Saturday, June 20, 2015

Non-vaccination as an externality.

I would think the best way to handle this problem is to treat it like a  externality.

For example:

We wish people to take a 'positive' action (get vaccinated) because a vaccinated population is a public good. 

We are essentially saying that a public good (vaccination) is being produced less than it should be - So why not pay them?

The other option of course is to force *them* to pay (Pigouvian tax).  But keep in mind, unlike a producer who pollutes, the un-vaccinated are not *taking an action*, simply refraining from one.  As such it would seem that the burden of the tax should fall on those who want a 'cleaner environment' to pony up to encourage those who don't care to fall in line.

And to forestall arguments about who is or is not 'acting' in this case - we *all* considered not buying health insurance to be a non-action that Congress didn't have the power to force onto people.  This is the same sort of thing.
No. If the vaccine doesn't work or if the disease is not very contagious, of course not. It all depends on the facts and the circumstances.
We've had a similar discussion on quarantine.

If you give the government the power to compel something, they *will* use it in the manner *they* deem fitting.

And what they deem fitting will certainly hinge on 'facts and circumstances'.

Facts and circumstances like what helps my political career or expands the scope and budget (along with my personal power) of my agency.

You want the government to have the power to compel vaccination, you have to show that the government can be trusted to not abuse that power.

Which vaccinations though?

 The key thing here is that this really is a slippery slope.

We have effective vaccines for a variety of dangerous and very communicable diseases - I would agree that these are fair game for government violence to enforce their use.

But then you run into the edge cases.

Is the HPV vaccine something that should be required?

What about off-label use of anthrax vaccinations? Even when there are known quality control issues? Because I was forced to get those.

Flu vaccinations - I am (and was) a healthy, fit individual, statistically the group least likely to suffer dangerous complications from influenza. But I was forced to get *that* vaccination simply because someone decided it was less costly to inoculate us compared to the money lost from those who got sick and had to take a day or two off.

Anti-malarials - have known (if extremely low chance of) serious side-effects, including psychosis. Been forced to use those also.

In all those cases it was someone in government, as a matter of policy, deciding, for me, that the benefits outweighed the risks.

If someone gets infected and passes it on to me, they've aggressed me.

This does not justify compulsory vaccination however.
If you own a woodlands next to a cattle farmer, are you obliged to set traps to prevent wolves from entering his land? Are you obliged to exterminate the family of ground hogs that ruin his yard? Are you committing an act of aggression for not providing such positive externalities to others?

If you really believe that then you are advocating the validity of "positive freedom", the idea that you have a right to the labor and resources of others by default, probably the most fundamental underlying assumption of socialist ideologies.

 The overwhelming amount of humanity is naturally immune to the tetanus bacterium by virtue of breathing oxygen and having skin. It's not communicable (appreciably), but we will never eradicated it. Aside from the occasional run in with barbed wire or a rusty nail, it's largely useless to the average human.

Should I get to decide how often you should get a tetanus shot?


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