The case against libertarian arguments for compulsory vaccination

Journal of Medical Ethics 43 (11):792-796 (2017)

Authors
Justin Bernstein
Johns Hopkins University
Abstract
In a recent paper in this journal, Jason Brennan correctly notes that libertarians struggle to justify a policy of compulsory vaccination. The most straightforward argument that justifies compulsory vaccination is that such a policy promotes welfare. But libertarians cannot make this argument because they claim that the state is justified only in protecting negative rights, not in promoting welfare. I consider two representative libertarian attempts to justify compulsory vaccination, and I argue that such arguments are unsuccessful. They either fail to show that the state is justified in implementing the policy or overgeneralise. I suggest that Brennan's solution is especially well motivated insofar as it addresses the shortcomings of these arguments. Brennan argues that we violate the rights of others by participating in an activity that imposes an unacceptable collective risk of harm. Going unvaccinated is an activity that imposes an unacceptable collective risk of harm, and thus amounts to a rights violation. So, the state can implement a policy of compulsory vaccination I object, however, that Brennan's delineation of acceptable and unacceptable risk implicitly rests on classical liberal rather than libertarian principles; he justifies compulsory vaccination on the grounds that it promotes welfare. I also object that Brennan's argument would entail significant departures from libertarian institutional arrangements. This leaves libertarians with a choice: they can develop new arguments to demonstrate that their position is compatible with compulsory vaccination, or they can accept that their view entails the impermissibility of compulsory vaccination, and argue that this is not an unpalatable implication of their view.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1136/medethics-2016-103857
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 46,223
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Anarchy, State, and Utopia.Robert Nozick - 1974 - Philosophy 52 (199):102-105.
Ethical Criteria of Risk Acceptance.Sven Ove Hansson - 2003 - Erkenntnis 59 (3):291 - 309.
Illiberal Libertarians: Why Libertarianism Is Not a Liberal View.Samuel Freeman - 2001 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 30 (2):105-151.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Resister’s Logic: The Anti-Vaccination Arguments of Alfred Russel Wallace and Their Role in the Debates Over Compulsory Vaccination in England, 1870–1907.Martin Fichman & Jennifer E. Keelan - 2007 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 38 (3):585-607.
Should Childhood Immunisation Be Compulsory?P. Bradley - 1999 - Journal of Medical Ethics 25 (4):330-334.
Japanese Childhood Vaccination Policy.Peter Doshi & Akira Akabayashi - 2010 - Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 19 (3):283-289.
Should Smallpox Vaccine Be Made Available to the General Public?Thomas May & Ross D. Silverman - 2003 - Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 13 (2):67-82.
Compulsory Voting: For and Against.Jason Brennan & Lisa Hill - 2014 - Cambridge University Press.
Compulsory Autonomy‐Promoting Education.Anders Schinkel - 2010 - Educational Theory 60 (1):97-116.
Compulsory Autonomy-Promoting Education.Anders Schinkel - 2010 - Educational Theory 60 (1):97-116.
Democracy and Compulsory Vaccination.Pavel Tichtchenko - 1997 - Hastings Center Report 27 (3):4-4.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2017-10-25

Total views
23 ( #403,067 of 2,285,767 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
5 ( #250,848 of 2,285,767 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

My notes

Sign in to use this feature