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Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Implications of Libertarianism for Compulsory Vaccination

Justin Bernstein
BMJ Blogs
Originally posted April 24, 2017

Here is an excerpt:

Some libertarians, however, attempt to avoid the controversial conclusion that libertarianism is incompatible with compulsory vaccination. In my recent paper, “The Case Against Libertarian Arguments for Compulsory Vaccination,” I argue that such attempts are unsuccessful, and so libertarians must either develop new arguments, or join Senator Paul in opposing compulsory vaccination.

How might a libertarian try to defend compulsory vaccination? One argument is that going unvaccinated exposes others to risk, and this violates their rights. Since the state is permitted to use coercive measures to protect rights, the state may require parents to vaccinate their children. But for libertarians, this argument has two shortcomings. First, there are other, far riskier activities that the libertarian prohibits the government from regulating. For instance, owning and using automobiles or firearms imposes far more significant risk than going unvaccinated, but libertarians defend our rights to own and use automobiles and firearms. Second, one individual going unvaccinated poses very little risk; the risk eventuates only if many collectively go unvaccinated, thereby endangering herd immunity. Imposing such an independently small risk hardly seems to be a rights violation.

The entire blog post is here.