May 23, 2008

Minarchist Measles Prevention?

SnakelampOn Ethical Perspectives on the News I write about Preventing Polka-Dot Problems: Should Measles Vaccination be Compulsory?

I think one can make a fairly strong argument that even in a libertarian minarchist state vaccination should be tax supported: there is no fundamental difference between protecting citizens from criminals, wild animals or pathogens. And there might even be (if one buys Nozick's arguments about compensation to the John Wayne types who are forced to use the state protection) a case for making it mandatory. On the other hand, the mandatoriness only seem to work if there is no herd immunity. Giving compensation seems to be an universally acceptable approach to break the (rather mild) public good situation for vaccinations.

The frightening thing is that vaccination is one of the real success stories of public health, yet it was a victim of its own success and has had a surprisingly hard time countering dangerous nonsense. Not just the MMR-autism claim, but (often self-serving) nonsense about how diet, alternative medicine or even being infected is better for you. If something as effective and well documented as this has trouble, what about the rest of science/evidence-based medicine - or evidence-based anything? Still, we should not despair: Jenner succeeded despite fairly "modern"-sounding fears of species mixture.

Posted by Anders3 at May 23, 2008 10:51 PM