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February 02, 2015

Rand Goes Full Paul on Vaccines

Vaccines are the media's new "Birth Control Pills" question for the GOP -- injecting an out-of-nowhere wedge issue question into the debate just because it hurts the GOP.

Almost all GOP politicians are pro-vaccination, of course -- but a distressing number of GOP voters are against it, making this a politically difficult question.

Note that the media could drop any number of such wedge issue questions on Democrats -- do you favor the making taxpayers pay for voluntary sex-reassignment surgery -- but they don't because they're Democrats themselves and want to hide such wedge issues, not expose them.

NBC's very partisan Democrat Kasie Hunt is responsible for the current media gotcha game. Noah Rothman calls this "vacillating" on whether or not vaccines are necessary-- I don't see it that way at all.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie walked back comments he made here Monday morning calling for "balance" on the measles vaccine debate to allow for parental choice, asserting that "there is no question kids should be vaccinated."

"The Governor believes vaccines are an important public health protection and with a disease like measles there is no question kids should be vaccinated," Christie's office said in a statement. "At the same time different states require different degrees of vaccination, which is why he was calling for balance in which ones government should mandate."

Earlier Monday, Christie waded into the vaccination debate during his visit to the United Kingdom, telling reporters in Cambridge that he believes U.S. government must "balance" public health interests with parental choice. In a break with President Obama, Christie said parents should have "some measure of choice" about immunizing their children from measles and other viruses and diseases.

Noah Rothman is obviously strongly pro-vaccination. That's a worthy position. But that is not the same as being pro-forcing-vaccinations-on-people-against-their-will.

I wish all politically minded people would get this tattooed on the inside of their own eyeballs, so that they never fail to see the advisory when looking out into the world: The fact that a choice is good is no evidence that it should also be mandatory.

I didn't think Christie's remarks were out-of-line. I disagree with the anti-vaccine people, and I think I'd find many of them to be superstitious and given over to that type of "skepticism" that results in having almost no skepticism whatsoever against various pop-rumor fears and conspiracies. That sort of "skepticism" that involves an intense skepticism bordering on paranoia towards the government and anyone in any "official" position -- anti-white-coat-ism -- but no skepticism at all for the various "Citizen Informer" newsletters pumping out these various paranoias.

If you're only skeptical towards one side, and are completely credulous towards the other, you're not actually a "skeptic" at all. You're a True Blue Believer, you just believe things contrary to most.

But it's absolutely immaterial whether or not I approve of such people's anti-vaccination beliefs. Until we are faced with a public heath crisis so grave that it demands we begin stripping away people's freedoms, they are entitled to believe these things, and act accordingly.

The only freedom that matters is the Freedom to Be Wrong.

No other freedom matters one whit -- because if you're "right" in the eyes of those in power, your freedom will never be challenged, and hence you have no need of any right to belief or right to speech.

And yes, I do get that there are, of course, a growing number of measles cases due to parents' getting all silly about Internet Fear-Mongering and choosing to leave their kids unvaccinated against a potentially lethal disease. (Kids used to go blind from this -- I think that happened to the eldest sister on Little House on the Prarie.)

But no, we are not yet anywhere near some kind of emergency. Anyone who takes a small uptick in measels cases -- I think in California it went from like 60 to 100, or something like that -- as a justification for forcing people to do things against their will is just looking for any pretext to strip people of their liberties, and needs to know that about themselves.

And needs to change that about themselves.

We are not appointed by God to be Knights Errant fighting the demons that lurk within our fellow citizens and forcing them to heel beneath the King's law.

People should be free, to the maximum extent bearable, to be as foolish, shortsighted, gullible and dumb as people naturally are.

We do not go looking for some cheap justification to demonstrate our social distaste for some people by criminalizing their choices.

By those lights -- which I think should be standard conservatism, not some kind of fringe libertarianism -- I see nothing wrong with Christie's statement.

He said that there must be a "balance" when taking actions which force people to undergo medical treatments to which they object.

Think about how serious that is -- forcing someone's kid to undergo a medical treatment to which they object.

Now, yeah, I think the anti-vaccers are paranoid and doing wrong by their children, and in fact doing wrong by other people's children, by giving these diseases a habitat to thrive in.

But we all live to some extent in pools of risk created by our neighbors and other citizens. We have to accept the risk that an 80 year old driver may have a stroke and plow into us or our kids. We do not dragoon him to the DMV every month for a check-up; some small level of risk we are required to bear.

We do not have anything like the serious outbreak which would actually require us to force children to undergo medical treatments over their parents' objections, and we should not Gin Up Fear about the actual low level of risk we face just because we object to the anti-vaccers on a social and intellectual level.

It is far too easy --and far too pleasurable -- to squelch a minority belief system. We ought to be on guard against it.

On the other hand, while I would allow anti-vaccers to put their kids in jeopardy rather than abridge their freedoms, certainly I would not attempt to play to their paranoias, nor stoke them.

And this is exactly what Rand Paul seems to be doing:

Here's a slightly longer quote:

UPDATE: A few hours after this story went up, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul appeared on CNBC and was asked to clarify if he thought most vaccines should be voluntary.

"I guess being for freedom would be really unusual?" Paul said, sarcastically. "I guess I don't understand the point, as to why that would be controversial."

As he clarified, he mostly stuck to what he'd said on talk radio today. Only toward the end of his answer did he explain the dangers, as he saw them, in vaccinating children.

"I've heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines," said Paul. "I'm not arguing vaccines are a bad idea. I think they're a good thing. But I think the parents should have some input."

Indeed they should -- but why are you encouraging them to believe that vaccines cause mental retardation?

And you're a doctor, for God's sakes.

Eh, the Paul bunch, what can you do? They are John Bircher paleocon paranoids and always have been.

Rand's just his dad with a little bit of an internal editor.

I had had hope for Rand Paul and was open to his candidacy, but every time he or his conspiracy-addled lunatic father open their mouths, I cringe more.

The family has gotten politically rich off the same motto as that of the Ghostbusters:

We Are Prepared To Believe You.

Paul, Inc., exists because the cadre of paranoids and conspiracists likes to be flattered as having raised "Serious Questions," and will vote for anyone (and donate, and Subscribe to Your Newsletters) who so flatters them.

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posted by Ace at 05:17 PM

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