There’s so much conversation about individual liberty being trampled these days. Personally I’m not feeling it myself but you hear a lot about it from conservatives and libertarians. Health care reform is discussed this way, so are things like helmet laws, financial deregulation, etc. All of these – and more – are presented as examples of the government overstepping its bounds and stopping people from doing the things their way.
Last night I was watching Frontline’s program The Vaccine War. It was excellent – using published research from around the world to debunk the alleged connect between vaccines and autism. Toward the end there was a public health official speaking with several mothers who had opted not to have their children vaccinated. He raised the question – what if your choice not to vaccinate results in illness for a child that cannot be vaccinated?
The response was that they were responsible parent and wouldn’t let their child be around other kids if they were sick. The public health official pointed out the often people are capable of transmitting an illness before they show any symptoms. To which there really was no very effective response.
There ought to be some mechanism for people to exercise their desired level of freedom while still assuming responsibility for their actions. This mechanism ought to be onerous enough to force people think hard about the potential consequences of their decisions.
My thought is that anyone wishing to exercise their “full freedom” sign an affidavit stating they understand that they will be held personally liable for any consequences of their actions. For example, if someone wishes to ride a motorcycle without a helmet they would be financially responsible for the cost of the emergency services and/or treatment to the extent it isn’t covered by their insurance.
Or if a child becomes ill as the result of exposure to a disease carried by an unvaccinated person that person (or their legal guardians) would be held responsible for any cost associated with treatment. This responsibility could be guaranteed by agreeing to a lien on any property or through the purchase of supplemental insurance to cover the potential outcome of their actions.
This would give people the freedom to act as they desire without placing the burden of the results of their actions on others. It irritates me that people want to have their cake and eat it too. It would annoy me less if they were forced to pay for the cake (and its consequences).