Niles on Masks and Vaccine Passports

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Back in April, Raymond Niles of the American Institute for Economic Research wrote about the aforementioned policy "debates" among Americans during the height of the pandemic. Most disturbingly, he noted:

The all-but-forgotten woman of the pandemic, obscured behind a mask and authoritarian marching orders. (Image by Jon Tyson, via Unsplash, license.)
On one side, a government official says that -- by law -- we must use masks or vaccine passports. But on the other side, a government official is saying that -- by law -- we cannot require masks or vaccine passports on our own private property in our voluntary interactions with others.

Both sides in this debate violate our individual rights by taking away our ability to make these decisions for ourselves. A rights-respecting approach to Covid recognizes our fundamental ownership over our own bodies and property. This includes freedom of association, where each of us can set the terms upon which others may use one's property. Just as you can say "no smoking allowed" -- or "smoking is permitted" -- for guests in your own home, a business owner should be able to establish their own policy for patrons regarding mask-wearing, Covid passports, and other Covid issues.

Instead of protecting and upholding this individual right, the quest to use government power to back one's position on these issues has created a knock-down, drag-out political brawl where each side is fighting for the ability to use the policing power of the government to enforce their will on everyone. [italics in original, bold added]
This is the best, shortest summary of what the pandemic has revealed to be wrong about American political discourse for quite some time, but as exemplified by this particular situation. (The piece also, incidentally, contains one of the best, shortest argument to the effect that Ron DeSantis is no more a friend of liberty than Andrew Cuomo.)

Niles correctly states that, "Government should confine its role to respecting and enforcing" the right of individuals to make their own choices. He then goes on briefly to outline how this might play out, say, for the owner of a venue deciding whether to require masks on the premises.

I think the piece is worth a full read, and complements another that I have frequently recommended here, the longer white paper from the Ayn Rand Institute titled, "A Pro-Freedom Approach to Infectious Disease."

-- CAV


Raymond C Niles said...

Hi Gus,

Thank you for drawing attention to my piece!

I received quite a lot of push-back on this piece from otherwise pro-free market outlets. They did not seem to understand that the fundamental issue at stake is individual rights. Some went so far as to endorse Florida Gov. DeSantis using government force to ban voluntary policies on Covid passports, simply because they also disagreed with those policies.

Some of those outlets would not even carry my piece. Thus, I am very pleased that you have given it wider attention and that Capitalism Magazine chose to carry my piece. It was very principled of them!

The principle of individual rights and individual liberty is the fundamental issue here. It is very similar to the principle of free speech. One must uphold that freedom, even if one disagrees with how others use it.

Business owners should be able to set whatever policy they want regarding Covid "passports" and no governor -- whether he hails from the "blue" state of New York or the "red" state of Florida -- should be able to stop them.


Gus Van Horn said...

You're welcome, and thanks for writing this.

The resistance to this from conservative outlets is even more disturbing than what the pandemic has revealed about Ron DeSantis and many other politicians, but it is good that advocates of liberty know about this problem sooner than later.