Libertarianism and Communicable Disease


In a recent post, I mentioned that I tentatively support UC's new requirement that all students, faculty, and staff get vaccinated against the flu. (I say tentatively because it's possible that the medical benefits aren't great enough.) My reasoning there specifically focused on the government's propriety role there: I think it's generally legitimate for institutions (government or otherwise) to protect their clients (including students) and employees from the risk of harm—including inadvertent harm—inflicted by other clients and employees.

But I also think that it would be morally permissible for the government to require various vaccines for everybody, and not just for its employees or students. Again, it might be that the costs of some particular vaccine mandate would exceed the benefits; and we should count cost to liberty in some measure in this analysis. But I don't think that vaccinations are categorically precluded on libertarian grounds, or in particular the Millian "free to do what I please so long as I don't harm others" principle. Let me quickly lay out my thinking.

It is a sad fact of biology that we can spread communicable diseases without any conscious decision on our parts, even without knowing that we are infected. Any time we do this, we are causing physical harm to someone else, and indirectly causing physical harm to many others; and we do that without choosing to cause such harm.

An analogy might be guns. Libertarians generally frown on gun bans, and instead seek to ban misuse of guns. People who use guns properly, the theory goes, should be free to keep doing that; only those who choose to misuse them (to kill or to shoot recklessly or the like) should be punished. Likewise with alcohol and the like.

But say that you had a gun that had a 1% chance of just randomly shooting someone—or perhaps a 1% chance of leaking a deadly poison into the air around you—even when that wasn't at all your desire; and there was a procedure that could be performed on your gun that would pretty safely eliminate or at least sharply reduce that chance. It seems to me that it would be reasonable to require you to have your gun treated with that procedure, to prevent you from inadvertently inflicting such physical harm to others. Likewise when the dangerous weapon (or the poison-leaking device) is your body.

Some libertarians respond that the right approach is to allow people to choose whether to be vaccinated, but to allow others to exclude the non-vaccinated from spaces that those others control. That might cut in favor of private universities or even public ones mandating vaccination, but might still forbid the government from imposing such mandates. And perhaps such an approach might work in a libertarian society where all property was private, and policed effectively for who is coming on the property and who isn't.

But in our society, for better or worse, people routinely go onto shared government-controlled property, and are generally allowed to go on much private property (such as businesses open to the public) without any effective screening of such visitors. We need a second-best libertarian analysis that works for this society, and I think it makes sense to allow compulsory vaccinations, by counting exposure (even inadvertent) to communicable disease as an unconsented-to harm that people can be prevented from inflicting on others.

More concretely, let's consider a topic that was in the news some years ago (when I first blogged a version of this post): immunizations against sexually transmitted diseases, such as HPV. I'll start with that, and turn to flu immunizations at the end of the post.

Say Alan has sex with Betty, who then has sex with Carl, who then has sex with Denise; say Alan is infected with HPV, and each sexual act would (absent immunization) spread HPV; and say Betty isn't immunized against HPV. Betty's failure to get immunized would lead to her unwittingly spreading the virus, which ends up hurting Denise. Betty hasn't intentionally harmed Denise, but she has harmed her—you might categorize the harm as negligent (in that it flows from negligent failure to get immunized) or not, but it is indeed the infliction of harm.

Now it's true that the harm also flowed from Denise's voluntary decision to have sex with Carl. But it's hard to see why this should excuse the harm caused by Betty, any more than Denise's voluntary decision to get on the road excuses the harm that someone imposes on Denise by crashing into her with a car (or, if you prefer, that Betty imposes on Denise by crashing into Carl's car, which then crashes into Denise's).

Even if you think that some people's having many sexual partners should affect the analysis, remember that HPV can be spread even among people who are about as sexually constrained as can be expected. The Alan-Betty-Carl-Denise connection can happen even if Betty was a virgin when she married Alan; if she then didn't have sex with Carl until she married him (assume Alan had died, or had left Betty); and if Denise was a virgin when she married Carl (again, assume Betty had died, or had left Carl).

This specific scenario might be rare—but lots of other scenarios in which people had led fairly safe lives, but find themselves getting HPV, are also quite plausible. And more broadly, even if people are leading somewhat riskier lives than this, participating in infecting them with a disease may still be quite rightly seen as harming them, despite their own role in choosing risky behavior.

Of course, if HPV immunization were 100% reliable, and 100% available, then this analysis wouldn't apply with quite the same strength: Presumably any person who remains at risk of HPV infection would be at risk because of her own refusal to get the vaccine. Yet some people don't get the vaccine, possibly because they can't afford it; some can't get it because they're in the small but significant group of people for whom the vaccine would be unsafe; for some classes of people, the vaccine hasn't been tested (for instance, for people in their age group); and for at least some vaccines, the vaccine may be far from 100% effective for any individual recipient.

So I think that a libertarian may reasonably conclude, I think, that refusing to get immunized is wrongful behavior. Such refusal may lead to one's becoming a vehicle for transmitting a dangerous and sometimes deadly disease to third parties, and thus harming those third parties (in a way that an "assumption of risk" argument would not excuse). And while a vaccine will step in before the harm is inflicted, rather than as punishment for inflicting harm, it doesn't make sense to take a punishment model: Again, the harm of spreading communicable disease generally isn't inflicted through deliberate choice to do something unusually dangerous (other than the deliberate choice not to get vaccinated).

And that's for sexually transmitted diseases. When a disease can be spread through casual contact—sneezing, coughing, perhaps even breathing—the disease is even harder for people to reliably avoid spreading, or to reliably avoid acquiring. The case for forbidding people from inflicting this disease on others, by requiring them to take reasonably safe and effective steps to keep their bodies from being deadly, is thus even stronger.

So a brief summary: There may well be practical problems with truly mandatory immunization, and it may well be that herd immunity would mean that 90% immunization is good enough to reduce the risk to a level that doesn't merit regulation. There may of course also be practical objections to immunization if the immunization seems unduly risky.

But as a moral matter of individual liberty, it seems to me that there's little support for a claimed freedom from getting immunized—and especially a claimed freedom from getting your underage children immunized. A requirement that people not allow their bodies to be media for unwitting transmission of deadly diseases strikes me as quite compatible with a generally libertarian perspective on the world.

UPDATE: Note that, when I wrote this, the debate was about mandating vaccinations for girls and women, whether because the HPV vaccine was better tested there, was more seen as cost-effective there, or was more likely to benefit the vaccinated themselves (given that a major hazard of HPV is cervical cancer); that's why I focus the analysis on the women in the chain. But to the extent that the vaccination is seen as medically effective for male as well, I think the moral case for compelling it is present for men and boys as well as for women and girls.

NEXT: Openness and Privacy in Court Cases Dealing with Litigants' Medical Information

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  1. I generally both agree and disagree with "mandatory" vaccination. I split the difference at how much of a threat something is. The common cold is also spread inadvertently; if there were a vaccine, could it be mandated? Not for me; the harm is too minuscule. Ebola? Maybe so, except quarantine might be better. Is a disease communicable before the symptoms show, such that people can tell they might be infectious?

    I would put a high bar on mandating vaccination on people without the disease. Quarantine is much easier to justify for known infectious people.

    I avoid the flu shots every years because (as I understand them) (a) they change every year, (b) they have a lousy track record, which may in part be due to (a), and (c) I seldom get even colds, even when there were lots of K-12 kids bringing them home, and if my immune system ain't broke, I don't plan on fixing it.

    1. Speaking about the flu vaccine:

      The flu vaccine is generally highly recommended if not outright required in most hospitals and nursing homes for the staff. Even if the worker is a healthy mid 20s person, the flu vaccine is helpful precisely because it minimizes the risk of spread to the more vulnerable patients. A flu that might give this healthy mid 20s worker a very slight fever could easily kill someone's 85 year old grandma in a nursing home.

      I'm guessing you probably don't work or hang out around vulnerable populations, which makes not getting the flu vaccine a defensible choice. I don't get the flu vaccine either, except for when I was younger and volunteering around elderly folks.

      1. The problem is that if (a) it wasn't justifiable to mandate the flu vaccine before the Wuhan Virus arrived and (b) there is no relationship between the two viri, and (c) the flu vaccine does NOTHING to control the Wuhan virus --- then what is the justification for requiring it now?!?!?

        There is a requirement that governmental regulations be rational -- or something -- and this isn't.

        Either (a) the flu vaccine should have been required before (and it wasn't), or (b) it should provide some immunity to the Wuhan virus (it doesn't), or (c) it shouldn't be required now.

        IANALNDIWB -- but this mandate is illogical.

        1. The biggest problem with mandating flu vaccination is that there is never enough to go around.

          Last Flu season was and all time high and they still only had enough doses for about half the US population.

    2. You don't think government mandated quarantine is a greater infringement of liberty than government mandated vaccination?

    3. My problem w/ this article is that adopting the idea that my potential harm to you (no matter how small & no matter how many intervening steps/decisions) means I lose my freedom would render libertarianism meaningless.

      By the same logic, I could say your decision to take a job below minimum wage = hurts my bargaining power, even though you didn't mean to.

      Or I could argue that your decision to take cocaine hurt me (when the ER is treating your OD, it'll hurt me etc).

      We just don't have a reasonable expectation that nothing you do might hurt us in some way.

      Indeed, even if we 100% vaccinate, it's not like every visitor/alien will be vaccinated. There's always a risk - and that's part of the price for freedom.

  2. Wrong! i thought you were libertarian?!

    won't waste my time on your articles any more!

    1. Don't let the door slam you on the butt on your way out.

    2. Not enough exclamation points!!! But you definitely get extra points for a question mark on a non-question?!

  3. The universe of diseases and vaccines is so vast that it's trivial to construct scenarios where refusing to be vaccinated would be a crime against humanity; AND plausible circumstances where refusing to be vaccinated would be an obviously reasonable exercise of individual rights, with virtually no societal harm.

    The problem from a libertarian perspective is just like the problem with other hot-button freedoms like speech, abortion or gun ownership. People make general statements-- like you have done here, Professor-- outlining why it may generally be a good idea for government to have power to limit rights under some particular circumstances. At the utterance of the statement in the general, the camel has his nose under the tent; we are headed down the slippery slope toward tyranny.

    I agree that there are lots of circumstances where vaccination is so obviously the right thing to do that it should be all but mandatory. But I'm not remotely ready to hand that decision-making power to government.

    1. Union, we can have a nice, nuanced discussion about balancing risks, and when does the reasonable threat of genuine harm become great enough to outweigh an individual's right to personal autonomy, etc. The problem is that there are some things - like vaccines -- that simply are not effective unless you have close to 100% compliance, and there will always be a certain number of lunkheads whose analysis begins and ends with "you can't make me".

      We're fortunate that Covid-19 has a low virulence rate, but there are plenty of pathogens out there with far higher virulence rates and it's only a matter of time until one of them hitches a ride to a major urban center. And one of the things we've learned from Covid-19 (in addition to how woefully unprepared we are for something like that) is how many people really don't care about public welfare if it means wearing a mask or social distancing.

      And there comes a point at which lunkheads simply have to be told that they will not be allowed to jeopardize public health, and the public has the right to take such steps as are necessary to keep them from doing it. Where that point is, I'm not sure. But it does exist.

      1. Actually, vaccines are quite effective, even at low compliance rates. They do their job very well, protecting the person with the vaccine from the disease.

        1. But they don't actually eradicate the disease unless there's 100% compliance, or near 100% compliance.

          It's true that almost none of the people who get vaccinated for measles don't get measles. But measles still exists at all because vaccination rates aren't 100%. If everyone got vaccinated, the disease would no longer have available hosts, and would die out, at which point we would no longer need to worry about it. That's basically what happened with smallpox (and in this country, polio). Vaccines for those diseases were discovered before anti-vax nuts had a foothold, the government mandated compliance, and the diseases went away.

          1. Vaccines aren't really about "eradicating" the disease. They're about preventing it in the people who get vaccinated. And frankly, you're not going to "eradicate" COVID with vaccines. Among other issues, COVID's not just in the human population, but also in the animal population. (That's actually a recurrent problem with many diseases).

            There are very few diseases which were actually eradicated with vaccination.

            1. Vaccines are both about eradication and prevention. And with either goal, the higher the participation, the greater the success.

              1. Sorry Krychek.

                There is only one disease which has been eradicated with vaccination. Smallpox. Even Polio has't been completely eradicated. There are a couple reasons for the success with smallpox, and that took decades to accomplish.
                1. It can only be transmitted person to person.
                2. Once you get it, you have lifetime immunity
                3. The disease is highly visible with clear signs.

                Keep in mind, not even polio has been completely eradicated.

                COVID is a miserable candidate for eradication, and is likely impossible. This is for a number of reasons.
                1. It can be transmitted person to animal and animal to person, providing reservoirs in many animals. Including common cats and dogs.
                2. Lifetime immunity isn't clear on it yet. Based on other coronaviruses, and their propensity to mutate...odds aren't good.
                3. The disease is not clearly visible with many asymptomatic carriers.

                You're not going to eradicate COVID with vaccination. Not unless you're also prepared to vaccinate every dog, cat, and bat in the world. effectively impossible.

                1. I'd imagine that Coyotes and Raccoons and Skunks and other Mammals can carry it too. That's why Rabies is still with us.

                2. But I haven't been talking about Covid specifically. And polio has been eradicated in those parts of the world that got people vaccinated.

                  1. "And polio has been eradicated in those parts of the world that got people vaccinated."

                    Depends on what you mean by vaccinated. Polio is present in Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan. All of which have substantial vaccination rates, albeit not 90%+. So, it's not like there's no vaccination. And again, this is after decades of work.

                    In addition, what makes polio a good case example is an ORAL vaccine. That doesn't exist for most diseases.

                    1. you seem to be insisting on a standard of perfect results immediately and that’s not the way life works. Yes it may take decades but those decades are going to pass regardless and I’d just as soon have the disease eradicated or at least under control when they do.

                      And since no two diseases are alike, no two vaccine experiences will be alike. But what is alike is that vaccination leaves us better off, and the more people who participate, the better. I’ve already said I probably wouldn’t support mandatory vaccinations for covid because the virulence rate is so low. That doesn’t mean there might not be some other pathogen with a higher virulence rate with facts that would justify a mandatory vaccine regime.

                3. Rinderpest, which didn’t affect humans, was also eradicated.

            2. Smallpox has been eradicated. The Polio vaccine folks have as a goal to eradicate a disease. Just because it's hard doesn't mean it's not the purpose.

              Maybe not COVID, given the unusual mutation rate of coronaviruses, but who knows?

              1. "Smallpox has been eradicated."

                No it hasn't -- it still lives in labs in Russia and possibly elsewhere.
                It likely has been weaponized as well.

                1. The U.S. still has samples, too. In any event, the disease no longer spreads “in the wild,” which is the point Sarcastro was making.

          2. "But they don’t actually eradicate the disease unless there’s 100% compliance, or near 100% compliance."

            This is circular. You define the win condition as 100% compliance. Of course vaccines can't eradicate a disease unless everyone gets them. That doesn't make them ineffective for the people who voluntarily take the vaccine. If the libertarian position is that people should be allowed to smoke, why shouldn't they be allowed to get polio, either? Seems like a strange line to draw.

            1. There's two win conditions:

              1 is herd immunity.

              2 is 100 percent elimination.

              I can certainly see arguments for not shooting for (2), but I am not sure they are very good arguments. Why should society even run a small risk that some people may die just because there are people who think they (or their children) are special snowflakes who should never get anything injected into their arms?

              1. Why should society even run a small risk that some people may die just because there are some people who think they are special snowflakes that get to fly around our highways at 70mph any time they want for any or no reason?

                It's always "for the children."

              2. "Why should society even run a small risk that some people may die just because there are people who think they (or their children) are special snowflakes who should never get anything injected into their arms?"

                The argument is that if death avoidance is possible, then every instance of it must be mandatory. This argument has been rejected in every society and government since time immemorial. The law permits people to engage in risky behavior.

                The better argument is that unvaccinated people kill others. But that just means vaccinate the people who might be killed, and you avoid the moral issue entirely.

                I agree with mandatory vaccination of children.

                1. That's not the argument.

                  The argument is being pricked in your arm and having a vaccine injected is both such a small injury and subject to a situation where exemptions will be incredibly abused (as we have seen) that IN THIS INSTANCE, death avoidance takes precedence.

                  That doesn't mean that death avoidance trumps all liberty claims. It doesn't.

                  1. Would you ban cigarettes?

              3. "There’s two win conditions:
                1 is herd immunity.
                2 is 100 percent elimination."

                Depends on who's doing the winning.
                If I and my family and friends and anyone with a grain of sense get vaccinated, and avoid the disease, while idiots don't get vaccinated and get sick, that's a win for me and mine.

            2. Because I can stand as close as I like to someone with lung cancer and I'm not going to contract their lung cancer.

              1. The point of the vaccination is that you won't get the disease even from a sick, unvaccinated person.

                1. And also that it is a step in the direction of eradicating the disease altogether

                2. That's, actually not the point of vaccinations.

                  1. I'm sorry. Let me clarify. That's the reason I get vaccines.

          3. Eradication of the disease is not the objective. It can't be because even with 100% compliance, it's impossible to achieve. That's just not how vaccines and infectious diseases operate.

            The objective is herd immunity - enough people immune that the disease fails to spread. And you don't need anywhere near 100% compliance to achieve herd immunity. Depending on the specifics of the disease, as low as 2-10% compliance can achieve herd immunity.

            1. He gave you two examples (smallpox and polio) where we basically achieved eradication.

            2. It's not impossible to achieve; smallpox was eradicated. Yes, herd immunity is great. Eradication is even better.

        2. But they don't protect people from OTHER diseases!!!!

      2. Here's a question for you Krychek,

        Do you, as an individual have the right to jeopardize public health through your activity or inactivity? What about the public finances which ultimately affect public health?

        1. It's a continuum, depending on how great a risk I'm creating and how great the cost is to me of compliance.

          Suppose that Covid-19, instead of a 1% virulence rate, had a 90% virulence rate -- 90% of the people who get it will die from it. At that point, I'd send in the army if necessary to compel whatever compliance was required to eradicate the disease. I like my privacy and autonomy as much as the next person, but there is such a thing as a tipping point at which the stakes are so high people just have to fall in line. Fortunately we're nowhere near it with Covid-19, but that line does exist.

          1. A 90% virulence rate has something of a perverse silver lining. It effectively kills the carriers, preventing further spread. (Ebola's a bit like this).

            It's also an extreme example.

            But let's take a different situation. You have a "Super-COVID" running around. About 10 times worse than COVID is currently. You have a vaccine. It works! It will prevent people from getting and transmitting super COVID. But it has a 0.1% mortality rate. 0.1% of people who get the vaccine will die.

            Do you force people to be injected?

            1. On those numbers, probably not. But that doesn't mean that there aren't other numbers for which I would force people to be injected.

              1. Why not? The math is in your favor.

                Super-COVID would kill 1.5 to 2 million Americans. Forcing them to get the vaccine would only kill ~300,000. You would save somewhere around 1.5 million lives by forcing them to get the vaccine.

                What if the mortality for the vaccine was 0.01%? Then just 30,000 people would die from it. Would you force the vaccine on them then?

                Where's your "line"?

                1. ^ Finally, the crux of all these debates. The problem, of course, is that there is never a line that isn't subjectively massed and manipulated to to the point of obscurity.

                  But considering the current line for a great many in this country has already been established in which wiping out people's livelihoods over a virus with <1% mortality rate, who really gives a fuck at this point? This whole mess is such a huge leap forward in the Orwellian time line that I really should change my handle at this point.

                2. There is no clear and indisputable point at which there's a bright line, and that's due in part to there being multiple factors to be considered. For every variable you give me, another variable moves.

                  I can't give you a bright line for a speed limit either -- why 70 and not 65, or 75? That doesn't mean mandatory speed limits aren't a good idea.

                  1. Actually speed limits are a clear bright line. Literally. In a given road, this fast, and no faster. Likewise, I gave a clear given situation, and nothing.

                    The math was pretty clear here. It was a really easy case. The vaccines would save 1.5 million Americans and only cast 30,000 lives. The risk-reward benefit was pretty clear here. And if a different organization was making the case (something about speed limits and road design saving an estimated 1.5 million at the cost of 30,000 lives, through statistical analysis) it would be a no-brainer.

                    Problem is, it's a trolley problem. You're taking a proactive position, "Forcing" people to do something that WILL kill some of them. If it's something they chose to do, on their own, you'd have no problem with it. You'd even encourage it. You're telling them, there's risk A, risk B, make your choice, and Risk A is a whole lot worse, you're better of with risk B.

                    But forcing them to do it? When you KNOW you'll kill some of them. Well, that's different. Don't you agree?

                  2. Speed limits are a bright line in the sense that there is a firm number but that’s not the line I had in mind. Why that specific number for that specific stretch of road? Who can say that five miles higher or lower wouldn’t have served just as well?

                3. Where’s your “line”?

                  Where's yours?

                  Suppose it's a Super-Duper-Covid that would kill 15 to 20 million Americans, and the vaccine will kill only 30,000, or 3000.

                  The issue is that there will always be some people who don't want to get vaccinated, no matter what, and some who can't be, or for whom the vaccine is ineffective. Hence refusal to be vaccinated is always going to put some other people at risk.

                  Under what conditions would you force someone to be vaccinated?

                  1. I'm not sure there ARE any real conditions I would FORCE someone to be vaccinated against their will. It's their choice.

                    I'm sure you could come up with some extreme example I would agree to. IE "They get vaccinated, or else they blow up and kill a few million people" or some other stupid nonsense. But any realistic situation? FORCE them to get vaccinated (as opposed to encourage)...I don't think I would.

                    1. And that’s where we differ. I think freedom is important but there are other things that are important too. If the vaccine kills ten people but saves a hundred we’re better off.

                    2. And I think people should be allowed to make that choice for themselves, and not have it forced upon them.

      3. "And there comes a point at which lunkheads simply have to be told that they will not be allowed to jeopardize public health, and the public has the right to take such steps as are necessary to keep them from doing it."

        Unpack this a bit. We are pre-vaccine. Do you have in mind "lunkheads" who are out partying and exposing themselves and others to COVID?

        If so, isn't the solution to just avoid gatherings with lunkheads? My sense is that you're going to tell me about lunkheads infecting non-lunkheads by going to grocery stores, but before we got into that discussion, I wanted to make sure I understood what you were talking about.

        1. Covid-19 has a low enough virulence rate that I'm not sure I would do anything with lunkheads at this point. I was speaking hypothetically: Just because we're not there yet, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

          1. Ok, that's not an answer but I'll try and keep the discussion going. I assume the problem is that there are people who spread the disease through conduct, and that includes by going out. There are vulnerable people who they could kill. Why isn't the solution that vulnerable people avoid being around others, rather than everyone has to avoid everyone?

            1. Because it's not readily apparent who has the disease and who doesn't. Or even who is vulnerable and who isn't. If the people who have the disease magically turned bright purple, and people who are vulnerable magically turned bright orange, then simply telling them to avoid each other would be a fine solution. But in the world we actually live in, I don't know that the person standing next to me at Wal Mart is, or is not, contagious. I don't even know if I'm especially vulnerable since I may have a risk factor I'm not aware of.

              1. But why is your entitlement to feel safe at Walmart superior to someone else's entitlement to not get a vaccine, or to go party balls? If you don't want to get the disease, you shouldn't go to Walmart, right?

                1. Because if I can’t shop for groceries I’ll eventually starve to death. Which is a slightly higher priority than party balls.

                  1. You can wear a N95 mask whenever you leave the house, or have groceries delivered.
                    A better argument for forced vaccination is that taxpayers foot the bill to save your sorry butt when you get sick. If it were possible to let you pay out of your own account for your care, or allow the hospital to let you die in the alley if you can't pay, that would work better. It would cost more for your privately purchased health insurance policy if you declined vaccination.
                    I don't think we are at that stage of rational though yet.

                  2. There are a lot of ways for you to avoid starving to death that don't involve you walking into a grocery store. The question, then, is why should you get to impose a quarantine on party goers just because you don't want to exercise those options? Why is your right to physically shop at a grocery store greater than someone else's right?

      4. You call people names and then expect them to care whether you get sick. Why shouldn’t they cheer for you to get sick instead?

      5. Respectfully, this is what I don't get. I get that the statement "Covid-19 has a low virulence rate" is subjective/relative. However, how can you make that statement and then use this current situation as an example of what a bunch of "lunkheads" will do when it really matters.

        I would say the real risk is what the media and politicos are doing with their alarmism. When everything is an emergency, nothing is an emergency.

      6. Where that point is, I’m not sure. But it does exist.

        This was part of my point-- we can all surely construct a hypothetical where mandatory vaccination would be justified.

        But I will not delegate to any government the power over that hypothetical. If the assertion is, "Some vaccinations should be mandatory!", I can only respond, "Tell me exactly which ones, and we'll talk about it." No authority gets carte blanche.

    2. The purpose of a vaccine is to get us to herd immunity. Most people voluntarily take them anyway. I'm not against vaccines, but mandating them - especially for this virus - is specious to me.

      I see the trade-off measured against personal liberty is a loss.

      1. Yes! A disease would have to be very serious and very contagious to turn every unvaccinated person into a threat warranting involuntary quarantine, and absent that, mandatory vaccination isn't necessary.

        It's my understanding that the recent measles victims are unvaccinated kids, not the vaccinated ones. It's not quite Darwin level of self-enforcement, but it's the same principle.

        1. Yes, but... Remember that there are always a subset of potential victims who are unable to take the vaccine. For years, for example, my kids could not get flu vaccines because they were made with eggs. We wanted vaccination but could not get it. Non-egg-based vaccines were still years in the future. My wife and I and all our non-allergic family were careful to get vaccinated every year in order to make a "firebreak" around our kids who couldn't.

          Yes, most of the recent measles outbreaks are greatest among communities who voluntarily reject the vaccines. But some of the victims are those who want-but-can't get the vaccines and have the misfortune to live near the luddites. Please don't ignore their plight in your analysis.

          1. Why were you so eager to get unnecessary flu shots many years ago? Just curious.

            1. I disagree that they were unnecessary. My personal experience coupled with the scientific papers I read convinced me that flu shots are both effective and safe. Influenza kills tens of thousands each year. While in aggregate, that is a low risk, getting vaccinated is also a low cost. It's like wearing your seatbelt. I know that there is very, very little risk of an accident in this next mile of travel. And even if we are in an accident, the seatbelt might fail. But wearing it has negligible costs so I want to buckle up.

              Yes, there are some years when the lag time for flu vaccine development leads to vaccines that are mistargeted for this year's bugs. And yes, a small fraction of folks have adverse reactions to vaccination. (My own son was in that bucket the first time because we didn't make the connection between his food allergy and the vaccine manufacturing process.) In general, however, their cost-effectiveness has been proven. At least, to my satisfaction.

      2. Measles. Our heard immunity is suffering as we speak due to a lack of voluntary compliance.

    3. We have decades of schools requiring kids to be vaccinated.

      Your slippery slope, when it comes to vaccines, has a bit more friction on it then you believe.

      1. Let's get real folks.
        Some countries have controlled SARS-Cov-2 with a vaccine on the horizon. The matter in the short run is behavior.
        Furthermore, we are talking about influenza vaccine. Despite speculation there is no evidence on the national level that influenza / pneumonia deaths have any positive correlation to covid contagion or mortality.
        Do the numbers yourself it is all on Wold-o-meter and WHO data sites.

        1. Ok, let's get "real".

          If Republicans hadn't spent the last six months turning Covid-19 into a partisan issue, pushing conspiracy theories about it being a hoax, delaying action because "it's just going to hurt blue states", spreading nonsense about vaccines including micro-chips from Bill Gates, etc. and so-on...

          If all that utter bullshit and insanity had not happened?

          Then we wouldn't be debating this. Outside of the idiotic "I'd rather have a dead kid then an autistic kid" enclaves, there would be no question whether or not there would even need to be a government mandate.

          That "real" enough for you?

  4. For someone deadly afraid of needles, or had some phobia about the long term effects of the vaccine, or even a delusional belief about Bill Gates' evil intentions, it would be nice if there were a "escape hatch" process. The person would have to get a psych evaluation to certify his/her objections were substantial and sincere. Also, the person would be subjected to mandatory testing twice a week to minimize risk. I would imagine the overwhelming majority of people would opt for whatever process is easiest. This outcome would bring risk down close to what it would be for 100% compliance, while preserving bodily liberty.

    1. I'm not a fan of making policy based on phobias.

      For instance, I enjoy trains, so I follow some of the online debates about Amtrak policy. And someone always brings up people who fear flying.

      The thing is, I have never been convinced why the proper GOVERNMENTAL response to people who fear flying shouldn't be a middle finger. Fearing flying is irrational. You are much more likely to get killed in the car ride over to the airport. There's no reason to subsidize alternate means of transportation just because people have idiotic fears.

      Same with needles. Get over yourself. Indeed, if anything, that sort of thing militates in favor of compulsion.

      1. Fearing school shootings is even more "irrational" than fearing flying.

        1. Is there a group of people demanding exemptions from the public schooling requirement and subsidized alternative instruction due to fear of school shootings?

          1. Much worse than that. They are advocating banning guns.

            1. No they're not. They're advocating regulating guns. Which is not the same thing, even if you have trouble understanding the difference.

              1. Beto O'Rourke, please pick up the white courtesy phone.

      2. Your argument is not logically consistent.

          1. The original objection is that you should not be compelled to subsidize train funding just because other people believe something you don't. On that basis, you conclude the case for compelling others to do something based on what you believe is stronger. Your first premise is at war with your conclusion. The inconsistency can be solved if you stopped at "Get over yourself."

    2. Do you then tattoo a Scarlet A on their forehead, so everyone else can shun them?

      What will actually happen is the same thing that's happened with Emotional Support Animals on Airplanes and Apartments. Some one will set up an exception mill where for the cost of a few dollars you get a telemedicine consultation with a "Mental Health Professional" and get a certificate of a needle or vaccine phobia. We've already seen people claiming exceptions to mask mandates with a doctors note.

      With masks you can exclude people who refuse to wear a mask. If they refuse to leave you can have them arrested for trespassing, of course you might get shot by some crazy with a gun. Government buildings already exclude people without masks and screen everyone for guns.

      1. Forget the phobias. There could be 20 other non-phobia reasons to get an exemption.

        In any case, if someone is willing to get tested twice a week, instead of getting the shot, then let them be part of the 2% that don't need to get the shot.

        1. if someone is willing to get tested twice a week, instead of getting the shot, then let them be part of the 2% that don’t need to get the shot.

          And if they test positive? Are you going to lock them up for two weeks? Assign a cop to make sure they self-quarantine?

  5. "that works for this society"
    What part of the analysis is unique to this society?

    1. I was trying to distinguish a hypothetical "libertarian society where all property was private, and policed effectively for who is coming on the property and who isn't." There, it may be possible not to outright mandate vaccination, but leave it to each property owner to decide whether to allow unvaccinated people on its property, and then leave it to other people to decide whether to go on the property of owners that do so allow unvaccinated people.

      1. I'm having a hard time imaging how a society like that could ever exist.

        1. It couldn't. And if it could it would be awful.

          First, suppose business owners, maybe retailers, decide in general to require "vaccination ID"s for store entry. What happens to the people top whom the vaccine is dangerous?

          Wait, wait. I know. The market will solve it! Some stores will not require the ID's and the unvaccinated can go there, so they are forced to shop in inherently dangerous places.

          And what about workplaces?

        2. That's called 'arguing the hypothetical.' The reason it's a hypothetical is to remove externalities, allowing argument of the single principle at issue without having to consider complexity irrelevant to the principle.

      2. So everyone has to carry a government issued vaccination card to show on demand and of course those cards couldn't be counterfeited (like pretty much ever college student has a fake ID) or even more intrusively require a "voluntary" medical ID chip.

        1. That's a pretty libertarian society you got there.

      3. "but leave it to each property owner to decide whether to allow unvaccinated people on its property, and then leave it to other people to decide whether to go on the property of owners that do so allow unvaccinated people."

        >>> If you have been vaccinated, you are immune. So why do you care who enters? You are immune: your demand for similarly immune comrades is silly, as you yourself are immune.

    2. Well for one thing, we're one of the societies on Earth that has turned a pandemic into a partisan issue, and in-so-doing made it much, much worse.

      As a consequence, our society is much more likely to need a vaccine to get this under control, compared to countries that have basically erradicated it already without a vaccine.

      Ironically, the very insanity that means we need the vaccine will make it unlikely to be effectively deployed.

  6. Perhaps there could be some sort of compromise position. If a person has a terrible driving record, his insurance is raised. The actions of the insured has an effect on the costs incurred by that person. If someone refuses to be vaccinated, then that person is assuming a greater risk to themselves and others, just as bad driving does.
    Make them pay a lot more for medical insurance, both to cover the increased possibility of catching the virus, and to cover the costs of those who that person infects.
    Libertarians recognize the responsibility that comes with personal freedom.

    1. And then a lot of them would simply drop their health insurance coverage. One of my quibbles with libertarianism is that it assumes that people who behave badly can be stuck with the consequences. A lot of the time they can't.

      1. And collectivism takes the opposite tack -- guilty until proven innocent, with no way to prove innocence.

        Individualism can simulate collectivism with contracts. Collectivism cannot even tolerate individualism, let alone simulate it.

        I'll take individualism any day.

        1. It's not a matter of guilty or innocent. It's a matter of an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure. And a matter of some things only work if there's complete participation.

          Suppose I refuse vaccination and my health insurance goes up. So I cancel my health insurance. And the next week I contract Covid-19 and spend a month on a ventilator, compliments of the taxpayer since I don't have the money to pay for my own hospital stay. Not only did your plan not provide me with an incentive to do the right thing and get vaccinated, it actually ended up costing the taxpayers a lot of money. And don't even bother suggesting that I simply be allowed to die at that point; we aren't barbarians and that's not how we do things.

          1. The obvious answer to that is for the government to put a lien on your paycheck for the next 20 years in order to recoup the costs.

            Now you have an incentive.

            1. And as with most libertarian answers, it would prove totally unworkable. Assuming I don't bankrupt out of it, suppose my hospital stay costs $250,000. Suppose I have a ten dollar an hour job. Just how much of that do you think will actually be collected? Especially if, say, I'm already behind in child support.

              Plus, you're assuming that people think these things through before they do things like cancel their health insurance.

              1. "It would prove totally unworkable"

                I don't know about totally unworkable. The government puts liens on people's paychecks all the time for all sorts of things. Sometimes, on occasion, the lien doesn't get paid back. But a lot of the time it does.

                People get college educations all the time that are $250,000, supported by government loans, and end up with $10 an hour jobs. And they still have those loans to pay. Just think of this like that.

                And people think about child support and other items and risk quite a lot. This provides that incentive.

                1. Child support is proof that it wouldn't work. It is entirely predictable that if you have a child, and the relationship ends, you're going to get stuck with tens of thousands of dollars in child support. It is therefore in every prospective father's best interest to practice birth control until he's absolutely certain that this is the woman he's spending the rest of his life with.

                  Yet there is no limit to guys who cannot be bothered to wear a condom because they just don't think it through. Even though it sometimes produces catastrophic financial consequences for them. And a lot of child support debt doesn't get paid off; fathers simply spend the rest of their lives never able to dig out from under it.

                  1. Not sure you can say child support is "proof" it doesn't work, because of all the money that is spent in child support. It certainly proves that you can get billions of dollars from people this way.

                    In terms of incentives, it's a bit of a different situation. For a few reasons, among them....
                    1. Having a child is something people often choose to do intentionally, then things don't work out later. People rarely choose to intentionally get a disease (Covid parties aside).

                    1. You can get billions of dollars from people that way, but nowhere near break even. The taxpayers are going to end up subsidizing it, one way or another.

                    2. "You can get billions of dollars from people that way, but nowhere near break even."

                      Perhaps. But we were talking about incentivizing people having health insurance.

                      Personally, the risk of being on the hook for 60% of my paycheck being garnished to go to the federal government for the rest of my life is an "incentive" to get health insurance. (Yes, the IRS can seize up to 60%)

                      Perhaps that's not incentive for some people. And perhaps the federal government doesn't make back all the money on some people. But for many, many people, that is likely an incentive.

                    3. I don’t think it would be because I see no evidence that people are rational decision makers. I’ve made boneheaded decisions in my life and so have you. If people were rational there would be a lot fewer felons, bad marriages, and fathers paying child support.

                    4. So, here we go back to the core issue at hand between the two of us. And it's the matter of choice.

                      There are clear rational incentive here. It makes rational sense for people to have health insurance, due to the risk of owing the government lots of money, if the person gets ill and the government needs to foot the bill.

                      But the issue is, you think people will be irrational. That they will choose incorrectly, despite the rational incentive. And because you think people will choose incorrectly, your response is to take that choice away from them.

                      My response is different. I'm well aware some people will make a poor choice. But I view that maintaining their ability to MAKE that choice is a critical aspect. Even being aware that some will choose poorly. And I will happily point out the poor choice, and encourage they make the correct choice. But I would not take that choice away from them. It is their choice, good or bad, to make.

                2. Sometimes, on occasion, the lien doesn’t get paid back. But a lot of the time it does.

                  A lot of the time it doesn't, especially when it starts hitting six figures.

            2. And what about the cost of treating the patient you infected?

              That person's insurance company is stuck, because you cancelled your policy. So everybody's premium is going up.

      2. "A lot of the time they can’t."

        In the example you're using, that's not true. You don't like how libertarians may want to outsource those consequences, but it doesn't mean "they can't".

    2. I've never gotten a flu vaccine. I've had the flu maybe three times in my life (knocks on wood). Where does that leave a person like me who reasonably calculates I don't need it for now.

      I also read that the vaccine as it's currently being created, may come with the need to have a booster shot every year. If true....


      1. Great example of the anecdotal fallacious reasoning that makes government needed in this space.

      2. Being lucky is not the same thing as being reasonable.

      3. Note the response. Your concerns don't matter. The immediate mentality will be to downgrade you to sub-human or sub-adult-human status rather than treating you like a neighbor and fellow citizen. That’s where society is at.

        1. Yup.

          Frightening eh?

          Notice how healthy people (asymptomatic) are seen as a public health threat. And we don't know precisely how such people transmit - if at all. The Diamond Princess incident lends some clues. Hint: It falls in line with WHO's claim it was rare but since retracted.

      4. You all misread me. I'm not against vaccines. I own a daycare and we require children to have them.

        I'm just saying in my case I calculate it's not in my interest at the moment. Maybe in 15 years when I'm older I will. Like it or not, we're still a free society and people will consider the same risk/reward calculus.


    3. Car insurance is mandated, right? And I believe it pays out to the person you damaged, right? And insurance rather favors those with resources to spend on it, yes?

      Plus, causality is not as easy to identify with a virus as with a car accident.

      Dunno if this would work.

      1. You could make driving license issuance conditioned on proof of vaccine.

        1. Thereby making drivers licenses no longer have anything to do with driving.

          And then courts will tell you you can't coerce people that way.

          1. What would be the legal basis for a court to tell people they can't be coerced in that way? If a state has the power to compel vaccination, it certainly has the power to induce it by lesser means (conditioning a privilege on it).

  7. A study I saw 15 or so years ago was that the man hours lost getting the annual flu shot was greater than the man hours lost to having the flu.

    The societal advantage is that those who have taken the flu shot and/or otherwise have some immunity to the flu act as "control rods" in the "chain reaction" and therefore keep stopping each leg of the chain reaction thereby keeping the flu infection rate to low % instead of infecting the entire population.

    1. That's the wrong question. The question is how many man hours would have been lost if people hadn't be vaccinated?

      1. A Harvard study I read 20 years ago said 80% of the people who asked the question you asked exploded.

  8. Professor,

    My only concern is articles like this:

    Pretty nasty and nefarious stuff if you ask me. Of course, they seem to all be progressives and one of them is - surprise - a bioethicist.

    The language and rhetoric used, I feel, draws an appropriate analogy to Nazi medical papers.

    I've seen one too many of these positions (including here in Quebec) where they connect (based on specious evidence) 'mask wearing' and now a push for mandatory vaccines to 'social contracts' and patriotism.

    A toxic mix, no?

    1. And that doesn't even cover the micro-chip angle developed by MIT and I believe Rice University pushed by Gates.

      Vaxx papers please?

      I don't think this is even conspiratorial anymore at this point. It seems we're pulling in this direction.

    2. The is no question that masks reduce the risk of transmission , somewhere between a low of 10% (if primarily via aerosol ) and a high of 30% if primary via droplets. Though most likely transmision is via aerosols.

      The best protocol for reducing transmission is Space (social distancing) and second best is Time (reducing time of contact with others). Those two factors reduce risk of transmission by 90+%. Unless you are violating space and time, mask wearing provides only a trivial amount of extra protection.

      The best analogy is the mandate to wear motorcycle helmets. Everyone agrees that motorcycle helmets reduce the risk of brain damage in the event of a fall or crash. The mask mandate has become the equivalent of a helmet wearing mandate when walking the dog.

      1. I've read that but curious to see a link to your claim.

        There is PLENTY of evidence to challenge this assertion.

        From what I've learned by reading the literature (upwards of 20), recent studies at best support voluntary usage but empirical evidence doesn't back up mandatory mask wearing.

      2. Motorcycle helmets protect the rider.

        Masks are not to protect the wearer. They are for catching sneezes, runny nose drops, drool, and spittle from speaking or singing that might infect and kill another person in your grocery aisle. Catching all of that means the mask wearer compromises his own immune system, along with the reduced oxygen and increased carbon dioxide levels.

        Viruses can enter most masks from around their non-existent seals and through the material.

        Denmark, Holland and a few other countries have not mandated masks, except for mass transit where people stand face to face, based on current studies showing that they are not really effective.

        1. My analogy with wearing a motorcycle helmet with the mask mandate was to show that space and time have already reduced the risk of transmission to near zero, as such, any additional benefit of the mask mandate is trivial. Wearing a mask in mass transit is beneficial since you are violating space and time.

          "They are for catching sneezes, runny nose drops, drool, and spittle from speaking or singing "

          Those items primarily concern droplets which masks reduce the transmission in the range of 30% to 60%. However, there is stronger indication that the virus is transmitted primarily via aerosols. Yet the masks provide little benefit if the transmission is via aerosols.

  9. Every society permits some risks and prohibits others. The question is where to draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable risks. The answer depends largely on the risk tolerance of people in the society, although abstract principles can have some influence. As a result, there is no a priori answer, either in general or in specific cases.

    In the case of influenza vaccine, the vaccine is long-established, so its risks and efficacy are known. The same is true of other long-used vaccines. A vaccine for a coronavirus would be novel (more novel than the virus itself in this case), so its risks and efficacy would be largely unknown at first. Certainly, it is reasonable to make vaccines in both groups available for those who want them.

    The case for compulsory vaccination is weaker when the vaccine is not long-established, no vaccine of that type has previously been produced (successfully), and the disease itself is still not totally understood. But since the use of compulsion depends on the population's risk tolerance, it is probably best decided through the democratic process at the lowest practical level of government.

    1. It is utter nonsense that "in the case of influenza vaccine, the vaccine is long-established, so its risks and efficacy are known."

      In contrast, "the effectiveness of influenza vaccines varies depending on several factors, such as the age and health of the recipient, the types and subtypes of circulating influenza viruses, and the degree of similarity between circulating viruses and those included in the vaccine." See

      1. Your link provides evidence that the influenza vaccine's risks and efficacy are known...?

  10. While I agree that "a requirement that people not allow their bodies to be media for unwitting transmission of deadly diseases strikes me as quite compatible with a generally libertarian perspective on the world," I'm not certain such a requirement is easily understood or implemented. Feeble-mindedness is a "deadly disease" (with significant cost to society) which can be unwittingly spread intergenerationally and which can be eliminated (albeit over 8000 or more years). As a comment above notes, Ebola is also a "deadly disease," as are the ever-changing and ever-increasing strains of flu.

    I'm generally pro-vaccine -- for example, I hope everyone anywhere near me has had the meningitis vaccine -- but do have limits and admit that I do not base these limits on "accepted science." Accepted science has led us to lead paint, lead pipes, leaded gasoline, DDT, Thalidomide, PFOAs... and the H1N1 vaccine of the 1970s: in each instance, documented difficulties were simply dismissed.

    Why is it -- or at what point does it become -- "moral" or "collectively good" for me to impose my "scientific" view on others? What if my gut instinct is more accurate than another's science? Do I have the right to protect my life (and that of others) by following my gut and _refraining_ from accepting prevailing science?

    The annual "flu vaccine" -- the generic term for a concoction aimed at reducing (but not proven to reduce) the spread of something and unknown someone guessed might spread during upcoming months -- is a wonderful example: the annual flu vaccine is is an unproven guardian against a hypothetical foe of unknown strength whose appearance has been predicted via the augury of well-respected scientists. What makes it moral for me to embrace the logic of the heard? It didn't work for the lemmings who, while not purposely suicidal, can lead themselves to death ( see ).

  11. This is a dangerous road to walk down, the "1% risk of harm" so it's OK to mandate something... Especially when it's in regards to people's bodies.

  12. Flu vaccine is not necessarily harmless:

    (note that they observed a strong susceptibility to coronavirus [*not* COVID-19 ... it was earlier] for those who have taken the vaccine.

    1. The study also showed protection from parainfluenza, RSV, and other non-influenza virus coinfections. The conclusion was that "Receipt of influenza vaccination was not associated with virus interference among our population."

      1. There was no observed interference with *flu* virus ... that is correct. But, for all we know (and there is no evidence to support this - it is merely a hypothetical), the vaccine could have set people up for a stronger COVID response.

        1. "There was no observed interference with *flu* virus … that is correct."

          There was no general observed interference with viruses, including with non-flu viruses (like parainfluenza, RSV, and non-influenza virus coinfections). From author:

          "While the study found no association with influenza vaccination and overall risk of becoming infected with other respiratory viruses (slight decrease in odds was observed), when examining the association with influenza vaccination and the risk of becoming infected with specific viruses at the individual level, there were two viruses that showed significantly increased odds (endemic coronavirus and human metapneumovirus)."

          I have interpreted this as an overall decrease in interference with non-flu respiratory viruses, with two notable exceptions.

          1. Yes ... your interpretation is consistent with mine. I was focusing on the "two notable exceptions".

            1. Then I think the only disagreement we have is "harmless". Since a person deciding to take the vaccine beforehand has no reason to know whether they'll get parainfluenza/RSV/non-influenza virus coinfections on the one hand versus endemic coronavirus/human metapneumovirus on the other, it would be overall more harmful for them to not take the vaccine, since they would lose the efficacy against influenza, and the observed decreases for the first set.

              1. Since there is reasonable doubt about the future, forcing a person to make health choices according to your analysis in contradistinction to their own is a harm, much like coercing you to eat your brocolli or putting all smokers in jail.

                1. What's that got to do with me or our discussion?

  13. If Americans were not treated like enemies by various government and social institutions, then the niceties of these considerations might hold more weight.

    As it is, you can probably expect resistance to any rule from anyone in authority because rule-makers are viewed with well-founded suspicion.

    If the Israel government tells the people of Gaza they must be vaccinated, are the people of Gaza going to go along? No. Same story if Washington DC is dictating to Florida or if Sacramento is dictating to, say, Madera County.

    You want people to go along with your public health plans, stop treating them like enemies.

  14. Sometimes it's the mandate that gets people's backs up, and thereby creates the resistance.

    1. I agree. Right now, I think a vaccine mandate would be met with violence resistance, which doesn't mean the mandate is wrong but illustrates where the supposedly "consenting governed" are.

  15. > morally permissible for the government to require various vaccines for everybody

    It's tough to imagine a scenario where we would really "require" a vaccine "for everybody." For example, almost every morally defensible plan would allow exemptions for people with severely compromised immune systems, for whom the vaccine would cause significant risk of harm.

    If you buy my argument that we must grant exceptions, the question becomes where do you draw the line? For example, do we accept sincerely held beliefs that it's a mortal sin (" exercise thereof..."). IMHO, the place to start is to ask what percentage of immune people do we need for herd immunity. The number I hear w.r.t. the Wuhan Flu seems to be 70-80%... which would imply we can have a fairly low bar w.r.t. these exceptions.

    Exit question, why don't we also harass/ridicule people who request exclusions from mosquito control programs?

  16. "as a moral matter of individual liberty, it seems to me that there's little support for a claimed freedom from getting immunized"

    I'm confused. The case seems rather straight-forward: bodily autonomy. The government does not get to forcibly detain your and prick your skin to inject its lab grown substances (with inevitable residual uncertainty as to effects) into your bloodstream.

    Does EV feel the same way about the "right" to abortion - my body, my choice?

    A few thoughts.

    1. The science is never as neat and tidy as the law school hypotheticals, and always much slower. It takes decades of use and data to have a level of certainty about a virus or a drug.

    2. Nobody is legally required to come into contact with anyone else. The only way that unvaccinated person A harms another person B is if B voluntarily comes into contact with A or someone who had contact with A.

    The world and our own bodies are full of innumerable viruses and bacteria all the time, it's nature and hardly avoidable, but if you want to keep yourself in a sterilized bubble, go for it.

    3. Who decides? Our government and our institutions in general are not particularly trustworthy or competent, so I don't want to entrust them with the power to make a decision for 330 million people on whether they inject the government's latest genetically engineered substance.

    If we are going to say that a violation of bodily autonomy might be justified in some hypothetical instance of a vaccine mandate, then presumably this is justified by some social contract theory or the consent of the governed. What kind of presumed majoritarian action is then required to make it happen? An Act of Congress that specifically sets forth the mandate and the exact chemical makeup of the substance? The thought seems laughable. Instead, this would be another power that largely accrues to our permanent bureaucratic state in D.C., with some kind of prior blank check slipped in a Congressional bill.

    4. What is the level of epistemological certainty that should be required to violate bodily autonomy in this case? We have seen science and medicine thoroughly politicized at the current time, for example with a line of attack on Hydroxycholoroquine based on the absence of randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled trials. And yet - most of our vaccines have never been subject to such studies. Here's a must watch video of CNN arguing with a Yale epidemiologist:

    Will the eventual coronavirus vaccine be proven effective with a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled trial? Will it?? Either way, there is always some uncertainty, but what level is justifiable for a mandate?

    5. The premise of American government originally was that government is not to be trusted. So aside from practical difficulties and incompetence, could this power be used nefariously? Yes, of course. And I would go further and assume that if it could be, then it's reasonably likely that it will be.

    A simple motive of greed and financial gain could be terrible enough. More than likely, these things become politicized and used as political weapons for political reasons apart from health. What else? Scientists are also interested in how chemical substances can be used to modify behavior. EV's reasoning would not apply to a behavioral modification drug mandate, so if we assume that is out of bounds, then another misuse of this power could be to that end. Veering into the realm of science fiction, who knows what will be developed in the future? There is a video on YouTube uploaded on September 20, 2011 which purports to be a leaked Pentagon briefing from April 2005, entitled "Leaked Pentagon Video Shows Vaccine Designed to ~ Modify Behavior ~." There is no evidence I know of that the video is genuine; it may likely be fake, although it is very intelligently created misinformation in that case. To my understanding, I think the concepts in the video are rather pseudoscience-y whether the video is genuine or not. For my purposes, it serves as a thought experiment, so it doesn't matter whether the video is fake or whether the scientific concepts are well founded. It seems like a justified thought experiment for the government that sprayed San Francisco with microbes in 1950 to test the effects of bioweapons, among countless other such experiments.

    1. "I’m confused. The case seems rather straight-forward: bodily autonomy."

      The case for mandatory vaccination is also bodily autonomy.

      1. "The case for mandatory vaccination is also bodily autonomy."

        No. If you mean people should be forced to have a government approved and liability protected corporate product injected into their bodies to pretend to secure the autonomy of others' bodies, then you're just baldly for biological coercion against everyone.

        1. The case for mandatory vaccination is that other people not vaccinating interferes with my bodily autonomy. It's the same argument for laws against rape, murder, etc. I'm not saying that mandatory vaccination is a good idea; I'm saying the argument for it is of the same kind as countless other arguments that prohibit you from doing things to other people without their consent.

          1. NToJ, why didn't we make laws a couple of decades ago mandating that HIV infected men and women must wear armbands to warn others off of intimate relations with them? Wouldn't that at least constitute a non-invasive informed consent for a society ready to put needles in every man, woman, child and baby, as if they were presumed future carriers of a not so lethal virus?

            The first would socially stigmatize and the other biologically, coercively transgress. Of course, both scenarios would be too onerous for a free society. Clearly, we don't want one, at this point.

            1. "NToJ, why didn’t we make laws a couple of decades ago mandating that HIV infected men and women must wear armbands to warn others off of intimate relations with them?"

              Setting aside the ridiculous armband example, a majority of states did criminalize transmission of HIV/AIDS. For your ridiculous example, not every risk justifies every response. I suspect armbands would lead to unnecessary stigmatization of people with the disease. And since it would discourage people from finding out if they had HIV/AIDS (for fear of criminal repercussions for not wearing the armband, and private repercussions for wearing it), it may lead to more harm than good.

              "Clearly, we don’t want one, at this point."

              Mandatory vaccinations are not some foreign concept in American law. Texas's former governor mandated HPV vaccinations by executive order (although that's since been reversed), and requires several vaccinations for children attending school.

              1. NToJ, please read more carefully. Before you responded, I wrote that social stigmatization of HIV carriers would be wrong. I also contended that forcing people to get a particular vaccine is biologically intrusive and against any idea of personal autonomy.

                Further, the safety of that Texas mandated HPV vaccine you tout is hotly disputed in medical and parental opinions, and that is why it is no longer mandated, after the alleged harm it has done.

                Not all schools require vaccines, and there's homeschooling, but, increasingly, we don't want a free society, do we? We want a false sense of being safe, a guarantee of biological security as promised and dictated by the State at the individual's and our children's expense.

                No thank you from me. But you would force me and mine.

                1. "NToJ, please read more carefully. Before you responded, I wrote that social stigmatization of HIV carriers would be wrong. I also contended that forcing people to get a particular vaccine is biologically intrusive and against any idea of personal autonomy."

                  I think you need to read more carefully. Your analogy was between (1) ineffective and socially invasive policy to (2) effective but biologically socially invasive policy. The distinction between the two is that one doesn't work and is invasive, against one that does work but is invasive. We might agree that "social stigmatization of HIV carriers would be wrong" but not agree about why.

                  There's no question that forced vaccination "is biologically intrusive and against any idea of personal autonomy." I certainly hope you aren't laboring under the impression that the argument for compelled vaccination misdiagnoses this problem.

                  Your argument re: mandated HPV demonstrates the point. It might be the case that the policy was misguided (I think the science behind it happens to disagree with you, but whatever). However, if it was in fact safe, and did in fact completely prevent cervical cancer with no negative side effects, would you even still have an objection to compelled vaccination (with narrow exemptions)? If so, why even bring up its (alleged) non-safety in the first place?

                  "But you would force me and mine."

                  I'm not trying to force anything on you or yours...?

                  1. Actually, my argument was not about contrasting "ineffective and socially invasive policy" to "effective but biologically socially invasive policy."

                    What is "ineffective" about those testing positive with X communicable disease being compelled by the State to reveal their infectiousness to others? I never said such would be an ineffectual policy, only an onerous and undesirable one in these days of supposed individual privacy, choice, and dignity, but which are now being eroded into a mess of State interests as the State sees fit.

                    Too, I never posited that the HPV vaccine is an effective or safe remedy for potential cervical cancer. Even were I to not to believe the medical objections to it, I'd still never stand for it to be mandatory.

                    You're missing the point completely.

                    1. "I never said such would be an ineffectual policy..."

                      I know. I'm the one who said it. The reason I said it was to show a critical distinction between the two invasive policies referenced. You responded, strangely, saying that you admitted invasiveness is not good, which of course we both agree.

                      On the ineffectiveness, I already explained it to you. Requiring people with HIV/AIDS to identify with bands would discourage them from getting tested for HIV/AIDS. Which would frustrate the end goal of stopping the spread of the disease. The better rule (adopted by a majority of states) is that people who knowingly transmit HIV/AIDS have criminal liability.

                      Circling back, your argument is that invasive policies are not permitted at all, no matter how effective. You used an idiotic example of an ineffective policy, contrasted with an effective one. The argument for mandatory [anything] is strongest when the policy is effective. Since you've conceded that you don't care how effective a policy can be, and that anything that is invasive is wrong, there's no reason to continue discussions. You're against seat belts, I'm not. It's a value judgment.

            2. Edit for clarification last para:

              "The first would socially stigmatize [SOME, those infected] and the other biologically, coercively transgress [EVERYONE, infected or no].

              "Of course, both scenarios would be too onerous for a free society."

          2. Say I live off the land in the woods. You're saying the government must come and forcibly inject their substances into me, because your bodily autonomy requires it?

            1. No, I'm saying the case for mandatory vaccinations is rooted in bodily autonomy. I'm not even arguing for mandatory vaccination. But to remove all doubt: No, I wouldn't require a hermit to vaccinate at all, so long as I was certain he would remain a hermit and never come into contact with people. What would be the point of mandating that person to take a vaccine?

              1. If the case for mandatory vaccinations is rooted in bodily autonomy, then it's an even far weaker case than I had imagined. This is like saying that your right to bodily autonomy entitles you to take my property to buy a car and some food so that your body works well and you can get around.

                1. Just for laughs, what was your understanding of the case for mandatory vaccinations if not bodily autonomy?

                  1. Public health and welfare. It's a collectivist argument, not an individualist one.

          3. "The case for mandatory vaccination is that other people not vaccinating interferes with my bodily autonomy. It’s the same argument for laws against rape, murder, etc."

            The laws against rape, murder, assault, stalking, burglary, etc, are proscriptions of engaging in illicit activities that would harm another. Laws that would mandate injections or oral doses of a commercial product coerce a biological interventionist activity, by the State upon us, on the tenuous basis that each of us must protect any and all other people from getting sick with a particular germ or virus.

            Btw, such laws are being made by the same State that has severely limited the liability of vaccine makers.

            1. "The laws against rape, murder, assault, stalking, burglary, etc, are proscriptions of engaging in illicit activities that would harm another."

              Take the word "illicit" out because that's what we're arguing about. The argument for mandatory vaccinations is that people who aren't vaccinating are engaging in activities that would harm another.

              "Laws that would mandate injections or oral doses of a commercial product coerce a biological interventionist activity..."

              You're just arguing that the cure is worse than the disease, which is a fine argument to make. But it doesn't negate the fact that the argument for mandatory vaccines is bodily autonomy.

              1. Gee, I just can't grok what you're saying. Mandatory vaccines promote bodily autonomy? Are you speaking in a collective sense, as in the body politic or biological?

                My straightforward argument is this: Laws against intentionally murdering and raping others are not the same as mandates to submit to the State jabbing your arms.

                1. What about laws against driving while intoxicated?

                  1. Here's the difference, NToJ: Citizen knowingly imbibes a certain level of alcohol and thus risks a demonstrated level of impairment while driving a licensed vehicle on state controlled roads.

                    Your vaccine scenario would have everyone guilty of potentially contracting a virus and potentially passing it on to somebody somewhere just by existing and going about their sober dailiness.

                    One behavior is irresponsible and subject to driving laws, the other used to be normal existence now defined down to potential harm done to others just by living and breathing.

                    Submitting to highly questionable government statistics and models which have shown to be grossly exaggerated wrt the Covid virus, accepting medicine censorship and mask mandates, supporting quarantines of the healthy, and advocating for Big Pharma jabs with their attendant side effects doesn't ensure anyone's health. It ensures your and maybe my submission to the State.

                    If you want to think of all of us as recklessly living and going about our business while potentially infected and infectious with the disease du jour, that's more about your own tendency to fascism. Why don't you protect yourself and not coerce the jab of pharma concoctions into those who are otherwise healthy and certainly sceptical?

                    1. "Citizen knowingly imbibes a certain level of alcohol and thus risks a demonstrated level of impairment while driving a licensed vehicle on state controlled roads."

                      At the very least would you agree, then, with mandatory vaccinations of people who have the disease? Or government-enforced quarantine? Because above you suggested that anything invasive is unacceptable.

                      "Submitting to highly questionable government statistics and models which have shown to be grossly exaggerated..."

                      It's a hypothetical argument. There is no vaccine for COVID. Why even bring up "highly questionable government statistics"? Are you admitting that you would agree with mandatory vaccination if the statistics were not questionable? If not, stop changing the subject.

                      "If you want to think of all of us as recklessly living and going about our business while potentially infected and infectious with the disease du jour, that’s more about your own tendency to fascism."

                      I am against mandatory vaccinations for COVID.

          4. With rape, murder etc, causality is direct and verifiable.

            1. What is your philosophical distinction between creating a risk of harm and creating actual harm?

              1. "What is your philosophical distinction between creating a risk of harm and creating actual harm?"

                Such an argument works neatly for disarming all law-abiding citizens, to include their access to kitchen knives. For censoring most postings on social media. For not imprisoning school zone speeders and for not mandating government-sanctioned counselling for fired postal workers?

                1. Edit:
                  For imprisoning school zone speeders and for mandating government-sanctioned counselling for fired postal workers.

              2. In your question, can the risk be quantified and causality directly linked?

                Or is it some emotional thing?

            2. So you agree that if a disease comes along in which causality is direct and verifiable, mandated vaccinations could be justified? If so, would you agree with me that the basis for justification would be the bodily autonomy of the people contracting the disease?

    2. "2. Nobody is legally required to come into contact with anyone else."

      This isn't true.

      1. When? They shouldn't be.

        1. There are a thousand examples. I sue you and notice your deposition. Or I sue somebody else and subpoena you. That's full on compelled attendance. The state also forces you to physically show up both to their offices (DMV) or to some third-party (car inspection) as a condition for issuing a driver's license. If I shut in my house for weeks at a time a wellness check will issue and the police will come knocking, and enter. Driving around subjects me to routine traffic stops, resulting in compelled contact. I have a daughter. The state requires me to come into contact with others, which is necessary to care for her. If the draft is reinstated tomorrow, someone will be coming into contact with me, and then I'll be in contact with a lot of people. There are a lot of things I can do in the comfort of my own home, but which doing so will result in my compelled contact with governmental actors.

          1. So what? Due process. The government can stop doing those things, and do more things electronically. You're not required to drive, but the DMV can socially distance, put a plexiglass plate in between your faces and a little bottle of hand sanitizer out front for the snowflakes.

            1. "So what?" You asked a question. I answered.

              1. Ok. But I was assuming that you had a larger pertinent point. Do you think that the DMV undermines my overall argument?

                I was actually going to write "Nobody is legally required to come into contact with anyone else, or at least they shouldn't be." I could add that they shouldn't and need not be required to come into contact with others in a way that affords the opportunity to pass diseases. Unless you are subject to criminal process or something of course.

  17. Nobody is legally required to come into contact with anyone else. The only way that unvaccinated person A harms another person B is if B voluntarily comes into contact with A or someone who had contact with A.

    WTF are you talking about?

    We come into random contact with all sorts of people all the time. There's not some decison being made to stand behind this person in line but not that one.

    Our government and our institutions in general are not particularly trustworthy or competent, so I don’t want to entrust them with the power to make a decision for 330 million people on whether they inject the government’s latest genetically engineered substance.

    Our government would be a lot more trustworthy if it weren't being run by Republicans, specifically Trumpists.

    1. "Our government would be a lot more trustworthy if it weren’t being run by Republicans, specifically Trumpists."

      It wasn't Trump who sent infected people into nursing homes.

      NY has 1/5 of all deaths, NJ 1/10. No "Trumpists" involved.

      The worst state with an arguably "Trumpist" governor is Arizona, 14th worst in deaths.

    2. I sense he contends that people who wish to remain safe should stay at home while those who wish to interact with others can do so. In other words, the reckless are to be privileged to roam while the sensible are welcome to be confined by choice.

      I not only doubt these 'you can't tell me what to do' purists will ever win an argument in modern society but wonder how they tolerate the tyranny of stop signs, center lines, parking restrictions, and traffic lights.

      1. "people who wish to remain safe should stay at home"

        No, people who "wish to remain safe" should wake up and realize that (1) there is nothing wrong with going out in public notwithstanding the lack of forced government injections and "papers please" vax patrols, and (2) ultimately, there is no such thing as completely "remaining safe."

        Failing that, people are free to exercise their personal liberty and act in accordance with their misconceptions and embrace of propaganda.

    3. "There’s not some decison being made to stand behind this person in line but not that one."

      There is a decision to go mingle with unknown persons in public, or not.

      1. With respect to the pandemic, do you expect your argument - 'go out if you want, stay home if you want, but don't mandate vaccination or a mask or anything else' -- to persuade (a) a substantial element, let alone majority, of the American public or (b) enough decision-makers to influence policy in America?

        I do not expect that argument to be popular or successful.

        1. I don't have a particularly strong opinion about whether masks should be mandated by states or even vaccines, but I do have a strong opinion that this cannot be done by the federal government.

          1. That opinion seems destined to fail throughout your lifetime.

            For good reason.

  18. Let's say government requires a Covid vaccination.

    How is this enforced? What are the punishments? When does it start? What if the vaccine is not fully proven?

    1. It's unconstitutional, so of course the courts immediately shut it down. End of story. (Yeah right)

      1. Is that a Trump U., Liberty, Ave Maria, or Regent law degree talking, M L?

        1. As opposed to your Cracker Jack box law degree, Artie?

          1. The Supreme Court has ruled that mandatory vaccination is constitutional. That century-old authority is likely the reason Prof. Volokh did not consider the issue worth mention.

            I'll see your ignorance and raise Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905).

            I recommend that you fold.

            1. I was already well aware of the Jacobson case. I think that case is correct that the US Constitution does not prevent a state from mandating vaccines, just as it does not prevent a state from banning abortion, notwithstanding incorrect court decisions. A federal vaccine mandate would be unconstitutional.

          2. Some of those Cracker Jack box lawyerly types would have it that all Supreme Court decisions are perfect and perpetual, at least when it suits.

    2. If the Fed tried to make it mandatory, it'd probably be through the IRS.

      At the state level, you have more options. Big ones would be schools, busniess licenses, driver's licenses, hunting and fishing licenses... anywhere you need a license, they could slip in that you have to wave your vaccine record to get approved.

      Enforcement would largely be that if you don't wave your vaccine record, you don't get your kid into school, you don't get your license, etc.

      It's not that hard.

  19. Do you know how many lives we could save if we immediately confiscated any vehicle capable of exceeding 10mph, banning the manufacture/sale/importation, of such vehicles, etc.? Every time you drive your car you are putting the public and yourself at risk, it's so unacceptable!


    1. Judgment seems to be a troublesome concept for people who lack it.

  20. Welcome to the Brave New World.

    “But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”

  21. Controversial, risky "gain of function" studies (which manipulate deadly viruses to increase their transmissibility or virulence) were previously banned in the U.S. or at least banned from public funding. In December 2017, this policy was reversed.

    Anyone have any opinions on this issue? Gain of function studies - yay or nay?

    (Incidentally, it appears the prior restriction may have played a role in why the Obama administration was funding gain of function studies on bat coronaviruses in China rather than the in the US, specifically, at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China, where COVID-19 started).

    1. 1. That's not why the ban was put into place.
      In 2014, several breaches of protocol at US government laboratories brought matters to a head. The news that dozens of workers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) might have been exposed to anthrax, that vials of smallpox virus had been left lying around in an NIH storeroom, and that the CDC had unwittingly sent out samples of ordinary influenza virus contaminated with H5N1, shook faith in the country's biosafety procedures. Over 200 scientists signed the Cambridge Working Group declaration arguing for a cessation of experiments creating potential pandemic pathogens “until there has been a quantitative, objective and credible assessment of the risks, potential benefits, and opportunities for risk mitigation, as well as comparison against safer experimental approaches”.

      1. What's not why? I don't know what point you're trying to make. From your article:

        Marc Lipsitch (Harvard University, MA, USA) is a founding member of the Cambridge Working Group. “I still do not believe a compelling argument has been made for why these studies are necessary from a public health point-of-view; all we have heard is that there are certain narrow scientific questions that you can ask only with dangerous experiments”, he said. “I would hope that when each HHS review is performed someone will make the case that strains are all different, and we can learn a lot about dangerous strains without making them transmissible.” He pointed out that every mutation that has been highlighted as important by a gain-of-function experiment has been previously highlighted by completely safe studies. “There is nothing for the purposes of surveillance that we did not already know”, said Lipsitch. “Enhancing potential pandemic pathogens in this manner is simply not worth the risk.”

        And from this article:

        Critics, such as Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch, have argued that such work “entails a unique risk that a laboratory accident could spark a pandemic, killing millions.” These objections motivated the Obama administration to halt all domestic GOF research in 2011, a restriction that was later lifted in 2017, following the implementation of new safety protocols.

    2. 2. No US grant money went to gain-of function research. In fact NIH reviewed the research it was funding at WIV and found it did not fall under the moratorium.

      3. There is no reason to bring up Obama in conjunction with the NIH research, which was a standard peer-reviewed decision and continued after the change in administrations. Unless you're trying to stir up conspiratorial claptrap.

      This was not a man made virus made by China and Obama, ML.

  22. "In children 6 months through 35 months of age receiving a 0.25 mL dose of Fluzone Quadrivalent in Study 1 (NCT01240746, see, the most common (≥10%) injection-site
    reactions were pain (57%) a or tenderness (54%) , erythema (37%), and swelling (22%); the most common solicited systemic adverse reactions were irritability (54%), abnormal crying (41%),
    malaise (38%), drowsiness (38%), appetite loss (32%), myalgia (27%), vomiting (15%), and fever (14%). In children 3 years through 8 years of age, the most common (≥10%) injection-site
    reactions were pain (67%), erythema (34%), and swelling (25%); the most common solicited systemic adverse reactions were myalgia (39%), malaise (32%), and headache (23%).

  23. “In children 6 months through 35 months of age receiving a 0.25 mL dose of Fluzone Quadrivalent in Study 1 (NCT01240746, see http://clinicaltrials .gov), the most common (≥10%) injection-site
    reactions were pain (57%) a or tenderness (54%) , erythema (37%), and swelling (22%); the most common solicited systemic adverse reactions were irritability (54%), abnormal crying (41%),
    malaise (38%), drowsiness (38%), appetite loss (32%), myalgia (27%), vomiting (15%), and fever (14%). In children 3 years through 8 years of age, the most common (≥10%) injection-site
    reactions were pain (67%), erythema (34%), and swelling (25%); the most common solicited systemic adverse reactions were myalgia (39%), malaise (32%), and headache (23%).

  24. “In children 6 months through 35 months of age receiving a 0.25 mL dose of Fluzone Quadrivalent in Study 1 (NCT01240746, see clinicaltrials .gov), the most common (≥10%) injection-site
    reactions were pain (57%) a or tenderness (54%) , erythema (37%), and swelling (22%); the most common solicited systemic adverse reactions were irritability (54%), abnormal crying (41%),
    malaise (38%), drowsiness (38%), appetite loss (32%), myalgia (27%), vomiting (15%), and fever (14%). In children 3 years through 8 years of age, the most common (≥10%) injection-site
    reactions were pain (67%), erythema (34%), and swelling (25%); the most common solicited systemic adverse reactions were myalgia (39%), malaise (32%), and headache (23%).

    1. So do you even have a thesis or do you just want to be able to ignore the virus and any argument towards that will do?

      Because you're throwing a LOT at the wall.

      My favorite is when NToJ answered your question and you yelled at him about it.

      1. This is from the packaged insert for the flu vaccine. Do you not see how this information is relevant to evaluating the infringement on bodily autonomy that is being weighed in this discussion?

        1. Don Nico
          August.10.2020 at 10:55 pm

          Let’s get real folks.
          Some countries have controlled SARS-Cov-2 with a vaccine on the horizon. The matter in the short run is behavior.
          Furthermore, we are talking about influenza vaccine. Despite speculation there is no evidence on the national level that influenza / pneumonia deaths have any positive correlation to covid contagion or mortality.
          Do the numbers yourself it is all on World-o-meter and WHO data sites.

  25. Condoms provide greater effectiveness against STI's than do vaccines.

    For some reason, though, I doubt Eugene would support the people in government mandate people who engage in high-risk, unprotected sex such as sodomy, wear condoms.

    Objectively, the viral and bacterial threat from high-risk unprotected sodomy has to be one of the greatest disease threats modern humans face. In the US alone, the federal government spends 6x more on AIDS (a disease that could eradicated with a condom) than they do on cancer.

    1. Dunno about you, but I think of sex pretty differently than the way I think about shedding virus.

      1. Do you think the only people harmed are the two people involved in the sodomy? Or are any others impacted by the selfish choice to go bareback?

        1. We regulate sex differently from walking around for reasons other then utilitarian.

          1. People have more latitude when they have sex, then they do just existing?

  26. We all know corporate America will fall in line with the recommended or mandated vaccine program and that their "private property" stores and services will require proof of said vaccine. We also know that many smaller middle-class, non-corporate and independent business outlets and alternatives are being wiped out by the current government-enforced shutdowns and drama.

    And so, soon, everywhere we go, we "vaccinated" subjects will have to present either easily faked papers or the more accurate digital tattoo that vaccine empresario Gate has been developing and promoting as part of the vaccine. Dissenters from the vaccine will be effectively cut off from most daily transaction; thus, any voluntary vaccine will be a de facto mandate when it comes to most business, shopping, and schooling.

    Free association? No. Bodily autonomy? No. A free society? No. But will we have achieved a brave new world order by consent to the coercion? Yes, because now we feel safe, until the next malady, behavior modification and vaccine to come.

  27. Mandatory vaccination policy should never be a salient issue in democracy because the necessity of the policy is inversely related to the likelihood of enactment. If voluntary vaccination is high, mandatory vaccination need is low. But if voluntary vaccination is high, most people aren't going to see a problem with forcing others to do what they've already done. Conversely, if the vaccination is necessary but nonetheless viewed suspiciously by the majority of the voting public, you aren't going to get a mandatory vaccination law. The consequence is that the same arguments you make to encourage a mandatory vaccination law will cause people to voluntarily vaccinate, eliminating (largely) the need for a mandatory vaccination law.

    So instead of arguing over what the state should or shouldn't do, we should probably spend more time educating the public about the safety and efficacy of any given vaccination. As it is apparent that many people have non-safety and non-efficacy objections to mandatory vaccination, the time seems better spent just trying to convince a high enough number of people to take the vaccine. The ones who don't--and for whom the vaccine is necessary--will die, and so you no longer have to convince them anyway.

    1. With one caveat: I think mandatory vaccination of children presents different issues due to potential moral calamity with allowing risk assumption by non-adults.

    2. You can roll the dice with your children's lives, I don't want my children becoming another vaxx victim.

      I'm all for minimally essential vaccines, but we have a corrupt regime cooked up with dumb ass bureaucrats and Big Pharma, supported by a body of people who worship the state like they were gods and uncritically accept their dictats while out of the other sides of their mouths railing at the corruption of Big Pharma.

      The Left and every person who uncritically accepts state mandates are morons.

      Where in Eugene's post is there any skepticism of the vaccine?

      It doesn't exist. He's another John Roberts. Says pretty shit, but when it comes down to it, just as authoritarian and Leftist as the rest of them. See his willingness to force artists to create artistic expression to design bespoke gay wedding cakes.

  28. It's good that you've thought about the consequences of these potential rules; but real world cause-and-effect is never either a certainty in either of the two senses relevant here (that a disease will reliably be transmitted, or that after the fact we can know causation). And nobody is entitled to a level of certainty that nobody else can provide.

    Thus I lean against making things like vaccines mandatory by law, except as a condition of participation in somewhat risky activities such as attending public schools. Better, I think, is to make these decisions transparent (provide documents to those who have been vaccinated, or have had the disease and thus are expected to have immunity) but leave it up to each adult to assume the risks he is comfortable with.

    In the case of Covid the main argument for freedom is basically that Covid is simply a class of common-cold viruses, none of them significantly dangerous to healthy non-elderly people, and all of which get weaker as time passes. I would have simply lifted all restrictions at the end of May if not sooner.

  29. No matter how private the property is the air is still public and shared. We have no choice to but share it. Unless we do have a choice. Do you want a society where everybody breathes their own air supply through a closed system? I don't.

    I don't like forcing people to get vaccinated but it does seem like a simple matter of self-defense. Fortunately vaccination is among the most harmless medical procedures.

    1. There's nothing necessarily harmless about vaccines, it you've ever had a loved one nearly die from them or be forever impaired by them. Why does our Government indemnify Big Pharma from damages incurred from their vaccine products? Why have parents been frustrated by establishment doctors in their attempts to report adverse effects to the CDC?

      Read up and don't be a lemming. Or, at least, impose the new vaccine and its boosters on only those of you willing to be lab rodents and not on the rest of us.

  30. This is an awesome discussion!

    But I will reiterate the point: if you have been immunized against condition X, you are (or at least you believe science which says) you are immune to condition X. So why do you care that *I* have not been immunized against condition X and am therefore likely (or at least susceptible) to contract and die, Die, DIE from condition X? Wouldn't my death from condition X reduce the probability of others' death from condition X as much as my inoculation would?

    In my comment above, I was begging the question when I said I wouldn't want to be around those who hadn't had the meningitis vaccine: I have had the vaccine and am provably immune, so my hesitance is mere sanctimony, not morality. It is the "Apollo 13" argument -- "Well, I've had the measles. But Ken Mattingly hasn't."

    1. Because, fundamentally, "I've got mine, what do I care about the rest of you zombies?" is a selfish ideology, and not all humans are selfish.

      Less fundamentally... there are many people who, for a variety of reasons, can't/shouldn't get different vaccines. People who are too old, people who are too young. people who are too brain-washed-by-anti-vaxxers. In order to protect those people, then we need everyone who can get the vaccine to do so, which eliminates a vector for the disease to get to the people who aren't vaccinated.

      People just aren't as selfish as you think they are.

      1. "People just aren’t as selfish as you think they are."

        Most people, sure. But plenty of people are intensely selfish.

  31. A very interesting and (mostly) thoughtful discussion. I observe a tendency by those who quite rightly fear any loss of liberty to emphasize if not overplay the doubts on the underlying evidence FOR the vaccination case. About half a century ago I struggled with the fact that ALL science is fallible, and that yet we MUST decide whether to act or not under this uncertainty.
    Morally, it's relatively easy to decide when your decision does not affect others. It's trickier when it comes to decisions that affect others particularly when you have a libertarian soul.
    In this case we do have some information that tells us that we might harm others if we don't vaccinate ─ could be, could be not. (Actually, right now with Covid we don't know either, yet.)
    We are dealing with a classical case of COGNITIVE DISSONANCE which in some quarters is considered a dirty word. The Millian principle tells me I am "free to do what I please so long as I don't harm others." This encapsulates the idea that, if ever possible, I should be "free to do what I please."
    The two DISSONANT cognitions are:
    "I don't want to be vaccinated."
    "My not being vaccinated might hurt others ─ I might violate my Millian principle."
    Cognitive dissonance theory tells us that we try to reduce the tensions between those two cognitions.
    We do have four ways to reduce the tension (and they are to be found in the comments:
    (1) We change our beliefs: the Millian principle has no place in libertarianism.
    (2) We allow a little cheating on our Millian principle: I am "free to do what I please so long as it is absolutely certain that I don't harm others," (cheating because with science being fallible, you can never be certain.)
    (3) We add some additional cognitions: It is a matter of weighing my loss of liberty against the harm done to others. Others have the obligation to protect themselves in service to my liberty.
    (4) We deny information that is in conflict with our belief: It's simply not true that my not being vaccinated hurts others. It's all a government bending the info to serve their interest in bending us to their will.
    There is obviously another, decisive wrinkle in the whole argument: While we might INDIVIDUALLY be morally compelled to take a decision to vaccinate, should the community be able to oblige the others to protect me by imposing mandatory vaccination. It's tempting to roll out the theory of cognitive dissonance again, yet I'll be briefer: find some people are dodging the Millian principle a little too easily. I bet many libertarians would be far more inclined to ease their resistance to communal forceful imposition of the respect for private property than they are for the protection of life.

  32. 1) Has anyone brought up Jacobson vs Massachusetts, the 1905 S. Ct. decision that upheld mandatory smallpox immunizations as an exercise of the state's police powers? Is that case of no relevance to the discussion here?

    2) Can someone be in good standing with the libertarian crowd is they refuse to mask, observe social distancing, quarantine when appropriate, and do the not terribly burdensome public health measures because they feel those are infringements on their rights? Or are they likely to be seen as "fringe" types who are something of an embarrassment to the cause of principled libertarianism, whoever sets those standards?

    3) Do libertarians see Rand Paul as a champion of their thinking when he is oppositional to what the public health community is pretty much in agreement about what should be done in the interests of the public at large. How about when he browbeat Dr. Fauci, telling him that he was not the ultimate authority he might consider himself when it came to the economic and social issues attendant to the pandemic, like opening businesses and schools?
    (Personally, I don't like Rand and his father Ron for a number of reasons, and I thought he was a real horse's behind, maybe on par with House Rs like Jim Jordan, when he told Fauci more heed should be paid to Hayek in managing the covid19 fight.)

    4) Any essays to recommend on libertarianism in the face of public health issues?

  33. Consider this report about Sweden's results with the laissez faire approach they chose to take in response to the pandemic. "Herd immunity" seems to be nowhere in sight there.

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