Vaccine Passports Should Be Neither Mandatory Nor Forbidden
The loudest, most extreme voices in the room tend to get the most attention, which is why the debate over vaccines and vaccine mandates seems to be between a group of people—including legislators and governors who claim to support limited government— who insist that not even private businesses should be allowed to require proof of vaccination for service or employment, versus another group of people—including leaders from the nation’s preeminent civil liberties organization—who say the government should be able to mandate vaccines for everyone.
Though it receives far less attention, there is another position on this spectrum: Individuals and private parties should be permitted to adopt whatever rules they please, but the government should refrain from mandating that people inject something into their bodies.
Were we living in a different timeline, Republican politicians would likely have been first in line to agree with the former point. Freedom of association was, at one point, a core tenet of conservative ideology. Yet it has been Florida and Texas—the states culturally hailed as havens for limited government—that have made it illegal for private actors to make personal decisions on whether or not to do business with unvaccinated individuals.
A Florida Department of Health rule will punish businesses with $5,000 fines should they ask to see proof of vaccination from customers, who, I should note, are still free to go elsewhere. In June, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law prohibiting anyone from requesting proof of vaccination when conducting free enterprise. One wonders how free it can be if the enterprising individuals are not permitted to control the environment in which they do business.
“It cannot be rationally justified,” Timothy Sandefur, vice president for litigation at the Goldwater Institute, told me in June. “It’s simply a matter of people saying that the government shouldn’t force people to do things they don’t like and should force p
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