Two quick philosophical comments on Biden's vaccine mandates speech yesterday

On morality and misinformation

I’ll be quick here, but two things that are worth saying I think. Snip number one:

I just want to point out the utilitarian ethic here, and give a caution I have to give online conservatives too often, which is that when there are larger issues of morality at stake, you should not generally respond to a utility argument with a similar utility argument, and thus imply that a sort of narrow-issue-utility is the right framing under which to consider the issue. I see this mistake happen in arguments about sex and gender often as well. “But you want to allow men into the women’s locker room!” may be a real concern, but it isn’t the main concern, and the devil would frankly love you to stay bogged down in minutia like that instead of raising the bigger issues of sex and masculinity and femininity and how the body is good and points to transcendent matters of being and purpose!

Yes, there is place for sometimes pointing out that “but wait a minute, isn’t firing all these nurses apt to make overall health outcomes worse for many people”? But I don’t think anyone doubted that threatening someone’s livelihood to force them into receiving a medical intervention they don’t want would “work”. Of course it would work.

The West hasn’t had a longstanding prohibition against such tactics because they don’t “work”. The West has had a longstanding prohibition against such tactics because if anything is your own, and not owned by the state or your employer, it’s your own body, and because requiring informed and free consent protects people from other actors who might otherwise be more powerful than them. (A few professors of ethics seem to still remember this.)

I’ll just say again that it’s kind of like we’re tearing down all of Chesterton’s fences at the same time. If your governor can just order you to inject your six year old, with a brand new drug you don’t want, for a disease that is nearly harmless to them, and which they can still catch and transmit even after the injection anyway, then what can’t your governor order you to do? There would appear to be virtually no barrier left, via the “public health workaround” to constitutional government, they can now do whatever they want. I hope therefore that, if you favor this and intend to join them in chopping down the fence, you intend to continue agreeing with them on every topic for the rest of your life.

Snip two:

I thought this was what we called “misinformation” these days, yes? (Throw that man off of YouTube!) Indeed, it would be a better case for vaccine mandates if the vaccinated, with “certainty”, “cannot spread it to you”… but that isn’t true. His own CDC revised its masking guidance largely because of studies that found that vaccinated individuals could still spread the disease, and sometimes carry viral loads just as high as unvaccinated individuals. You would think he could hardly be unaware of that fact. So this is a lie… and one that again makes you think, what in the world is really going on?

The most generous possible thing you could say here is that, if our leaders want to be science people, then they have to accept that science is often the realm of probabilities and uncertainties. They’re going to have to stop with the yes/no 0/1 safe/unsafe framing of everything. Generously, again, whether they are incapable of thought that is better than their speech, or whether they just think that most of their audience is incapable of thought that is better than their speech, I will let you decide.