Here is the part that Wendy wrote which is most problematic for me:
“polio” – can you be sure it’s just polio if it’s the State that mandates it? Should it perhaps be a better idea that educating on the pros & cons rather than sticking a needle willy-nilly into your child filled with whatever they decide to tell you is in it? What if, through viral gene replacement technology, for instance, thought patterns & personalities could (& even might be) changed to eliminate “undesirables”, for instance, & ensure a dull, compliant populace? Mandated by the State?
These statements are troubling for a variety of reasons. For the sake of intellectual consistency I need to parse them out, despite the fact [perhaps especially because of the fact] that Wendy is running as the Libertarian candidate in this election.
1) The level of paranoia approaches birther/9-11 truther saturation. You can have abstract arguments over the government's role in mandating public health measures like vaccinations or the wisdom of particular vaccines ala anthrax [as I will discuss in point two], but the idea that can you be sure it's just polio if it's the State that mandates it? Not sure about Wendy, but while the State mandates these immunizations, the vaccines themselves are produced by private companies and in general administered by your own pediatrician's office. Having worked for a military unit that was responsible for administering vaccinations to soldiers, I have been personally responsible for quality control and batch testing for vaccines. When dealing with conspiracies, you always need to ask yourself, What would I have to believe in order for this to be true?
In this case I would have to believe that to inject my children with chemicals through viral gene replacement technology, for instance, thought patterns & personalities could (& even might be) changed to eliminate “undesirables”, for instance, & ensure a dull, compliant populace? that virtually every pediatrician and public health care worker in America had been either duped or co-opted into the conspiracy, and that the government has so penetrated virtually all pharmaceutical companies to the point where it can not only require them to produce something other than polio vaccine labeled as polio vaccine, but also has managed to completely suppress any whistle-blowers from talking about it for decades.
Is the State capable doing dire medical things to people? Of course it is. The Tuskegee Syphillis experiment and the US Army LSD experiments in the early 1960s are prime examples. But those examples are also instructive: small groups of people working in secrecy against the larger policies of the government, and whose misdeeds were found out pretty quickly because of their ineptitude. The Army officers conducting the LSD experiments, for example, actually took movies of the troops they had unwittingly dosed with hallucinogens and showed them openly at a variety of training occasions. The perpetrators of the Tuskegee experiment actually submitted their results to refereed journals.
The common threads in these conspiracies are small scale and incompetence. For a Libertarian, who generally holds government actions to be awkward and incompetent unless otherwise proven, suspecting the government of such a massive intricate conspiracy to inject public school students with gene therapies as yet unknown to mainstream science is--I am sorry to say--simply loonie tunes.
2) Should the government have the authority to mandate vaccinations as a public health matter? Here I follow Libertarian philosopher Tal Scriven, who proposes a four-point checklist for whether or not the State should have the power to prohibit or mandate any particular actions, such as universal vaccination of school children. [Note: what you will read below is my plain-English paraphrase of Scriven's rather more difficult academic writing; you can read the original here]:
1. The law must be clearly and unambiguously written.
2. The law must be universally publicized.
3. The law must prohibit an action (or an inaction) that can be demonstrated to pose serious harm to individuals.
4. The law may not be enacted if either (a) the pleasure (or good) associated with the action/inaction outweighs the harm; or (b) if prohibiting such actions/inactions creates a greater harm than leaving it alone.
Scriven describe harm in a pretty narrow fashion, as Harm should include not only physical pain but also death and severe psychological suffering.
Let's think about vaccinations then:
1. You can't go to public schools without being vaccinated against common, massively infectious diseases.
2. Yeah, it's universally publicized.
3. The failure to vaccinate has a well-documented consequence of public health risks not just to individuals but to whole populations.
4. Does the good associated with this law outweight the harm it could potentially cause?
Ah, number four--there's the potential rub, leading to number three:
3) What are the public health implications [positive and negative] of universal vaccinations? Positive: prevention or limitation of widespread infectious diseases like the polio epidemics of the 1940s and 1950s. Negative: some tiny percentage of those vaccinated will have moderate to serious to life-threatening reactions even to modern vaccines, and large numbers of people believe [erroneously, the experts tell us] that large-scale vaccination is causally linked to autism. Urban legends aside, the science on the autism/vaccination non-linkage is pretty clear and unambiguous (and shared by medical authorities in other countries who have no association with our government).
But what about the .0001% of people who will have a severe enough reaction to be life-threatening? Can a Libertarian justify a government mandate that places a person at any level of risk they would not, as individuals, choose to accept for themselves? The answer, for me, lies in Scriven's fourth requirement, about the relationship between harm and inaction.
Here's the rub: in a society in which there are no universal immunizations my children have a much MUCH higher risk of death or life-threatening harm from mass infectious diseases than they do from the tiny percentage chance that they will react badly to a vaccine. Moreover, the government in taking the universal action of requiring immunizations of all children is not transferring wealth or selectively benefitting any population; instead, in an originalist Constitutional sense, the government is promoting the general welfare.
As a Libertarian and Constitutionalist, I think therefore that immunizations for major infectious diseases as a prerequisite for entering the school system represents a legitimate State power. That does not mean the State should get to vaccinate you against anything, or that people shouldn't be skeptical until a scientific consensus emerges, but that limited public health measures are consistent with Libertarian thought.
Which is going to subject me to shitloads of criticism from a number of my anarcho-capitalist and severely minarchist friends.... But it will not be the first time for that.
So all of this comes back to Wendy Jones and Delaware's 19th State Senate race. Her position on vaccinations is--as I have said above--unfortunately, loonie tunes from my perspective. I cannot credit it as a serious policy position, and it raises disquieting questions about her understanding of science and the Libertarian perspective of public policy.
On the other hand, all of us (including Polly ADAMSADAMSADAMS Mervine's husband) have our own individual weird beliefs, such as the idea that the 19th District's Senator should vote based on Mennonite theological concerns about sexuality. [It sort of tells me that the talent pool in the district is shallow enough to be safe for non-swimmers.] Like Redwaterlilly I am beginning to feel like the district has a race between four social conservatives [even though I do think RWL does a disservice to Wendy's positions on LGBT questions.]
Fortunately, no Delaware State Senator is going to have the ability to vote upon or eliminate immunization programs for school children. [And, no, Dana, before you ask, I do not equate cold-blooded public health decisions with paternalism.]
And I really do believe that yet another nepotist Democrat or socially conservative GOPer [even if running as an IPoD] is not healthy for Delaware's economic future, so that Wendy sitting in Dover voting No, no, no is probably preferrable [Ron Paul has made a fortune as "Dr. No"] to the alternatives, I have to pull back from any unequivocal endorsement of my own party's candidate, not that my endorsement or lack of it matters one whit in a district in which I do not live and cannot vote...
But if I expect Dems and GOPers to confront strange behavior in their own parties, I have to be honest enough to do so within my own movement.