The Editors of the Mises Institute – September 10, 2021
We oppose President Biden’s lawless and authoritarian new mandates announced yesterday. We also denounce his divisive rhetoric toward unvaccinated Americans, his reckless antipathy for federalism, and his threats to usurp state governors.
Contra Mr. Biden, this is entirely about freedom and personal choice.
His proposed executive orders represent nothing less than centralized tyranny, whereby the federal government operates under no legal constraints. This is government anarchy.
The announced policies—including mandated vaccines for private employers of a certain size, mandated vaccines for all healthcare workers, and mandated vaccines for federal employees—are wildly extraconstitutional and far beyond any executive power imagined in the Constitution. Of course, the same is true for OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), which (since its magical creation in 1971) laughably claims jurisdiction over working conditions across millions of private US businesses operating on private property. OSHA is the bludgeon Mr. Biden intends to use against business owners to dictate their arrangements with employees by requiring covid vaccines.
Yet property ownership is defined by control. Ownership is a bundle of rights to the exclusive use of property. Biden’s orders violate property rights directly, by reducing the control a business owner has over the conduct of that business. And yes, this understanding of property rights applies in other settings: federal regulations on businesses—or even worse, executive orders from an individual president—are simply a form of partial theft, a diminution of owners’ property rights. They are akin to stealing a percentage of a business.
Legality aside, Biden’s proposals are deeply immoral and unnecessary. Covid risks do not justify the hysteria emboldened by the president’s announcement. After 2020 we know definitively that elderly and obese individuals are at greatest risk of death from covid, while younger and healthier people face no more (and often less) risk than with an ordinary flu. Yet not only does Biden threaten to repeat the mistakes of 2020, he intends to intensify them. Markets and civil society can address health concerns far better than any centralized system; at most, state and local governments should act according to local conditions.
This will get worse if not stopped. Dr. Leana Wen, a professor at George Washington University and a CNN medical correspondent, is an archetype of progressive demands for covid policy. She urges Biden to require mandatory vaccines for all schools, all employers, all interstate travel by car, and all flights. She also urges him to create a national electronic database for proof of vaccination status. Do we really intend to forbid Americans from attending school or working if they disagree about vaccines? The implications of this are enormous, as are possibilities for a government database to grow into an Orwellian apparatus to track private citizens.
No liberal society forces medical treatment on healthy citizens, nor monitors their movements or employment. No sane society accedes to sweeping new policies (not laws) enacted without due process and imposed by a centralized state. And no healthy society allows its political class to demonize whole swaths of the country while creating fear and division.
Ultimately, this is not about the lethality of any virus, but about property and freedom. Society can deal with a virus, especially a virus with a very low mortality rate. But no utilitarian arguments are necessary; the principles involved are not situational and do not scale. We cannot submit to an ever-growing medical police state or crazed executive actions simply out of fear. If we do, it will not be easy to undo the new normal.
Mr. Biden, our patience is wearing thin with you.
Image source: Prachatai via Flickr