Libertarianism, Current Events

Get Vaccinated

More than 100 people have now been infected with measles as a result of a multi-state outbreak linked to Disneyland. Public officials have been eager to respond, and now it seems like everyone’s talking about compulsory vaccination, and it’s becoming a politicized issue.

On one hand, I think it is a good thing that most public officials are affirming the scientific consensus by saying that vaccines are good for kids, good for adults, and good for public health. And it may be a good thing to call out anti-vaxxers for recent outbreaks. On the other hand, I do worry about the fact that vaccination is the subject of a public debate, insofar as that lends any credence to arguments that link vaccines to autism. I also worry that the politicization of vaccine policy will only isolate and encourage vaccine deniers.

But despite my reservations, on balance I think it is good for people to actively encourage vaccination. And it’s also important to note that even libertarians should support public policies that promote vaccination, not because they would promote public health but because vaccine-refusal is morally wrong.

Some arguments for vaccination requirements go like this: We already have a bunch of laws that tell people what to do for the sake of their health, and those laws are good, so why not also have laws in favor of vaccines? In general, I oppose the idea that public officials can interfere with people’s choices for the sake of public health. For example, I think that drug prohibitions, soda bans, and seat belt laws for adults are all impermissible policies. People are not liable to be interfered with simply because they are making an unhealthy choice.

But vaccines are different for two reasons. First, I don’t think we should presume that parents have rights to make medical decisions for their kids. Rather, children’s treatment should be determined by what is in the best interest of the child, and that means getting vaccinated. (Tim Dare has a nice paper on parental authority here.)

Second, people don’t have rights to harm other people, and that is what vaccine refusal is. As I say in a recent defense of compulsory vaccination policies:

Vaccine refusal harms and risks harming innocent bystanders. People are not entitled to harm innocents or to impose deadly risks on others, so in these cases there is nothing to be said for the right to refuse vaccination. Compulsory vaccination is therefore justified because non-vaccination can rightly be prohibited, just as other kinds of harmful and risky conduct are rightly prohibited. I develop an analogy to random gunfire to illustrate this point. Vaccine refusal, I argue, is morally similar to firing a weapon into the air and endangering innocent bystanders. By re-framing vaccine refusal as harmful and reckless conduct my aim is to shift the focus of the vaccine debate from non-vaccinators’ religious and refusal rights to everyone else’s rights against being infected with contagious illnesses. Religious freedom and rights of informed consent do not entitle non-vaccinators to harm innocent bystanders, and so coercive vaccination requirements are permissible for the sake of the potential victims of the anti-vaccine movement.

Or in other words, compulsory vaccination policies are in principle permissible because vaccine refusal is morally wrong.

Of course, not everything that is wrong should be illegal. Adultery is wrong, saying you will meet someone for lunch and then not showing up is wrong, but it would be even more wrong to make these things illegal. Here is a reasonable test. Some choices are morally wrong because they violate important rights and are significantly harmful. If legislating against these wrongful choices would not reliably violate other important rights, then public officials can enforce policies that prevent wrongdoing. In some cases, vaccine refusal will not be seriously wrong because the risks of transmission are avoidable or small, and the potential harm of infection is not that serious. But for serious, potentially fatal diseases that are highly contagious (e.g. measles) the case for compulsory vaccination is much stronger.

As I argue in the essay, we don’t need to posit that the state has any unique moral authority to enforce laws in order to justify such a policy. If someone is doing something that is morally wrong they are liable to be interfered with if interference is proportionate and effective at stopping the wrongdoing. You don’t have to be a statist to think that it is permissible to stop someone from assaulting another person. For example, here’s Ronald Bailey in Reason making a similar point.

I think some of the reactions against the idea of compulsory vaccination among libertarians and libertarian-types stems from doubts about whether any kind of government policy can be permissibly enforced, given what we know about officials’ propensity to act in ways that exceed their moral authority. But this suspicion conflates the principled justification for compulsory vaccination with practical concerns about its enforcement. Once again, the Onion probably put it best— people don’t have rights to decide which eliminated diseases come roaring back, so they don’t have rights to refuse vaccination.

tl;dr: Vaccinate your kids.

Published on:
Author: Jessica Flanigan
  • Radovan Durana

    Few years ago, there was scientific consensus on elimination of consumed saturated fats. Anyone following current rapid discoveries in understanding immune system should be suspicious to “consensus”. This article forgot, that health authorities may be wrong. Not in elimination of diseases, but in evaluation of harm to immune system related to vaccination. (not talking about autism, but immune system). This article is taking away the right to doubt authority, forcing anyone to risk something, which LT side-effects are very poorly documented.

    • Farstrider

      No one ever suggested that your consumption of saturated fats posed a risk of injury to me. So the analogy fails.
      But in any event there is always a risk that we may later learn something that changes our view of science. But we will never know everything. Epistemological paralysis is an argument against everything, and therefore nothing.

      • j r

        It’s more that your comprehension of the analogy fails. Radovan is not comparing the externalities of not vaccinating to the externalities of saturated fat. He is comparing the scientific consensus around both issues.

        Your second paragraph is the more appropriate response.

        • Farstrider

          Well, no. Because the point here is that not being vaccinated poses risks to others. If it was a choice you were making only for yourself, we would not be having this debate. (Or at least its terms would be different – more like motorcycle helmets and less like speed limits.)

          • Libertymike

            No, you are wrong as not being vaccinated does not pose a risk to others.
            Get your facts straight.

          • Anomaly

            Refusal to vaccinate your kids not only harms your kids in ways they can’t foresee or consent to, it harms others because you serve as a vector for infectious disease. It is also important to understand that vaccination is usually only about 95% effective (give or take) because people’s immune systems work differently, and viruses evolve. So even if I get vaccinated, and you don’t, I’m not fully safe from your reckless choices.

          • martinbrock

            If you are vaccinated but don’t develop immunity, and if you vacation in India, contract measles and then infect me, why isn’t your trip to India the reckless choice?

          • Libertymike

            Stop with the non-sense.
            First, refusal to vaccinate one’s kids is the healthy and responsible thing to do. A parent has no business subjecting his child to the risk of vaccination as anybody who is interested in the facts knows that there have been horrific consequences that have ensued vaccination.
            Second, those who are vaccinated recklessly expose others to the risks of vaccination. Are you aware of vaccine shedding?
            Third, you seem to be unaware of the fact, as set forth in the words of Merck’s vaccine package insert, that “MMR II has not been evaluated for carcinogenic or mutagenic potential or potential to impair fertility.”

          • Farstrider

            I wish this were true. Sadly, it is not.

  • DST

    I appreciate attempts to make pro-vaccine arguments based roughly on the NAP, but this attempt seems unconvincing. In your negligent gun-firing analogy, the shooter takes the affirmative step of firing the gun. In the infection context, few people intentionally direct microbes towards coworkers or classmates.

    • Nolan

      Intentionality or the presence of an “affirmative step” doesn’t change the fact that the behavior has significant negative externalities.

      • DST

        By calling it a “behavior,” I think you’ve begged the question. Infectious microbes reproducing in my body isn’t a behavior on my part.

        • Seth MacLeod

          Violating rights through neglect is still a violation of rights. It doesn’t have to be intentional. See murder vs manslaughter (and the sometimes further distinctions made between types of manslaughter).

          • Libertymike

            What about those who are vaccinated and yet are the parties who contract and then spread the disease? Should they not be made to pay for weakening their immune systems by taking the vaccine and thereby putting others at risk?

          • Irfan Khawaja

            Could you provide some evidence that that happens, and provide some evidence regarding its etiology and frequency? I’m not disputing the truth of your claim, I’d just like to see some actual evidence for it. How often does it happen that those vaccinated for measles transit measles through a weakened immune system? The puzzle here is: if that really happened, how did measles get eradicated by vaccine in the US in the first place? If you’re right, the use of the vaccine should have led to a rash (so to speak) of measles-by-vaccination. Did it? When?

            Frankly, even if you’re right, you don’t have a particularly strong objection. But set that aside.

          • Seth MacLeod

            What about this scenario has to do with negligence?

          • Libertymike

            Taking vaccines is reckless.

          • loafsta

            Libertymike, I don’t think anyone is really here to argue about the effectiveness of vaccines. I suspect people post here primarily to discuss libertarian philosophy, not immunology. Your point is noted that you believe that vaccines cause more harm than good on the whole and that those who take them are recklessly endangering themselves and others. That said, Flanigan’s thesis is clearly premised on the baseline assumption that she can take doctors and scientists at their word when they tell us (and give us mountains of empirical evidence) that vaccines are vastly more beneficial than harmful, as opposed to your alternative assumption that the vast majority of doctors and other health care and public health professionals in the world are engaged in a massive (and startlingly effective) conspiracy to poison our children.

            I’d respectfully suggest that you accept her presumption, not because you actually agree with it, but so you can engage in a debate on Flanigan’s actual thesis, i.e. that a state may legitimately mandate early childhood immunization (assuming immunization is substantially more effective with herd immunity conferred by high rates of immunization in the population).

          • Libertymike

            Part of engaging in debate is checking assumptions, premises and presumptions.
            You appear to be missing a larger point regarding one of Jessica’s premises, namely, that there is some kind of universal, incontrovertible truth that early childhood vaccinations are an unalloyed good with no evidence to the contrary. There is an awful lot of evidence, as a matter of fact, that suggests otherwise.

          • DST

            The difference between manslaughter and murder is that in the latter I need to have specific intent to cause the death of the victim. In both cases, though, I need to intend the action which causes death.

            So if I punch a man in the face, intending a non-fatal injury, but he suffers a fatal injury, either as a direct result of the punch, or subsequent motion, then I have committed manslaughter. I didn’t intend the death, but I did intend the punch.

            The vast majority of people who infect others lack not only the specific intent to infect them, but probably any general intent to bombard them with germs.

            Even negligence seems like a stretch as an analogy, since I can infect someone with some diseases just by being near them, but I’ve never heard of someone being held liable in a negligence action just for standing near a stranger on a street corner, for instance. I’m interested in being proved wrong on that point, though.

          • Libertymike

            In order for negligence to apply, there must be a legal duty owed by the alleged tortfeasor to the “injured” party.
            Check out Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad, 162 N.E. 99 (1928) (N.Y.).

          • DST

            Right. In Palsgraf, IRC the defendant was carrying explosives onto a train, and was found to owe a duty to other travelers on the platform not to injure them as a result of mishandling said explosives.

            But what kind of duty could one owe to a stranger, (and someone with whom one does not have a business relationship) that would be violated simply by standing next to that stranger on a street corner?

          • Libertymike

            There was a man trying to catch the train and two employees of the railroad attempted to push him into one of the train cabs in order to assist the passenger.
            As they were attempting to help the passenger, a package, containing fireworks fell onto the ground. At the other end of the station, heavy scales fell injuring the plaintiff who sued the railroad claiming that the negligence of the railroad employees were the proximate cause of her injuries.
            Judge Cardozo, writing for the majority, held that the railroad did not owe a duty to Mrs. Palsgraf as the employees could not have reasonably foreseen that their actions could proximately cause harm to her.
            How can we posit that every person owes a duty to any person with whom he may come into contact such that he must vacccinate? The more I think about it, the more absurd Jessica’s position becomes.

          • ThaomasH

            It is reasonable for a person to know that by not being vaccinated he is casing a probabilistic harm to everyone else.

          • Ed Ucation

            Thanks for that citation.

          • ThaomasH

            The negligence consists not in standing but in standing while not being vaccinated.

          • DST

            Can you point me toward an analog of that? I can’t think of another case where “standing on a public sidewalk while not doing x” is considered negligence.

          • ThaomasH

            By not being vaccinated and going out in public you are inflicting a greater risk of infection on other people than if you were vaccinated.  Your failure to be vaccinated harms other people.
            From: Disqus
            To: thutcheson2000@yahoo.com
            Sent: Wednesday, February 4, 2015 9:30 PM
            Subject: Re: Comment on Get Vaccinated

            #yiv8484644475 #yiv8484644475 a:hover, #yiv8484644475 a:hover span {color:#1188d2!important;}#yiv8484644475 .yiv8484644475button-cta:hover {color:#ffffff!important;background-color:#1188d2!important;}#yiv8484644475 .yiv8484644475button-cta:hover span {color:#ffffff!important;}#yiv8484644475 #yiv8484644475 #yiv8484644475 #yiv8484644475outlook a {padding:0;}#yiv8484644475 body {width:100% !important;}#yiv8484644475 .yiv8484644475ReadMsgBody {width:100%;}#yiv8484644475 .yiv8484644475ExternalClass {width:100%;display:block;}#yiv8484644475 _filtered #yiv8484644475 {}#yiv8484644475 .yiv8484644475content {width:100%;}#yiv8484644475 table {border-collapse:collapse;}#yiv8484644475 h2.yiv8484644475headline {font-weight:700;font-size:20px!important;margin-bottom:5px;}#yiv8484644475 .yiv8484644475button-cta {display:block!important;padding:0!important;}#yiv8484644475 div.yiv8484644475header {padding-top:20px;}#yiv8484644475 div.yiv8484644475footer {padding-bottom:20px;}#yiv8484644475 #yiv8484644475 #yiv8484644475 p.yiv8484644475mod-tools a:hover {color:white!important;background:#8c989f!important;}#yiv8484644475 _filtered #yiv8484644475 {}#yiv8484644475 td.yiv8484644475avatar img, #yiv8484644475 td.yiv8484644475spacer img {width:28px!important;}#yiv8484644475 “Can you point me toward an analog of that? I can’t think of another case where “standing on a public sidewalk while not doing x” is considered negligence.” | |
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            DST
            Can you point me toward an analog of that? I can’t think of another case where “standing on a public sidewalk while not doing x” is considered negligence. 9:30 p.m., Wednesday Feb. 4 | Other comments by DST |   |
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            | DST’s comment is in reply to ThaomasH: |
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            | | The negligence consists not in standing but in standing while not being vaccinated.Read more |
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          • DST

            So back to my original question, how is that anything like shooting a gun wildly into the air? In the former, I don’t have to have taken any action, while in the latter, I do.

            I’m not disputing that not being vaccinated increases the risk of infecting others. I’m saying that attempting to justify compulsory vaccinations by likening it to shooting is a bad argument.

          • ThaomasH

            I did not make that analogy.  If you want an analogy with violence, maybe it would be to go out in public while carrying a bomb that may explode at an uncertain time.  Nor do I necessarily think that compulsory vaccination is the best way to reduce the risk of having vaccinated persons in public.  But some additional incentive is needed and legitimate.  Perhaps public shaming will be enough.
            From: Disqus
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            Sent: Thursday, February 5, 2015 11:31 AM
            Subject: Re: Comment on Get Vaccinated

            #yiv6952572050 #yiv6952572050 a:hover, #yiv6952572050 a:hover span {color:#1188d2!important;}#yiv6952572050 .yiv6952572050button-cta:hover {color:#ffffff!important;background-color:#1188d2!important;}#yiv6952572050 .yiv6952572050button-cta:hover span {color:#ffffff!important;}#yiv6952572050 #yiv6952572050 #yiv6952572050 #yiv6952572050outlook a {padding:0;}#yiv6952572050 body {width:100% !important;}#yiv6952572050 .yiv6952572050ReadMsgBody {width:100%;}#yiv6952572050 .yiv6952572050ExternalClass {width:100%;display:block;}#yiv6952572050 _filtered #yiv6952572050 {}#yiv6952572050 .yiv6952572050content {width:100%;}#yiv6952572050 table {border-collapse:collapse;}#yiv6952572050 h2.yiv6952572050headline {font-weight:700;font-size:20px!important;margin-bottom:5px;}#yiv6952572050 .yiv6952572050button-cta {display:block!important;padding:0!important;}#yiv6952572050 div.yiv6952572050header {padding-top:20px;}#yiv6952572050 div.yiv6952572050footer {padding-bottom:20px;}#yiv6952572050 #yiv6952572050 #yiv6952572050 p.yiv6952572050mod-tools a:hover {color:white!important;background:#8c989f!important;}#yiv6952572050 _filtered #yiv6952572050 {}#yiv6952572050 td.yiv6952572050avatar img, #yiv6952572050 td.yiv6952572050spacer img {width:28px!important;}#yiv6952572050 “So back to my original question, how is that anything like shooting a gun wildly into the air? In the former, I don’t have to have taken any action, while in the latter, I do.I’m not disputing that not being vaccinated increases the risk of infecting others. I’m saying that attempting to justify compulsory vaccinations by likening it to shooting is a bad argument.” | |
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            DST
            So back to my original question, how is that anything like shooting a gun wildly into the air? In the former, I don’t have to have taken any action, while in the latter, I do.I’m not disputing that not being vaccinated increases the risk of infecting others. I’m saying that attempting to justify compulsory vaccinations by likening it to shooting is a bad argument. 11:31 a.m., Thursday Feb. 5 | Other comments by DST |   |
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          • Seth MacLeod

            Here is the definition of manslaughter http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/manslaughter

            This includes causing the death of another person through negligence, which was what I said. If someone were to infect another with “[a] failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances”, then that would be consistent with the definition of negligence. http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/negligence

            The question is whether infecting others *could ever* constitute negligence, at least insofar as libertarianism is concerned. There certainly seem to be some scenarios where infecting others would be negligent and legally actionable.

          • DST

            Sort of. Keep in mind that the LLI article you linked to discusses manslaughter at common law. Today many, if not most, states statutorily limit manslaughter to reckless causation of death, and possibly some form of voluntary manslaughter for “heat of passion” killings. Negligent homicide often is a crime of its own apart from manslaughter. Even when negligent homicide is grouped under manslaughter it requires a level of negligence more culpable than ordinary tort negligence.

            As an example, here’s my home state of CT’s negligent homicide statute:

            http://www.cga.ct.gov/2013/pub/chap_952.htm#sec_53a-58

            And its definition of criminal negligence:

            http://www.cga.ct.gov/2013/pub/chap_950.htm#sec_53a-3

            In either case, my original point still stands. Causing death through negligence, either common manslaughter or modern statutory negligent homicide, requires some act. (Of course, this doesn’t include cases when someone has a special duty to someone else, like a parent to a child, but those are special cases).

            Failing to get vaccinated is an omission, not an act, and so analogizing to to acts is not very convincing. Now, if you’re talking about, as other people said below, putting your measles-infected child into a public school, then I think you’re talking about an act as opposed to an omission. But I got the impression that Flanigan’s analogy was meant to be broader than that.

          • Ed Ucation

            The murder vs. manslaughter thing is a bad analogy. If you mean to bring up negligence, that’s an entirely different kind of tort. Whether negligence is a valid libertarian tort is not at all settled and there isn’t even much analysis out there on that issue.

          • Irfan Khawaja

            What stands in the way of negligence’s being a valid tort?

          • DST

            Even if you think there is a duty either to get vaccinated or warn others, there’s the issue of causation. In the case of something relatively rare and difficult to catch, like HIV, causation might be easy to show. But with something like the flu, it would be more difficult to prove where it came from. You could rely on something like alternative liability (Summers v. Tice is the famous example), but you’d still need to show that an individual defendant was capable of infecting you.

          • Ed Ucation

            It depends on how you define it the requirements of negligence and whether it places positive obligations on a property owner. Under libertarian principles, do sellers have a duty of care to their customers for products that they sell them? Do landowners have a duty of care to trespassers? AFAIK, no one has really addressed these issues too deeply in the libertarian literature.

          • Irfan Khawaja

            In medical contexts, there’s typically a duty on the part of the provider to get a patient’s informed consent to whatever procedure is being done. But getting informed consent from the patient implies a positive obligation of giving (accurate) information by the provider. Are you saying there is no such obligation in, say, medical or therapeutic contexts? Or are you wondering whether there is? To say that informed consent has been addressed in the literature would be an understatement.

            If under libertarian principles sellers didn’t have a (=any) duty of care to their customers, I think most people would return the principles to their sellers as obviously defective. There doesn’t seem to be any good reason to take such “principles” seriously in the first place, much less to buy them, or implement them in the context of a measles outbreak.

          • Seth MacLeod

            I did bring up negligence in my post. Manslaughter can include negligence. There is nothing unlibertarian about negligence as a concept. It’s a contextual issue by definition.

          • thevaccinemachine

            you need to prove a duty of care for negligence (I think that’s what you meant to say) to kick in

        • Irfan Khawaja

          He (Nolan) hasn’t begged any question at all. The behavior in question is . It’s obvious that given the nature of the disease vector, that particular behavior causes significant negative externalities with high frequency, just as he said. Intentionality is irrelevant to the issue of causation here: you get causation whether or not you intentionally spread the disease. The disease isn’t responsive to your intentions. It’s responsive to what you do.

          Having infectious microbes reproduce in your body is not a behavior on your part, but taking actions that transmit a dangerous, contagious disease obviously is. In the case of measles, walking around in public satisfies the preceding description. If you managed to kill someone that way–as you could–you couldn’t pretend that you hadn’t done it because you hadn’t been engaged in a “behavior.” Or, I suppose you could pretend that–but then the behavior in question would have to be described as killing someone by giving them measles, followed by self-deception about what you’d just done.

          • DST

            What if someone came to me while I had the measles. What would be the “behavior” there? You could say it was my failure to warn the other person, but that would be an omission, and not an affirmative step, as I said in my original comment. My point is that the reckless firing of a gun is a bad analogy, as it requires something more than a mere omission.

          • Sean II

            The disease is not impressed by your distinction between act and omission.

          • DST

            And I’m sure dynamite isn’t impressed by our classification of it as inherently dangerous, but that doesn’t mean the law needs to stop treating injuries occurring as a result of dynamiting under strict liability.

          • Sean II

            So we agree. Dynamite is dangerous, and not just. It’s dangerous in such a way that everyone knows its dangerous, except idiots.

            Rubella and rubeola are dangerous, and not just. They’re dangerous in such a way that everyone knows they’re dangerous, except apparently idiot celebrities and guys with Boer War inspired facial hair.

            In both cases, the “everyone knows” part gives rise to a set of obligations, binding on all but certified idiots.

          • DST

            I actually don’t think that inherently dangerous is a useful category, so I would get rid of it, if it were up to me.

            I was just responding to your pointless assertion that non-sentient life is unimpressed with certain distinctions made in law or philosophy

            That’s the problem with microbes, you keep making distinctions, and they’re never satisfied.

          • Sean II

            The word “inherently” does not appear in any of my comments on this thread.

          • DST

            No, but it does appear in my comment that you originally replied to. I don’t know whether you have a background in law, so please forgive me if I’m over-explaining. Inherently dangerous activities are a few behaviors that the law treats differently than most behaviors. Anyone causing injury while engaged in inherently dangerous activities is not treated to the traditional negligence tests, but instead is strictly liable for all damage cause by those activities.

            I didn’t bring it up to say that I agree with the concept of inherently dangerous activities, I only brought it up to show how the legal system, and philosophy for that matter, has all sorts of distinctions. One of those distinctions is between acts and omissions. I don’t see why that particular distinction is irrelevant in the context of vaccinations.

            I like vaccines; I think all children should be vaccinated; I’m even open to the idea of compulsory vaccinations. But I’m not convinced by Flanigan’s analogy of a refusal to get vaccination to wildly firing a gun in any old direction. There’s a meaningful distinction between action and inaction that makes those two situations distinct.

            Now, I imagine libertarians could make a good argument for compulsory vaccinations, but we’ll have to try harder than this.

          • Sean II

            Well, the legal notion of “inherently dangerous” does suffer from a folly common to many legal notions; to wit, economic illiteracy. Fire is “inherently dangerous”, if we stick to the way those words are commonly used. Fire is dangerous, and is so because of a feature which is permanent to and inseparable from it. But lawyers see the need for fire, and in any case it’s been around for like, a really long time. So what “inherently dangerous” means in law is probably something like “pretty damn dangerous, AND poorly understood by lawyers.” I’m sure nuclear power qualifies, even though fire is probably quite a bit more dangerous per unit of energy…because, well, lawyers don’t think like that.

            That said, Flanigan’s analogy works where she needs it to work. Firing a gun around is VERY LIKELY to result in harm. Shooting an infectious kid out of your car at pre-K drop off time is VERY LIKELY to result in harm. In both cases the probable results can easily be foreseen.

            The fact that the gun is more obvious is an aggravating factor in that case…okay, sure. But that does not mean Measles Mommy should get to claim her deluded idiocy as a mitigating factor.

          • Irfan Khawaja

            You’re asking a new question and changing the subject without acknowledging that the allegation of fallacy you made is false. You said that Nolan begged the question. Where? I wasn’t talking about reckless firings of guns. Neither was Nolan. All he said was that you don’t need intentionality to violate someone’s rights. Where is the begged question in that? Then he implied that acting so as to infect someone with measles is a negative externality (and some negative externalities are rights violations). Where is the begged question in that? You haven’t addressed either issue.

            Both of Nolan’s claims are pretty obvious statements of fact. If you disagree with them, you need to explain why. The obvious paradigmatic case is the one in which one person has measles, acts as though he doesn’t have it, and thereby infects other people who don’t have it. What about that case–the primary, obvious, causally relevant one that explains why measles spreads in the first place? It’s not legitimate to divert the discussion in new directions without dealing with the most obvious case.

            Anyway, I would say that if you have measles you OBVIOUSLY have an affirmative duty to inform people of it and stay away from them (or keep them away from you). Put another way: you have a duty of effective self-quarantine. It’s no different from having an STD and then having sex with an unwitting partner. It’s not an excuse that they had sex with you but failed to ask whether you had disease X, Y, or Z. If you have a transmissible disease, you have to tell them. If “libertarian principles” can’t handle cases like this (or say otherwise about affirmative duties), so much the worse for them.

            It’s not an objection that a failure to warn is an “omission.” Some omissions are rights violative. If I’m driving and you’re in my way, my failure to swerve around you is an omission, too. And yet the omission can turn you into road pizza. If I’m smoking, my failure to track the stray ashes that fly in the direction of your yard is an omission, but the omission can lead to burning your house down. Etc. Examples like this can be multiplied ad nauseum.

            But all of this is really in the realm of charity explanations.The fact is, you haven’t dealt with the basic causal issue.

          • DST

            Nolan said:

            “Intentionality or the presence of an “affirmative step” doesn’t change the fact that the behavior has significant negative externalities.”

            My point was that Nolan stated that it was irrelevant whether not getting vaccinated was an affirmative step (as opposed to an omission), because it was a behavior (with negative externalities). Thus, he assumed his conclusion.

            I’m not contesting that not getting vaccinated can have negative externalities, and so my allegation of question begging has nothing to do with that.

            Again, my original claim is that Flanigan’s analogy is bad. Usually, infecting someone is not like intentionally firing a gun, but more like having a gun involuntarily attached to you that is firing itself. Not getting vaccinated against the measles would be like failing to attempt to deactivate the firing mechanism on the gun (or an even better analogy that I can’t think of at the moment).

            You say:

            “If “libertarian principles” can’t handle cases like this (or say otherwise about affirmative duties), so much the worse for them.”

            That’s sort of my point: I want good libertarian arguments for things, possibly including mandatory vaccination. Bad arguments like the one Flanigan made stand in the way.

            You say:

            “If I’m driving and you’re in my way, my failure to swerve around you is an omission, too. And yet the omission can turn you into road pizza. If I’m smoking, my failure to track the stray ashes that fly in the direction of your yard is an omission, but the omission can lead to burning your house down.”

            Both of those seem like acts to me: driving into another (assuming the other has a right to be there), and producing smoke that carries to a neighbor’s yard. Preventative measures (and therefore possible omissions) in both those cases come *after* the act. I choose to drive, and I choose to smoke, but I don’t choose to have microbes reproduce in my body.

          • Libertymike

            The facts do not support the proposition that being unvaccinated creates a risk to others.
            In fact, there is a much greater chance that those who are vaccinated will visit harm upon others.

          • Irfan Khawaja

            Once you concede that not getting vaccinated can “have”–that is, cause–negative externalities, you’ve lost the debate. Negative externalities are caused by the actions that cause them. They can’t be caused by non-actions. Many actions can trivially (and pointlessly) be re-described as omissions, and vice versa. But once you concede that the action or omission in question causes the negative externalities alleged of it, the game is over: you’ve conceded everything your interlocutors were saying in the first place.

          • DST

            What I said in the comment you replied to:

            “Usually, infecting someone is not like intentionally firing a gun, but more like having a gun involuntarily attached to you that is firing itself. Not getting vaccinated against the measles would be like failing to attempt to deactivate the firing mechanism on the gun.”

            If I don’t deactivate the gun, I’m not acting, and yet my decision not to deactivate the gun has negative externalities on those around me.

          • loafsta

            DST, here’s an analogy for your consideration: I purchased a parcel of land with a beautiful, healthy 100 year old oak. An ice storm strikes and my oak is visibly damaged and leaning precariously. My tree guy, who I know and trust on tree disaster-related issues, is in the neighborhood inspecting damage to trees on another property and he passes by. He tells me in no uncertain terms that if the tree is not removed, it is reasonably likely to fall into the elementary school playground next door, and that not removing it would be a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation. Several neighbors, who have no direct financial or personal interest in the tree’s removal because the tree is leaning toward the school and they have no children in the school, grow increasingly and vocally infuriated with me for refusing to remove the tree despite the substantial and unjustifiable risk that the tree will fall into the bustling playground. A week later, I am standing on a street corner next to a stranger, resolutely refraining from calling my tree guy to have the tree removed on the grounds that I love that freaking tree, and my tree falls on the playground, killing a child. Assuming there’s a willing prosecutor and that a grand jury agrees with the tree guy and the neighbors, I will be indicted for second degree manslaughter in my home state of New York, and the charges in the indictment will survive a motion to dismiss and will likely result in conviction unless the jury is really sympathetic to tree lovers (and not so much the grieving parents of the kid who appear in the courtroom every day and stare daggers at me when they are not crying and comforting each other). I don’t mean to burst your pedagogical bubble, but unless expressly limited, criminal causation can derive from inaction, and the circumstances above would likely have a similar outcome in every state in the union. If CT, for example, wanted to limit its criminally negligent homicide statute to homicides resulting from the actions of a person, it would have read: “A person is guilty of criminally negligent homicide when, with criminal negligence, he ACTS TO CAUSE the death of another person . . .”, rather than, “he CAUSES the death of another person . . .”

            All that said, I hear your argument that Flanigan could have come up with an analogy based on omission instead of action, and I think you are implying that the failure to properly analogize is evidence of a fundamental inconsistency with the NAP if you believe that “roughly” conforming to the NAP means that aggression can only result from action, not from omission (or, to more closely line up with your original comment, aggression can only result from an act that you intend to take that you know is likely to result in injury, rather than from an intentional omission that you know is just as likely to result in injury). I don’t have access to the full article, only the abstract, but on reading I assumed that she wasn’t trying to fit into that relatively pedantic application of NAP. If she was, she would have to argue against vaccines, because the act of forcing someone to be vaccinated does impose harm (Ouch!) and create deadly risk (e.g., risk that a person may have an undiagnosed allergy to the vaccine) to non-aggressors. That risk may be orders of magnitude less than the risk that failing to be vaccinated will cause harm to non-aggressors, but it also happens to be the only risk that results from action rather than omission, so is the only one consistent with that limited interpretation of the NAP. I’m new to this blog – I stumbled on it because I was interested in getting a taste of the range of libertarian views on mandatory inoculation – so I don’t know how people here feel about the NAP as a fundamental moral principle underpinning libertarian philosophy. That said, I think NAP has long been criticized by the broader community of self-identified libertarian thinkers for exactly this rigidity (among other things), which I suspect is why many commenters here disagree with your criticism. Happy to hear otherwise if you think I’m misinterpreting your comment.

            Unfortunately, based on the abstract description, Flanigan’s argument fails for the same reason – because she’s not willing to take the next step away from the NAP’s rigidity that would allow her thesis to prevail. She states as an absolute that “People are not entitled to harm innocents or to impose deadly risks on others.” If that’s the case, then the harm (Band aid please!) and the risk (e.g., of anaphylaxis) to the individuals the state requires to be inoculated must prevent the state from acting, since those forced to receive shots would, absent the mandate, have remained free from such harm (however insignificant) and deadly risk (however remote and treatable).

            Ultimately, this is a good primer on the failure of the NAP to stand unadorned as a fundamental moral principle (particularly as it applies to the legitimacy of state action) if you believe that morality must attempt to recognize and address the relative risk and harm of an action or omission. I’m curious where you come out on this, DST: do you think mandating early childhood immunization against diseases that are effectively prevented only through herd immunity (based on the available substantial peer-reviewed research and empirical evidence currently available) is a legitimate state action under libertarian philosophy? Or to use your modified analogy, let’s say someone attached a gun to a child, told the child’s parents that the gun would go off randomly throughout the child’s life, resulting in a statistically significant possibly of permanent disability or death to the child and others (in many cases, other children). The parent’s were then given access to a means to disable the gun that was at least 95% effective in protecting the child and would be even more effective in protecting the child and other children if all parents agreed to disable similar guns attached to their children. However, this same disabling mechanism caused fever/rash/discomfort and other temporary negative side effects in 5-10% of children for a couple of weeks following the process, and a statistically insignificant number of children died or suffered permanent disability within 6 months of use of the disabling mechanism, all in cases that were not able to be linked to use of the mechanism, but that also were not able to conclusively linked to other causes. If the child’s parents refuse to use the disabling mechanism, despite the prevailing evidence that both the child and the rest of the population face a demonstrably substantially greater risk of death or disability as a result of this inaction, may the state legitimately mandate use of the mechanism against the parents’ wishes?

          • Sean II

            1) “Having infectious microbes reproduce in your body is not a behavior on your part, but taking actions that transmit a dangerous, contagious disease obviously is…”

            Especially when the action obviously produces a harmful result.

            We’re not talking about gay guys in bathhouses circa 1980, before anyone knew what AIDS was. We’re talking about a disease which even pre-scientific people knew about, and knew to be contagious.

            2) “…but then the behavior in question would have to be described as killing someone by giving them measles, followed by self-deception about what you’d just done.”

            Yes, and here’s an area where the common law has been very wise. People intend the natural and probable consequences of their action. A rinse of self-deception does not wash away the blot.

          • Farstrider

            Correct. And in case anyone is curious, in US law at least, all of the following are “intent” to do X: (a) taking deliberate action with the goal that X will happen, (b) taking deliberate action knowing that X will happen, even if you are indifferent as to whether it happens or not, (c) taking reckless action where there is a very high probability that X will happen. Luckily for common sense, but unluckily for the logic choppers here, these are all generally treated as equally culpable states of mind.

      • thevaccinemachine

        not vaxing isn’t a behavior

  • j r

    But this suspicion conflates the principled justification for compulsory vaccination with practical concerns about its enforcement.

    Yes. That’s because they ought to be conflated. The idea that you can have a serious conversation about making anything compulsory separate from the conversation about how attempts at enforcement might make things worse is… well, it’s a bit absurd.

    You really buried what is perhaps the key libertarian insight on this issue. And are quite dismissive about it to boot.

  • Libertymike

    Insisting upon compulsory vaccination is morally wrong as well as cheerleading the public safety Nazis and the state’s privileged purveyors of violence in enforcing such a regime.
    It is also morally wrong to rely upon that which the state’s public health commissars posit as the basis for supporting the outrageous intrusion of corporeal integrity.
    Moreover, it is morally wrong to rely upon the talismanic claims of big pharma and all other actors who stand to gain with a compulsory vaccination system.

  • Libertymike

    Perhaps Jessica should read Dr. Suzanne Humphrey’s book, Dissolving Illusions: Disease, Vaccines and the Forgotten History

  • Nolan

    Wow, the comment section is quite upset about this. I for one agree with your analysis of the issue, and the distinction between compulsory vaccination and other public health measures is important.

    • j r

      The problem is this: until you’ve actually defined “compulsory” this is all just an exercise in signalling.

      • Sean II

        I don’t know why anyone’s still bothering to signal. The two dudes who brought up Tuskegee and Guatemala already won the race. No one’s gonna out-posture them. At least not without resorting to some performance enhancing Godwins.

        • j r

          That’s the problem with approaching this as a signalling exercise. You get a lot of people doing the exact same thing, but trying to turn it up to 11.

          In other words, if you write a piece that basically says hey libertarians, stop embarrassing those of us who want to appear sensible in front of company with your contrariness, don’t be surprised when a bunch of libertarians jump up to try and embarrass you with their contrariness.

  • “First, I don’t think we should presume that parents have rights to make medical decisions for their kids. Rather, children’s treatment should be determined by what is in the best interest of the child, and that means getting vaccinated.”

    Well, all you did there was assert that you, rather than parents, have rights to make decisions for their kids because you consider your judgment as to what is the best interests of the child superior to theirs. If we shouldn’t presume that parents don’t have the rights to make medical decisions for their kids, why should we presume that you do?

    “Second, people don’t have rights to harm other people, and that is what vaccine refusal is.”

    Not exactly.

    Vaccination comes with risks (no, I’m not talking about autism — you can look up the known side effects and incidences of such side effects for any vaccination; those side effects range from very minor to fatal). Non-vaccination comes with risks, too.

    For a parent deciding whether or not to vaccinate, the immediate very small risk to the child may loom larger than the future very small risk to the child or others.

    Also, potential future risk is not “harm.” At least it isn’t harm YET. It’s the possibility of harm.

    While it might be possible to argue that the latter risk should be given more weight, jumping up and down screaming “SCIENCE!!!!” probably isn’t a very persuasive argument.

    • Libertymike

      Science is not that which is “found” or “discovered” by “studies” financed and sponsored by pharmaceutical companies who stand to make billions and billions courtesy of compulsory vaccination.
      Although it is not an absolute, one can really never go wrong by presuming that “science” is junk if it is sponsored by entities who stand to gain from coercive regimes that forcibly redistribute wealth from the many to those who have the magic elixir.

      • Well, I agree that skepticism is always in order.

        The vaccine industry is a $40 billion dollar per year industry.

        Then there’s the “public health” industry/lobby. The tip of that iceberg is CDC ($6.9 billion per year). There’s no telling how big the “public health” apparatus is in its totality, but it includes health departments in every county and sizable city in the US, each staffed with people who would like to keep their jobs and who never think they have enough money to do the things they think they should be doing.

        To suggest that neither the vaccine industry nor the public health industry/lobby has interests which could possibly be at cross purposes with the public’s seems a little naive.

        On the other hand, that doesn’t mean that all they do is lie and that nothing they say is true. It just means that any claims they make should be carefully scrutinized. Just like everyone else’s claims.

        • Libertymike

          Well, the claims of those who do not want to submit to Leviathan’s use of violence upon themselves need not be scrutinized as carefully and as skeptically as those who are part of the public health apparatus.

    • Jake

      > Well, all you did there was assert that you, rather than parents,
      > have rights to make decisions for their kids because you consider
      > your judgment as to what is the best interests of the child superior
      > to theirs. […] If we shouldn’t presume that parents don’t have
      > the rights to make medical decisions for their kids, why should
      > we presume that you do?

      When you put it like that, it sounds like you don’t do it too.

      If a parent decides that stabbing their child is in the child’s best interest, you’d probably be quite willing to say that your judgement is superior to theirs.

      In other words, your argument does nothing unless you argue that there is room for reasonable doubt about vaccines.

      The overwhelming scientific consensus, corroborated by decades of practice, is that vaccines are very good at preventing death, with significant side effects being extremely unlikely.

      • Jake,

        I’m not sure what you mean by “reasonable doubt.”

        So far as I can tell, there’s no reasonable doubt that, for example, the MMR vaccine is very effective at preventing measles, mumps and rubella.

        Also so far as I can tell, there’s no reasonable doubt that there are, in fact, occasional adverse events associated with that vaccine, ranging from very minor (soreness) to very major (death).

        So, who gets to decide which risk to take — the risk of measles/mumps/rubella, or the risk of the side effects of the vaccine for measles/mumps/rubella?

        I come down on the side of the person who’s actually getting the needle in the arm, or that person’s guardian, making that decision as opposed to on the side of the state making that decision.

        • Farstrider

          But why would you let Johnny’s guardian determine how much risk his classmate Susie must endure?

          • Johnny’s guardian does that every day. So does Susie’s.

            Do you have kids? Do you have them tested for strep every morning before school?

          • Farstrider

            No. But when they have it I keep them home. Don’t you?

          • Yes. And I’d keep them home if they had measles, too.

          • Sean II

            “Yes. And I’d keep them home if they had measles, too.”

            If that worked, we would never have heard of measles in the first place.

    • Farstrider

      Shooting bullets into a crowd is also only the “possibility of harm” – after all, the bullets might miss. I presume you agree that is not permitted?

      • Well, if you can’t tell the difference between doing something and thereby imposing an extreme and actual immediate risk on others on one hand and not doing something and thereby posing a variable, potential future risk on others on the other hand, I’m afraid I can’t help you.

        Hint: Every time you get in your car without crawling under it to make sure the brake lines haven’t been cut, you impose a variable potential risk on everyone on the road you’re about to drive down. And that risk is probably more extreme and closer in time than measles.

        • Farstrider

          Well, at least we now agree that the state CAN regulate conduct that poses a “possibility of harm.” I’m glad you’ve retreated from that silliness. So let’s turn to what you just wrote.

          “And that risk is probably more extreme and closer in time than measles.”

          You are on to something here, i.e., that that duty of the state to regulate conduct depends in part on the severity and proximity of the risks the conduct causes. So far so good. But your position is unsupported by any evidence. There are 100+ cases of (preventable) MMR in the United States diagnosed this year so far. I am unaware of any preventable injuries caused by cut brake lines so far this year, although I am willing to be corrected on that.

          • Um, no, we don’t agree that the state CAN regulate anything. We don’t even agree that the state has a right to exist. At least a right any greater than that of any other organized crime ring.

          • Farstrider

            So your point is that we should not have mandatory vaccination because we should not have government in the first place?
            I mean if that’s all you got, fine. But it’s not what you wrote.

          • Well, no. My point was that Jessica Flanigan’s arguments are flawed.

          • Farstrider

            Perhaps so, but not for any reasons you’ve been willing to offer. (I know this because when I pressed you on your reasons, you abandoned them and claimed instead that there should never be any government. Obviously, Jessica’s argument was made in the context of there being at least some government.)

          • Libertymike

            She is operating under the erroneous presumption that vaccination makes for a healthier little libertarian than going unvaccinated and that those who are unvaccinated pose a risk to those who are.

          • Logic isn’t your strong suit, is it?

            You posited that we agreed on something. I noted that we didn’t, and explained why it was not possible that we did.

            You have yet to “press” me in any way.

  • Here’s my problem with state-mandated vaccination:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guatemala_syphilis_experiment

    • Farstrider

      Not a vaccine.

      • Right. As it turned out, it was a potentially fatal illness. If only they had known.

        • Farstrider

          Pretty sure they did. They were testing ways of treating the disease. Inhumanely, illegally and unethically. None of which applies to vaccines.

    • Sean II

      A very realistic worry these days. Totally relevant too. I can see why you’d make it the basis of your opinion on this matter.

      • Google results for “forcibly injected:”

        http://www.forbes.com/sites/eliseknutsen/2013/01/28/israel-foribly-injected-african-immigrant-women-with-birth-control/

        http://www.cchrint.org/tag/forcibly-injected-with-antipsychotics/

        http://endthelie.com/2012/07/11/u-s-forcibly-injected-gitmo-detainees-with-mind-altering-drugs/

        Oh, and here’s an interesting one dated January 2012:

        If progression of promising vaccines from the lab to the clinic is to remain unaffected and financial inducement is an ethically unacceptable solution to the recruitment shortage, other strategies need to be considered. Compulsory involvement in vaccine studies is one alternative solution that is not as outlandish as it might seem on first consideration. Many societies already mandate that citizens undertake activities for the good of society; in several European countries registration for organ-donation has switched from “opt-in” (the current U.S. system) to “opt-out” systems (in which those who do not specifically register as nondonors are presumed to consent to donation) [10], and most societies expect citizens to undertake jury service when called upon. In these examples, the risks or inconvenience to an individual are usually limited and minor. Mandatory involvement in vaccine trials is therefore perhaps more akin to military conscription, a policy operating today in 66 countries. In both conscription and obligatory trial participation, individuals have little or no choice regarding involvement and face inherent risks over which they have no control, all for the greater good of society.

        Link here: http://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/2012/01/pfor1-1201.html

        You may trust the government to forcibly inject people, and that is your prerogative. I think vaccines are safest when administered voluntarily. I wait with baited breath for your witty truth-bomb to eviscerate my personal opinion on the matter.

        • Sean II

          Don’t stray too far from your fainting couch, Ryan. I fear one of your spells may be coming on.

          The funny thing about this bit of grandstanding (among your many) is how innocently you’ve wandered into the land of hilariously stupid premises.

          Your premise in this case is: it’s a barbarous outrage when people have health decisions made for them by someone else.

          But of course what you don’t know is that most health care already is imposed without consent. Without informed consent, that is.

          Most people get a problem, go to a doctor, and get hit over the head with what is, for them, a bewildering combination of Greek loan words and clinical statistics. What they hear is something like “You have osteo blah blah blah, which for someone with your underlying whats-that-again is refractory to Potionex about 67% of the time. Thus, I recommend surgery.”

          They don’t know what the fuck that means, and so in most cases, what happens is…the doctor just decides, and the patient just accepts. (That, by the way, is how it goes the lucky ones. The unlucky living in various global south hell-holes, they have FULL control of their health decisions, because they don’t a doctor to make those decisions for them.)

          You think what happened to those Ethiopian women – getting Depo without knowing what it was – is some rare and shocking atrocity.

          I’m here to tell you that’s just one twist of the dial away from standard-of-care. Most people have no idea what they’re getting in those vials and bottle. They don’t know enough to understand the terms, and in most cases their minds aren’t even in the habit of understanding costs vs benefits, trade-offs, etc. So these things get handled for them, and mostly, they’re better off because of it.

          But let me guess: you just thought those Israeli doctors were EVIL, right? Because hey…why not stop asking questions, when you have such a satisfyingly simple explanation in hand?

          • Hahaha, oh I’ve forgotten how your every comment rests on straw-men, poor reading comprehension, and false assumptions about the beliefs of others.

            No point in pursuing this conversation much further. You’ve clearly defeated the imaginary person to whom you think you’re typing.

          • Sean II

            Yeah, what a dick I am, to read the comments you wrote, and the links you posted, and then respond to their more obvious implications. Who the hell does that?

          • No, I’m telling you you won. You totally defeated the guy you were arguing with. It just didn’t happen to be me.

            So, yes, well done!

          • Sean II

            It’s just that this other guy, the undefeated one, the true you, has a bunch of winning rebuttals and yet nothing to say.

            Sure, I can buy that.

  • Dan

    People are not entitled to harm innocents or to impose deadly risks on others

    Really? There are planes that pass people’s houses. Their owners are imposing deadly risks on the occupants whenever they do so. Are they not entitled to do so?

    In fact, do we not impose deadly risks on others all the time? For instance, I walked behind someone on the subway platform this morning. If I had slipped, I might have accidentally pushed someone onto the tracks; hence I imposed a deadly risk on others. Was I not entitled to do this? (It doesn’t seem as though I’m entitled to do very much at all, on your view here).

    • Farstrider

      “There are planes that pass people’s houses. Their owners are imposing deadly risks on the occupants whenever they do so.”

      I don’t see how this is so, but obviously we regulate air traffic routes and other aspects of air travel. Vaccines should be no different.

      “If I had slipped, I might have accidentally pushed someone onto the tracks; hence I imposed a deadly risk on others. Was I not entitled to do this?”

      Entitled to do what? Walk? Yes, because the risk was low. But you would not be entitled to, for example, have a tackle football game on the platform, because of the risks.

      These are really not hard questions.

    • Theresa Klein

      To be fair the correct way to deal with that is liability insurance. Arguably, airlines SHOULD be liable to compensate homeowners if they crash a plane into their house, and should carry liability insurance to cover the potential damages.
      Now, I’m not saying unvaccinated people should be liable if they infect others. However, a facility such as a school or daycare, really OUGHT to be held liable if they allow unvaccinated kids into the facility and a measles or whooping cough outbreak occurs and infects some kid that can’t get the vaccine for medical reasons.
      The facility has a responsibility to provide a safe environment for kids and letting in unvaccinated kids contradicts that. So I should think parents should be able to sue those places for not properly enforcing vaccination requirements.

  • ted

    The “tl;dr” at the end of the article would work only if the article would be an attempt to persuade. But it’s not that, it’s an attempt to convince that the State has the right to force vaccination on anyone.

    I remain unconvinced. I am vaccinated and I would vaccinate my children, but I don’t think that the State has the authority to dictate this by use of force.

    The core issue is that not vaccinating your kids doesn’t actually infringe on anyone’s rights. There’s no right to not be unwittingly infected with viruses, if you venture outside and interact with strangers.

  • ThaomasH

    Going without getting vaccinated because (in your estimate) the benefit to you of not getting vaccinated is greater than the harm to others, or use antibiotics in animal husbandry, is exactly the same as the decision to emit CO2 because the benefit to you is greater than the harm to others. In these cases we need a way to align the incentives so that on the margin the benefit to not getting vaccinated or using an antibiotic or emitting CO2 equals the harm done. Since the CO2 and antibiotic decisions are part of normal commercial calculations, a tax of the appropriate amount is probably the best way to align the incentives. In the case of vaccination, the best combination of exhortation, fines, or coercion is less clear.

  • Ed Ucation

    Gee, why am I not surprised that BHL comes out in favor of compulsory vaccinations. Let me spell it out: vaccines good, compulsory vaccination bad, mmmmkay? Increasing someone’s risk of catching a disease is not assault. If it were, driving a less safe car model could also be interpreted as assault. As could being a more careless driver (which could be proven with driving history) or having heart disease (you could have a heart attack while driving). Or perhaps we should quarantive people with colds or any other minor disease? What about guns? Doesn’t having a gun increase the risk of a gun accident and potentially endanger neighbors? This is a bad road to go down.

    • Farstrider

      “If it were, driving a less safe car model could also be interpreted as assault.”

      Assault is not the right word there, but putting that issue aside, the metaphor fails. Compulsory vaccination is more like speed limits than car safety. The former involves danger to others, the latter involves danger to yourself. Likewise the heart disease – we let such people drive because the risks are relatively small that they will have an heart attack resulting in an uncontrollable traffic accident, but we don’t let, for example, drunk people drive because they pose a risk to others.

      If you want to kill yourself, by all means do so. But the state has a right to prevent you from killing others.

      • Ed Ucation

        If it’s a matter of the amount of risk, you have not shown that an unvaccinated person, who isn’t even sick, poses a greater risk than a speeding vehicle. In fact, an unvaccinated person that isn’t sick poses absolutely no danger to anyone.

        Also, I am surprised a libertarian is defending speed limits that were designed to limit gas consumption, rather than put in place for safety reasons. As for drunk driving, I agree with Lew Rockwell:

        http://archive.lewrockwell.com/rockwell/drunkdriving.html

  • Betty Tracy

    Et tu Brute?

    Did you know it is the richest, most educated parents, not the ignorant, welfare moms, who are not vaccinating? If those who have the most resources, who are most able to read scientific studies (such as doctors, lawyers, and college professors) are choosing to not vaccinate their children, don’t you think you should at least do some honest research into why people make this choice instead of buying into the hysteria and selling us up the river?

    And autism and the MMR? The researcher responsible for the study admitted last August that he lied; the MMR causes a 300% greater risk of Autism. And an official in at least one other country has admitted to taking bribes to fudge the results of their studies.

    And that is only one of many many side affects of the vaccines for what are, really, incredibly mild diseases in most cases.

    Let me put this another way; you want to use the government to force me to get a shot that you don’t think protects YOU from the disease. If you honestly believed the shots provided protection you and everyone else who is vaccinated would be safe and only the non vaxers would get sick. Of course we all know this isn’t true. The shots don’t always protect. They don’t always work.

    And if they are so safe, why did Big Pharm get congress to pass a law that you can’t sue them under any circumstances? Even if they intentionally harm someone?

    And who are you going to force to get the vaccines? Those with cancer and AIDS? Those who have had adverse reactions or who have relatives who have? Are you seriously going to FORCE people to get shots when the odds are very very good it will kill them? Who gets to decide what exemption, if any, is valid?

    You are going to force those with religious objections to choose between going to Hell or going to jail? Really?

    And which shots? All shots available forever? Three times as many women have been permanently injured or killed by Guardsil as was expected to get cervical cancer. Would you require that vax? Who decides? Those who stand to make a bazillion dollars from the vaxe’s use? or those who take campaign donations from them?

    And what vax schedule do you mandate at gun point? England’s? Germany’s? or the US’s which requires way more shots way sooner than other countries?

    Did you know that ALL communicable diseases, whether we have a vaccine for it or not, saw a drastic (90% or more) decline in the first half of the 1900’s? Did you know vaccines were not introduced until the last half of the 1900’s when most of these diseases had already all but disappeared? They aren’t the great savior they are being held up to be.

    Did you know more than one country has been found to be giving vaccinations against pregnancy hidden in other vaxes? The government deciding who should have babies and when? And since our government has run scientific experiments on its own citizens without our knowledge or consent (google Tuskagee Experiment), frankly, I don’t trust them enough to let them make the decision on what to shoot into my kid’s body. I am surprised that you do.

    This entire hysteria is fueled by the pharmaceutical industry that saw a sharp decline in vaccinations after the August whistle-blowing, and pushed by the media who is paid mostly by Big Pharm (and doesn’t believe in personal freedom anyway).

    I am scared of how many are jumping on this bandwagon without doing any research into the other side; of how many are willing to give the government so much power, power of life and death; who are so willing to give up all freedom in all areas (because that is what this is leading to), all in order to avoid being polka dotted for a few days.

    And it dismays me you have joined them. I am incredibly disappointed 🙁

    • Farstrider

      “If you honestly believed the shots provided protection you and everyone else who is vaccinated would be safe and only the non vaxers would get sick.”

      Shocking ignorance. Many people cannot get vaccinations for legitimate medical reasons. It is those innocents who you are endangering, not just the anti-vaxxers.

      • martinbrock

        People who do not get vaccinations for legitimate medical reasons are anti-vaxxers.

        • Farstrider

          I would be content to distinguish medical reasons (by which I mean reasons associated with evidence) from non-medical reasons (by which I mean people who make things up). The only anti-vaxxers we are talking about are the latter.

          • martinbrock

            We’re discussing who makes this distinction. Do you or some other authority make it for everyone else, or do individuals reach their own conclusions only for themselves?

          • Farstrider

            The former. The only opinions that matter are informed opinions.

    • Sean II

      “MMR causes a 300% greater risk of Autism.”

      Don’t forget to mention the upside. That MMR vaccine also caused a massive decline in mental retardation.

      It’s so weird how it all happened simultaneously. They just kept pumping out that vaccine, and whaddya know, we started seeing fewer and fewer retarded kids, more and more autistic kids, at the same time.

      What, I wonder, could it be…

      • Theresa Klein

        You say that as if anything, including the 300% number, in that commnet qualifies as a fact.
        When I see people making claims like governments sneaking anti-pregnancy vaccines into the flu shots I raise an eyebrow.

        • Sean II

          The 300% figure is approximately correct. Autism rates have shot up in curve so pretty Evil Knievel could jump his bike off it.

          But it’s all bullshit. People lost the nerve to call retarded kids retarded, or weird kids weird. Parents demanded a more palatable term. So in keeping with the spirit of our age, which regards unpleasant news as a crime against humanity, teachers and doctors et. al. started shunting the poor devils into autism.

          The literature politely calls this “increased reporting”, but that’s bullshit too. It’s not like those “autistic” kids were going undetected before. Everyone knew who they were, and everyone knew something was wrong with them. You couldn’t possibly fail to notice. It’s just that we called them something else.

          One of the dead giveaways that we’re in a euphemism treadmill here is…the trend started with celebrities and rich people – i.e. those in a position to shop doctors long enough to find an answer they liked. Sylvester Stallone appeared on the cover of People in the early 80s, and the accompanying piece about his son introduced America to the word autism, and to its very comforting use as a neologism for slow or otherwise troubled kids.

          It caught on like autism after that.

          • Theresa Klein

            It may be correct that autism has gone up 300%. But it’s not true that that is linked to the MMR vaccine.

            Numerous studies have shown no statistical difference in autism rates between kids who get vaccinated and those that don’t.

            Just for example:

            http://www.medicine.ox.ac.uk/bandolier/booth/vaccines/nommr.html

            The incidence of all autistic spectrum disorders, and of autism, continued to rise after MMR vaccine was discontinued. The incidence of autism was higher in children born after 1992 who were not vaccinated with MMR than in children born before 1992 who were vaccinated. The incidence of autism associated with regression was the same during the use of MMR and after it was discontinued.

          • Theresa Klein

            http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v10/n5/full/nn0507-531.html

            The hypothesis is based on the observation that the number of autism cases increased in the 1980s, coinciding with a push for greater childhood vaccinations, which increased above recommended levels children’s exposure to mercury in the vaccine preservative thimerosal. However, autism diagnosis continued to rise even after thimerosal was removed from US childhood vaccines in 2001. A review by the Institute of Medicine (http://www.nap.edu/catalog/10997.html) of over 200 studies concluded that that there was no causal link between thimerosal-containing vaccines and autism. Autism is no more common among vaccinated than unvaccinated children, and its incidence has not covaried with the presence of thimerosal in vaccines across different times and locations.

            *Note: I feel embarassed that these basic scientific facts have to actually be stated, HERE, of all places.

          • j_m_h

            I don’t think sean was suggesting there is a causal link between autism rates and MMR vaccines. I suspect he’s suggesting that the statistic are purely correllated by a coincident of happenstance.

            Of course, he’s clearly in he claim though. We all know that a rose by anyother name is clearly NO a rose; if it were a rose we’d call it a rose!

    • Theresa Klein

      And autism and the MMR? The researcher responsible for the study admitted last August that he lied; the MMR causes a 300% greater risk of Autism.

      Cite please.

      Did you know more than one country has been found to be giving vaccinations against pregnancy hidden in other vaxes? The government deciding who should have babies and when?

      Cite please.

      And since our government has run scientific experiments on its own citizens without our knowledge or consent (google Tuskagee Experiment),

      You realize that Tuskeegee involved people who already had syphyllis in an asymptomatic state right? The myth is that they gave people sphyillis. Byt the fact is that it was a monitoring study of patients who had asymptomatic syphillis. They just didn’t bother to inform them about it.

  • thevaccinemachine

    “And it may be a good thing to call out anti-vaxxers for recent outbreaks. ”

    call out for what? we have no responsibility to inflict pain on and risk our kids health to prevent outbreaks of mild illnesses

    “even libertarians should support public policies that promote vaccination, not because they would promote public health but because vaccine-refusal is morally wrong.”

    Argument by asssertion

    “I don’t think we should presume that parents have rights to make medical decisions for their kids. Rather, children’s treatment should be determined by what is in the best interest of the child, and that means getting vaccinate”

    Absurd. Parents have a very strong claim to the trust over their kids. as such, strong counterclaims are required to overturn this trust. Neglect and abuse qualify. Not submitting them to each and every and every over treatment recommended by our nations medical monopoly can concoct does not

    • Farstrider

      You do realize we are talking about vaccination, not “each and every and every over treatment,” right?

      • thevaccinemachine

        the original post spoke of ” children’s treatment” not vaccination in general

        • Farstrider

          In the context of vaccinations specifically, yes.

  • thevaccinemachine

    “I develop an analogy to random gunfire to illustrate this point. Vaccine refusal, I argue, is morally similar to firing a weapon into the air and endangering innocent bystanders”

    This reasoning is beyond bizarre and I would not expect even a grade schooler to advance this laughable argument. Firing a weapon is an action that creates risks that did not previously exist. Not vaccinating is a non-action that has no affect on extant risks. It is the responsibility of no one to remove risks they have not created and have no connection to

    • Farstrider

      “Not vaccinating is a non-action that has no affect on extant risks. It is the responsibility of no one to remove risks they have not created and have no connection to”

      Being unvaccinated is non-action. Going outside while unvaccinated is action. So I suppose you would agree that the state can prohibit the latter? And if so, how is that any better for liberty?

      • thevaccinemachine

        If going outside created a risk the government could prohibit it, but it doesn’t, so they can’t. Have not read all the comments so if you want to make the argument as to why action/non-action does not matter, feel free

        • Farstrider

          “If going outside created a risk the government could prohibit it”

          So we agree, IF the evidence showed that going outside unvaccinated exposed others to the disease in question, THEN you would agree that the government could regulate that? Cause the evidence overwhelmingly does show that. And locking people in their homes is preferable to you than getting a few shots?

          • Libertymike

            No, the evidence does not show that.
            Please cite the evidence, apart from the public health apparatus and any entity that stands to gain from compulsory vaccination, that going unvaccinated poses a significant and unreasonable risk to others.
            IT DOES NOT EXIST.

          • Farstrider

            Again, you demand evidence in support of a scientific proposition, but then exclude all scientific evidence. Utter nonsense.

          • thevaccinemachine

            Yes, let’s pick the flu since I have never gotten a flu shot – please show me how my going outside tonight will expose someone to the flu.

          • Farstrider

            Your demonstration can be found here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herd_immunity

  • thevaccinemachine

    “By re-framing vaccine refusal as harmful and reckless conduct my aim is to shift the focus of the vaccine debate from non-vaccinators’ religious and refusal rights to everyone else’s rights against being infected with contagious illnesses”

    you mean inventing an argument that has no basis in reality

  • thevaccinemachine

    The Onion? Seriously? Please, more libertarians and fewer self-deluded bleeding hearts

  • me

    this is a tough one for me. I am a nurse, and I came to be skeptical of vaccines because of a very personal experience. I was forced to get the flu shot in nursing school, and I developed 4 hours of numbness, tingling and left-sided “heaviness” as well as an ascending sensation of numbness from my toes to my calves. These sensations cleared up after a few hours, but left me absolutely terrified. The first time, I was left with dizziness which lasted throughout the day, for 6 weeks following the injection. These are neuro symptoms, indicating something going on with my brain. I have experienced this reaction 4 separate times. For now, I take the nasal flu vaccine each year (my employer requires me to get vaccinated every year or lose my job), and fortunately, the nasal version does not cause this effect.

    What has shocked and disturbed me more even than my personal symptoms, is the reaction of literally every single doctor I have ever spoken to about these symptoms. Without exception, they look at me smilingly and say “oh, but it went away, though?” and then something like “shoot, that’s weird”. No one has ever agreed to exempt me from mandatory vaccination because of this syndrome. and yet my brain has clearly been affected. And yet, this is not supposed to happen from a vaccine, and there is no known pathway for this to happen. So they just hear my words, smile and then brush me aside as if I had not spoken.

    This is very much akin to a religion. It is the kind of response someone might have expected if in 1326 he approached his priest and said “i don’t think we need to do the holy communion thing, because Christ is in our hearts…he told me last night in a dream” or something. The priest would have absolutely no category in his brain in which to file this shocking and disturbing information; he would either have to incorporate it into his reality and have his worldview shattered, or he would have to brush it off, and maybe even persecute its reporter, so as to protect himself from the terror of a shattered worldview.

    I still get vaccines, and I have vaccinated my children on an alternate schedule, slowly, carefully watching their health after each one, leaving out any non-essential vaccines. I can say, though, from personal experience, that this whole idea of “scientific objectivity” in regards to vaccines is a lie.

    I can not calculate the number of times I receive phone calls from patients, who report bizarre and disturbing reactions to vaccines. They call and say ” I got the such and such shot yesterday, and ever since then I have had horrible stomach cramps and yellow diarrhea”, for example. I send their note to the doctor, and without exception, the doctor responds “that is not considered a known side effect of this vaccine and it is just a coincidence”. There is literally no other drug or substance that we administer to patients with the same degree of religious impunity. If someone calls me the day after starting an antibiotic, a statin, a blood pressure med, you name it, and tells me they have had horrible stomach cramps and yellow diarrhea (or whatever horror), I can absolutely guarantee you that every prudent doctor responds “hold med until symptoms subside, may restart when at baseline, to see if side effects recur”, or something similar.

    I understand the desire to protect vaccines with religious fervor; it is directly related to the intensity with which we believe they are our saviors. It is the same as with the communion wafer to the medieval Catholic. Its just that the problem is, when there is religious fervor, and the need for salvation, objectivity can get really distorted. Fear can take over, and fear leads to possibilities of oppression of others. and hate.

  • Sean II

    “I think it is a good thing that most public officials are affirming the scientific consensus by saying that vaccines are good for kids”

    What a needlessly annoying way to say that. Vaccines don’t need a scientific consensus. They have something better: a mountain of evidence in their favor.

    That thing you mentioned…it’s what you trot out when the evidence is weak.

    • Libertymike

      Please adduce the evidence, apart from the public health apparatus and any entity that stands to gain from compulsory vaccination, that subjecting another to the cocktail of components found in vaccines is healthier than foregoing the snake oil offered by pharmaceutical crony-socialist looters.
      Good luck with that.

      • Sean II

        Well, you got me there. I can’t provide much evidence from people who don’t “stand to gain” from vaccination.

        Because everybody gains from vaccination.

        • Libertymike

          “Science” is not cabined by the published results of double blind placebo “studies” sponsored by the public health apparatus and its crony-capitalist-socialist pharmaceutical sponsors.
          You are too smart to buy this bullshit.

          • Libertymike

            Sean, just ask Dr. Joseph Mercola about vaccines. Ask him about the reaction his son, Chris, experienced after receiving his fourth DPT shot at the age of two and a half.
            Within hours of the shot, Dr. Mercola’s son suffered convulsion, collapse shock and brain inflammation.
            The boy’s pediatrician never informed Dr. Mercola about DPT vaccine risks nor did he advise him of how to identify vaccine reaction symptoms.
            According to Dr. Mercola, “the immune mediated brain inflammation, also known as encephalopathy, that Chris experienced after DPT vaccination was followed by progressive deterioration in physical, mental and emotional health, including chronic infections, constant diarrhea, new allergies, failure to thrive, loss of previous cognitive skills, inability to concentrate and personality and behavior changes.”
            His kid was diagnosed with “minimal brain damage, including multiple learning disabilities.”
            Perhaps you are conversant with Dr. Mercola’s book, DPT: A Shotin the Dark. which he co-authored with Harris Coulter? They were the first to report an association between vaccine induced brain inflammation and a spectrum of brain dysfunction like seizures and learning disabilities.
            I could write all year on the peeps who have been harmed by vaccines and the efforts undertaken by those who want to impose, by force, their magic elixirs.
            Kids deserve better.

          • Farstrider

            And the singular of data is anecdote.

      • Farstrider

        Is Libertymike asking Sean II to justify a scientific conclusion without reference to science or scientists? Cause that is nonsense.

        • Libertymike

          Far, to play it your way, are you claiming that the ambit of science is cabined by adherence to allopathy?

          • Kurt H

            Allopathy (n.) — A term coined by homeopathy advocates to describe legitimate medicine, as opposed to the useless snake oil that they promote.

          • Farstrider

            If by allopathy, you mean evidence based treatments, science, then yes.

  • Ethan Pooley

    I agree with all the comments here to the effect that action and inaction cannot be used interchangeably, and that this defeats the argument as presented.

    I would point out that the impact of guardianship is probably best left aside when dealing with the heart of the issue. It can be re-applied in the context of whatever conclusions we arrive at. The cleanest thought experiment will involve an adult of sound mind, declining a vaccination against a disease identical to measles (except that it requires an adult vaccination).

    I’m surprised there is not more talk here about quarantines, and who should be on which side of the fence. Can the unvaccinated be restricted from certain spaces, or should those who are afraid of the unvaccinated censor their own movements to avoid contact? What happens if we dramatically increase the infection rates and consequences of our hypothetical disease?

    The necessity and consequences of risk imposition seem to me to be at the core of any libertarian theory of justice.

    • Sean II

      1) “…action and inaction cannot be used interchangeably”

      As I and others have already said: action and inaction sure as hell can be used interchangeably by pathogens. Indeed, they’ve been living it up on the basis of inactive hospitality for a really long time!

      So really what the inaction sticklers have to say is that the legal nuance between action & inaction is so precious…that it’s priceless, that it trumps everything. To hold a few idiots accountable for something they didn’t “intend” is so abhorrent, that it might be worth a bunch of deaf kids, or a bunch of dead kids, whatever.

      That is clearly ridiculous, which means the act-omission distinction is also ridiculous, at least in this case.

      2) “I’m surprised there is not more talk here about quarantines.”

      That’s because compared to vaccines, quarantine is the rhythm method of infection control.

      • Farstrider

        And quarantine is a lot more problematic for liberty than vaccines.

        • Ethan Pooley

          Most would consider it far more intrusive, heavy-handed, or otherwise undesirable, sure. But again: I’m not picking my ideal world and then developing a morality that might produce it. That would be a utilitarian approach. I am instead attempting to identify and reason about whatever morally-relevant properties exist, and then trying to achieve happiness, meaning, etc. within the confines of my conclusions.

          For example, I could be an all-powerful ideal observer, capable of causing all persons to be happy if only I forced them into certain actions. But if I also conclude that I do not own them and have no right to force any actions upon them, I will have to resort to persuasion instead. This does not exhibit high utility; it does not produce the world I desire. It could be argued that it is not “good” for anyone. Yet I believe it would remain right.

          A law which acknowledged that people cannot justly be forced to DO something without a pre-existing contract, yet which also established limitations to movement and interaction based on disease risks, would merely be describing what justice looks like at our current level of knowledge.

          • Farstrider

            But if “liberty” and “not being dead” are two of your “morally relevant properties,” then a policy that maximizes one but greatly infringes the other is demonstrably worse than a policy that maximizes one but only negligibly infringes the other. And that is why vaccination is better than quarantine. And why anyone who argues the contrary (or whose argument necessarily leads to the contrary) is incorrect.

          • Ethan Pooley

            Neither of those are necessarily morally relevant properties. I am not first trying to maximize life or liberty, but justice. In certain circumstances, for example, contracts can severely compromise both life and liberty. But even the ones that do, can be just. After I know what is just and limit myself (and others, as far as I can) to the enforcement of that, then I set out to pursue life, liberty and happiness.

            Vaccination is “better” than quarantine. I am with you on the value theory of this. Just as affordable healthcare is “better” than unaffordable health care. But that alone cannot justify any means of achieving it.

          • Farstrider

            I’d like to learn more about your theory of justice that takes no regard of life or liberty. Perhaps you have a newsletter I can subscribe to?

          • Ethan Pooley

            Hey, there’s an idea. And I already have one subscriber. w00t!

            I didn’t say that it takes no regard of them, just that they are not necessarily (that is, “always”, “non-contingently”, “regardless of context”, etc.) morally relevant.

            Sean II loves it when I quote Thoreau, so I’ll do it here to give some examples:

            “If I have unjustly wrested a plank from a drowning man, I must restore it to him though I drown myself.”

            And

            “This people must cease to hold slaves, and to make war on Mexico, though it cost them their existence as a people.”

            There are times when preserving my life, or losing it, is not a morally relevant fact in the determination of what is just. Similarly, I am a proponent of liberty because I believe that justice requires significantly more liberty than existing governments acknowledge, not because I find greater liberty a preferable state of affairs.

            Indeed, I don’t always find greater liberty preferable. The concerted action that becomes possible under a willingness to coerce has undeniable practical advantages. Unjust governments can accomplish things, including “good” things (that is to say, beneficial or generally appreciated outcomes) that just governments could not (though perhaps the individuals living under just governments eventually could).

            I can’t propound my entire theory of justice here, partly because, like all theories of justice everywhere, it is under-defined and philosophically weak in places. But it’s what I have to work with right now, and it proceeds from our nature as subjects of experience. The crux of it is the Kantian pronouncement that we must treat all subjects of experience as such—respecting this additional layer of their nature—and not merely as objects, like we might a rock. But since I don’t accept the loftier portions of Kant’s moral scaffolding, I am left at this level. Out of it can be developed some necessary respect for space and property, but I have not found positive duties to be forthcoming. Our mere coincidence cannot obligate us to, for example, labor for the community.

      • Ethan Pooley

        I don’t care about the legal nuance, I care about the moral nuance. It is precious. It is priceless. I trumps everything. Justice doesn’t always have high utility.

        Now, I like utility with my justice whenever I can get it. Once I believe I understand what justice demands, I start looking for ways to get it cheaply, to make it fit in a world I want to live in, etc. I start caring about its utility. But this second step cannot alter the results of the first.

        I don’t feel I’m at a final conclusion on this topic, because it smells like a trolley car. I want to read a few dozen more creative thought experiments before I start to feel like I have adequate moral perspective. I may be making some simple mistake of reason. But subjugating the practical to the moral is not that mistake.

        • Sean II

          Look, if you want to be high minded about this, then you should put your focus on the right of the children not to get sick and die because their parents don’t understand science, and can’t do math.

          That’s really the important thing here.

          • Libertymike

            What about the right of the children to be spared the horrors of allopathic jihadis?

          • Ethan Pooley

            I think that is the stronger argument. At the moment I don’t think it succeeds either, as I generally support (but hate) a parent’s decision to withhold certain kinds of medical care.

  • JdL

    Once again BHL proves that its name should be “Bleeding Heart Socialists”. It really is obscene how you’re attempting to co-opt the name “libertarian” for positions that are the exact opposite. I have no guess as to whether those who run this site are clueless or deliberately evil, but it is abundantly clear that it must be one of the two.

  • adrianratnapala

    Jessica’s second argument (negative externalities) works, but the first one: “…I don’t think we should presume that parents have rights to make medical decisions for their kids.” doesn’t.

    At first I thought she was using the word “presume” loosely, and was arguing only against an absolute assumption that parental choices are right. On skimming the linked paper, it seems she really is arguing against against even a presumption.

    Or rather she is asserting it without argument. Perhaps I missed it in my skimming, but it seems even the linked paper has no actual argument. It just lists a few cases (including vaccination) where parents decide to do things that the scientific elite would prefer they not do.

    In each case where the elite are clearly right, then that only argues against absolute parental control. If the elite are not clearly right, then it provides little evidence against the presumption of parental control.

  • Theresa Klein

    I don’t think the government should make vaccination mandatory. However, i do think it is the perfect candidate for private social pressure to be used to encourage vaccination.
    For instance if parents refused to let their children play with unvaccinated kids, many parents would be pressured to vaccinate their kids. Similarly, private schools and day cares may demand that kids be vaccinated. So could many other businesses. Between the benefits of vaccination and social ostracism of the unvaccinated, that should be sufficient to keep the rates of vaccination high enough to obtain herd immunity.

    • Libertymike

      The private social pressure is just not going to happen because parents, in growing numbers, are proving to be immune to the consultations of the allopathic dispensers of poison.

      • Theresa Klein

        Yes, apparently there is a vast conspiracy by the scientific establishment to poison your kids, for unknown reasons.
        Big pharma is secretly sending them all checks, maybe.

        • Libertymike

          People drawn to power and awash with other people’s money and the time to impose their will. How could anything ever go wrong?

          • Theresa Klein

            You mean scientists that study disease and develop vaccines. Certainly, there is no more vastly rich and powerful group of people in the world. I hear they have a secret underground lair, filled with test tubes and beakers.

          • Libertymike

            Heroes, all of them.

  • j_m_h

    I suppose there are a lot of ways to approach the issue but I don’t find the moralizing one more convincing that say a purely pragmatic one. In this case I’m not even sure the moral claims apply any more than if we’re talking about driving and bad drivers — why not argue that we should all have to take public transportation with well trained, professional drivers to make sure we don’t cause harm to one another?

    • Theresa Klein

      Right. Instead of mandating that everyone take only the lowest-risk actions, we just hold them liable for accidents and mandate that they carry liability insurance.

      Along these lines, I do believe people have been sued for giving other people HIV. So the precedent to sue someone for being unvaccinated and a carrier/transmitter of a disease is probably already there.

      Google is your friend:
      https://www.legalzoom.com/articles/can-you-sue-over-transmission-of-a-sexual-disease

      • j_m_h

        Yes, and I beleive there have been cases where the intent to transmit HIV has been used for criminal charges as well.

        It is a difficult line to draw when limiting behaviors that carry risk to others between the not allowed behavior, the actionable behavior and then even the “shit happens, you just have to suck it up” outcome.

        • Theresa Klein

          Usually the “shit happens you just have to suck it up” outcome comes when it’s impossible to figure out why the shit happened. If you can identify the source of your food poisoning, disease, or whatever, you can take action. I’m not really much of one for the idea that other people can impose risks on you without liability, if it’s actually possible to identify cause and effect.

  • It greatly surprises me about how so many libertarians seem to react to this issue very differently from similar ones.

    Not vaccinating is a clear example of an externality, where one’s action (or lack of action) harms a third party. As such, the best parallel is not adultery, but pollution. If you release toxins into the air or water that impacts the health of others, this effect is akin to failing to vaccinate your child.

    The textbook solution to this is a tax — but that is assuming Coasian bargaining is not feasible. As outbreaks can usually be traced to a Patient Zero, I would think that private lawsuits would be much more feasible than with air pollution.

    • adrianratnapala

      As far as I can tell, the reaction of libertarians on vaccination and pollution are very similar. They recognise that both fit into the theoretical categories where government intervention is proper and a grudgingly willing to support such intervention. They are grudging because they are unsure and divided about whether particular interventions are a good idea, all things considered.

      • I would expect that, but my perception has been that libertarians seem to be much more in favor of stronger government intervention in regards to vaccinations than with pollution.

        • Totoro

          I think it probably has something to do with how complicated the solutions to pollution are. Everybody knows there are economic trade-offs to reducing pollution, so the optimal level of pollution is non-zero. Whereas in the case of measles, the optimal level of infection in the population is zero.

          • But the cost of getting zero infection is also nonzero because it would involve infringing upon the freedom of those who do not want vaccinations.

          • Totoro

            Yeah, I guess you’re right. Maybe a more accurate thing to say is:

            If we grant that not getting vaccinated is equivalent to knowingly putting others at harm, then the criteria by which libertarians find it permissible for someone not to get vaccinated are decently well-understood. Those with legitimate health concerns about vaccinations are easy to spot. Those people have a reasonably well-understood freedom not to get vaccinated.

            In comparison, the criteria by which any given occurrence of pollution is permissible are very complicated. Can I smoke this one cigarette? Can I take this one transcontinental flight? Can I eat this tasty foreign-made avocado when I could be eating a shitty local one?

          • I think the parallel is clear. A single person’s choice not to vaccinate decreases the herd immunity and harms the health of the whole population by an infinitesimal amount.

            Likewise, a single person’s choice to drive a car or whatnot decreases the environmental quality and harms the health of the whole population by an infinitesimal amount.

    • martinbrock

      When Patient Zero turns out to be a penniless street vendor in Mumbai, who am I supposed to sue?

      • A more hard-line libertarian than me would probably say you’re out of luck, as it’s akin to when your child’s lung cancer is caused by a student drowning in student loans driving a 20-year old clunker of a pickup truck, and that the important thing is that the incentives are setup correctly.

        I’m actually not a big fan of Coase, and think Coasian bargaining rarely occurs even between neighbors. I prefer Pigouvian taxes and subsidies.

        But what exactly would prevent your scenario anyway? The U.S. government has no jurisdiction over whether foreigners vaccinate. Would you close the borders?

        • martinbrock

          I expected you to say that the Mumbai street vendor is not patient zero in the U.S., so I should sue the U.S. patient zero. I’m not sure that identifying patient zero is a realistic expectation, but if the U.S. effectively requires everyone in the U.S. to insure themselves against this liability, then I might expect to find someone to sue; however, requiring everyone to carry health insurance covering measles seems more practical.

          Mandatory life insurance covering death by measles is also conceivable, but very few people die from measles in the U.S., and the dead are … you know … dead anyway, so I wouldn’t want to be required to carry this insurance, unless I have young children or something. I would want an assurance of decent medical treatment in the event of contracting measles.

          I also don’t expect Coasian bargains to have much to do with these liabilities. Politicians might hold hearings and invite Coase to testify about what his hypothetical bargainers would do. I don’t know how Pigouvian taxes differ from other taxes.

          Nothing would prevent my scenario, which was kind of my point. Closing the borders doesn’t seem to be a realistic option. I’m a fairly hardcore libertarian, but libertarians of my sort don’t consider anyone out of luck in this scenario. We may form communities in which members share any risks we like. An insurance pool is such a community, but conventional insurance is not the only possible model.

          I’m hardcore, because I believe that people ultimately should be free to live outside of any particular community, but I expect most people to want a community with this sort of risk sharing. I expect most people to respect other property rights only subject to these sorts of protections. Property rights are only community standards, in my way of think, so no one is required to respect them without other strings attached.

          • The root problem is the externality. The market price system works efficiently when it considers all costs, but an externality means that a cost is external to the market decision-makers, and thus unconsidered.

            In the textbook case, the producing firm creates pollution, a cost not considered by buyers nor sellers. In this case, the non-vaccinator’s choice has an external cost upon others who suffer the disease that they wouldn’t have. The end result is a level of pollution that is more than optimal or a vaccination level below optimal.

            The Pigouvian tax internalizes the cost so that the producer will incorporate the cost of pollution. For pollution, this could take the form of a carbon tax, although cap-and-trade is a somewhat more restrictive variation. For vaccination, it could take the form of a tax upon those who do not vaccinate or a subsidy for those who do vaccinate.

            Thus I am arguing that one’s approach and attitude towards pollution ought to mirror that towards non-vaccination. There are a number of libertarians who take the Coasian view towards pollution, even though tracking down the people to sue for air pollution is much more a Herculean task than for measles.

            Mandating health insurance to cover measles seems far more draconian than any of these (depending on how the mandate was enforced — note the ACA mandate is economically identical to a Pigouvian tax to address the externality of adverse selection).

          • martinbrock

            I have no problem with an insurance policy that charges a higher premium to someone who is not vaccinated against measles, but this policy doesn’t address the externality, and I’m generally skeptical of the externality. If you contract measles from me, then either you aren’t vaccinated yourself or the vaccine isn’t effective. Either way, I’m not sure I should bear any liability. The vaccine manufacturer is in a better position to know the efficacy of the vaccine and to insure itself accordingly. It also knows the population of vaccine takers, vs. vaccine avoiders, better than others.

            If you aren’t vaccinated because you believe that the vaccine poses a threat to your health, then we’re still in the same boat if I believe that the vaccine poses a threat to my health. You may say, “Yeah, but your belief is stupid and mine isn’t”, but then we’re only deferring the decision to a politician who can also reason stupidly. Politicians may even have more stupid beliefs than others.

            You can certainly tell this externality story with enough assumptions, but we can’t assume that politicians empowered to impose externalized costs as you suggest will either do so effectively or limit themselves to imposing only these costs in the name of “externality”, so it’s not clear to me that a Pigouvian tax does more good than harm.

          • I have no problem with insurance charging actuarially fair premiums. I have a problem with mandating insurance.

          • “I’m generally skeptical of the externality. If you contract measles from me, then either you aren’t vaccinated yourself or the vaccine isn’t effective.”

            The externality does not occur between you or me in this case. The externality is in the loss of the herd immunity (that probably would’ve been the best bet at preventing your Mumbai scenario) due to a lower-than-optimal vaccination rate.

  • WIAJ

    Or, people could just ween themselves off statist-run entertainment like Disneyland as they should be doing anyways. Lol.

  • Dbudlov Johnson

    I think this person has missed the point of libertarianism… having a disease that “might” infect others doesnt justify force as it wouldnt be defensive… if that were the case you could argue banning peanuts, driving, walking around with a common cold or even just leaving your home is consistent with libertarianism as it “might” lead to someone being harmed… libertarianism is about preventing & addressing actual harm, by force, not using force to prevent risk taking or potential harm occurring whats consistent with libertarianism is letting people choose if they vaccinate or not & deciding which property allows or does not allow individuals with certain diseases or vaccinations to enter that property or even associate with each other… the only time there is a justification for using force to hold someone accountable for passing on a disease is if they knew they had it, understood how it was passed on & infected someone through being irresponsible or deliberately… forcing people to vaccinate is not consistent with libertarianism

    having said all that i think most people understand vaccinations make sense for the most part, so would adopt them voluntarily & for the most part they would use peaceful disassociation to segregate themselves from people

    • Farstrider

      From where does this intent requirement come from? Is it your view that the state cannot step in to prevent negligently cause harms? So as long as you are ignorant (or merely careless) of the harm you are causing, you have a license to keep causing it? That’s a strange kind of libertarianism.

      • Dbudlov Johnson

        what intent requirement?

        • Farstrider

          “the only time there is a justification for using force to hold someone accountable for passing on a disease is if they knew they had it, understood how it was passed on & infected someone through being irresponsible or deliberately”

          • Dbudlov Johnson

            ohh well how are you going to hold someone accountable for spreading a disease you dont know they have & they dont know they have? & how are you going to justify holding someone accountable for spreading a disease that harms others if they dont know they have it & are therefore a risk to others? surely you have to be guilty of either intending to harm or negligence to be held accountable for your actions?

          • Farstrider

            Vaccination is not about individual accountability, so this is beside the point.

  • Chmee

    Vaccine Controversy Shows Why We Need Markets, Not Mandates

    …….If government can mandate that children receive vaccines, then why shouldn’t the government mandate that adults receive certain types of vaccines? And if it is the law that individuals must be vaccinated, then why shouldn’t police officers be empowered to physically force resisters to receive a vaccine? If the fear of infections from the unvaccinated justifies mandatory vaccine laws, then why shouldn’t police offices fine or arrest people who don’t wash their hands or cover their noses or mouths when they cough or sneeze in public? Why not force people to eat right and take vitamins in order to lower their risk of contracting an infectious disease? These proposals may seem outlandish, but they are no different in principle from the proposal that government force children to be vaccinated.
    ………….

    http://us6.campaign-archive1.com/?u=a6b3044a9fe8889c822d11c16&id=e408afcdd8&e=9d92228128

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  • Ethan Trice

    Here’s the inherent problem with fixating on philosophy rather than pragmatic results. from a true libertarian/anarcho-capitalist standpoint, you can’t justify vaccines purely because of the *potential* risk it poses to other people (just as there is the argument against speed limits, smoking bans, drugs, etc). there are always externalities in behavior and a line must be drawn somewhere. There’s diminishing returns with these sorts of arguments: the 100% liberty society is simply anarchy. Ultimately, you can’t make the vaccine argument off the liberty rubric so you have to say which is more important in this case: a society that is mostly free but is forced to take vaccines or a society that is 100% free but suffers a massive epidemic?

  • This needs to go ’round again.