A Natural Rights and Logic Approach to Guiding Pandemic Policy

Burlington Arcade
gerald murphy, Licence CC BY-ND 2.0

Government officials at all levels–federal, state, and local–feel impelled to adopt some sort of pandemic policy, from outright lockdowns to mandates for wearing masks under certain circumstances. It all seems quite arbitrary, because it is! I contend that defending natural human rights and using logic can guide us to adopting a proper pandemic policy, even if that policy is to do nothing at all.

First of all, one must accept that the foundation of natural rights is the right to our own bodies. Many people reading this short article may agree with me at this point but will disagree with me as to where this leads via logic. Number one, if we own our own bodies, then no can tell us what to put in our bodies or, conversely, what NOT to put in our bodies. Many may agree that, if we own our own bodies, then no one can force us to “take the jab”. OK. Now let’s expand that to agreeing that no one can prevent us from putting whatever we want into our bodies, including additive drugs. I’m sure I lost a few supporters after this statement, but it is undeniable from the standpoint of the “we own our own bodies” principle.

Most objections to this hands off policy fall into two categories. One, that drug addicts will cause harm to others and, two, that drug addicts will cause our taxes to rise in order to support those who harm themselves and now must be “taken care of”. I do not deny that drug addicts may cause harm to others, but they should be prosecuted for the harms they cause, just as we prosecute those who drive while intoxicated and cause harm to others. Being under the influence of a mind altering substance, whether alcohol or drugs, does not absolve anyone from paying society’s proscribed penalty for the harm that one causes. Secondly, society should be under no obligation to provide drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs or to support those who now cannot care for themselves due to their self-inflicted harms. Sounds rather severe, doesn’t it? But notice that I said that society should be under no obligation to provide such serves. I did not say that private individuals should not provide them voluntarily. But, you may counter, what if private individuals do not provide these services voluntarily? What now? Well, you have just answered your own question. If we will not provide a service voluntarily, what right does government have to force us to provide it? Who decides what government may force us to provide? If government is our servant and not our master, then it has no natural right to force us to provide for others against our will for any reason, whether it is from self harm due to drug addiction or because we must support some European style aristocratic class.

Now let us return to natural rights and the pandemic. Does government have a right to force businesses to close against their will and against the will of their customers? Of course not! The business owners and their patrons have internalized the risk and have chosen either to continue to patronize these businesses or not. But, you may say, doing so may cause the pandemic to spread. That may or may not be true, but it makes no difference. Avoiding patronizing businesses is your right, but you have no right to prohibit others from doing so, either from a logic or natural rights approach. If others internalize the risk and continue to patronize businesses, they do not harm those who do not continue to patronize businesses. How can they? If someone wants to reduce his own risk of infection, all he has to do is protect himself by staying home. He may not force others to do the same, because they cannot harm him if he stays home. This logic becomes even stronger, but is not necessarily required, if a vaccine become available. Now those who feared infection and now are vaccinated can patronize businesses and mingle with others without fear. The fact that others may not want to get vaccinated is no one else’s business. We may look upon people who refused to be vaccinated, came down with Covid, and perhaps died as having exercised poor judgment, but that is their right. The argument that the unvaccinated spread the disease is of no relevancy either, because they spread it only to like minded, unvaccinated people.

The bottom line is this: Take whatever action you may think is suitable to your own circumstances and leave others to do the same. Let natural rights and logic guide your actions. Those fearful of mingling with others may stay home. Remember the wise words of my favorite philosopher, Yogi Berra: “If people don’t want to go to the ballpark, no one’s going to stop them.”

© Patrick Barron 2021 Website