When a Virus, the State, and Self-Ownership Collide

When a Virus, the State, and Self-Ownership Collide

“When we give government the power to make medical decisions for us, we in essence accept that the state owns our bodies.” – Ron Paul

There was cause for concern back in August when Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison stated COVID-19 vaccinations would be mandatory. He later changed his tune by saying: “We can’t hold someone down and make them take it,” but added he strongly encouraged everyone to do so. We’ve had similar concerns in Canada after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “Normality as it was before will not come back full-on until we get a vaccine for this [corona virus.]” His statement seems to imply the government expects 35M Canadians will voluntarily receive the vaccine. Surely the state must recognize the individual right to self-ownership. Left to wonder if and what future government mandates may look like, it may be prudent for concerned citizens to start preparing.

This quill’s intended purpose is not to weigh in on the benefits versus risks of vaccination programs as much discussion already exists on this topic. For those new to the idea that vaccinations may pose risks, Stefan M. Kløvning has written a valuable booklet on the subject, and I encourage everyone to explore it. This quill’s main objective is to flesh out potential strategies the government may employ in their attempts to administer the COVID-19 vaccine broadly and how we should respond. As an extension of individualism, we at the LQ hold that vaccinations should be voluntary. We base our position on the view that non-consensual medical treatment goes against the fundamental human right to life (or person) and self-ownership. I have covered the topic of natural rights in previous quills and encourage readers to go back and read them to complement the discussion at hand. 

Before exploring potential government approaches, a brief delve into self-ownership will benefit anyone who may be new to the term. One definition of self-ownership is: “The concept of property in one’s own person, expressed as the moral or natural right of a person to have bodily integrity and be the exclusive controller of one’s own body and life.” It is familiar to proponents of libertarianism, liberalism, and anarchism, and as mentioned in the preceding paragraph, it is consistent with the ideas of individualism. To reject this concept means to accept others can determine what is in the best interest of you and your body. Applying this idea to vaccinations may, upon first glance, seem somewhat overstated. Historically, there has been much trust put in recommendations from health authorities. But what if this trust were to erode (if it hasn’t already?) Who ultimately makes the decisions regarding what happens to our bodies?

A document issued by the United Nations and the World Health Organization entitled “The Right to Health” acknowledges the individual’s right to be free from non-consensual medical treatment. Many federal and local governments protect similar patient rights. Not surprisingly, these “rights” fail to protect citizens when governments deem mandatory vaccinations to be in the public’s best interest. Herein lies the problem. Clearly, from government responses to COVID-19, the vaccine will undoubtedly be viewed as a requirement to get us back to any semblance of normalcy. In Canada, the National Immunization Strategy objectives for vaccination rates range between 80-95%. Assuming similar targets are applied to the COVID-19 vaccine, governments will likely have a near-impossible chance of achieving the target rate through voluntary vaccination campaigns. A WebMD reader poll from this past summer revealed:

“Fewer than half of people plan to get a coronavirus vaccine in the first year it’s available, and an even smaller group — fewer than a third — say they’ll get it in the first 90 days… The poll of 1,000 readers finds many of them reluctant to take a potential COVID vaccine, even though public health experts have said it’s the best way to move past the pandemic. Just over 40% said they planned to get a vaccine, while 28% said they did not. Another 30% were unsure.”

Speaking to these results, John Whyte, the chief medical officer at WebMD, stated:

“If immunization rates are low, then we’re not going to achieve the level of herd immunity needed to protect us from this virus. How are we going to reopen if people aren’t getting the vaccine? We need a ‘Plan B,…”

Could “Plan B” involve mandated vaccines, and if so, how would that be implemented? The reader should remain open-minded as we explore the possibilities of two different coercive approaches.  

The first, likening itself to a doomsday account, could see governments deploy armed medical enforcement. State agents would be responsible for administering the vaccine as a matter of national interest. Willing recipients would report to designated sites, receive the vaccine, and be issued documentation proving they had complied. Non-compliant citizens would be deemed a threat to the state, rounded-up, and incarcerated to separate them from the rest of society. As a father, an additional fear would see the separation of minors from their parents in order to immunize children within non-compliant families. All of this may seem a step too far, but there have been several developments in recent months, which would have seemed inconceivable only one year ago. I don’t consider myself overly conspiracist, but I find it increasingly difficult to rule anything out these days. However, the state would be taking substantial risks enforcing vaccinations in this manner and would likely only succeed by marginalizing small numbers of non-compliers. At this point, authorities in the U.S. and Canada would be hard-pressed to attempt this approach while avoiding massive domestic instability as a result. 

The second and more plausible approach would be to incentivize those willing to receive the vaccinations voluntarily. Incentives would not increase existing benefits but rather keep our current freedom of movement intact. Documents issued upon vaccination would grant an individual access to restricted locations and services. Examples include air travel, public buildings, private businesses, government services, etc. Undecided individuals facing such a decision would be highly motivated to accept immunization and return to the comforts of their day to day lives. I have previously written about the barriers humans run into when living out their contrarian beliefs and referring back may again complement the current topic at hand. Monitored activities could remain accessible by substituting existing methods or as the result of innovations. Circumventing restricted access to grocery stores could be achieved by roadside pick-up or delivery, which is already in existence. Air travel, although highly impractical over long distances, could be replaced by automotive travel. Certain services could be offered remotely versus existing requirements to conduct them in-person. The lockdowns have already resulted in innovations within different sectors. There is reason to be hopeful that refusing the vaccine wouldn’t necessarily cut people off from our current way of life. The most significant area of concern is how non-compliance could play itself out in the workplace.

I’ve mentioned before that as a public servant, I rely on the state for my income. Ideally, this wouldn’t be the case, but it’s the situation I find myself in for the time being. I’m aware of what refusing a mandatory vaccination could cost my family and me. If the state implements mandatory vaccinations for government employees, logic follows that my refusal could terminate my employment with them, which is not an easy barrel to be looking down. On the other hand, private sector employers requiring their employees get vaccinated could offer alternatives such as working from home or wearing masks as a suitable compromise. I doubt the state would afford public sector employees such flexibility given that non-compliance threatens state authority.     

So how should we prepare? That’s an individual decision, but I believe people should be thinking about all of the potential scenarios and readying their mindsets accordingly. If you believe the vaccine will be safe and plan on receiving it, you likely won’t have experienced much apprehension while reading this quill. But if you want no part in a mandated vaccine, start considering the consequences of refusing it. Perhaps that means holding off from making any large financial decisions in the event non-compliance terminates your employment. Maybe those fearing the first scenario might begin drafting up off-grid plans and developing like-minded communities to navigate that outcome. One thing I’ve decided to do is make it as difficult as possible on vaccine administrators. Freedomtaker is a website (for our American readers) that contains links to several useful forms which can help deter administrators from quickly attaining their objectives. Many thanks go to our friend Don Wilson, leader of the BC Libertarian Party, for developing a non-consent form which fits within the Canadian context, and is available for download under the “resources” tab of our website. I don’t presume these documents to be legally binding, but they can be useful tools when asserting your non-compliant position. Additionally, knowing your rights can go a long way, and Canadian readers can find more information on patient rights here

As 2020 draws to an end, the future remains unclear, and 2021 will likely present many of the same challenges. The best we can do is to prepare for potential eventualities. Preparation will require some imagination, prayer (or reflection), and planning. The world is changing, and we must determine what kind of existence we hope to achieve during the years we are given. One of our past “Weekly Tokens” depicted several rolling hills with this simple caption, “it may be time to consider which one you’re willing to die on.” My sincerest prayer is that it never comes to this, knowing many have paid dearly while standing for their convictions. In closing, let me say, a world devoid of self-ownership is a world devoid of human dignity, and that, is a position I won’t be coming down from. 

Towards liberty,

OA

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