Saturday, April 21, 2012
Hypocrisy Is The Last Refuge
My friend Gaelan:
NTodd I just have to ask one thing that really irks me about your "science" position on this question of civil rights: you are pro choice on medical decisions like abortion, birth control, alternative medical care, right? But on the choices related to whether someone buys health insurance or vaccinations, you side with corporate lobbyists who want to disallow choice, in favor of forcing people to do things against their will, in the name of "science" or "greater good".
Please help me understand how this does not make you a hypocrite. I really don't want to see you as a hypocrite.
As John Stuart Mill observed in On Liberty:
The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.
I accept as axiomatic that a woman has the right to control her own body and reproductive destiny, in line with what Mill and the other original liberals/libertarians posited. Yet even that, at least according to the Supreme Court, has some limitations as all rights do: there is an unfettered right to terminate a pregnancy until viability, then after that states can argue they have a compelling interest in the fetus' health and well-being. Where I draw that line is quite different than many states, but that's not germane to this argument. The issue is a balance of rights and needs when there is a conflict.
As George Washington, in his capacity of president of the Philadelphia Convention, noted in his letter accompanying the new Constitution's transmittal to Congress:
It is obviously impracticable in the federal government of these states, to secure all rights of independent sovereignty to each, and yet provide for the interest and safety of all: Individuals entering into society, must give up a share of liberty to preserve the rest. The magnitude of the sacrifice must depend as well on situation and circumstance, as on the object to be obtained. It is at all times difficult to draw with precision the line between those rights which must be surrendered, and those which may be reserved...
Democratic and republican forms of government are messy and full of conflict between individuals and their rights. We all have natural rights to ourselves, property and fruits of our labor, but we cede a certain portion to government (e.g., the right to not be taxed, or as libertarians call it, not be robbed) so that we might increase our overall protection. The formula is a difficult one and there is no single way to achieve this, but we work hard to create constitutions that try balancing individual rights and the powers necessary for government to protect them.
So, in the case of immunization, we have to weigh a variety of things and not be absolutely beholden to individual rights. If you want your kid to go to my kids' daycare, get them their shots. If you want them to go to my kids' school, get them their shots. If you have the luxury of staying home to care for and school them, bully for you!
But, Horatio, one should not be sanguine about the real need for vaccines, your philosophy notwithstanding. We eliminated small pox through universal cooperation. And we see exactly what happens when we lose that.
Generally speaking--it varies a bit depending on the type of disease--we require about 93-95% compliance to achieve herd immunity. Complete universality is, like most things, probably not feasible nor strictly necessary because we're fragmenting the population and making transmission more difficult for the bugs. I'm not sure if this counts as irony beyond a Morissettean sense, but it is of interest to me that folks who don't get immunized are still protected so long as everybody else does the right thing.
It's very convenient, and reminds me of an exchange between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. In the wake of Shay's Rebellion, Jefferson famously lauded revolution while he was safely in France:
I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. Unsuccessful rebellions, indeed, generally establish the encroachments on the rights of the people which have produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions as not to discourage them too much. It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government.
However, that was before the excesses of the French Revolution, which made him reconsider a bit. Many years later his friend Adams wrote testily:
The coolest and firmest minds, even among the Quakers in Philadelphia, have given their Opinions to me that nothing but the Yellow Fever could have saved the United States from the total Revolution of Government.
I have no doubt You was fast asleep in Philosophical Tranquility...
It's very easy to demand a philosophical exemption for yourself if you are still going to benefit from the actions of others. As I observed in the original FB thread, I could just as easily ignore stop signs because I can count on everybody else being alert and following the rules--traffic laws are an encroachment on my individual liberty, yo.
There are no guarantees in life, but we can mitigate threats. You non-immunized people probably will not come in contact with a contagion if 95% of us have gotten our shots, but there's still a chance you could run into somebody whose immunity is wearing down, is in between vaccinations, what have you. Even the shots themselves are not 100% effective, and can carry small risks including hospitalization and death, just as the diseases themselves. Yet we can greatly reduce the impact and likelihood of contracting disease by following protocols that have been developed since Edward Jenner.
And while you might be upset--rightly, in my opinion--with the nature of corporatism and might be concerned--again, rightly--that immunization has some downsides, I don't think it's unreasonable, tyrannical or hypocritical for me to question where the bounds of your individual liberty are in relation to mine and the rest of the state's. We're not even talking about some criminal penalties being imposed on people who do not comply: we're saying if you want to fully participate in society, particularly places where a vulnerable population congregates, you need to put a little skin in the game.
April 21, 2012 | Permalink
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I'm sorry. People who don't get their children vaccinated are putting them and OTHERS at unnecessary risk.
What a self-centered line in the stand it is to jeopardize the health of someone you profess to love and care about. It is not common sense. Dog knows there's little of that around these days. Why? What's the real motivation? Because you can feel like you're in charge? You are not a doctor.
Hey, there are all kinds of things out there to be angry about and want to stop, but I'm sorry, this isn't one of them.
The odds of a child being adversely affected by vaccinations are miniscule. Love them, feed them, clothe them, shelter them, keep them healthy.
This isn't about YOU.
Posted by: pie | Apr 21, 2012 8:32:39 PM
Line in the sand...
And hi, NTodd and fam. You're having a girl!! Cool.
Posted by: pie | Apr 21, 2012 8:42:13 PM
This isn't about YOU.
This seems to be a difficult concept for some toddlers.
You're having a girl!!
We are very excited! One of each!
Posted by: NTodd Pritsky | Apr 22, 2012 12:01:19 AM