine. Stay at home.

  • DJK||

    Except that the natural world doesn't work that way. Many diseases are airborne. Even if I grant that you own the air above your property, how do we deal with microbes passing into your airspace through diffusion, convection, pressure differentials, etc?

  • DJK||

    Ugh. I meant convective currents, for you pedants.

  • Free Society||

    Except that the natural world doesn't work that way. Many diseases are airborne. Even if I grant that you own the air above your property, how do we deal with microbes passing into your airspace through diffusion, convection, pressure differentials, etc?

    Apparently you sue the person who most recently exhaled the airborne microbes they involuntarily hosted. It's a bit ridiculous to talk about making people liable for acts of nature and then tell other people how the natural world works.

  • DJK||

    I was merely remarking that private property does not solve the problem in the manner claimed. Whatever its other virtues, that's not

  • DJK||

    one of them.

    Fucking Android keyboard.

  • DJK||

    You keep making a big deal about acts of nature as if they excuse violations of rights. Very well... let's stay in that realm. It is extremely natural for my body to host HIV. Retroviruses have evolved through natural processes and naturally spread from human to human. And humans naturally have lots of seed. Yet I think most people would agree that it's morally reprehensible to knowingly spread HIV, no matter how natural it is. Criminally so.

  • DJK||

    Ask yourself what the difference is between the case above and the vaccination case. The only thing is a difference in degree of knowledge and anticipation. And a system of c torts already has room for those differences. It's found in degrees of liability.

  • Free Society||

    You keep making a big deal about acts of nature as if they excuse violations of rights.

    It doesn't excuse it, it invalidates the claim that rights are violated to begin with. Are your rights being violated when you get eaten by a shark?

    So why shouldn't acts of nature be considered when we're talking about microbial creatures? It's a discussion about liability no?

    Yet I think most people would agree that it's morally reprehensible to knowingly spread HIV, no matter how natural it is. Criminally so.

    Don't strawman me.My argument has always been that it's morally reprehensible to knowingly spread disease. But remaining unvaccinated is not the same thing knowingly spreading a disease, and once again I'm telling you that you are making a false equivalence.

  • DJK||

    I fail to see how this is all that different. Say I have HIV. I know it. I don't tell the people I sleep with. I'm the penetrating partner. In that case, I have about a 1 in 1000 chance of giving it to the person I'm sleeping with. The end result is that I know that there is a reasonable chance that I may give that disease to someone else.

    Now, I don't get vaccinated. I know (or should, as the legal standard of a reasonable person would) that I may be spreading disease. Say the chances are 1 in 1000 that I do so. The end result is that I know that there is a reasonable chance that I may give that disease to someone else.

    There is no difference in the general conclusion. Yet you'd penalize the first case and not the second.

  • some guy||

    Even if I grant that you own the air above your property, how do we deal with microbes passing into your airspace through diffusion, convection, pressure differentials, etc?

    You handle this the way you handle pollution in a libertarian world. But seriously, how often is this going to come up? What's the mean distance an airborne pathogen can travel while remaining viable?

  • DJK||

    That's a good question. I have absolutely no idea.

    I would be interested to hear what the general solution to pollution (or any other negative externality) is in a libertarian world. I've never heard a fully satisfactory answer.

    I'd also be interested to know how we deal with positive externalities. For some reason, people never seem to bother with those...

  • Edwin||

    the other responders below also ignored the fact that what you're saying is extremely stupid; a world of only private property rights would still have shit tons of public property. Basic libertarian property rights dictate that you can give property, ergo, you can deed it to EVERYONE, ergo, public property. It removes the liability involved in property ownership. Land developers do it all the time, NOT under coercion.

    Not to mention the assumption that you assumed that the ownership of real property as we know it follows from the NAP/libertarianism. It doesn't. No one created the land; permanent ownership with 100% control over all types of use forever is a ludicrous concept that's simply a holdver from feudal times

  • some guy||

    Basic libertarian property rights dictate that you can give property, ergo, you can deed it to EVERYONE, ergo, public property

    This doesn't refute my point. There still will be a manager of the property who makes decisions regarding access. If you somehow manage to contruct a society where such a manager is not needed, then everyone would understand that there was no management of access to this public property. Enter at your own risk.

    Not to mention the assumption that you assumed that the ownership of real property as we know it follows from the NAP/libertarianism. It doesn't. No one created the land; permanent ownership with 100% control over all types of use forever is a ludicrous concept that's simply a holdver from feudal times.

    Many libertarian writers disagree with you. Read about the homestead principle. And next time try to stay on topic. I was talking narrowly about requiring vaccination. The fight you're picking has already happened a million times.

  • Edwin||

    but the manager could be everyone; that is, it would be subject to voting, and you're right back to more similar to our system now

    //Many libertarian writers disagree with you. Read about the homestead principle//

    Yes, genius thank you. I've read about the homestead principle. Problem is "many libertarian writers" are wrong, and they give no real reasoning based on the NAP or the principle that policy-should-reflect-volitional-human-action that land ownership is legitimate; it's basically a system that's a holdover from feudal times that they just take for granted as being reasonable/logical. Even presuming it's fair to give one man all control over a piece of land just because of a smitten of work he does on it, why should it be over all uses of that land and why should it be in perpetuity?

    Anyway, it is all a bit OT, but your point is kinda stupid. What, are there gonna be signs on every piece of property you enter dictating what policies you abide by when entering (and you DO need large, easily seen signs if you are to have an enforceable contract)

  • aelhues||

    My family and I have completed state recommended vaccinations. However, I am not in favor of them being required, nor of criminalizing the choice not to vaccinate. Conspiracy theory or not, I find it completely plausible, that the vaccinations are not 100% what they are advertized as. I also find it reasonable to question their effectiveness, and safety. Consequently, I find it reasonable that some would refuse vaccinations.

    It is my personal responsibility to do what I find necessary to protect myself and my family to the best of my ability. Of course I would hope that others would do what they can to reduce risks to others, but I certainly don't think it necessary to have the state enforce that risk mitigation on us all.

  • cryptarchy||

    Agreed

  • Free Society||

    For most people interested in this discussion it's either "Vaccines are the devil!" or "Vaccines are pure goodness with no negative consequences to populations or individuals!"

    Ron Bailey wrote possibly the worst article of his career jumping on the cognitive dissonance bandwagon by reducing the issue to "all vaccines=good, people who refuse a vaccine=bad."

  • DJK||

    Bailey obviously recognizes that there are downsides to vaccines. Some don't get protected (he mentions that in his section about herd immunity). Some actually get the disease. Ok...so what? In such case, sue the manufacturer of the vaccine due to strict liability laws.

  • Free Society||

    You got sick because of some pathogen I involuntarily transmitted to you. So what? Are you vaccinated? No? Well tough shit, that's life. Yes? Well tough shit, that's life.

  • ||

    I agree except, to me, tried to play a classically socialist argument (the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few) or herd immunity off as intrinsically libertarian.

  • ||

    And he downplayed the truly libertarian aspect of things;

    Vaccines that are phenomenally effective, demonstrably safe, easy to consume, are dirt cheap aren't really in question. No one (nearly) who stepped on a rusty nail would reject a $20 tetanus shot but mandating $20 tetanus shots to everyone is not only ineffective, but wasteful.

  • R C Dean||

    In classic tort law, liability for not getting vaccinated would probably be a non-starter. Assuming you can't catch the disease from someone if you have the vaccination, your failure to get vaccinated yourself would be contributory negligence, or perhaps assumption of the risk, barring you from recovering.

  • DJK||

    That's an interesting point. And it seems pertinent when we're talking about, say, adults giving diseases to other adults. But what about, say, pertussis? Infants can't be vaccinated against this. In not vaccinating your kids against pertussis, you're not being contributorily negligent.

  • Free Society||

    Who's to decide what to constitutes negligence? Medical practices by the general public is almost always based on conventional wisdom, regardless of what scientific testing has to say on the matter. I don't think courts, judges or even juries should hold people liable based on oversimplified assumptions about what went on inside someone's body and the genome mutations of a parasite.

  • DJK||

    What's your point? That legal standards can't exist in a vacuum? That they're subject to our understanding at the time? That will always be the case. Tough shit, that's life.

  • Free Society||

    You're version of legal standards is antithetical to liberty.

  • DJK||

    I disagree completely. Your version of libertarianism seems to only worry about violations of rights committed by governments. Those are important things to worry about. But non-government actors violate rights all the time. That's the whole reason we have the apparatus of government in the first place. You don't seem to care too much about those violations.

  • Edwin||

    all the silly discussion of suing people who got you infected and all this noise should tell you guys that the doctrinaire libertarian position on vaccination is a little silly.

    It's pretty simple A) you most certainly are harming others by not getting vaccinated, so it is a violation of the NAP (remember, even without overt AGRESSION we're all still LIABLE for what choose to do or NOT DO, i.e. NEGLIGENCE/LIABILITY/TORTS) B) The traditional tort and court system clearly would be almost impossible to be a feasible and cost effective system to deal with it C) therefore, we use government regulation to deal with it. Like a lot of government regulation was intended to deal with at first (before all the mission creep since). There are numerous problems basic to even just the NAP for which courts will not suffice, so we must turn to statute (again, the feds have moved far from that initial purpose, but the point remains).

    The whole issue seems to be kinda moot, though, as, from what I understand, no one's actually being FORCED to vaccinate their kids. Various institutions will require your child be vaccinated, and will even go and do it to your kid (hospitals) even before asking you. But you don't have to use those institutions. Going to them essentially means you consent to their policies. You could give birth at home, you could home-school your kid or send them to a private school, etc. etc.

  • DJK||

    I think you are missing the point. Few lawsuits would actually happen. Torts are extremely expensive to bring forward and fight. But one doesn't need to sue everybody. A few successful suits set a precedent. And that drastically changes incentives. If I know that I can get hit with a big judgment, I will get vaccinated. Even if I have moronic reasons for not doing so otherwise.

  • Edwin||

    you need to understand how stupid that sounds. Among many other things, the chilling effect would not be THAT great

    We shouldn't need to prove you infected any particular person. The fact that you're walking around infected means you are almost definnitely infecting someone else. The probability that an infected person has infected someone else reaches 100% pretty quickly over time

    Granted, we're talking about simply having-not-vaccinated, but I don't find the distinction that salient.

  • DJK||

    Except that it's always going to be an after-the-fact case. How do you know whether or not someone was vaccinated? You'd need reasonable suspicion to get their medical records or to do an antibody test. And that's going to happen after someone has gotten sick.

    The only way around this is to compel vaccination. I think most people here agree that the state forcing you to take a needle in the arm is a violation of the NAP.

  • Edwin||

    the NAP doesn't disclude society from having the right to prevent you from fucking up everyone else's shit in the first place, we don't need to wait for you to do it before we stop you. Hence anti-drunk-driving laws.

    If you tell me it DOES, and everything has to be an after-the-fact tort, then I'd tell you the NAP is stupid and no one will ever come over to your ideology.
    Luckily, the NAP DOESN'T say that, but you get the point

  • R C Dean||

    the NAP doesn't disclude society from having the right to prevent you from fucking up everyone else's shit in the first place,

    I'm not so sure about that. If I successfully drunk-drive home without getting in an accident, whose rights have a I violated? What damage have I caused? Who have I aggressed against? How does the NAP justify the state laying hands on me when I have caused no damage and infringed on no rights?

  • Free Society||

    not so sure about that. If I successfully drunk-drive home without getting in an accident, whose rights have a I violated? What damage have I caused?

    By that standard you could walk onto a playground full of kids, shoot your rifle randomly in all directions and you wouldn't be committing any moral crime until the moment one of your careless shots hits a person or property. Reckless endangerment of others is a moral crime against others and does trespass against the rights of others because it places an unreasonable and unjustifiable burden on the life of others.

  • Edwin||

    not being vaccinated most certainly violates other people's rights, most likely as a matter of negligence/liability, but the distinction between agression vs. negligence doesn't matter so much when we're talking about violating someone else's property rights and damaging them/their property, depending on what strain of libertarianism we're talking about. The point is you have most certainly affected other people

    the pestilence issue is unique in that it involves a) the activity only provides the CHANCE that you're affceting other people and B)when you do affect other people, the causality can't be DIRECTLY linked to another person.
    The closest thing is drunk driving but in that, the violator's causality of actual damages can be directly seen and proven. We know in the first place you're affecting other people with your risk by drunk driving, so it is within libertarianism to forcibly stop a drunk driver/drunk driving. Infection or the chance of infecting people is not different just because when shit DOES happen, it can't be traced to one specific person. No, we don't know whether the bacterium got left on a doorknob Billy used which then infected Sally, or maybe Johnathon coughed and it went up in the air then downwind and infect Thomas, but the fact remains that someone who HAS a disease is ALMOST DEFINTIELY infecting other people. That's just the reality of the situation, that's how science works.

  • Edwin||

    To any extent that you might not be infecting other people, it's because nowadays vaccination has gotten rid of these epidemics, or even small amounts of infection, and lowered it to near zero. Before all the vaccination technology, the human expereince involved a lot of disease. The same rules don't suddenly not apply just because they worked so well

  • Mr. Soul||

    and before vaccinations, they would have put leaches on you involuntarily. They would have called your refusal "stupid" and your choice "terrible". How much competence are you willing to impute to the coercers?

  • Edwin||

    as I mentioned before, so far, there is little coercion. It's just damned difficult to raise kids normally (or perhaps rather, lazily) without getting them vaccinated.

    But your point is kind of stupid. Just because science was once in the dark ages, doesn't mean that we should now never administer any sort of social institution. Following that logic all the way would also not have us enforce even the basic and most simplistic of property rights, a la "Oh, how do we know this happened? We can't know for sure that that evidence proves that! Your tests could be totally wrong! Those COULD be a yeti's footprints! You never proved yeti's DONT exist!"

  • Mr. Soul||

    i think we agree pretty much agree.

    I think people like me largely recoil at the idea that some controlling entity somewhere has decided for us. The dynamic hasn't changed from the days of leeches. Someone claims to know better. My options are to comply or not comply. One does not have to deny scientific advancement to recognize that slavers gotta slave.

    A point can be argued, as it has by some here, as a passionate appeal in the interest of others. I want more of that. It can also be argued as a simple FYTW.

  • Edwin||

    That's all really fucking stupid and you're demonstrating why most people shy away from libertarianism (to put it lightly)
    You're not a libertarian, you're a paranoid or an extremist, or both

    the "dynamic" has clearly changed if the standard of measure is efficacy, as proven by real data. You don't have to be a scientific positivist to understand that the scientific method is extremely important because it IS the only way to determine FACTS, and from THERE all other discussions can advance

  • R C Dean||

    We know in the first place you're affecting other people with your risk by drunk driving,

    Once you cross the line and start prosecuting people for damage that hasn't actually occurred, but might, you've pretty much embraced the Total State.

  • Free Society||

    Recklessly and unnecessarily risking the lives of others is a moral crime. Proving when someone crosses that line is up for debate, but not much else.

    That aside, it's funny to see this argument coming from the guy who said it's a moral violation when you choose to go unvaccinated. Not exactly consistent.

  • DJK||

    It's perfectly consistent. There are tons of moral violations that we might not wish to involve the state in. If I lie to my wife, I'm morally culpable. That doesn't necessarily mean that the state should prosecute me for that.

    We agree that recklessly and unnecessarily risking the lives of others (whether by not getting vaccinated or driving drunk) is a moral crime. That certainly doesn't mean that we agree on the civil or criminal remedies for it.

    The law does not exist for proving when someone commits a moral crime. It exists for proving when someone commits a moral crime severe enough that we should use the apparatus of the state to impose sanctions.

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    Edwin, do you perceive the circularity of your reasoning? If vaccines are safe and effective, what does it matter to you if I get one or not? If you've been vaccinated, you're supposedly in the clear. If you catch something, it can only be from the fact that you either did not vaccinate, or that vaccines are not effective. Which is it?

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    Reasoning from principle is great, and we should be consistent and unwavering. The problem comes from those pesky little facts. When it appears that some "fact" means that we should deviate from liberty, as Ayn would say, "Check your premises," because they're probably faulty. We now know that Iraq didn't have all kinds of WMDs, that the paint wasn't even scratched on that boat in the Gulf of Tonkin, that FDR knew about and planned FOR the attack on Pearl Harbor (see Day of Deceit by Stinnett). Vaccines are definitely not effective, and there is much evidence that they are not safe, either. Rule #1: NAP rules all. Rule #2, if facts are in dispute, see Rule #1, your facts are probably wrong, and some statist slaver is after your rights.

  • piperTom||

    It seems the pro-vaccination commenters believe all vaccines are created equal and that vaccination is without risk. Neither is true. So, who decides?

    When I started school, the smallpox vaccine was standard (and seemed safe enough). Now, it's no longer even produced. Someone DECIDED! (I know who it was and I don't trust them -- though they probably got that one right.) The risk of disease became very low; the risks of vaccination remained, so ... NO, don't get the smallpox vaccine. In a free society, no Administration gets to impose their judgement on everyone. Free people decided such things for themselves.

  • Response||

    Solution: anyone entering the country has to be (or have been) vaccinated - a common practice when traveling abroad.

  • Raudskeggr||

    I'm afraid I have to disagree with you here.

    I agree that we have to tolerate the poor choices and stupidity of others in a free society; but that doesn't mean we have to tolerate poor choices that result in a significant danger to the public.

    Also, in your example: "those who choose not to carry concealed weapons free ride a degree of personal safety off the small percentage of the public that carries concealed weapons. "

    This is highly debatable; there is little statistical evidence showing that people are any more or less safe where concealed carry is permitted.

  • thevaccinemachine||

    -how many free riders should be allowed?

    This is not a matter for government to decide. You don't get to "allow" people to refuse medical treatments. Besides there would be no free rider "problem" were it not for the immoral compulsory vaccination laws that increase vaccination rates above what would normally exist in a free society.

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