Reason Roundup

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Bans Private Businesses From Mandating Vaccines for Workers

Plus: A dangerous misunderstanding about what caused America's opioid overdose epidemic, a look at this year's Nobel Prize winners, and more...


Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order on Monday banning any entity in the state—including private businesses—from requiring that workers or customers show proof of having been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Abbott, a Republican, said in a statement that the readily available and safe vaccines were "our best defense against the virus" but added that vaccinations should "always remain voluntary and never forced." He also asked the state legislature to codify the ban on vaccine mandates into state law.

As The Texas Tribune notes, the new ban on vaccine mandates is a significant (and disappointing) reversal for Abbott, who had previously banned government-run entities like school districts from mandating vaccines but had taken a hands-off approach with businesses. "Private businesses don't need government running their business," an Abbott spokesperson told the Tribune in August.

Apparently, Abbott now thinks they do. By sticking his nose into the affairs of private businesses, Abbott is setting up a potential conflict with some of his state's biggest employers, including Southwest Airlines and American Airlines—both of which are based in Texas and recently told employees to get the shot if they want to keep their jobs. Mandatory vaccination policies should always include carveouts to cover those who have had a previous COVID-19 infection or have religious or medical reasons for not getting jabbed, of course, but those issues are better worked out between employers and employees.

Abbott's new mandate also puts some businesses in a tricky situation where they must choose between disobeying state or federal law. President Joe Biden announced last month that all businesses with more than 100 employees would be required to mandate vaccines for their workers (or conduct weekly tests), with the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforcing the mandate.

Biden's mandate continues to be a massive overreach of executive authority. Abbott's ban on private mandates is little different. Neither is probably all that enforceable, though every business owner in Texas will rightfully fear being held up and punished by one side or the other as an example of what happens to those who refuse to comply.

Vaccines remain by far the best strategy for saving lives and ending the pandemic. It makes sense that businesses would want their employees to be vaccinated. Those who refuse the shot should be free to do so, but they do not have a right to any particular job. None of those decisions should require the coercive efforts of state or federal officials.


The new Hulu series Dopesick, adapted from a 2018 book of the same title, is promoting a misleading narrative about America's overdose epidemic that blames doctors for overprescribing pain meds, writes Jeffrey A. Singer, a medical doctor and senior fellow at the Cato Institute. That misguided understanding of the crisis led state and federal policy makers to implement policies intended to reduce opioid prescribing.

Then, this happened:

Prescriptions of opioids per 100 persons have dropped nearly 50 percent since 2012. Almost simultaneously the overdose rate has surged from roughly 40,000 in 2012 to 93,000 in 2020. Meanwhile, pain patients suffer from pain and mental anguish—especially veterans—as doctors abruptly taper or deny opioids to treat their pain.

Purdue Pharma—the maker of OxyContin, and the villain in the book and Hulu series—may have been untruthful with doctors or overly aggressive in marketing, Singer says. But that's quite unrelated to the more immediate question of how to help people suffering from chronic pain or opioid addiction. For them, prohibition is clearly not working. (Disclosure: Singer is a financial supporter of Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website.)


Alex Tabarrok writes that the trio of economists who won the Nobel Prize on Monday—David Card, Joshua Angrist, and Guido Imbens—helped usher in a "credibility revolution" with their simple, empirical experiments. Most famously, Card co-authored a 1994 study that contrasted minimum wages in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, while Angrist co-authored a study that found children born in the first quarter of the year get marginally less education:

The importance of Card and Krueger (1994) was not the result (which continue to be debated) but that Card and Krueger revealed to economists that there were natural experiments with plausible treatment and control groups all around us, if only we had the creativity to see them. The last thirty years of empirical economics has been the result of economists opening their eyes to the natural experiments all around them.


• The House of Representatives could vote Tuesday to raise the debt limit until December, preventing the Treasury from defaulting on America's near-record pile of debt. That would clear the way for Congress to…borrow even more (sigh).

• Banks are up in arms about the Biden administration's plans to track deposits and withdrawals of over $600.

• New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is threatening to blow up New York City's congestion pricing plan that would hike tolls in midtown and lower Manhattan.

• This man was sentenced to 24 years in prison for his role in a robbery that never happened and the cops planned:

• Jon Gruden resigned as head coach of the NFL's Las Vegas Raiders after emails containing homophobic and misogynistic language were made public by The New York Times.

• A Maryland county where exactly one child has died of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic will expand its mask mandate to cover children as young as two.

• "There is more than one way to burn a book…"