Personal Freedom To Do What?

The reason for prohibiting smoking in confined spaces is simple. Study after study has shown that smoking is hazardous to the health of smokers and those nearby who inhale secondhand smoke. The tobacco industry fought against public dissemination of those findings for decades as well as against regulations restricting smoking.

The public generally accepts the rationale that bystanders in enclosed spaces shouldn’t be forced to inhale toxic substances, yet a significant percentage of the American people refuse to accept the idea that innocent bystanders shouldn’t be forced to inhale air potentially filled with COVID droplets and aerosols from people who refuse to get vaccinated.

This isn’t even a new issue. Governments have required vaccination against other diseases for decades in the interest of public health. So why, all of a sudden, is there this sudden push for “freedom to infect others,” albeit disguised as the personal freedom to reject government public health requirements?

Here in Utah, the legislature has prohibited the state government and public schools and colleges from imposing vaccine mandates. In short, the only institutions who could, on a wide-scale basis, significantly reduce the spread of the Delta strain of COVID are forbidden to do so. That means more people will be exposed, and more will die, in the name of “personal freedom,” particularly children too young to be vaccinated and people with compromised immune systems.

If this idiocy had been adopted in the 1950s or 1960s, millions more Americans would have died, but too many Americans born in 1970s and later have no experience with the ravages of infectious diseases, nor do they apparently understand history, epidemiology, public health, or common sense.

It’s a mindset on a par with the states’ rights arguments of the Confederacy, who claimed that the government was infringing on their rights to enslave others, except this latest incarnation says that no one can infringe on someone’s rights to infect others.

19 thoughts on “Personal Freedom To Do What?”

  1. Joe says:

    For Delta:

    R_0 = 8

    which means vaccination will do diddly squat to transmission. See the following picture which only compares R_0=2.5 and R_0=5, which are both way under 8.

    (from the CDC leak: )

    If you don’t want to inhale air potentially filled with COVID droplets and aerosols from people who refuse to get vaccinated, there is only one solution: WEAR A MASK, because the vaccinated also produce COVID droplets and aerosols, as pointed out by the CDC itself.

    > Why, all of a sudden, is there this sudden push for “freedom to infect others,” albeit disguised as the personal freedom to reject government public health requirements?

    Because the COVID vaccines are under emergency use authorization, and that REQUIRES informed consent ever since the Nurenberg trials. Bad things happen when people are subjected to governmental experimentation, as WWII taught those of us who paid attention in history class.

    I think this blog post is completely downplaying why people are refusing. Konstantin Kisin gave one explanation from a British perspective:

    The NYTimes gave another from a US perspective:

    Cry wolf enough times, and people stop trusting you, even when you might be right.

  2. Jeff says:

    Well said. Thanks.

  3. R. Hamilton says:

    I don’t have a problem with advice (as updated and accurate and transparent as possible – which exceeds the standard of the rather manipulative* and incomplete** guidance we’ve often received), nor with for a time following such advice; but mandates are an affront to a free citizen. Everyone’s liberty (not just mine!) is more important than minimizing avoidable harm or death. Not only dead soldiers but every loss of life, health, or property that authoritarian means could have prevented is part of the cost of liberty (as is a reasonable prevalence of responsibility, including enough people VOLUNTARILY practicing and advocating for sensible behavior). And no, I don’t mean laws against murder are authoritarian; but not getting vaccinated (for which there are various possible reasons ranging from delusion to misinformation to matters of conscience to rare legitimate special medical circumstances) is not murder nor necessarily even negligence if it’s a matter of either medical advice or conscience. I would also point out that of the three groups I’m aware of whose beliefs generally are not in favor of at least some of modern medicine (Christian Scientist, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and some of the Amish – I know some of the latter two groups), none of the three have a blanket prohibition against vaccination BUT they do generally hold it to be an issue of conscience, and presentation of facts tailored to their concerns might be more effective than mandates with them; and I think history agrees with that. For instance, in their terms, no medicine, however effective, is 100% effective on the one hand nor on the other hand precludes or invalidates prayer or faith IN ADDITION to the medicine. To insist on faith alone at all times might even be violating “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God”.

    I recommend most people and especially the vulnerable attempt to EXCEED reasonable requirements as possible, on the assumption that we each have the most control of our own outcomes (and should depend on ourselves before we depend on others!), and not everyone else is going to be reasonable regardless of mandates. Gun laws fail because they restrict the law-abiding, not crooks; extend the concept.

    Liberty NEVER prevents someone from doing the right thing, whether it’s vaccination and masking, or charity, or whatever.

    * manipulative: early, “you don’t need a mask” not because you didn’t, but because healthcare workers needed them more; later, “you need a mask” without telling you that the mask typically available to you protects FROM you more than it protects you (perhaps 70% vs 30%), and you’re dependent on the compliance of others to protect you from them. The former was a flat out lie, the latter an omission to avoid a less palatable truth. That’s not counting the leftists that didn’t want Trump’s vaccine, but thought everyone should be required to get it once Biden was in office. Same vaccine, different response.

    ** Being slightly in a vulnerable category (age, weight) myself and knowing some even more vulnerable, I’ve been reading some of the studies, the real ones on PubMed and other reputable sites, and while there’s a lack of accepted highly effective treatments, and while these were not large or double-blind studies, there are some combinations of items (I don’t mean hydroxychloroquine which whatever one thinks of it is prescription, but items one can find in a vitamin/supplement store and may be helpful esp. in combination, not exceeding amounts in label instructions, and some or most of which have been previously thought helpful with other respiratory viruses) that MAY reduce severity or duration, but that’s not exactly been widely publicized. They are NOT preventative, but like most reasonably chosen quality supplements, in moderation are harmless unless someone has special issues. Some of the common ones come as no surprise, but three less widely known ones might improve the effect. Hint: early on, C and zinc supplements (D, not so much) were in short supply, so at least some people were figuring on stacking the odds in their favor.

    PS sorry for length, I’ve edited this down by at least a third and also reduced the harangue toward the Goldwater “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice” quote, although I obviously sympathize with it.

    1. Your point that “Liberty NEVER prevents someone from doing the right thing” is correct only so far as it goes. The problem is that, in any society, there are those who do not want to do the right thing because it costs them more or inconveniences them, as well as those who prefer to do the wrong thing. That’s why we have laws and regulations. As Jefferson put it, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary… In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.”

      1. R. Hamilton says:

        Synne is behovabil (necessary or paradoxically useful), but al shal be wel, and al shal be wel, and al manner of thyng shal be wele.
        — Julian of Norwich (original Middle English, some time in the 1300’s)

        (consider that a response to the Jefferson quote, although I respect Jefferson’s writings and thoughts (if not all his deeds))

        The freedom even to be far less than an angel is NECESSARY for the virtue of choosing to be better to be transformative; and the value of transformation persists when outcomes have become dust. Metaphorically that could be true even without any supernatural aspect. Both collectivism and authoritarianism undermine individual virtue and strength by leading people to suppose that passive compliance is all they need to do.

        Maybe – MAYBE in this particular situation, for a very limited time (even if the conditions persist longer), some portion of restrictions or requirements in actual practice are necessary. But the precedent is appalling at best, some local rules (such as new NYC vaccine passport requirement for any indoor venue or dining) do seem quite excessive, and that it might have people becoming accustomed to being told what to do is flat-out anti-American, anti-liberty, and anti-human in terms of what it means to be human and not some reflex-driven insect.

        I appreciate the quality of your reply; but to be clear, I do not condone carelessness, but I accept the risk of unregulated carelessness as usually better than the infringement of regulating it.

    2. Ryan Jackson says:

      “Freedom is more important than people’s lives”

      Brilliant. Fun fact, certain game systems use a scale on ethics and morality. One axis is your stance between society vs personal freedom. The other is between Selflessness and Selfishness.

      You are preaching full tilt Personal Freedom and Selfishness. On that scale we call that Chaotic Evil…

      It fits.

      1. Lourain says:

        “Freedom is more important than people’s lives”
        Especially when risking other people’s lives?
        if the unvaccinated want to play Russian roulette with Covid…at least wear a mask so you don’t force others to involuntarily play your game.

        As for potential harmful side-effects of the vaccine…talk about scare tactics. Play the odds. Better to run the extremely small chance of blood clots, sterility, etc., than end up dying on a ventilator. (Or worse, killing someone else because of your selfishness.)

        1. R. Hamilton says:

          I’ve met or exceeded every recommendation in this pandemic, and would REALLY not want an action of mine harming someone else on my conscience (but do NOT associate myself with those that regard anything less than every protection and need met for all as a fail). I do these things (and recommend them and try to debunk anti-vaxxer nuts and the like, and support VOLUNTARY assistance to others) because I’ve informed myself and CHOOSE to do them; but I spit in the eye of anyone that dares command any free citizen. Not literally, that’d probably get me arrested for assault.

          But I’m really sick of how EAGER many people are to comply, submit, become Borg-ed without being so involved in their choice, in exchange for merely improved odds; and I don’t believe for a minute that most such compliant sheep are driven by genuine virtue; rather, like everyone is, in part by their own good, but less properly, by plain civic and informational laziness, which may yet be our downfall.

          If that’s a selfish position since it fails to treat lowest possible body count as top priority, #sorryNotSorry.

          1. Lourain says:

            Yes, it is selfish. That “body count” is people, not numbers.
            You are already limited . You accept some of these limits because your culture raised you to accept them. Other limits are forced on you by fear of consequences.
            Not spitting on the sidewalk (could transmit tuberculosis), not coughing in other people’s faces, not sh*tting in your neighbor’s yard… are all limitations that civilization tries to enforce for the good of all. Your ‘freedom’ is an illusion. Wearing a facemask is just another limitation. Guess what? You can get used to it.

            Driving a car is riskier than being vaccinated. “There were 33,244 fatal motor vehicle crashes in the United States in 2019 in which 36,096 deaths occurred. This resulted in 11.0 deaths per 100,000 people and 1.11 deaths per 100 million miles traveled.” ( compared to vaccine-attributed deaths “Reports of death after COVID-19 vaccination are rare. More than 342 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the United States from December 14, 2020, through July 26, 2021. During this time, VAERS received 6,340 reports of death (0.0019%) [or 1.9 deaths per 100 000] among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine.” (
            And being vaccinated is an infrequent event. How often do you ride in a car?

  4. The situation about the vaccines is fraught. I am distressed that its politicization may have led to fewer people being vaccinated and hence to more deaths.

    One of the objections raised to the vaccines, including in the first reply above, is that they only have an emergency use authorization. That might change fairly soon. The FDA is currently conducting a priority review of the Pfizer vaccine, which will hopefully lead to it being granted full FDA authorization (for those age 16 and up) in a couple of months. Then some of the vaccine-hesitant should be less hesitant, and places like schools can add it to the list of vaccines routinely required (measles, polio, diphtheria, et al). Here’s hoping.

    1. Joe says:

      I hope the FDA does a proper scientific review. My fear is that it may be politically infeasible to not give these vaccines their seal of approval since the politicians have pushed so hard for people to get them.

      However, if it were to turn out that these vaccines have more side-effects than has been reported so far (and there is some early evidence of that), people will lose confidence in public health, and more people will become anti-vaxxers.

      This will be a bad outcome, because Climate Change is predicted to lead to more epidemics this century. We need to think long term, and not just panic over what seems urgent today.

      I’m particularly worried about vaccinating the young because they mostly seem to get over COVID through natural immunity and all vaccines have side-effects. The risk benefit ratio is very different for the elderly: one’s chance of death from COVID increases exponentially with age.

      The reason people seem to want to vaccinate the young, even if it were to harm them, is in the quest for herd immunity. But that is essentially taking health from the young to give to the elderly. It is a very strange society that prioritizes the health of the elderly over that of the young. I doubt we will get to herd immunity.

      The only good reason I could see to vaccinate the young would be if the rate at which they suffer sequellae from Long COVID were sufficiently high. I have not found any good studies on that.

      1. Joe says:

        I should probably point out that by young I definitely mean children and to some degree people who are of early reproductive age. We need to be sure we don’t sterilize our society by accident for example.

  5. MRE says:

    The responses to a fairly uncontroversial blog post noting that the unvaccinated are prolonging the pandemic is practically a guidebook to how misinformation has really done a number on our nation’s common sense. All the old lies about vaccines are back again: the vaccine will secretly sterilize us, it will make us stupid, it will forcibly convert us to “insert belief or sexual orientation here,” it will be used as a pretext for a creeping authoritarian takeover.

    The sterility thing is what really gets me. Do people really believe that doctors and scientists who worked on the vaccine somehow *missed* that it sterilizes people!? As if Johnson and Johnson hired Mr. Magoo to mix up their vaccine and he’s down in some basement juggling test tubes blindly. As if Pfizer is just secretly bottling Thalidomide and renaming it to avoid bad PR. The willingness of people to rely on anecdotal evidence rather than statistical studies is breathtaking. I can only applaud Fox news for the job they’ve done training their audience to believe their conspiracies. A master class in propaganda that has spread like a disease through the brain of its viewers. And now it is terminal.

    The authoritarian fear is almost as bad. Infringing on someone’s liberty to ask them to get a life saving injection is equated to authoritarian overreach? Republican states are straight-up disenfranchising large chunks of their voters. That isn’t creeping authoritarian overreach, that is the fist of tyranny closing around our throats!…where is the concern about THAT loss of liberty?

    Crickets and crocodile tears.

    It’s like George Carlin used to say about it being the quiet ones you gotta watch. While you’re watching the quiet ones, the noisy one’s coming at you with an axe!

    1. Joe says:

      I’m answering because it seems you might be addressing something I wrote… although I’m far from sure since most of what you describe bares no resemblance to me. I also have no idea what Fox News has to do with any of this. I have to agree with Mary Soon Lee, in that politicization of everything in the US seems seriously loony, making it hard to hold a conversation without people’s projections getting in the way.

      Anyway, back to the point:

      Vaccines usually take 10 years to develop. 3 years of which are used to make sure that there are no unexpected side-effects such as auto-immune diseases because that’s how long it takes for these side-effect to manifest.

      Operation “warp speed” skipped this step for obvious reasons and compressed a 10 year schedule down to less than a year.

      All previous attempts at making a coronavirus vaccine didn’t work out (SARS-1, MERS, etc) because of problems with antibody dependent enhancement.

      It also seems relevant that no DNA nor mRNA vaccines have yet been licensed for use in humans. (Emergency use authorization doesn’t count).

      RNA / mRNA technology was basically developed for gene-therapy. Unfortunately, these vaccines haven’t gone through gene-therapy evaluation protocols either.

      This is all very fascinating and cool technology, but it seems like common-sense to be cautious about one’s seed stock.

      It is the evaluation protocol that vaccines usually undergo that gives one trust that they work. A good book on the incentives that affect the development of medicines is Ben Goldacre’s “Bad Pharma”. The UK government appointed him to work on the current COVID response.

  6. Tom says:

    Preventable deaths are hard to justify. We should all help our physicians to “First do no Harm”

    These resources may be of interest.

    “Intentional exposure
    Because chickenpox is usually more severe in adults than it is in children, some parents deliberately expose their children to the virus, for example by taking them to “chickenpox parties”. Doctors counter that children are safer getting the vaccine, which is a weakened form of the virus, rather than getting the disease, which can be fatal. Repeated exposure to chickenpox may protect against zoster. The fatality rate for varicella was approximately 1 per 100,000 cases among children age 1 through 14 years, 6 per 100,000 cases among persons age 15 through 19 years, and 21 per 100,000 cases among adults.”

    Back to vaccinations and Covid-19.

  7. alecia flores says:

    Many people today don’t recall scarlet fever quarantine, or returning to school in Sept. wondering which classmate is in an iron-lung. They also don’t seem to know that mRMA vaccines have been used in several other ailments (Zika,rabies, etc.). They endanger others by being walking petrie dishes for CV19.

    BTW, rereading The Octagonal Raven – I hadn’t recalled how orescient it is in predicting today’s Trumpsters.

    1. Joe says:

      Tested. Not licensed.

      While an mRNA vaccine has never been on the market anywhere in the world, mRNA vaccines have been tested in humans before, for at least four infectious diseases: rabies, influenza, cytomegalovirus, and Zika.

      1. alecia flores says:

        I wrote they’ve been successfully used for several other ailments – and they have for several years. I did not write they were licensed.

  8. Tabula Rasa says:

    Someone throws you an inflated innertube when you’re drowning – go ahead and shove it away because it’s not a certified life-preserver.

    As one of the MDs on the front lines, I’ll tell you that those of us in the ED are max’d out: max’d out on bedspace, max’d out on hours/days/weeks worked, and max’d out on compassion. I have only a few more Craps to give. I’m limiting my Craps for people who aren’t vaccinated these days. I’ll do my very best for them because I have pride in my work and my profession. But I have to say that I’m not wasting many tears or conscience searching on the willfully ignorant.

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