I’m the only member of my anarchy club, and this could still get me kicked out.

Sometimes, in the dark of night when nobody’s watching, I play “What would I do if I were in charge?” It always ends up reminding me that I don’t really have any answers. And it leaves me very glad I’m not in charge.

We’ve chatted on the subject of forced treatment for pandemic diseases before. For people like me with the luxury of treating ethical questions philosophically, it’s a bit of a conundrum. There are no good answers, but inevitably somebody comes along and cuts through the bullshit with bayonets – and then quarantines and forced inoculations occur. Philosophers curse them, but history calls them heroes.

Of course back when the U.S. government was busily trying to eradicate polio and tuberculosis, it had a mighty tool at its disposal: Most people trusted it. People might have argued that Taft could have done better than Eisenhower or something but they generally agreed with what was being done – even if it was being done to them. As Claire points out this morning, those days are gone. But all the same issues are still here, and say hello to the latest gift from Africa. And what now, Kemo Sabe?

If you should find yourself bleeding from the eyes, do me a favor and postpone your visit to the Gulch, okay? Email’s still good.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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12 Responses to I’m the only member of my anarchy club, and this could still get me kicked out.

  1. Goober says:

    Everything in moderation, Joel. The fact is, no simple political “extreme” is really feasible or tenable, because there will always be examples of conditions that will make it fail miserably.

    Disease control and vaccination is a perfect example of what I’m talking about, vis a vis anarchy or any anarchic-type political system.

    Without a government there to force people to get vaccinations (and let’s face it, for the most part, our government is pretty friendly about that – no one is going to jail, they are just going to ban you from public schools and pools until you get your shots) I honestly don’t believe polio is extinct and I think we’re all living in a lot worse place, health wise.

    Government is generally incompetent and useless, often abjectly evil, but the fact is, they get things right some of the time, and those things couldn’t really foreseeably be gotten right by any other institution (mainly out of human nature – lots of folks won’t do stuff voluntarily, but will gladly adhere to a dictat from their “superiors” without compunction).

    Communism and anarchism are both punctuated by a delightfully, and woefully incorrect, rosy view of true human nature. Neither work, because they assume the best of people, and when you’re dealing with people, you rarely get their best. At least not for long.

    This is why I say “everything in moderation.” And it’s why I feel like our current government setup has gone way beyond moderate.

    It’s also why it rubs me the wrong way, big time, whenever my “maximize personal and individual freedoms” rhetoric gets me accused of being an anarchist.

    One can easily make a non-strained case that a guy running around with Ebola in the US is threatening the right of others against harm, and that it is reasonable, legal self-defense for everyone else to demand he’s locked up until the threat passes. There’s nothing in there that is “anti-individual freedom” any more than my right to ten-ring a dude that breaks into my house.

  2. Bear says:

    Speaking of human nature…
    “Email’s still good.”

    Wanna bet that I can’t get more than a few fools to equate computer viruses and the physical sort, and convince them they need to download antivirus patch to block Ebola in attachments?

  3. Joel says:

    You’re a very bad person, Bear.

  4. Matt says:

    Instead of a forced quarantine, which could g badly, let the public decide. IMF a few hundred people want to fort up to avoid Ebola, let them. If businesses want to close their doors or refuse service to potential victims, let them. If towns, colleges, business want to put up signs that prohibit Ebola, let them. Government doesn’t need to round people up. Educate the public and hospitals on preventative measures, symptoms, etc. Stress hygiene and staying away from strangers.

  5. Bear says:

    Matt, to better understand Joel’s moral quandary, look up Typhoid Mary. Or consider that in the Houston case, the exposed family refused to comply with voluntary restrictions on travel, which is why the cops came back with a court order.

    In our current society, “voluntary” is problematic when you don’t know who to voluntarily shun, or when carriers ((or potential carriers) won’t voluntarily cooperate. Or when the disease doesn’t even exist (check Snopes for Portland, OR STD hoax).

    Heck, look at locations in Africa, where families take their Ebola-ridden people home because they’re sure that some folk remedy will cure them. Or, even worse, attack or kill medical personnel.

    It’s not like we have smartphone apps that let you point your phone at random strangers on the street to see who is carrying what. (Hmm… there’s another hoax I could play with: The NObola App.)

  6. gonewiththewind says:

    It is absolutely contrary to the constitution and common sense to force vaccination and to quarantine everyone. But then after millions die (probably not this time but history has a way of repeating itself so it will happen sooner or later). Common sense changes and quarintines makes so much more sense and if you have a vaccine of course it would be mandatory. So which is it? Act before millions die or wait until millions die?

  7. Matt says:

    I do,understand Joel’s quandary. The situation does suck. How does one enforce quarantine on possibly large groups of infected persons? It is easy to lock one person away, govt does that daily. What happens if it is a city block that is filled with victims and their care givers, potentially thousands of people? It can’t be done nicely, or humanely or for the victims own good. Is there a moral solution?

  8. Matt says:

    Is the real question, how would we handle if there were no government?

  9. Bear says:

    To quote myself,from over at Claire’s blog:
    [Joel, in the current reality, you’re right. In theory, there are other, nongovernmental, ways to do it, but I’ll be damned if I know how to get there from here, with the material we have to work with. I think that’s why so much libertarian fiction involves alternate universes or just abandoning the system to go somewhere else and start fresh with those already like-minded.]

    In our current society, most things a private person can do for protection — other than to huddle in hiding — would be illegal.

    But consider: Imagine a person attacked you and beat you so badly that you ended up in the hospital with doctors giving you a 1 in 3 chance of dying from your injuries. How would you deal with that? If that lunatic had already so beaten and hospitalized other people, and was now coming after you, would you be justified in killing him in self defense?

    Instead of fists or baseball bats, the hypothetical guy is after you with a virus that has a 30% lethality rate. He won’t voluntarily quarantine himself. He doesn’t need to swing at you, because bumping up against you and spreading sweat can be sufficient if he’s reached the infectious stage. In fact, he doesn’t have to do even that because he can contaminate a table in the fast food restaurant you’re about to patronize just be sitting there and sweating or sneezing. Now what is an acceptable means of stopping or restraining him?

    Can “Stand Your Ground” apply to lethal infectious diseases? Or should you hope you can outrun a virus better than you can a bullet? (Or Castle Doctrine- Do you hide under the bed and hope the home invaders only want to steal stuff?)

    How do you, Joe Blow walking down the street, know who’s infectious… or what they might be infectious with? Our tech isn’t up to a NObola smartphone app.

    Sorry, given our society as it is, all I have are more questions.

  10. When hospitals and airlines wait for the fedgov (or your locale’s equivalent) to tell them what to do that portends bad consequences. (think Atlas Shrugged) I’m not saying that I know what airlines or hospitals should do – only that there appears a total willingness to pass the buck. Given that small business owners have been prosecuted for refusing services to x, y, or z club members – this isn’t such a surprise – just a reflection of where ‘we’ is.

    Camacho 2016!

  11. GoneWithTheWind says:

    My father was 12 years old during the Spanish flu plague of 1918. The city would send a wagon through the town every day all day long to pick up the dead bodies and anyone with symptoms. The sick were taken to a “pest house” which was essentially a barracks not a hospital where you lied in a bed until you died or got better. If you called the family doctor because someone in your hosehold was ill and if the doctor concluded that the sick person had the flu he carried quarantine stickers with him and posted them on the outside of the house so that the daily wagon knew where to pick up the sick and the dead.

To the stake with the heretic!