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_borderCovid vaccine should not be mandatory

As Covid-19 vaccines gradually roll out, it’s a good time to revisit the topic of whether or not they should be mandatory. As someone who believes in individual rights and liberty, it is my opinion that they absolutely should not. Like any medical procedure, whether or not to get a Covid-19 vaccine should be a personal choice.

In an opinion piece in the Boston Globe Magazine a while back, Tom Keane argued that the government should require the Covid vaccine. “There’s a powerful moral argument that needs to be made,” he writes. “The vaccine isn’t about you. It’s about everyone else. Those who refuse to get the vaccine will in effect be imperiling the health and lives of their relatives, friends, and fellow citizens.” Keane personally criticizes those who oppose mandatory vaccination, calling them “cranky” and describing their position as “against all reason and morality.” He suggests that, as opposed to forcibly sticking needles into people’s arms, the government require the vaccine in order for people to go to work, go shopping, go to restaurants, or board planes.

“Indeed, the simple requirement can be that if you want to leave your house, you must get vaccinated,” he writes. “Maybe that seems intrusive. But it’s actually far less so than what we endured at the height of the lockdown from mid-March through mid-May, when the state shut down its entire economy. Maybe a few diehard anti-vaxxers will resist and simply stay forever in their homes. Fine by me. As long as they can’t mix with the general population, they won’t pose any threat. While normalcy returns for the rest of us, and we work and play as we used to, they can stay stuck inside, isolated and alone, glaring out their windows as life passes them by.”

There are numerous problems with this. First of all, I really don’t appreciate the negative characterizations of people who oppose mandatory vaccination. People with different opinions than Keane’s are not necessarily any more cranky, angry, or resentful than he is; they just have different opinions. Second, the proposed requirement that people receive a vaccine as a condition of being allowed to leave their house is, for all practical purposes, just as coercive as forcibly sticking a needle into someone’s arm. Keane makes it sound easy for someone to simply choose never to leave his or her home, but doing so is essentially impossible. Unless a person has enough money to last for the rest of his or her life, he or she must work. Even for someone who has the good fortune not to need employment, it will still be necessary to purchase groceries and other necessities, or perhaps to go to doctor’s offices occasionally. Not to mention the fact that psychologically, it would be impossible for all but the most avid homebodies to have an acceptable quality of life without being allowed even to take a walk down the street.

Which brings me to my main point: contrary to Keane’s contention that opposing mandatory vaccination goes against reason and morality, it is entirely morally permissible not to get a vaccine. It’s true that a person’s decision not to get the vaccine may have indirect effects on other people. But the key word here is indirect. The more people in a community who opt not to get the vaccine, the higher the prevalence of the virus in that community, so an individual person’s decision not to get the vaccine does contribute infinitesimally to raising the risk of infection for everyone in the community. But think about how directly a person is affected by being forced to make the choice between submitting to an unwanted medical procedure and being confined to one’s house for the rest of one’s life. People have the right to make their own decisions about which, if any, medical procedures to undergo. People also have the right to freedom of movement, meaning the ability to leave their house as frequently as they wish and to go wherever they wish to go. Therefore, people have the right to both of these things, and it violates people’s rights to force them to choose one or the other.

For those who argue that vaccination’s impact on other people justifies taking away the individual’s right to choose, it’s important to ask yourself: what is more of an invasion, to be around people who have not gotten a vaccine, or to be forced to get an unwanted vaccine in order to avoid a life sentence of house arrest? People have a right to control their own bodies, but they do not have a right to control the disease risk that is present in the environment around them, especially when doing so requires invading the bodies of others. If you are so concerned about catching the virus that you do not feel safe going outside unless you know that everyone else outside has been vaccinated, it is your responsibility to stay home. It is not other people’s responsibility to stay home in order to make you safer.

I would also add that Keane’s proposal is, in my opinion, more intrusive than the stay-at-home orders that shut down states’ entire economies. Requiring a medical procedure in order to do something is in some ways more invasive than banning the thing altogether. And stay-at-home orders, although they closed businesses deemed non-essential, did not completely ban people from leaving their homes as Keane’s vaccine mandate would do; people were still allowed to at least walk around outside and go to supermarkets and essential businesses. Plus, even if a vaccine mandate was less invasive than a stay-at-home order, that would not make it acceptable. Both violate people’s rights, and therefore neither ought to be enacted. Proving that your preferred policy is less oppressive than another policy does not prove that it is okay.

So in conclusion, people who opt not to receive the Covid-19 vaccine are making a choice that is perfectly morally acceptable. It is cruel and unusual to suggest that someone who makes this choice should receive a life sentence of house arrest.