New York Governor Kathy Hochul recently defended her decision to enact vaccine mandates by claiming that they constitute “self-defense.” This is, simply, wrong. To claim that it is self-defense to force other people to undergo medical procedures against their will is preposterous, and it is disturbing that anyone would make this claim.
As I’ve written numerous times on this blog, each person has the right to do anything he or she pleases, as long as he or she is not violating the rights of anyone else. Rights include the ability to control what happens to one’s body, one’s time, one’s energy, and one’s property; in other words the things in one’s immediate sphere. If a person violates the rights of another person by interfering in that person’s sphere, the victim has the right to use physical force to defend him/herself.
As the saying goes, your right to swing your fist ends where my face begins. If someone was about to punch me in the face, I would have the right to put up my hands to defend myself, or even punch the person back, because punching me in the face would violate my rights.
The argument that vaccine mandates are self-defense fails because, unlike punching someone, opting not to get a vaccine does not violate anyone’s rights. The decision not to get a vaccine does not involve touching another person, physically harming another person, or invading another person’s personal space in any way. It does not take away another person’s time or energy or damage another person’s property. In short, it does not interfere in another person’s sphere in any way.
The decision of whether or not to get a substance injected into one’s body is soundly within one’s own personal sphere. Therefore, any attempt to interfere in another person’s vaccine decision violates that person’s rights and is an act of aggression.
Why, then, would anyone argue that such an obvious example of aggression is actually self-defense?
The most likely answer is that the decision not to get a vaccine does, admittedly, have indirect effects on other people. When one does not get a vaccine, there is a higher likelihood that one will catch a virus, and therefore a higher likelihood that the virus will subsequently infect a nearby person. In other words, decisions about whether or not to get a vaccine do, in aggregate, affect the risk level for everyone in the community.
But unlike punching someone in the face, which directly invades the person’s space and impacts their body, the effects of abstaining from vaccination are indirect. Unlike one’s face, which is squarely within one’s own sphere and which one therefore has a right to protect from being punched, one’s risk level for catching a virus is not within one’s sphere at all. There simply is not a right to have a zero percent risk of catching a virus. Nor is there a right to have a risk level below any particular amount. This is because securing these things would require interfering in the spheres of other people.
People have a right to manage their risk level through various actions that are within their spheres, such as by getting a vaccine, wearing a mask, wearing a face shield, avoiding activities, or maintaining physical distance from other people. People do not, however, have a right to manage their risk level by forcing other people to take or abstain from actions. That would constitute interference in other people’s spheres and would therefore violate other people’s rights.
Vaccine mandates are not self-defense. They are aggression.