It’s a very strong thread in the fabric of what makes America, America.
America was built, in large part, on the principle that every person should be able to live their own life as they see fit, with as much freedom and liberty as possible without the undue influence of others, especially the government, and especially, especially a faraway, centralized, federal government.
The founders of the United States went to great pains to consider, debate, and develop the U.S. Constitution and the structure of a governmental system unlike any other previously attempted in the history of mankind in order to put that principle to paper, as well as to practice.
Many of us view government as a necessary evil. In that view, in a perfect world, there would be no need for a government because everyone would act in a manner that recognized each individual’s worth and natural rights without ever infringing on them. The Golden Rule would prevail and everyone would live peacefully and respectfully among each other. No theft of property, no physical harm to one another, no wars, no threats…just everyone treating each other as they would want to be treated.
Of course, we don’t live in a perfect world. Therefore, we decided to create a government that would aim to protect each of our individual rights from being infringed upon by each other while maintaining our liberty as much as possible. But in doing so, it required us to agree to give up some of our freedoms in exchange for that protection. A necessary evil.
Out of practicality and logic, the amount of freedoms you give up depends very largely on where you choose to live. If you buy property in a rural area, outside of any city, you will have more freedom to do with that property as you wish than you would if you have property within the city limits. The bigger the city and the more condensed with people, the more restrictions you will have to live under. If you choose to live by yourself, in the vast Alaskan wilderness, chances are there is not a soul on Earth who is going to give one whit as to whatever you want to do out there, completely on your own and with no contact with others.
Within the city limits, you have to get building permits to pretty much do anything on your property. This is because what you do can have an impact on your neighbors, both in their enjoyment of the neighborhood and in their property values. You can’t have a horse, or a rooster, or a tiger in your backyard. You can’t take a walk around the block naked, you can’t shoot the deer in your front yard (no matter how many of your ornamental plants they devour), you can’t blast music so loud the neighbors are disturbed, you can’t drive your car 70 mph on the street in front of your house.
Out in the country, however, these requirements are very relaxed. And by yourself in the Alaskan wilderness, they are essentially non-existent.
However, in a highly condensed big city, they are even more restrictive.
Why? Because the more we, as individuals, interact with other individuals, the more our own actions have an impact on those other individuals. Therefore, the more condensed people are in a neighborhood, in a store, in a restaurant, or in a workplace, the more freedoms each individual voluntarily gives up in order to participate in that particular societal establishment. This is the only way an orderly society can operate without massive, constant conflict.
I have argued for decades that if we must have government, then the best government is one that governs closest to the people. So, local governments should have more power and impact on your life than state governments, which should, in turn, have more power and impact on your life than the federal government. This is a main feature of the Constitution and the system of government that it created (federalism).
This way, people can choose pretty much what level of freedoms they are willing to give up in order to gain the increased services and conveniences provided by more populated areas. To maximize your individual freedoms, choose to live in the Alaskan wilderness where you will rarely run into another person. To maximize services and conveniences (but reduce your individual freedoms), choose to live in a bigger city. People can find a wide range of mixes of these options throughout the nation and have the freedom to choose the right balance for themselves. If you thrive on a bustling city with a lot of interactions with people on a daily basis, you’ll probably choose to live in a bigger city, but if you like your privacy and solitude and would prefer to just be left alone to do your thing, you’ll probably be happier on a big plot of land out in the country.
The federal government was set up to have very limited powers, as enumerated in the Constitution. Basically, these powers are limited to protecting basic, universal rights everyone has, no matter where (which state) they choose to live, as well as power over such things that affect the entire nation, like national defense, international trade, and interstate commerce. These are areas where we cannot have each state, city, or individual doing completely different things. It requires a centralized approach and well-coordinated effort in order to maintain order.
So, what’s my point in all of this?
Many people are upset about President Biden’s recent actions in an attempt to get more people vaccinated in order to finally end the COVID pandemic. In a nutshell, they are arguing that people should have the freedom to choose for themselves whether or not they get vaccinated. “This is America, after all, not communist China! Biden is acting like a tyrant by forcing us all to get the vaccines and he has no authority to dictate it.”
So, let’s break that down, but first we need to be clear on what he is doing and what he is not doing.
What the Biden administration is doing:
- They are attempting to get as many people vaccinated as possible in order to finally gain control over the COVID pandemic. This virus has run rampant through our country for over 18 months, killing over 750,000 people in the process and doing perhaps a lot of long-term (we don’t know how long-term yet) health problems to perhaps millions of others. It has killed over 150,000 people even after the vaccine was widely available, and the vast, vast majority of those deaths were of those that have refused to get the vaccine.
- Through OSHA, claiming that the virus is a workplace health hazard, the administration is requiring private employers of over 100 employees to ensure that their workers are either vaccinated or tested on a regular basis. Why only those employers with over 100 employees? Refer back to my opening statements about how your freedoms are more limited based on your proximity and interactions with more people.
- They are recommending the use of masks and social distancing to mitigate the spread of the virus in indoor areas, including schools, until such a time that we have achieved a herd immunity status from a combination of vaccines and natural immunity (achieved from being infected and recovering from the virus).
- They are recommending that everyone, including those who have obtained natural immunity, to get vaccinated.
What the Biden administration is not doing:
- They are not mandating that everyone gets vaccinated. Nobody is going to go door to door, check vaccination papers, and then drag people out of their homes, hold them down and stick needles into them. Yet this is the type of rhetoric that we hear from those that are pushing back on getting vaccinated. They are portraying Biden’s actions as that of a tyrant, illegally and unconstitutionally requiring everyone to get vaccinated against their will. This simply is not the case at all.
- They are not mandating that everyone wear a mask everywhere, at all times, for all eternity. The federal government does not have that authority and they are not attempting to abuse that. They are merely making recommendations based on the educated opinions and analysis of the virus by those who have been studying this stuff their entire lives. The states and local governments can then do what they will with those federal recommendations. Just because Dr. Fauci recommends that all school children where masks, it does not make him an “unelected tyrant”. Every one of our local school boards (elected by local members of each community) are making the final decisions on that individually while merely considering the recommendations of those like Fauci.
- They are not taking your constitutional freedoms away. As explained at the beginning, the Constitution and the government itself were created in order to provide protection and safety to all people in a lawful and orderly manner. In order to do this, it requires each person to give up certain freedoms they would have if we lived in a natural state. If you want to be a part of that society and participate in the apparatus of that society, then you need to agree to the terms put forth by that society. You still have the utmost individual freedom to choose to not participate in the daily operation of the society, and if you do, you have the freedom to vaccinate or not, wear a mask or not, run around naked or not. But when you choose to be a part of the society, then you absolutely do not have the freedom to do these things when it has potentially life-threatening consequences for others.
The bottom line is that nobody is taking away your freedom to decide whether or not you get the vaccine. It is totally your choice. But your choices, no matter what they are, all have consequences. It’s why many people will make a “pros/cons” list when making important decisions. Just like many more of our freedoms are limited based on our proximity to other people, this is no different (except that most other limitations are not even preventing potential death to others).
Yes, you have your own personal freedoms, and so does everyone else. We should all have the freedom to participate in community activities feeling secure that everyone doing so is concerned about not spreading a deadly virus to those around them.
Our federal government, which was specifically created in order to protect our rights, necessarily has a role to play when it concerns the most fundamental right to life. And the federal government certainly has a role when the threats of a global pandemic permeate through every state of the nation.
Just like interstate commerce, an interstate pandemic has federal implications and needs federal action.
Just like it’s a fact that what one individual chooses to do in regards to mitigating the impact of the virus in a community has an effect on that entire community, what one state in the nation chooses to do to mitigate the impact of the virus effects the entire nation.
We need a cooperative effort throughout all of the states to battle such threats, the same way we’d need it if physically attacked by an enemy. We certainly wouldn’t have each state deciding how and if it will protect and defend against a physical attack.
Because that would be stupid.
And why, all of the sudden, do people believe that a vaccine requirement to participate in various community activities is tyranny and taking away your freedom?
So many people are claiming to be “patriots” by standing up for their freedom to choose whether or not to get the vaccine?
Really? Where does this idea come from? Certainly not from our founding. And certainly not from America’s original patriots who fought for our freedom in the first place. George Washington (remember that tyrant?) required all of his soldiers to get inoculated for smallpox. You know, the people who actually fought and died for the very freedom you are claiming to have to make your own choice. What if these real patriots had refused Washington’s orders? It may very well have thwarted our entire efforts and the freedoms that are now being abused (in my opinion) may never have been obtained.
Beyond that, we have been requiring vaccinations to participate in a variety of endeavors for decades. School, travel, and military service to name a few. Other than a small, fringe group of anti-vaxxers, the vast majority of us completely understood the importance of this and the millions of lives it has saved and improved.
“But, Steve,” you might be saying, “this vaccine is different! It was rushed through and it hasn’t been properly tested and we don’t know the long-term effects!”
Think about that for a second.
Given our advancements in technology and scientific and medical knowledge, do you really believe that the smallpox inoculation that Washington required all of his patriot soldiers to get was better tested and proven to have no long-term effects? The same can be said for pretty much every vaccine developed since then. Our methods, and knowledge, and scientific testing have all exponentially increased.
These vaccines have now gone through the full, regular, FDA approval process that any and every new medicine goes through. And now, having been “tested” on literally billions of people worldwide, there probably is not another drug in the world that has been more vetted. Do we, without any doubts, 100% know the long-term effects of it? Of course not, but that is the same case for any new medicine. We trust our medical scientists, with their vast amount of study and experience, to provide us with their best advise on these things, and using history as a gauge, we’re very well-served to do so.
People need to take a deep breath (if they still can) and come to their senses (if they still have them).