Monday, February 5, 2007

on the whole vaccination thing.

My little post on the HPV vaccine has certainly drawn a good amount of comments, and I want to address some of them directly.

"hpv has been liked with penile cancer. This vaccine could help men and women. Now how does that change your perspective?"

It doesn't.

I don't care if the vaccine extends everyone's lifespan twofold and gets rid of all forms of cancer in the blink of an eye--it still doesn't justify making its administration to other people's children mandatory by force of law.

"From an anarcho-capatlist libertarian standpoint, Merck is being allowed to act in an unhindered fashion. They may be "greasing the pole" but that's unchecked capitalism at work. Merck has the money and they should be allowed to use it freely, and that includes influencing legislature to their purposes. To believe otherwise would mean some sort of government law prohibiting that, and anarcho-capitalist libertarians are against that...aren't they?"

First of all, you need to strike the phrase "anarcho-capitalist libertarian" from your personal vocabulary. Such a critter does not exist, and every time someone uses the word, Milton Friedman rotates in his grave.

You see, "capitalism" is not a description of a system or a philosophy, like most of the other "-isms". It's a description of reality, like the law of gravity, and as such it's silly to glue it into a word construct with anarchism and libertarianism. People who use that term to describe their own philosophy have only a dim idea of anarchism and libertarianism, and none about capitalism. They merely cobble together a philosophy by picking and choosing their favorite snippets from either one of the hyphenated schools of thought. It makes about as much sense as saying you're a proponent of communist gravity, or mercantilist collective magnetism.

Now, I can't tell you what an "anarcho-capitalist libertarian" would make of Merck's successful lobbying, but I can give you my libertarian opinion on it. Yes, Merck has the right to use their money any way they please, unless it violates someone else's property rights...and therein lies the rub. They don't have the right to force people to purchase their product at gunpoint, which is exactly what they did. Doing so violates the rights of the people who do not want to be compelled to have their children vaccinated, or compelled to pay for someone else's kids' vaccinations.

In a nutshell, you as a person don't have the right to go next door and hold a gun to neighbor A's head to make him pay for the vaccine for neighbor B's daughter. Since no organization has rights beyond those of the individuals which make up those organizations, there can be no legal right to make anyone pay for anything, no matter how good you think it would be for them.

That's the libertarian position, anyway. I'm not baked enough to try and reconstruct the "anarcho-capitalist libertarian" viewpoint.

" "If Merck's new HPV vaccine is so wonderful, people who need it will buy it on their own."

unless you're poor. Social Darwinism at work."

I'd like to know how many vaccinations for needy people you have personally purchased in the last year or two, with your own money. I want to bet the number is somewhere between none and zilch. How about meals for hungry folks? How much of your salary do you set aside every month to fight "social Darwinism" and alleviate need everywhere?

Someone's inability to buy vaccine or food or shelter does not constitute a legal or moral claim to the paychecks of those who can. That does not mean there's no charity or good will in a libertarian society, it merely means that if you wish to help the needy, you will not be stopped.

Anybody can do good with other people's money.

"Cervical cancer is usually discovered too late, and is by all accounts a rather horrid way to go (assuming there are any good ones) with an exceptionally low rate of recovery.

It is possible to knock down the odds against this rather horrid way to go rather substantially with a simple vaccine."

Then that's a great incentive for anyone with a daughter to go and have her vaccinated, isn't it? Maybe skip the family meal at Outback for a weekend, or don't buy that Xbox?

What's that? Some people can't afford the vaccine? Others may be too uneducated to realize how important it is to be vaccinated? I still fail to see how such shortcomings ought to entitle anyone, by law, to help themselves to the contents of their neighbor's wallets, no matter how many lives it can save. Any other argument is textbook utilitarian...if you hold the notion that you can commandeer the livelihood of another person at gunpoint as long as it does the most possible good "for society", then anything goes, and you've made the self-sufficient people slaves to the dependent people forever.

There is no "society". Society is a collection of individuals, and if you say that some people can be enslaved to benefit society, you're only saying that they can be enslaved to benefit other people. No amount of good intentions or beneficial results cancels out such an immoral act.

Don't get me wrong: my daughter will get the vaccine once she's old enough, but we will pay for it out of our own wallets. I simply wouldn't be able to morally justify making my neighbors pay for it.

And if we were too poor to afford the vaccine? Then she wouldn't get vaccinated, plain and simple. I don't have the right to a piece of my neighbor's paycheck, and selling my vote to a politician to take it for my use is no more moral than going over to my neighbor's house in person and demanding the same money at gunpoint. There is no moral difference just because you act through an intermediary to get that cash.

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