The core conservative “freedom” argument that government is illegitimate and we should all rely on our own “personal responsibility” came up against reality in the last few days. Conservative ideology, as it always does when confronted with reality, lost.
There has been an outbreak of measles in the United States. From January 2014 through the end of January 2015, there have been more reported measles cases than there were in the six years from 2008 to 2013. There were 102 cases recorded in January alone, and there is a risk of it spreading out of control — because too few children are vaccinated.
Before the vaccination program began in 1963 there were an average of 549,000 cases a year in the US, with around 500 deaths. Since 1963 vaccinations largely eliminated the disease in the US.
Vaccines work. A vaccinated child doesn’t get the disease and therefore doesn’t spread it. When enough people are vaccinated against a disease it becomes much harder for the disease to spread to non-vaccinated people. There are people who cannot be vaccinated for various reasons, so there is a responsibility to the community for everyone else to be vaccinated so diseases do not spread to those who can’t be vaccinated.
In recent years, however, several states changed their laws to give parents a choice of whether to vaccinate their kids, and a number of parents have opted not to. Even in states with mandatory vaccination laws many parents have bypassed the system. The result is that the “herd” does not have enough people vaccinated to prevent diseases like measles from spreading. So an outbreak like this one risks a nearly-eradicated disease becoming endemic again, with the resulting in crease in deaths.
All of this has brought conservatism’s core arguments into question. Conservatives say government (“collectivists” “statism”, etc.) should never require anyone to do anything. They say people should take “personal responsibility” instead of having government protections, and “the market” should decide everything on a one-dollar-one-vote bases. (One-person-one-vote is called “theft.”) They say that requirements to get vaccines are evidence of the “big government” “nanny state” trying to take care of everyone and telling people what to do,” etc.
For example, Wisconsin Republican Congressman Sean Duffy said of mandatory vaccinations, “We should not have an oppressive state telling us what to do.”
Rand Paul said (before becoming a Senator), that mandatory vaccines are the first step to martial law.
The conservative news site The Blaze writes of vaccine requirements, “Statist zealotry has gone mainstream.”
Meanwhile Republican Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) says that “illegal aliens” are responsible for bringing disease into the US.
Not Even Employees Washing Hands After Pooping
The best quote from an anti-government conservative was NC Republican Senator Thom Tillis, who said that it is not government’s nanny-state job to “force” restaurant workers to wash their hands after going to the bathroom. (This is a politician you might not want to shake hand with.)
We Need Government
Government, whether it is a neighborhood association, a city council or the federal government is just people organizing themselves, gathering together to set up the rules for getting along and making everyone’s lives better. Conservatives call this “collectivism” and “statism” and complain that no majority should tell anyone else what to do. They call this “big government” and “nanny state” and other pejorative terms.
But the fact is that humanity evolved in communities, and not with everyone living alone and on their own. Humanity survived because people took care of each other. You can call taking care of other people’s needs a “nanny state” if you want, but you should still vaccinate your children, and it should be mandatory.
Also see must-read Terrance Heath: Anti-Science, Anti-Social Conservatism Makes Us Sick