One way that is particularly poignant in attracting individuals to libertarianism is bringing to mind the image of the gun in the room. The idea is that when you’re dealing with government, you’re dealing with force. As long as you comply with that force, the gun stays in its holster. When you act to defy that force, only then is the gun brandished. But whether brandished or not, the gun is always there.
Politicians and government know they’re carrying the gun. They know people don’t like to see the gun, as it lays bare the true root of the power by which they attempt to compel us to act. Thus, they try to keep that gun hidden. They try to act as if there is no gun, only their compassion and knowledge to lead us rather than force us to comply with their mandates. Drawing people towards libertarian ideals can be difficult, because they rarely see the gun that we refer to. Thus, it’s important to make use of real examples of the gun when they appear.
Appear it did in Prince George’s County, MD. The local school board has a vaccination policy, believing that it is their duty (rather than the parents) to protect the health of children. Unfortunately for the school board, many parents are not following the policy. In the world of private schooling, a school who creates a policy requiring vaccinations simply has to close its doors to those not vaccinated. No force needs to be involved. For the government, however, they need not be reasonable, as they can simply threaten to throw you in jail:
The get-tough policy in the Washington suburbs of Prince George’s County was one of the strongest efforts made by any U.S. school system to ensure its youngsters receive their required immunizations.
Two months into the school year, school officials realized that more than 2,000 students in the county still didn’t have the vaccinations they were supposed to have before attending class.
So Circuit Court Judge C. Philip Nichols ordered parents in a letter to appear at the courthouse Saturday and either get their children vaccinated on the spot or risk up to 10 days in jail. They could also provide proof of vaccination or an explanation why their kids didn’t have them.*
As I’ve said before, the questions regarding vaccines have recently taken a much more prominent position in my life, as I recently became a father. There are confusing and conflicting opinions on just about every aspect of vaccines, and wading through this to try to decide exactly what to do is not an easy task. For me, as an engineer with a mind trained to decode scientific data, and a natural skepticism when I read anything that might be biased, it’s still a daunting task. But I understand that as a parent, it is my duty to decide which vaccines my child does or does not receive, and to accept the potential negative consequences either way. Many of them, I have already decided that it is simply too dangerous to leave a child unvaccinated, and I will ensure that he receives them. But I find many others unnecessary, particularly because the disease they prevent is mild, or because the disease they prevent does not affect a young child, and is worth waiting until he’s older before making the decision.
But the state of Maryland, like most governments, has a one-size-fits-all policy. Follow their recommendations– or else. And their recommendations include some vaccines that make you simply scratch your head in wonder:
Maryland, like all states, requires children to be immunized against several childhood illnesses including polio, mumps and measles. In recent years, it also has required that students up to high school age be vaccinated against hepatitis B and chicken pox.
Okay, polio I can understand. It’s pretty nasty. But chicken pox? Is this not a mild disease that we all faced as children? Is there any reason that we demand parents of healthy, well-nourished children vaccinate against a disease that is largely benign? Or Hepatitis B? A disease of low-prevalence in the US, most commonly spread through sexual contact, blood transfusions, or sharing needles? Is this something that we must inject newborn babies with a vaccine containing aluminum to guard against a disease that they don’t reasonably have much chance to contract until their teen years? Nor is it entirely clear whether it’s safe to administer large numbers of vaccines all at the same time, which invariably would have occurred to the kids in this story (in order to ensure they were in compliance).
There are difficult questions to be answered here. But the state of Maryland doesn’t need to answer difficult questions when they have a gun to force compliance. Instead, the judge who handed down the order has flippant responses such as this:
The judge noted the unhappy looks of some of the kids in line waiting for vaccinations.
“It’s cute. It looks like their parents are dragging them to church,” Nichols said.
Yeah… ‘Cute.’ “Here kid, take this injection or your parents are going to jail.” Why on earth would they possibly be unhappy?
Government may couch their demands in high-minded language. In some cases, their demands may even be what’s best for a child. But make no mistake, whether they’re right or wrong they’ll use force to make sure you do what they say. They won’t say please or thank you, they’ll simply tap the holster and remind you of the consequences of defiance.
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