Carte Blanche: The Ultrascientific War On Self-Ownership

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Appeal to ridicule is a logical fallacy committed by presenting an opponent’s argument in such a way that makes it appear outrageous, usually by misrepresenting the argument through exaggeration. What makes this method a logical fallacy is that it mocks the opposition case while never actually disproving it. However fallacious, using the appeal to mockery against political opposition remains perfectly useful, to contort the publics’ view of the opposition with misrepresentations. Currently, no better example of an appeal to ridicule exists than the leftist portrayal of their oppositions’ case against government vaccine mandates. The nature of progressive commentary on this issue has been absolutely appalling and anti-intellectual, yet they have succeeded in framing the opposition: They are religious fanatics, dancing around fires, curing diseases with prayer, and rejecting all physical science. They are the defile “anti-vaxxers”, that believe individuals should have control over their own body matter. Given that the first property right of man is that of his own physical body, then obviously the non-authoritarian position is that against compulsory vaccines. Yet the statist left has made it an undefendable position, with a bundle of misrepresentations of the voluntarist side, confusing state and society, injecting scientism into natural rights philosophy, overlooking the distinction between rights and contractual obligations, and attempting to make individuals provide justification for their own self-ownership. Through the web of argument manipulations, we should observe the reality of progressive goals in this debate.

In his pamphlet The Law, Frederic Bastiat writes, “Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education.” Bastiat describes to perfection how statist elites have accused us for centuries of opposing the existence of “x” because we reject the nationalization and enforcement of “x”. In this case, all those opposed to government mandates of vaccinations are against their existence and their proven virtues. The statist combination of state and society is the first manipulation of the vaccination debate and is the same nonsense used to describe how we are against the existence of schools, healthcare, and roads. We disprove of government forced vaccinations and are labeled “anti-vaxxers”.

The second manipulation is to make a sweeping claim on the individual freedom of everybody and back it up with physical science. When speaking of government-mandated vaccinations medical science is irrelevant because the debate regards the philosophy of individual liberty, not science. The accumulation of medical knowledge is perfectly beneficial, but as soon as a “government mandate” is slipped in under the radar, the subject matter is completely changed to political philosophy. The individual right to own oneself allows us to consent to which medical procedures will take place on our bodies, and no doctor, nor scientist has the divine right to coerce individuals into procedures to which they do not consent, and neither do politicians for that matter. The inclusion of physical science into the debate for self-ownership is intimidation and manipulation of the argument to make the public feel some sort of connection between liberty and rejection of science as if one equals the other. This connection does not exist.  

The next piece of rhetoric is to pretend like there is no difference between individual rights and contractual obligations. Individual rights preexist the state and can be summed up in the right to own property, as all other rights fall under the context of ownership of oneself and property. Contractual obligations are the rights of property owners to set conditions that others must follow to enter their property. Any private institution, like schools, apartments, or workplaces, have the right to require vaccinations of customers,employees, or students, and they would continue to have this right if the government did not mandate vaccinations. Statists, in the context of this debate, pretend that relief of government coercion of vaccinations means the forced end of all vaccinations as contractual obligations. This kind of rhetoric confuses what is consensual and what is non-consensual and makes liberty sound like authoritarianism. As the author of a Politico article writes on this topic, “What’s new about the current anti-vaccine movement is the argument that government has no right to force parents to vaccinate their kids before they enter school.” Here he wants readers to believe that without government mandates, no school can set vaccinations as a contractual requirement.

The final debate, manipulation, which has been advanced by progressives overtime, is to make their opposition provide some sort of justification for their own liberty. State laws have limited certain situations where individuals can be exempt from vaccinations, like religious reasons. They must now apply to the state to provide specific reasons for exceptions. This sentiment has been brought into the debate so that the burden of proof has shifted from those who want to initiate force to those who want to resist it. Statists will want to lead this debate by commanding the opposition to provide proof of why they should not be forced to receive a vaccine when they do not need a justification given we already own ourselves. This is like forcing a justification out of someone over why they should not be punched in the face. Nobody should have to bear the burden of proof to defend their rights.

Earlier it was mentioned how through these manipulations that intentionally cloud the debate, the actual goals of progressivism can be seen. These goals stem from a contrasting ethos from classical liberals that has existed throughout history. On the political left, human beings are not ends in themselves, but means used to achieve some higher collective goal. These higher goals are improved models of society that Really Intelligent People, the progressive intellectuals themselves, can conceive of. For liberals, the final end is the individual free from aggression. There is no collective end for free individuals,  but subjective values and diverse wants and needs. The collective progressive ends were pushed hard during the early 20th century, for state control of education, planning of the economy, and massive cultural change. This change directly required a loss of control of the family. A family is a distraction from the goals of central planning and an alternative for social support. Nearly all statist regimes in history have supported intrusions on the rights of families, and in this generation, the right to make medical decisions for one’s own children is viewed as some sort of entitlement to be justified, rather than a natural right. The drive for compulsory vaccinations is part of the larger ideological drive to raise children with the state rather than families.

Progressive goals can be seen more clearly and better understood when we look at how the goals themselves have remained nearly the same over time when only the justifications have been changed. Although the state usurping parental rights has always been the aim, the claimed right of the state has evolved from an age of religion and faith to a more secular age. During the original Progressive Era, the same invasions of liberty came with an evangelical pietist sentiment. The progressive pietists were the driving force of the economic and social reforms of the early 20th century, attempting to wipe out what they perceived to be sin in the world, and create a homogenous culture. Murry Rothbard, probably one of the leading historians of this time period writes, “The molding of children was of course the key to homogenization and the key in general to the progressive vision of tight social control over the individual via the instrument of the state.” However, during this period the new powers of the state were justified by the divine right of God, or as the evangelical pietists described, they were creating “heaven on earth.”

Today, the fears and virtues in popular culture have changed from God to science, although the goals of ideology remain the same. As Rothbard describes in Anatomy of the State, “In the present more secular age, the divine right of the State has been supplemented by the invocation of a new god, Science. State rule is now proclaimed as being ultrascientific, as constituting planning by experts.” We can observe in areas other than vaccination policy, the idea that the accumulation of scientific knowledge and data seems to give way the need for liberty. It is intertwined in the executive agencies that have access to “extra-knowledge” to regulate the voluntary sector, in nationalized healthcare centers around the world with the “extra-science” to usurp the rights of parents, or in the central banks that have access to “ultracienctific” data that gives the scientific right to plan the economy. Those that oppose these outgrowths of government are called “anti-scientific” simply for claiming their natural rights, just as the progressive pietists called them “sinful.” The left wants a bridge in thought between liberty and “anti-science”, and it is seen so clearly in their rhetoric on vaccination mandates. The author of the Politico article actually states this desire outright the subtitle, “Appeals to freedom are like the gateway drug to pseudoscience.” Rothbard continues on scientism, “The increasing use of scientific jargon has permitted the State’s intellectuals to weave obscurantist apologia for State rule that would have only met with derision by the populace of a simpler age.”

It is important for those of us that support the preservation of liberty and self-ownership to oppose the restriction of religious and personal exemptions from vaccination in public discussions as well as mandatory vaccinations as a whole. Although medical freedom is met with new responsibilities, this is a virtue of liberty, not a vice, and it must be understood that we cannot own ourselves and simultaneously have medical decisions made by the state. It is also important for this side of the debate to resist the anti-intellectual appeals to ridicule and manipulations from statist rhetoric on this subject no matter how indimindating. At any point in time, there will never be anything antiscientific about self-ownership and liberty, especially given that it is the only organization of society that makes the accumulation of scientific knowledge possible to the extent we know today.

We also should not be making our case on the fixed terms of the statists. All of the misleading rhetoric used to mock those that are opposed to compulsory vaccinations should be shattered. The state and society are separate entities, and no amount of medical science will change this. Being opposed to government regulation of one’s body is not equal to being an “anti-vaxxer”. Contractual obligations can exist in a world of free choice, and no individual has an obligation to justify their self-ownership to anyone, not even to the most educated medical scientist or politician. Lastly, if there is any hope left, we should frame our case not as an opposition to vaccinations, but in support of liberty. In other words, not a “con” argument, but a “pro” argument. This should not be a debate of libertarians defending themselves, but of progressives on the defensive, trying to justify their opposition to self-ownership and enlightenment values.