For a very long time, libertarians and most conservatives have lived by the mantra that one person’s rights end where another’s rights begin. This is a perfectly rational and reasonable way of looking at modern society. No sane person would argue that there is any reason for things to be different, so long as the assumption is that every person — regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic status, sex, sexual orientation, or political views — is deserving of the same rights. But since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, this simple but effective rule of life has been thrown into complete chaos.
The authoritarian pigs in George Orwell’s Animal Farm said, “All animals are equal but some are more equal than others.” Today, those Americans who are terrified of the virus – or at least pretend to be for political reasons – have applied Orwell’s fictional maxim to individual rights; some rights, they are now trying to claim, are more equal than others – read, more important than others.
The Great COVID Divide
An alarming number of journalists, pundits, politicians, and activists are now insisting that Americans who do not want to be vaccinated should be stripped of their most basic human rights: the right to socialize with their fellow men and women, the right to medical treatment – which according to leftists is a human right – and the right to travel, among other things. One particularly unpleasant individual – and she is probably not alone – even suggested recently that those who refuse to take the vaccine should be locked inside their own homes.
So, now the citizens and residents of the United States find themselves split into two factions: those who believe they can impose mask-wearing, vaccinations, and other restrictions upon their fellow Americans and those who think they have the personal freedom not to comply with such impositions. Which faction holds the moral high ground? If the world were dealing with a virus that killed, say, 50% of all the people who contract it, then the former group would probably have a point. But, of course, viruses don’t work that way because any virus that killed 50% of its hosts would not be around for very long.
Coronavirus, as everybody knows, is not nearly that lethal. As former President Donald Trump might say, it’s not even close. In fact, the virus kills an extremely small number of those it touches, and the vast majority of people who have succumbed to it belong to one specific demographic. Numbers from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show that more than 78% of Americans who have died from COVID – or who are reported to have died from COVID – were 65 and over. The vast majority of those people also had serious pre-existing medical conditions. Thus, even an otherwise healthy 80-year-old is in very little danger of losing his or her life to the virus.
Acceptable Levels of Risk
To get to the answer of which of the two above-mentioned groups of people is being reasonable and which is being selfish, the real risk of death from COVID-19 must be explored, for if the risk is great, then perhaps all have a duty to their fellow Americans to do what is necessary to prevent the spread. If the risk is small, then those who are demanding vaccine mandates and mask-wearing are being unreasonable.
Some might ask, why should the answer to the question be based on a level of risk? Is it right to recklessly gamble with people’s health and lives by claiming there is an acceptable level of risk? In fact, it is, because that’s how life works.
Risk is an integral and unavoidable part of life. It always has been. Every single day, all human beings take multiple risks. They risk losing their lives in countless ways: by food poisoning, road accident, fire, flood, tornado, random lethal assault by a criminal or someone with mental problems, mauling by an animal, falling down the stairs, slipping in the shower, alcohol poisoning, binge-watching Sex in the City, airplane crash, drowning, and all manner of other random or freak occurrences that can result in death.
What all this means is that every human being subconsciously makes multiple life-or-death calculations on a daily basis. In fact for the majority of people, the risk of dying in certain ways is considered so small as to be acceptable, such as driving anywhere, even though there is a 1 in 107 chance of being killed in a car accident, according to the National Safety Council.
Does a reasonable person say no one should be allowed to drive because they have the “right” not to fear that they or their children might die in a road accident? The very idea is preposterous. If one’s fear of dying in such a way is that great, one should never travel in an automobile. Likewise, if one fears dying of COVID, one should consider never going out in public.
Acting Out of Sheer Spite?
Vaccinated or not, mask or not, a person can still become infected – so, going out in public is a choice based upon the perceived level of risk. Why is it those Americans who choose not to get vaccinated, either for health reasons or because they are simply not concerned about the virus, be barred from certain public places to minimize the risk for everyone else? All people have the choice to expose themselves to possible infection or not. The pro-vaccine folks want to deny everyone else freedom of movement so that they themselves can go about their lives free of their own irrational fears.
Since the pandemic started, the CDC has recorded almost 41 million cases of infection in the United States and 656,318 deaths, as of Sept. 13. This means COVID-19 has killed 1.6% of all the people who have contracted it. Given that, obviously, the CDC has not recorded every case – and the real number of infections stands quite possibly at somewhere between 60 and 100 million – that 1.6% gets even smaller. Add in the fact that a majority of the 656,318 alleged COVID deaths cannot be confirmed as being caused by the virus (as opposed to people infected with COVID but dying from some other condition), it is entirely reasonable – even if speculative – to assume that the virus has killed far less than 1% of the infected; perhaps even less than 0.5% of them.
Yet, for this risk of negligible size, people are almost literally losing their minds because some Americans simply refuse to give up their right to choose not to get vaccinated or not to wear a mask. There is no polite way to put it: The stupidity of it all is jaw-dropping.
Back to one person’s rights ending where another’s begins: The left now claims to believe this – which would be news to conservatives. If the adage is to be taken seriously, though, then it should be absolute. One person’s right to move freely about without the fear of catching COVID ends at another person’s right not to be forced to inject experimental vaccines into his or her body. It doesn’t work the other way around, though. A person’s right to not wear a mask, for example, does not end at someone else’s right to remain healthy.
The latter individuals have multiple alternatives: stay home, get vaccinated – because that is supposed to protect them from the virus, right? – or maintain a distance between themselves and the maskless person. Their rights are not being infringed upon in any way. The onus is upon them – and not anybody else – to make choices they believe will keep them free of COVID. Thus, if they insist that the maskless person leave or put on a mask, they are choosing to forgo all other options in favor of deliberately depriving the other person of freedom. This is how the minds of the pro-vaccine crowd work; rather than live and let live, they will go out of their way to deliberately choose the path that runs straight through everyone else’s personal freedom.
Thus, it can only be concluded that the utterly irrational and unscientific response to the pandemic has never been about public health; it has been, all along, about one group of people imposing their will upon another group.
Read more from Graham J. Noble.