Published at 10:52 on 8 August 2021
Oh yes they can, and the lack of appreciation for this brings up one of the things that has so often galled me when the subject of freedom comes up.
Let us first discuss how vaccine mandates can increase freedom:
- They increase it for those who are medically unable to receive (or to much benefit from) being vaccinated, due to health conditions that they were born with or which they acquired through no fault of their own. (Real-world vaccine mandates are not universal; they do have exemptions for the minority who are incapable of tolerating vaccines.) Why should such unfortunate individuals have their freedom compromised by those who refuse to cooperate in a collective effort against a common enemy of humanity? How is this state of affairs in any way “freedom?”
- They also increase it for the rest of us. If vaccine mandates had existed, the Delta variant would not be spreading as much as it is. Had it not been spreading so much, mask mandates would not be coming back, and normal, vaccinated folks like me wouldn’t be having to bother with those damn masks and other restrictions yet again. (And yes, they annoy and inconvenience even those of us who find them worthwhile.) How is the current state of affairs in any way “freedom?”
It’s not just COVID-19 vaccinations, by the way. It extends to other areas of human behavior. Take air pollution, for example: How is it “freedom” for people’s ability to get out and be active to be impacted by bad air quality? Why is the “freedom” to drive polluting cars or profit from polluting factories the only “freedom” that routinely gets brought up when the issue of air quality regulations gets discussed? Get it straight: better air quality increases personal freedom for many.
Or how about indoor air pollution and smoking? It used to be considered “pro-freedom” for smokers to be able to light up in any indoor space: offices, stores, airports, aircraft, buses, etc.: smoking was allowed in all. How on earth was this “freedom” for those of us who are allergic to smoke and physically sickened by it? How was it “freedom” for those who simply didn’t want to stink of smoke to be made to stink of it? Why was (yet again) the only “freedom” that was routinely brought up the “freedom” to impose costs on others without their consent?
Make no mistake: there is also a cost in freedom to be paid when regulations and other standards of conduct are instituted. I am not disputing that. What I am disputing is unquestioned implicit assumption that this is the only side of the balance sheet worth considering. It is also an issue of individual liberty when one individual’s freedom to swing his fist impacts another individual’s freedom to not have his face punched.
It goes beyond regulations and impacts the development of positive policies as well. Consider, for example, universal health care. That typically requires taxes or other mandates to support, and those taxes do deprive the taxed of the freedom to spend that money on things other than taxes (or to save it). But the result frees people from having a run of medical bad luck drain their life savings, thereby destroying much of their freedom. It also frees children from the oppression of having the accidents of birth and inheritance determine the health care they get. Universal health care creates greater freedom for many. Any reasonable, balanced debate on health policy simply must include this fact. Yet in the USA, all too often it does not. The enemies of universal health care often get a monopoly on playing the freedom card.
One-sided characterizations of freedom are, in a word, a dangerous pitfall. Badly-warped concepts of “freedom” breed societes with badly warped value systems that in turn breed badly warped public policies.