But the U.S. right is, in effect, trying to keep the pandemic going. We talk a lot about misinformation on social media, some of which — surprise! — appears to be the product of Russian disinformation. However, the role of the right-wing establishment has surely been far more important. Fox News serves up anti-vaccine messages almost every day. Republican governors have tried to ban vaccine mandates not just by local governments and school districts but by private businesses. Multiple Republican attorneys general have filed suit to stop federal vaccine mandates.
The expressed rationale for all this activity is that it’s about protecting freedom. In reality, while there are several reasons for vaccine resistance, politics is a significant driver of the agitation. A successful vaccination campaign could mean a successful Biden administration, and the right is determined to prevent that, no matter how many avoidable deaths result from vaccine sabotage. It’s noteworthy that Fox has a very strict vaccination policy for its own employees.
Still, the case against vaccine mandates, however disingenuous, needs to be answered on the merits. Yet I at least have rarely seen the case against a right to refuse vaccination fully explained, even though you could hardly come up with a better example than Covid-19 vaccination if you wanted to design a hypothetical situation in which arguments for freedom of choice don’t apply. And I think it’s worth spelling out exactly why.
First, personal choice is fine — as long as your personal choices don’t hurt other people. I may deplore the quality of your housekeeping, but it’s your own business; on the other hand, freedom doesn’t include the right to dump garbage in the street.