I Do Not Understand How Some People Think

by Don Boudreaux on November 15, 2021

in Current Affairs, Myths and Fallacies, Risk and Safety

Here’s a letter to a new correspondent:

Mr. S__:

I’m sorry that you were “sickened and revolted” by what you encountered in the recording of Saturday’s Brownstone Institute event featuring Jay Bhattacharya, Martin Kulldorff, Jeffrey Tucker, and me. The chief cause of your intense negative reaction is the express opposition of my fellow panelists and me to vaccine mandates. In your view, “all unvaccinated people are like mass shooters on the loose [and] should be treated accordingly unless they disarm themselves or are forcibly disarmed.”

I’ll not here bother to repeat what was said during that event or what has been said and written elsewhere, in many places, by individuals far more articulate than I am. Instead, I’ll quote this accurate passage from an otherwise largely confused report that appeared in the November 12, 2021, edition of the Los Angeles Times:

Vaccines have been quite effective at preventing cases of COVID-19 that lead to severe illness and death, but none has proved reliable at blocking transmission of the virus, [Jefferson] Jones [a medical officer on the CDC’s COVID-19 Epidemiology Task Force] noted.

So I ask you, Mr. S__: Because vaccines are indeed quite effective at protecting the vaccinated from any of Covid’s serious consequences, why should anyone be compelled to be vaccinated? Why should vaccinated you care if Smith and Jones are unvaccinated given that their choice inflicts no significant harm on you or on any other vaccinated person? Why not allow each individual the freedom to choose whether or not to use the vaccine to reduce his or her risk of suffering severely from Covid?

As a practical matter, the effectiveness of vaccines at protecting the vaccinated is sufficient (although not necessary) to destroy the case for vaccine mandates. But if impractical folks are still unpersuaded, the case against vaccine mandates is further pulverized by the additional fact that no vaccine – again quoting the L.A. Times – “has proved reliable at blocking transmission of the virus.”

To use your analogy, while vaccines don’t disarm shooters, they do protect each vaccinated person against gunshot wounds.

I cannot close without observing that your analogizing the unvaccinated to mass murderers is grotesque. Such demonization of those who choose – many for excellent reasons – not to get vaccinated is not only inaccurate, it’s also dark-ages dystopian. I hope that from here on in you’ll refrain from using this analogy that is so monstrously mistaken.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
and
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

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