About 40 US deaths so far. The French have double that with 1/5 the population. My skeptical fiber is on full. Still I am washing my hands. When I run out of rubbing alcohol, I will use cheap brandy – of which I have plenty, of course. Oh, I almost forgot: I have decided to stop French kissing completely if the occasion arises! Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures! Count on me. I am wondering what the libertarian response should be to this public crises (plural).
My best to all.
8 thoughts on “I stopped French kissing. (Coronavirus alert!)”
The libertarian response to an epidemic is the free market. Containment requires testing, but the US government has restricted testing. For example, Americans may not import the WHO tests available in other countries. Tests need FDA approval. There would be no travel bans. People would be responsible for not transmitting the disease. When known to be infected, it would be aggression to expose others.
That’s not going to work. I’m with you on your criticisms of restrictions on testing, FDA approval, and so on. But to say “people would be responsible for not transmitting the disease” is to evade the problem without solving it. People should be responsible enough not to transmit, but they predictably will act irresponsibly–and have, in droves. “When known to be infected, it would be aggression to expose others.” This sentence misses the point in every clause. The issue is not whether you are known to be infected, but whether you are in fact infected. If you are, and you act irresponsibly, you will infect others regardless of anyone’s state of knowledge. Nor is the issue “aggression,” another stock libertarian confusion. “Aggression” usually implies intentional violence by a moral agent. But a virus is not a moral agent capable of intentional action. The carrier need not be a moral agent, either (could be a child, or someone asleep). Nor does transmission require intentionality.
Ayn Rand got one thing right, if nothing else: the issue is not “aggression” but force initiation. Force initiation does not require aggression. And Robert Nozick got one thing right: force initiations are boundary crossings.
The second half of Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia grapples with a problem that no libertarian theorist has ever managed to solve: do risk impositions count as force initiatory boundary crossings? Nozick’s claim was: at some point they do. In cases where they do, Nozick thought that the state could engage in preventive detentions with compensation. But that is almost exactly what is happening right now. A prohibition on movement is analogous to a preventive detention in Nozick’s sense. Such prohibitions are now being imposed, precisely to avoid lethal boundary crossings. And compensation is being contemplated. Libertarians opposing these policies have not grasped that the principles endorsed by Rand and Nozick lead to policies of the sort that are now being enacted by our government, as well as the Korean, Taiwanese, etc. They can criticize Nozick for being unlibertarian on the issue of risk, but that raises the question: what is the distinctively libertarian analysis of risk impositions and boundary crossings?
The idea that we can allow people to infect one another, then somehow go back, apprehend them and prosecute them during or after a global pandemic is dreamwork. It is a physical impossibility. No human action could accomplish it, and no one could be motivated to undertake it. The libertarian response to this crisis should be the same as everyone else’s response: engage in social distancing, and try your best to dissuade others. If quarantine orders come, unless they are patently unreasonable, grasp the rationale for them and comply with them. But once this crisis is over, re-think the issue of risk impositions, and stop overlooking the fact that none exists.
I meant to say: libertarians should engage in social distancing, and dissuade others from flouting the need for it.
I trust that the abuse of the brandy is not a rejection of soap? And a proper Libertarian response of course would be left to the proper Libertarians … Hmnn …
Fred: I am sorry but I am hearing only dogma. Your allegations that Americans may not imports some objects is more than intriguing. It mentions unacceptable, seemingly irrational govt action. Problem is, I don’t believe them. Sources?
Jack Curtis: There will be no abuse. (Brandy enjoys it.) Your question sounds like deplorable baiting based on national origin stereotypes. It’s probably illegal. It’s possible to drink brandy and to use soap. In very hard times, a choice may have to be made but, we are not there. My practice – since you ask is this : wash hands at home with soap (I do own some), desinfect with alcohol everywere else. Then, swill some .
It is a semantical issue whether “aggression” includes all invasions, and whether “responsible” means legally liable.
Well put, Irfan.