No, Biden, This Is About Freedom and Personal Choice
There is every reason to believe that President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for COVID-19 will not survive legal scrutiny even as compulsory vaccination for the disease enjoys broad popularity among the public. As former Rep. Justin Amash (L–Mich.)—like me, a pro-vaccine, anti-mandate libertarian—has bluntly noted, “There is no authority for this. This is a legislative action that bypasses the legislative branch.”
The courts will almost certainly strike down this executive branch overreach and the sweeping new rules that wave away longstanding distinctions between public and private spheres of activity. This is what happened to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium. It’s foundational to American life that the president is not a king who can subject citizens to his whims.
Yet the most important passage in Biden’s remarks reveals a governing philosophy that should give all Americans pause, especially in light of the massive and ongoing expansion of the federal government over the past several decades. After duly noting the “progress” made in terms of vaccinations, Biden pulled up short to say that we the people are just not doing what he wants when he wants:
This is not about freedom or personal choice. It’s about protecting yourself and those around you — the people you work with, the people you care about, the people you love.
My job as president is to protect all Americans. So tonight, I’m announcing that the Department of Labor is developing an emergency rule to require all employers with 100 or more employees that together employ over 80 million workers to ensure their work forces are fully vaccinated or show a negative test at least once a week.
Contra Biden, everything is always (or should be) about freedom and personal choice. That libertarian sentiment defines America’s ethos and can’t simply be written out of the script because it gets in the way of what this or any other president wants. There are legitimate moments when rights can be abrogated due to actual existential threats, but this is certainly not one of them.
As Jeffrey A. Singer, a surgeon and senior fellow for the Cato Institute, has noted, COVID-19 has a “0.2 percent fatality rate among people not living in institutions.” Fully 80 percent of deaths have occurred among people over 65 and just 358 children under the age of 17 had died of the disease as of July 29, 2021. We are not talking about smallpox, which affected all populations and had a fatality rate of 30 percent. COVID, argues Singer, “will not be eradicated” and will become a small-scale, endemic problem that should be minimized by targeted interventions to protect the most vulnerable. From a public health perspective, it should not become the casus belli for a radical restructuring of society and a massive expansion of presidential (or governmental) powers.
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