A Spectrum of Mandates


I have tried to establish that the majority in a democratic society are allowed to impose vaccines on others who do not want to take them. I have tried to establish that on the basis of Mill’s principle of liberty enunciated in his book On Liberty.  Many of us now call the right which we have not to have actions imposed on us the principle of autonomy. I think that is a very important principle, but it is not an unlimited right.

Harms can be imposed on us if that is necessary to prevent us causing harm to others. It is of course necessary to weigh the harm avoided against the harm imposed.  The harm imposed must be less than the harm avoided, otherwise we have created greater harm by our actions. Sometimes, the ends justify the means. I will have more to say on that later.

Therefore, the harm caused by the mandate must be less than the harm avoided.

I suggest that there is a range of harms involved in mandates that depend upon the type of mandate. For example, the mandate could involve manacling the citizen and forcibly inflicting a needle with the vaccine into the body of the resister. That would be the most serious harm. It could cause great harm on the resister.  It certainly would elicit widespread opposition. I have seen photos of such a procedure being imposed on women’s suffragettes in the United States. They went on a hunger strike in the early 20th century to influence the American government, led by Woodrow Wilson, to grant women the right to vote.  They were horrific images of a woman being held while a tube was inserted into her mouth  through which food flowed against her will into her stomach.. The images probably went a long way toward persuading the public that perhaps their position was too strong and they lost public support. The same thing might happen with vaccines.

Unlike, forcing women to take food, I have argued that we would be morally justified in forcing vaccine Resisters to take the vaccines. But perhaps, such images, and there surely would be images, would quickly circulate and could persuade citizens that the government was going too far. As a result, such measures might be counterproductive.  Perhaps even though vaccine mandates are permissible we would be wise to avoid at least the more serious harms in the spectrum of harms. The spectrum of mandates could be from the smart to the stupid. I prefer the smart, though that is not always easy to determine.

We already have imposed some lesser measures that still go by the name of mandates. For example, we now require some employees in some situations, to be vaccinated, in order to work.  The loss of employment is obviously a serious harm imposed on the resisters.

We have also imposed restrictions on the unvaccinated to refrain from entering restaurants or certain stores or certain facilities such as hospitals or personal care homes for the purpose of visiting loved ones. Again these are serious harms but less draconian than the manacles.

Even though mandates are justified in my opinion we must be smart in choosing those that are the most effective and least counter productive.

We need smart mandates.

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