bookmark_borderMaking one’s own decisions is a right, not a burden

I recently read a New York Times article about the fact that “the onus has fallen on individual Americans to decide how much risk they and their neighbors face from the coronavirus — and what, if anything, to do about it.”

In my opinion, this is exactly the way it should be, and exactly the way it should have been all along, from the beginning of the pandemic.

The author of the article, Benjamin Mueller, characterizes calculating one’s covid risk as “a fraught exercise.” He writes that “many scientists said they also worried about this latest phase of the pandemic heaping too much of the burden on individuals to make choices about keeping themselves and others safe.”

“All of the layered protections we’ve been talking about for the entire pandemic, each of those is being stripped away,” public health professor Marney White says in the article. “It’s impossible to calculate risk in these situations.”

I completely disagree with the implication that being responsible for making one’s own covid-related choices is a bad thing. The onus should fall on individuals to make decisions about their own health and safety, because making one’s own decisions is a fundamental right. It is liberating, not burdensome, to have one’s freedom of choice respected. It is very much a good thing that people are no longer being forced to take safety measures that may not make sense to them given their wishes, needs, and preferences.

Quite frankly, for many of the “layered protections” that White mentions, it is a good thing that they are being taken away. Measures such as stay at home orders, vaccine mandates, and required testing violate people’s rights and therefore should never have been instituted in the first place. Being able to live without one’s fundamental rights being violated is an essential part of a life worth living. This is the opposite of a burden.

It may very well be true that it is impossible to calculate risk with a high degree of certainty. But freedom of choice is a fundamental right, no matter how much or how little information about risk is available. I disagree with the implication that it is somehow preferable to have one’s freedom of choice taken away than to make choices in a situation with incomplete information. 

It is up to each individual person to make choices according to his or her own preferences, values, and risk tolerance. It is up to each individual person to decide how much or how little research to do, and how much or how little information to obtain during the decision-making process. Sometimes very clear and precise information is available, and sometimes it is not. Regardless, making choices for oneself is a fundamental right that everyone needs and deserves.

A couple of other notes:

The article states that two thirds of people “have not received the critical security of a booster shot.” But the security provided by a booster shot is not critical, as people have a fundamental right to make their own decision about whether or not to get a booster shot (or an initial vaccine, for that matter).

Also, one mathematics professor who is quoted in the article makes a very wrong comparison. The professor, Cameron Byerley, explains that she told her mother-in-law that having a 10% risk of dying from a covid infection (as was the case early in the pandemic) is the same as being told you are going to die one out of every 10 times you use the bathroom. But this is a faulty comparison. Every person goes to the bathroom at least once per day (a conservative estimate). If you are told that you will die one out of every 10 times you use the bathroom, that means that death from going to the bathroom is inevitable. Most people, in fact, will die within a week. Getting covid, on the other hand, happens much less frequently than going to the bathroom! Unlike with going to the bathroom, it is unusual for someone to get covid more than once within a year. So no, dying one out of every 10 times you use the bathroom is not like dying one out of every 10 times you get covid. A 10% chance of dying for something that you do every day is very different from a 10% chance of dying for something that happens at most a handful of times in a lifetime. 

bookmark_borderYou don’t need to understand people’s decisions in order to respect them

One of the moral principles that I strongly believe in, and that I frequently write about on this blog, is the idea that people have the right to do anything they want, as long as it does not violate the rights of anyone else. (This idea is known as the non-aggression principle.)

Unfortunately, many people have the idea that unless they personally understand and agree with another person’s actions and decisions, those actions and decisions are not legitimate. I strongly disagree with this way of thinking. As long as someone’s actions are not directly harming you, they are not required to justify those actions to you, or to anyone else. People have a right to do whatever they believe is best for them. It doesn’t matter if their reasoning does not make sense to you, because their reasoning is none of your business.

Second Amendment rights provide a great example of this. More times than I can count, I have heard the claim, “No one needs an AR-15” (as well as an almost infinite number of variations of this claim with regard to different types of weapons, ammunition, etc.). People who make this claim are completely disregarding the non-aggression principle. One doesn’t need to prove a need for something in order to be allowed to have it. The only thing that matters is the fact that having an AR-15 does not, in itself, harm anyone. Therefore, people have the right to own and carry AR-15s for any reason, or for no reason at all. 

This meme from the National Association for Gun Rights sums it up perfectly:

Another decision that people are frequently expected to justify is the decision not to receive the Covid vaccine. Once I was arguing with someone on Twitter who claimed that if a person chooses not to follow the advice of public health experts, then of course it makes sense that the person would not be allowed to just wander around in public. This line of reasoning took my breath away, not just because of its blatant and unabashed authoritarianism, but more subtly because of its disturbing presumption that people are required to justify their medical decisions. This person seemed to be presuming that people are obligated to provide some sort of medical justification for disobeying the advice of medical experts, and if they fail to do so, then it is okay for them to be punished by having their freedoms taken away. In other words, it is one thing if someone has medical contraindications to getting the vaccine, but absent that, everyone should get the vaccine. Consistent with this way of thinking, the person then proceeded to interrogate me about what reasons a person could possibly have for declining the vaccine. But this way of thinking is wrong, and this line of questioning completely misses the point. Other people’s medical decisions, and the reasons for them, are none of his business and none of my business, either. The right to decline medical procedures is fundamental, and no one is required to provide medical justification, or any justification at all, for exercising it. “I don’t want to” is a perfectly good and complete reason for declining the vaccine.

Analogous situations frequently arise in everyday life as well. Society often expects people to provide a reason if they say no to an invitation, or leave a social event before it is over. These expectations are problematic for me, because I don’t particularly enjoy socializing, and I’m not able to tolerate it for as large amounts of time as most people are. Once when I told a friend that I was having a busy week and therefore wouldn’t be able to go to a particular event with her, she insisted that I explain exactly what I was doing and why that made it impossible for me to attend the event. I have been advised, when a social event is lasting longer than I want to stay, that I should make an excuse such as saying that I have a headache or have to get up early the next day. This has always seemed not quite right to me. Why should I have to make an excuse for staying for what I perceive to be a normal amount of time? My decision to leave a social event would be perfectly legitimate even if my only reason for doing so was preferring to play video games, sit on my couch, or watch paint dry. Just like with medical decisions or gun ownership decisions, people should not have to justify to others their decisions about how to spend their time and energy.

bookmark_borderWashington council member’s absurd comments on vaccine mandate

Thankfully, vaccine mandates have been lifted over the past few weeks in various places. One such place was Washington, D.C., where Mayor Muriel Bowser lifted that city’s mandate on February 15. Dismayingly, however, there are numerous people who value safety over respecting people’s fundamental rights, and who have objected to the lifting of vaccine mandates.

One such person was Washington, D.C. Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, who said (according to the Daily Wire):

“As a CM, and a parent of 2 kids under 5, I am flabbergasted and angry. Why would we give up on vaccines when we have come this far? Why are we not protecting the workers in these industries? Why are we telling parents we don’t care if they participate in society? I’m so F-ing mad… This will have a chilling impact on businesses. People who were going out and eating indoors BECAUSE of the mandate will not do that anymore.”

Everything about this statement is absurd.

First of all, ceasing to force people to get vaccines against their will does not constitute “giving up on vaccines.” It is frustrating that so many people equate forcing people to do a thing with the thing itself.

Second, the vaccine mandate applied to workers at affected businesses in addition to customers. Forcing workers to get a medical procedure against their will is the exact opposite of “protecting the workers in these industries.”

Third, it is preposterous to claim that ceasing to force people to get vaccines against their will constitutes “telling parents we don’t care if they participate in society.” There is absolutely nothing about allowing people to make their own medical decisions that prevents parents from participating in society. It seems that Nadeau is attempting to claim that it is impossible for children under 5, because they are not eligible for the vaccine, to go to places where there is any chance that a non-vaccinated person might exist. This is blatantly false. Plus, Nadeau should have specified that she meant specifically parents of kids under 5, while accompanied by their kids, as opposed to merely using the word “parents” and forcing people to guess about what she actually meant.

Additionally, it is irrelevant whether or not ceasing to violate people’s rights will have a chilling impact on businesses. Violating people’s rights is wrong, in all cases, regardless of the impact on businesses (or anything else, for that matter). If people stop eating indoors because they are unwilling to do so unless the rights of others are violated, so be it.

This leads to my most important point: it is incomprehensible that someone could be “flabbergasted,” “angry,” or “F-ing mad” about the fact that people’s rights are not going to be violated anymore. It is vaccine mandates themselves, not their abolition, that ought to make every person on earth flabbergasted, angry, and F-ing mad.

Finding it unacceptable for people’s fundamental rights to actually be respected, Nadeau introduced a bill to reinstate D.C.’s vaccine mandate. Thankfully, her efforts were unsuccessful. But that didn’t stop her from making another preposterous statement, which you can read below:

“I still believe that reinstating the proof of vaccination requirement for certain establishments and facilities is the best way to protect public health and safety. I believe that it is the best way to protect our immunocompromised neighbors, children under five, and even the ninety-three percent of District residents who have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. I strongly encourage businesses to keep this protection in place for their workers and patrons. I truly believe that patrons will choose to spend their money in the places they feel protected. If the Washington Post poll is any indication, then 74 percent of residents who support the requirement will have your back. The restaurant workers who have to face unvaccinated out-of-state customers want it. The parents who have to make tough decisions every day about what risks to take with their young children want it. Residents in their twenties still suffering from long COVID want others to avoid their pain, and the residents who passed away saying goodbye to their loved ones on FaceTime would want it if their voices could be heard… I will continue to engage in the hard work of making the District safer, healthier, and fairer.. I implore the Mayor to do the right thing. I implore her to stand up for workers, for young people, for sick people, and for all those whose voices have been drowned out in this conversation by those of lobbyists.”

Let’s go over everything that is wrong with this statement. 

First of all, the number of people who support something has nothing whatsoever to do with whether the thing is right or wrong.

Second of all, I find it odd for someone to refer to being robbed of bodily autonomy as a “protection.” I would much rather patronize a business where my fundamental rights are respected, as opposed to a business where my rights are violated out of some paternalistic desire to protect health and safety.

Third of all, it is twisted and messed up that Nadeau speaks of workers “who have to face unvaccinated out-of-state customers,” as if the existence of people who decline a particular medical procedure is somehow a foreboding and terrible thing.

I also find it presumptuous of Nadeau to assume that restaurant workers, parents of young children, people with long covid, and people who have died of covid would support having their rights, as well as everyone else’s, violated. I’m sure some people in each of these groups (unfortunately) support vaccine mandates, but I’m also sure some don’t. Nadeau should speak for herself instead of presuming to speak for others.

Additionally, for Nadeau to imply that mandating vaccination constitutes “making the District fairer” and “doing the right thing” is the furthest possible thing from the truth. Vaccine mandates might possibly make places safer and healthier, but they absolutely do not make any place fairer. Mandating any medical procedure is both deeply unfair and morally wrong.

Furthermore, vaccine mandates are the furthest possible thing from “standing up” for anyone. Mandating a medical procedure tramples on people’s rights, which is the opposite of standing up for people.

And finally, it is deeply offensive to claim that the decision to cease trampling on people’s fundamental rights is somehow the result of lobbyists’ influence. And it is utterly wrong to claim that the voices of people who support vaccine mandates have somehow been drowned out. The reality is the exact opposite of this: those who actually believe in respecting people’s rights are the ones who have had our voices drowned out, while those who prioritize safety over liberty have completely dominated the conversation. Ultimately, it is irrelevant what led to the decision to lift D.C.’s vaccine mandate, and it is irrelevant how many or how few people support this decision. Stopping trampling on people’s fundamental rights is simply the right thing to do. Anyone who wishes for the rights of others to be violated deserves to have his or her voice drowned out, because such a person is a morally bad person.

In conclusion, Councilmember Nadeau is demanding that her city do the wrong thing by re-implementing a policy that violates people’s rights to make their own medical decisions. She is flabbergasted and angry that a policy violating people’s rights has come to an end, when the thing that she should be flabbergasted and angry about is the fact that the policy was implemented to begin with. This mindset is illogical, immoral, twisted, and (unfortunately) all too common in today’s society.

bookmark_borderFour ways in which vaccine mandates harm people

Thankfully, vaccine mandates appear to be on their way out in many parts of the world (knock on wood). Despite this, I was philosophizing the other day (as I am wont to do) about why exactly vaccine mandates are morally wrong. These are four ways that I came up with that explain how vaccine mandates harm people:

  1. Vaccine mandates violate people’s privacy rights. Many people think that if someone is vaccinated, then that person is not negatively impacted by vaccine mandates. After all, being required to get a medical procedure isn’t a problem for those people who happen to have already gotten the required medical procedure, right? Wrong. Being required to provide proof of vaccination is harmful in itself, even if someone has already gotten the vaccine and has a vaccine card or other documentation easily available. This is because the act of having to prove to another person that one has undergone a particular medical procedure is inherently demeaning and degrading. This is not the type of interaction that a human being should ever have with another human being. Additionally, it is an invasion of privacy to require someone to share the fact that they got a vaccine, the date they got the vaccine(s), and the type of vaccine(s) that they got. One might think that this type of medical information isn’t that personal – and I would agree that it isn’t on the same level as info about getting a colonoscopy or having an STD to give just a couple of examples – but it is still medical information, and no person should have to provide it if they don’t feel comfortable doing so.
  2. Vaccine mandates punish people who aren’t vaccinated. This reason is pretty straightforward and doesn’t require much explanation. Requiring a vaccine for employment, travel, events, activities, or entrance into certain places means that people who haven’t gotten the vaccine aren’t allowed to do those things. Depriving people of the ability to hold certain jobs, travel to certain places, or participate in certain events and activities is inherently harmful.
  3. Vaccine mandates coerce people into getting vaccinated when they don’t want to. In my opinion, this is the worst way in which vaccine mandates harm people. For many non-vaccinated people, the punishments mentioned above are impossible or impractical to accept. Perhaps someone cannot absorb the loss of their job, because they need the income to survive. Perhaps someone’s passion is going to art museums, or hockey games, or fine restaurants, to give just a few examples, and they feel that their life wouldn’t be worth living without these activities. Or perhaps someone is part of a friend group that regularly partakes in activities that are subject to vaccine mandates, and the person doesn’t feel comfortable revealing to their friends that they aren’t vaccinated. In these types of situations, someone who does not want to get the vaccine may feel forced into getting it anyways. Unfortunately, this has likely happened to many people over the past months. Every instance in which this happens is a tragedy.
  4. Vaccine mandates bias the decision-making process of those who are undecided. This may be the most subtle way in which vaccine mandates negatively impact people. For someone who is genuinely undecided about whether or not to get the vaccine, the existence of vaccine mandates inherently biases the decision-making process. Every time a person makes a medical decision, that decision should be made 100% freely. People should be able to decide about the Covid vaccine based solely on their weighing of the risks and benefits of the vaccine to them individually. When a person knows that some jobs, places, events, and/or activities will be off-limits to them if they decline the vaccine, this knowledge inherently tips the decision-making process towards getting the vaccine. Therefore, by implementing vaccine mandates, governmental and private institutions are interfering with people’s medical decisions. They are introducing external factors – factors other than the actual risks and benefits of the vaccine itself – into the decision-making process. This is morally wrong, because it deprives people of the ability to make a truly free decision. (Infuriatingly, many institutions that implement vaccine mandates likely view the “tipping” of the decision-making process as an argument in favor of mandates).

These four reasons demonstrate how vaccine mandates harm everyone: vaccinated people, non-vaccinated people (both those who remain non-vaccinated and those who end up eventually getting vaccinated), and undecided people.

bookmark_borderThe immorality of the Canadian government

It shouldn’t even need to be stated that the actions of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Canadian government in response to the Freedom Convoy are morally wrong. Trudeau recently requested, and the Canadian Parliament granted him, emergency powers, which give him the ability, among other things, to freeze citizens’ bank accounts and seize their funds.

I am on the email list of the Campaign for Liberty, and they (correctly) wrote in a recent email: “This has shocking implications for free speech. In an instant, Canada went from a nation that honors free speech to a nation where the government can seize citizens’ property, savings, and livelihood for even donating to an effort whose viewpoints fall outside the accepted norm… We are talking about the government taking everything from working-class families – just for supporting free speech. The chilling effect it will have is obvious – and that’s the point.”

The Canadian government’s actions do indeed violate the fundamental right to freedom of speech. For people to be punished with financial destruction for the “crime” of political dissent is despicable. But that is not the worst thing about these actions. The situation becomes even more morally problematic when one considers the fact that the protesters being targeted by these brutal measures are not just any protesters. They are particularly honorable and brave protesters, and their cause is as worthy and morally right as any cause that can be imagined. For these protesters are demonstrating against government policies that force people to undergo medical procedures against their will.

It is entirely correct to condemn the seizing of people’s money for expressing viewpoints that fall outside the accepted norm. But the even bigger problem is the fact that the viewpoints in question fall outside the accepted norm in the first place. In a morally decent society, everyone would be in agreement that the government should not force people to undergo medical procedures. In a morally decent society, the viewpoints of the Freedom Convoy and its supporters would be within the accepted norm, not outside it. In a morally decent society, support for vaccine mandates would be outside the accepted norm, and those who advocate for medical procedures to be forced on their fellow citizens would be the ones facing the possibility of having their bank accounts frozen and assets seized. 

The atrocities happening in Canada are immoral because of their chilling effect on free speech, but they are even more immoral because of the content of the speech that is being suppressed. The members of the Freedom Convoy are standing up for people’s rights to make their own medical decisions. Speech in support of this cause is exactly what the world desperately needs more of, and protests and demonstrations in support of this cause should be unanimously supported. Punishing people for expressing their views is unquestionably wrong, but punishing people for expressing these views is even more wrong. No viewpoint is less deserving of punishment, less deserving of suppression, and less deserving of being chilled, than opposition to vaccine mandates.

The fact that we live in a world where support for forced medical procedures is the accepted norm is beyond disturbing. The actions of Trudeau and the Canadian Parliament are horrific not only because they are an assault on freedom of speech in general, but also because they are an assault specifically on people who are standing up for bodily autonomy and medical freedom.

bookmark_borderIncreased vaccination rates are nothing to celebrate

Recently I saw a video of a press conference during which, about a week after Boston implemented a vaccine mandate for restaurants, gyms, theaters, museums, and sporting events, city officials praised the resulting increase in the city’s vaccination rate. The mayor and public health officials used words such as “hopeful” and “encouraging” to describe this state of affairs.

“I would say there is quite a bit of reason to be ‘hopeful.’ For several weeks in December and into early January, our vaccination rates didn’t increase. More recently we have seen a significant increase in vaccination uptake. From the first or second week, we noticed a 36% increase…”

(source: Massachusetts Says No)

In my opinion, there is nothing to celebrate in this situation. Essentially, city leaders introduced a policy forcing people to do something, and then shortly after the policy went into effect, they brag about the fact that the policy succeeded in forcing people to do the thing. 

Forcing people to do something – or coercing people, or bullying people, or pressuring people – is not good. It is not something that anyone should be bragging about. It is not something that anyone should be celebrating. It is not hopeful. It is not encouraging.

Since May 2021, the Covid vaccine has been easily available to anyone who wishes to get it. It is highly likely that the people who received the vaccine in mid January did so not because they wanted to, but because of the mandate that went into effect on January 15.

Each and every instance of someone getting a medical procedure that they don’t really want is a tragedy. The fact that so many people seem to have gotten the Covid vaccine as a result of the city’s mandate makes my heart sick. The thought of people feeling reluctant to get the vaccine, but feeling that they have no choice but to get it, is depressing and demoralizing. No one should ever have to face a situation in which they have to get a medical procedure in order to keep their job, participate in an activity, or go about their everyday life. 

The fact that Mayor Wu and her administration consider this situation to be “hopeful” and “encouraging” is sickening, perverted, and grotesque.

bookmark_borderJustin Trudeau’s totalitarianism should not be tolerated

I saw the following quote by Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau on social media recently and found it extremely disturbing. Below, I will explain why.

First of all, Trudeau claims that people who oppose forcing everyone to get the Covid vaccine “don’t believe in science or progress.” This makes no sense. A person’s stance on vaccine mandates has nothing to do with science; it has to do with morality. Even if the science showed Covid vaccines to be 100% effective and 100% risk-free (which it does not), it wouldn’t be okay to require people to get them, because requiring people to get medical procedures is always wrong. Opposing vaccine mandates does not indicate that a person does not believe in science; it indicates that the person (unlike Trudeau, apparently) believes in moral right and wrong. As for progress, Trudeau might be correct in claiming that vaccine mandate opponents don’t believe in progress. But given the way the world has been trending over the past two years, opposing progress is not a bad thing, but a good thing! The world is moving towards totalitarianism, and further progress down this path should be opposed by all morally decent people.

Second, Trudeau claims that people who oppose forcing everyone to get the Covid vaccine are “very often misogynistic and racist.” This claim is completely unsupported by logic or evidence. The question of whether or not people should be required to get the Covid vaccine has nothing to do with gender or race; therefore people who oppose vaccine mandates are no more likely to be misogynistic or racist than people who support vaccine mandates.

Third, contrary to Trudeau’s claims, neither he nor the Canadian people as a whole gets to make a choice about whether or not to “tolerate these people.” People have a fundamental right to make their own medical decisions; therefore everyone has a moral obligation to tolerate people who make different medical decisions than they do. If by “these people,” Trudeau means not only people who opt against the vaccine, but people who philosophically oppose vaccine mandates, then his statement is even more objectionable. Opposing vaccine mandates is the morally correct stance; therefore everyone is obligated not only to tolerate people with this stance, but to support them and agree with them! For someone with a morally wrong point of view to ask whether or not he should “tolerate” people with the morally right point of view is preposterous.

The real question is whether people should tolerate those who, like Trudeau, believe that it is okay to force people to undergo medical procedures. I suggest that the answer should be no. 

bookmark_borderThe stupidest comment ever made?

A few months ago, NHL player Mike Fisher made an awesome Instagram post expressing his support for medical freedom and non-discrimination.

Unfortunately, someone named “nada_alghz” recently decided to make what is quite possibly the stupidest comment I have ever seen in my life.

First, she called the Freedom Convoy, an inspiring and beautiful protest against medical mandates in Canada, a “scam,” which is false and unsupported by any evidence that I am aware of.

Second, she claims that supporting an inspiring and beautiful protest against medical mandates is the same thing as supporting discrimination and racism, which is not only false but preposterous. Opposing medical mandates has nothing to do with race. Additionally, because medical mandates are discriminatory, opposing medical mandates is the opposite of supporting discrimination.

So to sum up, in response to an excellent and thoughtful post by Fisher, Nada decided to leave a mean-spirited, logically unsound, vicious, and nasty comment. It is unacceptable that we live in a world where mindless and authoritarian people like this are allowed a platform on which to express their views, while people who have done nothing wrong, such as Donald Trump, Robert Malone, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, are not. Constantly seeing comments like this is mentally exhausting and needs to stop yesterday.

bookmark_borderThe slippery slope of vaccine requirements

Numerous times, I’ve heard people make various versions of the following argument:

Requiring Y in order to do X is not the same thing as forcing people to do Y, because people can simply not do X.

Or, put slightly differently:

Requiring Y in order to do X is not the same thing as forcing people to do Y, because people consent to Y when they choose X.

For example…

  • Requiring the Covid vaccine in order to attend a concert does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can simply not go to the concert.
  • Requiring the vaccine in order to attend a Bruins or Celtics game does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can simply not go to any games.
  • Requiring the vaccine in order to eat inside a restaurant does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can simply not go to restaurants, or sit outside on the patio, or get takeout instead.
  • Requiring the vaccine in order to go to a gym does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can go for a run or work out at home instead.
  • Requiring the vaccine in order to go into a grocery store does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can order groceries using Instacart, Amazon, or Peapod.
  • For a country to require the vaccine for all incoming travelers does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can simply not travel to that country.
  • Requiring the vaccine in order to board an airplane does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can simply not travel.
  • For the federal government to require the vaccine in order to work in the medical field does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can work in a different field.
  • For an employer to require the vaccine does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because no one is forced to work for that particular company.
  • For a college to require the vaccine does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because no one is forced to attend that particular college.
  • For OSHA to require the vaccine in order to work at a company with 100 or more employees does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can choose to work at a smaller company.
  • For a local government to require the vaccine in order to work at any company does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can simply move to a different city, or choose not to work.
  • Requiring the vaccine in order to receive Social Security benefits, or welfare benefits, does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can simply forego those benefits.
  • For a doctor to require the vaccine of their patients does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can just switch to a different doctor.
  • For health insurance companies to charge extra to non-vaccinated people does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can just pay the extra money.
  • Ordering a lockdown for non-vaccinated people does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can simply stay locked down inside your home.
  • For the government to require the vaccine for everyone and impose fines on those who do not comply does not force anyone to get the vaccine, because you can simply pay the fine.

As these examples show, depending on what the “X” is, the difficulty of avoiding doing it, and therefore avoiding a situation in which one is required to do “Y,” varies greatly.

If one particular concert requires proof of vaccination, then it’s not too burdensome to forego the concert. If one particular restaurant or bar requires proof of vaccination, then it’s not too burdensome to choose a different restaurant or bar instead. But what if your favorite professional sports team decides to require proof of vaccination to attend games? You could, of course, stop attending games, but if you love the team, are used to attending games frequently, and really look forward to the games, this would be a big sacrifice. But still, no one needs to attend professional sporting events. It’s not an essential service.

But then what happens if your local government passes a vaccine mandate for indoor recreational spaces such as restaurants, bars, gyms, theaters, and museums? None of these things are necessary to live. You can make all your meals at home, and exercise at home as well. Perhaps in order to exercise at home you will need to invest in weights and maybe an exercise bike, because you don’t own any exercise equipment. What if you can’t afford this? One might argue that you could run outside, but what if it’s winter and it’s too cold to comfortably do so? One might argue that you could just forego exercising, and accept becoming out of shape and unhealthy, but what if fitness is very important to you? Not to mention the fact that with restaurants, bars, theaters, and museums off-limits, your recreational activities will be very limited, which will take a toll on your quality of life. Your relationships will likely be harmed as well, because you will need to either make up an excuse or explain your vaccination decision to your friends if you are invited to a get-together at any of these venues.

Then what happens if, hypothetically, vaccination becomes required in order to enter grocery stores? You could have groceries delivered to your home, but this is more expensive. What if you are very low-income and cannot afford this added cost?

On a different note, what happens if your state government requires vaccination for all large events, including weddings and family reunions? What if you are invited to the wedding of a close friend or relative? How would you feel about having to miss such a once in a lifetime event? How would you explain your absence to your friends and family, and how would they react?

Now, let’s talk professional life. What if you are a high school student applying to colleges, and all of the colleges that are conveniently located and offer your desired major require the vaccine? Should you move across the country for school? Should you choose a small, obscure college that doesn’t offer the program that you want? Or should you forego college entirely, even if you worked hard to get excellent grades and always planned on going to college? What if you planned on going into the medical field, only to find that the vaccine is now required for any job in a medical setting? You could always choose a different career field, but what if being a doctor or nurse is your calling, and there is no other career that would be as fulfilling for you?

What if you are in the process of applying for jobs? If there is a particular company that requires vaccination, then you can just avoid applying to that company, but the more companies that implement vaccine requirements, the more difficult your job search will be. You will have fewer options, your search will likely take longer, and you will face higher odds of having to settle for a job that is non-ideal in terms of pay, duties, or location. What if you need to steer clear of any company with 100 or more employees because OSHA has mandated the vaccine for all employees at such companies? Most likely you would still be able to find a job eventually, but doing so would be all the more difficult with so many options eliminated.

What if you are currently at a job that you love, and your employer implements a vaccine mandate? What if your profession requires significant amounts of education and training, and you now need to start over in an entirely new career, meaning that your education and training are now wasted?

Clearly, the more companies, activities, events, locations, and career options that require the vaccine, the more pressured, coerced, and forced people will feel into getting it. It will become more and more difficult for non-vaccinated people to plot a course through life. Avoiding the requirements will become more and more burdensome, inconvenient, and difficult and will require more and more sacrifices. The world will become more and more like an obstacle course, with more hoops to jump through and a metaphorical noose gradually tightening around one’s neck. Some vaccine requirements are clearly worse than others; for example, requiring the vaccine for a concert is not as bad as requiring it for the subway, bus, or grocery store. It is impossible to pinpoint the exact point on the continuum at which one can say that people are forced into getting the vaccine. But every vaccine requirement is a step towards that point. Any vaccine requirement is a step in the wrong direction.

That is why you should be able to do anything you want without having to get a vaccine in order to do so. People have a fundamental right to decide whether or not to get any medical procedure. If the decision to forego a medical procedure is punished by having activities, events, locations, or career options taken away, then it can no longer be said that people are truly free to decide. Some vaccine requirements violate people’s rights more severely than others, but all vaccine requirements violate rights. Some people claim, condescendingly, that vaccine mandates are not coercive but merely a matter of “the unvaccinated” facing “consequences” for their decisions. But the decision to get a vaccine and the decision not to get a vaccine must be treated equally, because both are equally good and equally valid decisions. Any disparate treatment amounts to punishing people who have done nothing wrong and is therefore unjust. No one should have to forego a job, an education, a mode of transit, a travel destination, an event, a meal, a game, or a recreational activity because of their personal medical decision. No one should have to sacrifice money, time, convenience, fitness, relationships, fun, or happiness for the “privilege” of declining a shot. Vaccinated and non-vaccinated people should have all the same activities, opportunities, and career options available. Only then will people truly have medical liberty.

bookmark_borderBiden urges companies to violate employees’ rights in response to SCOTUS ruling

In response to the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down the federal vaccine mandate for companies with over 100 employees, Joe Biden unsurprisingly made some authoritarian comments.

Here is what Biden said:

“I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to block common-sense life-saving requirements for employees at large businesses that were grounded squarely in both science and the law. This emergency standard allowed employers to require vaccinations or to permit workers to refuse to be vaccinated, so long as they were tested once a week and wore a mask at work: a very modest burden. As a result of the Court’s decision, it is now up to States and individual employers to determine whether to make their workplaces as safe as possible for employees, and whether their businesses will be safe for consumers during this pandemic by requiring employees to take the simple and effective step of getting vaccinated. The Court has ruled that my administration cannot use the authority granted to it by Congress to require this measure, but that does not stop me from using my voice as President to advocate for employers to do the right thing to protect Americans’ health and economy. I call on business leaders to immediately join those who have already stepped up – including one third of Fortune 100 companies – and institute vaccination requirements to protect their workers, customers, and communities.”

First of all, although not the least bit surprising given that the vaccine mandate was instituted by OSHA at Biden’s urging, it’s still difficult for me to comprehend how anyone could be disappointed at a ruling protecting individual rights from an egregious violation. It’s notable that Biden made no mention of morality, individual rights, or liberty in his address. He describes vaccine mandates as “life-saving,” “common-sense,” and “grounded squarely in both science and the law.” These things might be true (although the majority of the SCOTUS justices would disagree with the “grounded in the law” part), but none of them make it okay to require people to get a vaccine as a condition of employment. Doing so violates people’s rights and is therefore morally wrong. But clearly, the rights of individuals to make their own decisions about their bodies and lives are not particularly important to Biden.

It is telling that Biden characterizes the decision of whether individual businesses are going institute vaccine mandates as a decision about making businesses safe for employees and consumers and protecting people’s health and the economy. The debate over vaccine mandates is fundamentally a question of whether or not businesses are going to violate the rights of their employees. Although health, safety, and a booming economy are all good things to have, none of these things is as important as protecting individual rights. (With regards to Biden’s point about protecting workers, customers, and communities, I believe that forcing workers to do something they do not want to do is the opposite of protecting them, as I explained in a previous blog post.) Contrary to what Biden claims, instituting vaccine mandates is not “the right thing,” but the wrong thing. Instituting vaccine mandates is not “stepping up,” as Biden characterizes it, but rather an act of aggression against employees.

Thanks to the First Amendment, Biden does have a legal right to use his voice to encourage businesses to do the wrong thing. He does have a legal right to advocate that companies violate the rights of their employees. But that does not make it morally right of him to do so. 

The most disturbing part of Biden’s comments was his characterization of the vaccine-or-test requirement as a “very modest burden.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Neither shots nor Covid tests are particularly invasive medical procedures, but that does not make it okay to require them as a condition of employment. Requiring people to provide documentation that they’ve undergone a medical procedure is demeaning, degrading, and dehumanizing. It takes away privacy, it takes away liberty, and it takes away human dignity. When an employer has the power to decide what medical interventions an individual person must get, that individual person is deprived of the right to govern his/her body and his/her life. What is at issue here is not a specific vaccine, nor the act of having one’s nose swabbed. It is the concept of bodily autonomy and self-ownership. It is the fundamental right to make one’s own medical decisions, and that includes the right to decline any medical intervention. Although getting a shot or getting one’s nose swabbed may not be a big deal in itself, the loss of the freedom to independently make medical decisions is absolutely a big deal.

To be forced to submit to medical procedures in order to keep one’s job means to lose one’s dignity, one’s autonomy, and one’s ownership of one’s body. This is far from a “modest burden.”