Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Q: Is there a role for government in protecting individuals from the threat of dangerous infectious disease?

Is there a role for government in protecting individuals from the threat of dangerous infectious disease? If so, does it give them a legitimate power to enforce a quarantine? Or to mandate a vaccine?

Ayn Rand argued that although there is a legitimate role for government in protecting individuals from the threat of dangerous infectious disease, she still opposed government-mandated vaccinations. Asked about it at a lecture*, she gave her reasons ...
Now, requiring inoculation against disease: should this be a job for the government? Most definitely not and there is a very simple answer for it. If it is medically proved that a certain inoculation is in fact practical and desirable, those who want it will take that inoculation. Now if some people do not see it that way—do not agree or don’t want to take it, only they will be in danger since all the other people will be inoculated. Those who do not go along, if they are wrong in this case, will merely catch the disease. They will not be a danger to anyone else and nobody has the right to force them to do anything for their own good against their own judgement. They will merely be ill then, but they could not infect others. 
    The next question in regard to quarantine is somewhat different, because in the state of, sense of a quarantine, if someone has a contagious disease, against which there is no inoculation, then the government will have the right to require quarantine. What is the principle here? It’s to protect those people who are not ill, to protect the people who, to prevent the people who are ill from passing on their illness to others. Here you are dealing with a demonstrable physical damage. Remember that in all issues of protecting someone from physical damage, before a government can properly act, there has to be a scientific, objective demonstration of an actual physical danger. If it is demonstrated, then the government can act to protect those who are not yet ill from contacting the disease, in other words to quarantine the people who are ill is not an interference with their rights, it is merely preventing them from doing physical damage to others.
*This is from a Q&A session during her 1963 lecture 'America’s Persecuted Minority: Big Business.' (An edited transcript appears in Ayn Rand Answers)



  1. I am sure she would have been utterly opposed to locking down healthy people in their homes.

  2. To be fair, there is a significant difference between Covid and earlier contagious diseases -- in that it was readily apparent with most earlier contagions when a person *had* the disease, and should be quarantined; whereas with Covid one can present without symptoms, yet still be a transmitter.
    Which does make it harder. And also makes it so disturbing that governments seem to be stopping the ready availability of the likes of saliva testing.


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