Monday, December 04, 2023


“You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.”

— William Wilberforce

The Totalitarian Roots of Vaccine Mandates

burned books

Opinion | Over the course of the pandemic, principles of what a free society means are being redefined by collectivists.

Consider this essay, Don’t COVID Vaccine Mandates Actually Promote Freedom? Medical ethicists Kyle Ferguson and Arthur Caplan argue, “Those who oppose cracking down on the unvaccinated are getting it all wrong.” Ferguson and Caplan are sure their opponents have a “flawed view of freedom.” They argue “Passports and mandates are hardly ‘strong-arm tactics.’ These strategies are better seen as liberty inducers. They bring about freedom rather than deplete it.”

They add, “a successful COVID-19 vaccination campaign will liberate us—as individuals and as a collective—from the callous grip of a pandemic that just won’t seem to end.” Orwell’s “Party” proclaimed in 1984 that “Freedom is slavery.” Ferguson and Caplan come close to arguing “Slavery is freedom.”

Ferguson and Caplan assure us that the enlightenment view of “the unbound individual” is outdated. They want to reimagine freedom as communal, starting with “the individual’s participation in a community and the kind of community in which the individual lives.” They develop their argument:

Here, freedom is communal rather than individualistic. And rather than being unbound, individuals in the free community are bound by and to each other. Communal freedom achieves much more than the unbound individual ever could. It creates new possibilities and expands our horizons. Life is enhanced when our community is free because we can participate in communal freedom and the goods it creates.

They want to take us back to the future with Rousseau as their guide:

This view of freedom is like that of Rousseau’s: A society is made free by individuals cooperating, by binding themselves to each other and to the rational pursuit of common goals. From this perspective, vaccine mandates and other “strong-arm tactics” induce liberty rather than restrict it.

Seduced by the Common Good

For some, flowery visions of the common good have always been seductive. In The Road to Serfdom, Friedrich Hayek observes that even well-meaning people will ask, “If it be necessary to achieve important ends,” why shouldn’t the system “be run by decent people for the good of the community as a whole?”

Hayek challenges the axiomatic belief that wise people can tell others what the common good is. He explains why there is no such thing as the common good: “The welfare and happiness of millions cannot be measured on a single scale of less or more. The welfare of the people, like the happiness of a man, depends upon a great many things that can be provided in an infinite variety of combinations.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James Macgregor Burns recounts in his book Fire and Light how Rousseau’s ideas of the general will led to the brutality of his disciple Robespierre. Like Hayek, Burns explains that there can be no agreement about what the common good is. Claiming to rule by the common good inevitably leads to excesses. Robespierre and the other eleven men who made up the Committee of Public Safety ruled France with “unlimited power” and “terror.”

Burns explains what Rousseau did not understand: “Peaceful and democratic conflict [is] crucial to the achievement of freedom.” Instead, Rousseau imagined, like Ferguson and Caplan “a new society filled with good citizens… working selflessly and with identical minds for the common good.”

Rousseau’s ideas are mantras for censors. In Rousseau’s world, there would be no pesky “long debates, dissensions and tumult” impeding implementation of the common good.

Dr. Fauci is sure he is right, and he has had enough of those making different choices than his guidance: “I respect people’s freedom, but when you’re talking about a public health crisis, that we’ve been going through now for well over a year and a half, the time is come, enough is enough.” Let’s not hide Fauci’s plain meaning, I respect people’s freedom to do what I tell them.

The basic human right to decide what goes into your body is now being reversed.

You are to take all the vaccines Dr. Fauci and Pfizer deem necessary. They—not you—will decide the parameters of your freedom, with Ferguson and Caplan cheering them on. Rest easy, like Robespierre, the fallible decisions of Dr. Fauci, politicians, bureaucrats and cronies are for “the common good.”

With freedom redefined, there will be no need to take personal responsibility for your health decisions. Those who don’t go along with official guidance must be dealt with. Ban them from travel, from schools, and from employment. In Ferguson and Caplan’s Rousseauian view, society is merely expunging those that won’t take a knee to whatever is proclaimed the common good.

The Arrogant Jacobin Mindset

Burns explains that leaders operating from the common good mindset have the “absolute conviction” that they are right. Burns explores the French Revolution as he recounts the totalitarian tyranny of the Jacobins: “The Jacobins believed only they understood the general will of the French people, hence they were morally right.”

Burns continues, “Opposition was considered not merely mistaken but evil and traitorous and hence punishable, even lethally. The Jacobins asserted a monopoly on virtue which meant to them a license to kill those who held up other values.”

Today, health Jacobins don’t argue that they should kill the unvaccinated, but some argue that the unvaccinated should be deprived of healthcare.

In his seminal essay, “Individualism: True and False,” Hayek contrasts true individualism and the false individualism of philosophers such as Rousseau.

True individualism “is a product of an acute consciousness of the limitations of the individual mind which induces an attitude of humility toward the impersonal and anonymous social processes by which individuals help to create things greater than they know.” In contrast, false individualism “is the product of an exaggerated belief in the powers of individual reason and of a consequent contempt for anything which has not been consciously designed by it or is not fully intelligible to it.”

When Ferguson and Caplan write, “Freedom is communal rather than individualistic,” they in Hayek’s words express “the silliest of the common misunderstandings.” The adoption of such ideas, Hayek explains, has been “a source of modern socialism.”

The error made by collectivist apologists is “the belief that individualism postulates (or bases its arguments on the assumption of) the existence of isolated or self-contained individuals, instead of starting from men whose whole nature and character is determined by their existence in society.”

This false individualism of Rousseau and others assumes that “everything which man achieves is the direct result of, and therefore subject to, the control of individual reason.”

Masquerading as people who reason the best, Ferguson and Caplan in Hayek’s words “pretend to be able directly to comprehend social wholes like society.”

Hayek’s explanation of “true individualism” is the antidote for such hubris. Hayek’s approach is “antirationalistic” and “regards man not as a highly rational and intelligent but as a very irrational and fallible being, whose individual errors are corrected only in the course of a social process, and which aims at making the best of a very imperfect material.”

We can never make the best of “imperfect material” when those posing as having superior knowledge are allowed to coerce others. Hayek writes, “What individualism teaches us is that society is greater than the individual only in so far as it is free. In so far as it is controlled or directed, it is limited to the powers of the individual minds which control or direct it.” In other words, choose to be directed by the limited power of Dr. Fauci’s mind or choose the virtually unlimited and unpredictable power of a free society.

Let’s put this together. Health collectivists, behaving like Jacobins, are sure there is one best way; they believe they are the arbiter of truth. Cloaking themselves in the holy robes of the augur of the common good, dissent is not to be tolerated. The end to the pandemic requires not that we follow the collectivists but that we are free to consider different perspectives and discover in the course of an uncoerced social process what really works.

This article was reprinted with the author’s permission. It was originally published by the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER). Barry Brownstein is professor emeritus of economics and leadership at the University of Baltimore. He is senior contributor at Intellectual Takeout and the author of The Inner-Work of Leadership.

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Note: This commentary provides referenced information and perspective on a topic related to vaccine science, policy, law or ethics being discussed in public forums and by U.S. lawmakers.  The websites of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) provide information and perspective of federal agencies responsible for vaccine research, development, regulation and policymaking.

15 Responses

  1. Yes. I agree and found this article well written. I am skeptical off all that is presented as true fact and not to be challenged such as vaccine mandates. Why don’t they mandate organic food and gym memberships if they truly believe in collective common good.

  2. As the bell tolls. As a boot stomps the face. Use of coercion and the force of government is violence. We have natural immunity and are not taking any vaccines. Life without liberty is not worth living. We will not trade liberty for security, no matter how difficult the challenge and no matter how great the losses. In pursuit of liberty.

  3. When I got out of the s f bay Bill asked me if one has to be a member of Dolphin to swim in the bay?
    I said “No, they don’t own the water….”
    They just act like they do

    They don’t own freedom and don’t speak for my bodily autonomy

    Why I have a right to an abortion but not to refuse the rampant and false propaganda advocating needle rape and face diapers

    It is all veiled as science unitl they drop the mask and then they say oh it’s just politics but put your mask on
    Choose your favorite hypocritical elected critter

    I didn’t do it

    Natural immunity….

    Natural food

    Natural freedom of love

    The Rule of freedom suite
    In utoob if u wanted….

    1. I’m seeing more and more pushback on a local level about this freedom destroying “mandate” for a medical procedure that is ‘gene therapy’, thank God!

    1. Thank you Pat & David. A friend of Liberty is a friend of mine.

      Here is a quote from the good Dr Ron Paul;
      “It must be remembered that the vast majority of mankind’s history has been spent living under the rule of tyrants and authoritarians. The ideas of liberty are very new when you consider the big picture. By contrast, various forms of socialism and fascism have been adopted over and over again. Be wary of those whom try to present these old and tired ideas as new and exciting. Liberty and free markets are the way forward if we truly desire peace and prosperity.”

      But instead of embracing what was only a moment ago, right in front of us, now we have to go further back and re learn some important lessons.
      Bastiat: “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves, in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it, and a moral code which glorifies it.” Bastiat redefined law and charted a direction which emphasized morality as the root of all reasonable law. The test of a laws validity is in the morality of it.

      He made several statements on the matter: “Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed before hand that caused men to make laws in the first place.”

      On plunder: “Sometimes the law defends plunder, and participates in it. Sometimes the law places the whole apparatus of judges, police prisons, and gendarmes at the service of the plunderers, and treats the victim – when he tries to defend himself – as a criminal.”

      He defines plunder for our clear understanding as well; “The genuine and equitable law governing man is “The freely negotiated exchange of one service for another.” Plunder exists in banishing by deception or force the freedom to negotiate in order to receive a service without rendering another in return.”

      I’ll finish with Orwell: “All tyrannies rule through fraud and force, but once the fraud is exposed they must rely exclusively on force.”

      Censorship often results in the worst possible outcomes. We tried to warn you this was a possibility. Just because you may not be actively censored provides no relief. The emergence of censorship is synonymous with rising tyranny. People need to take no quarter, reject these tech systems which cross the line, boycott companies promoting censorship. Because your life as you know it does depend on the first amendment. We opt out on principal because; “Good ideas do not require force.”

  4. TRUE STORY: A local public school in my state sent letters home to those kids in 8th grade and above saying they “had to get the shot or weren’t allowed in school.” The mother, who doesn’t take things lying down, called the school admin and told them that if they insist on this “mandated” shot for her kids that she already has a lawyer and would start immediate legal actions against them.

    She never heard another word about it.

    1. Yeah, schools try to push it past parents all day long.

      The member updates from NVIC groups and other NVIC web site resources saved us many times.

      We handed them the one page form, told them do not enter us in any database systems, and to leave us alone.

      Until this covid nonsense, our children were in public school without concern, no vaccination necessary.

      Darwinism award; People whom support expanding childhood vaccination should get the covid shots themselves. Trust the science (TM). It’s never too late to admit you were lied to and these mega corporations operate on deception and greed.

      If the shot works, why is the shot not working? People going along with this are immersed in propaganda. Facts will not reach them, they’re too far gone. Their last chance is the hope that someone can get the message of Liberty through to them. This is our last chance as well, as those believing the propaganda out number free thinking independents substantially. Just like in WW2, the Maoist revolution, and many others, the vocal free thinkers will be the first to go.

  5. Great explanation and contrast of individual freedom and the collectivist vision. Our ahistorical culture seems determined to repeat the errors of the past.

  6. The system will never be run by decent people. Power is necessary to run a system, and the powerful will be those who love power the most. As pointed out by Tolstoy long ago, goodness is incompatible with the love of power, and instead is congruent with pride, cunning, and cruelty. That’s what we have being manifest now. In addition, the Enlightenment elevated reason to the number one spot in the hierarchy of mental action. That’s not natural. Spiritual thought is the highest form of thought, and if that is discarded it makes it easy to rationally justify any mode of action, however abominable. “He is very wise, and weighs all things to a nicety in the scales of his malice” as somebody once wrote. What we need now is divine intervention.

    1. Excellent commentary John. Others before us understood these concepts. Many were writing about this long after. The grand experiment was in fact, very grand. It shook the world and brought light to dark places. One could even go back to Plato and the concept of utopia, perfection is not obtainable. The solutions were right in front of us, individual liberty provided the necessary relief from those lusting for power. We The People…. In modern terms, the solution is to drastically shrink the size of our existing government.

      We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

      We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

  7. Divided Germany prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall is a perfect example of 2 kinds of societies: the West German free society based upon the sovereignty of the individual, and the East German authoritarian society based upon the sovereignty of the collective. Paranoia reigned supreme in the latter. This is why the Stasi didn’t have to spy on everyone. They created a mental climate of mutual distrust, so everyone assume they were being targeted.

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