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My wookiee suit is strong but . . .

How do libertarians deal with quarantine? Personally, I accept that I am a rational actor and I’d go all quarantine because I should and am responsible for my actions. But some folks, like patient zero, who is not a libertarian, say I’m looking out for numero uno. Libertarians might just tell you to fuck off but that’s not kosher in the whole “I am responsible for me” thing. What say you?

27 Responses to “My wookiee suit is strong but . . .”

  1. MrSatyre Says:

    What’s wrong with looking out for numero uno? You have to be good to yourself before you can be good to anyone else. That’s being rational and responsible. I’m not at all sure if you’re saying that if you were being quarantined because you were sick, or because you were suspected of being sick how you should respond: altruistic and submit, or selfishly and resist until you exhibit symptoms.

  2. Standard Mischief Says:

    Legitimate quarantine patents should have access (communication) to lawyers, access to family/friends, and be compensated if they’re innocent victims. (i.e. they’re not news critters that went to cover a deadly epidemic, they’re the poor guys who got stuck on the plane with them.)

    Officials who quarantine people needlessly should be held responsible personally, and risk their own job, money, and freedom if found to be abusing the extraordinary powers needed to stop an epidemic.

    Idiots that break quarantine, or deliberately spread deadly or crippling illnesses (ebola, HIV, etc) should serve out their criminal sentences inside jails located in remote locations.

    Seal the borders (really seal them) yesterday.

  3. Freiheit Says:

    Your rights end at the tip of my nose. If you bring a disease to me, we have a problem.

    Quarantine is the same vein as doing dope or being drunk off your ass at home is just fine but driving high is not. By leaving your home with an infectious, deadly disease you’re endangering the rest of us. Being a medical professional you may even bear a higher culpability because you know better.

    There is of course a rational and moral understanding that you should seek treatment and will have to move about to do so. Big difference between going to the doc, picking up meds, and some supplies versus taking a family visit by air or a pleasure cruise.

    Former LP candidate, card carrying LP member here. Not sure if this matters or not. I share my credentials just so ya’ll know where I am coming from. Within my libertarian circles I’m considered a moderate. I’m focused on moving the ball down field and less concerned about the ideal libertarian state or perfect Ayn Randian states.

  4. Deaf Smith Says:

    I understand the rational for a quarantine and I agree it is a necessary evil.

    And if a person does have something like Ebola or Anthrax or Small Pox and says, “fuck off I’m leaving” I will tell them they either stay or leave n a pine box.

    Got that folks. I cannot allow others to be endangered by such. And yes, if I have contracted such disease, I must stay in quarantine.

  5. Joe Allen Says:

    The Zero Aggression Policy perfectly addresses quarantine. If you know, or have reason to believe, you may have a deadly contagious disease, you cannot hop on a cruise ship or jet airplane and call yourself a libertarian.

  6. Jim Says:

    Quarantine is a legitimate government function. I think the issues here is really compensation. For the nurses is it workman’s compensation, sick time, or unemployment as they can not work. It sure as hell is not vacation time or PTO. And exposure to another ebola patient will reset the quarantine clock. If it’s voluntary quarantine no one has to pay the nurse for a month to sit on her but.

    So to minimize staffing, one Ebola patient will have a nurse every twelve hours. Two nurses a day for duration, say two weeks. 168 hours for each nurse. That’s a hard run but most could do it. Then the same two nurses will sit for 1 month quarantine. Base pay for four weeks would be 168 hours (three, twelve hours days, 4 weeks). My guess would be about 8-10k per nurse and half of that sitting.

    This is about compensation.

  7. DocMerlin Says:

    Government quarantine generally goes WAY beyond what is rational, yet still fails at doing what it is supposed to do. (A good example is how people in Maine are being quarantined for having visited Dallas despite having no contact with ebola patients). Yet, they released the original patient when he went to them and explained that he was exposed to ebola and had symptoms.

  8. AndyN Says:

    I think your question is tiptoeing along the line between libertarian and anarchist. I’m not sure what libertarian doctrine is (can there be such a thing as libertarian doctrine?) but I don’t think people most of us would consider libertarians want a complete lack of government. Compulsory quarantine of people who are a known hazard to others doesn’t seem any more beyond the limits of legitimate government power than quarantine of violent criminals from their potential victims.

    I’m with Freiheit on this one. If you have no control over where your fist is going to land once you start swinging it, it’s not unreasonable to tell you you can’t swing it around innocent people.

  9. Phelps Says:

    Quarantine is a reasonable restriction. When you are ill or potentially ill with a deadly disease, you will be violating the right to life of others, regardless of your intent. It’s the same way you no longer have the right to drive a car when you are blind. Your physical restrictions make it so that you cannot exercise your right without violating the rights of others.

  10. divemedic Says:

    I concur. If we are to take the position that an action only becomes illegal once someone is injured or killed, then it should be legal for me to randomly fire my pistol down a crowded city street. After all, if no one gets hit by a bullet, there is no victim, right?

    Walking around with a deadly disease is MUCH more dangerous than firing a pistol into a crowd. A quarantine is just the rest of society refusing to interact with someone, and the fact that the rest of us do not want you wandering about and shooting your infected nasal secretions about at random is in no way unreasonable.

  11. mariner Says:

    A problem some (many?) libertarians have is pretending that the great majority of people are both honest and respectful of others’ rights, despite abundant evidence to the contrary.

    Freiheit strikes the balance where I do.

  12. Scottw Says:

    Quarantine forced on myself by myself. I am responsible enough that if I was a carrier of a highly contagious disease then I would lock myself away for the needed time. But, I would NOT allow the .gov to dictate to me the conditions for said quarantine. They do not have my best interest at heart…….

  13. CaptDMO Says:

    I suspect that a Libertarian might consider someone callously spreading death around, with none of the limited tax dollars “for the common good” addressing the clear and present danger, might say
    “I stopped them…”

  14. Mr Evilwrench Says:

    Being a Libertarian /= being an anarchist. A libertarian can accept a role for .gov in some things. Now, if I knew I was infected with a deadly communicable disease, I would absolutely not expose others, and I’d be overly meticulous with this, as that’s how I’d wish others to do with me. I wish all were like this.

    Say, however, you have a deadly communicable disease that causes mental deficiency or disorientation. In this case, I can’t be trusted to respect the best interests of myself or others. Someone else needs to take control of the situation, and that would be some form of .gov at some level, whether it’s a group of concerned neighbors or anything up to the feral .gov.

    I’m expecting my general welfare to be promoted. Of course the feral .gov doesn’t seem to be up to that task lately.

  15. Francis W. Porretto Says:

    Quarantine to prevent the spread of an infectious disease is one of the cases that the libertarian axiom of inviolable individual rights is incompetent to deal with. But that doesn’t mean there’s no danger in allowing the State to define the reasons for a quarantine and apply effectively unlimited power to enforce one. It’s a thorny problem without am obvious solution.

  16. Mike Says:

    In response to Mr. Porretto above, I view the “libertarian axiom of inviolable individual rights” as a strawman. I’ve yet to see an actual libertarian espouse such a thing. As long as such a State power is exercised reasonably and subject to judicial review, I’m good with it.

    I once had the unfortunate duty of having a family member committed involuntarily to a mental institution. Once the court order was executed by the deputies, the family member had the right to appear in court and challenge the detention order. Fortunately he chose to waive that right and seek treatment.

    In my state, quarantine law works similarly.

  17. Ron W Says:

    The first thing to do is to STOP allowing people and especially sick ones to fly in from Ebola hot zones. Even Ivory Coast, which is next to these countries, has closed its borders! I’m libertarian within Constitutional and ALL of the Bill of Rights parameters, but our nation, it’s best interests and our borders should be defended over other countries!

  18. Francis W. Porretto Says:

    Well, Mike, in the usual case a strawman is an argument presented to stand in for the real position of one of the arguers, usually by someone who wants to tear it down and claim victory. In this case, it’s the heart of libertarian thought. My point is that, like all ideas, it has a specific domain of application — and the effective control of infectious disease is outside that domain, as are warfare, foreign policy, the proper treatment of the insane and the immature, and several other important areas of public policy.

    But libertarians — some, not all of us — tend to react from that axiom regardless of the subject under discussion. It weakens libertarian thought in the eyes of many who might otherwise find it appealing. The curative is to admit that we don’t have the answers to every problem under the Sun…but a fair number of libertarians would rather not make such an admission.

    It’s a pity, really. It leaves some fascinating problems in public policy inadequately addressed from the libertarian standpoint. It falls to those of us with a little humility on tap to redress the matter…not that much can be done about doctrinal absolutists in the short term, anyway.

  19. HSR47 Says:

    @Porretto: No, your argument is a strawman: Out of 18 posts, including your two, there is only really one that at all appears to disagree with the notion that some form of government-mandated quarantine in cases such as this is wholly illegitimate.

    On the whole, there are several self-described libertarians (myself included) who acknowledge that enforcing quarantines can be a legitimate function of government.

    On the whole, the classic “your right to swing your fist ends where my body and possessions begin” applies here: Governments are, at their heart, agencies established by the people to secure their collective rights. In order to accomplish this, government must be able to, when necessary, deprive some of their rights/liberties so as to secure the rights/liberties of the body politic, but not without due process.

    Examples of this:

    *Defense from external threats — both diplomacy and wars (carrot and stick). Border protection and immigration controls also fall here.

    *Defense from internal threats — People who would abuse their fellow man: Police and the courts (civil and criminal) fall here.

    In this case, temporary detention potentially falls within both general bullet points: Screening those entering this country and quarantining or turning away those who are potential plague-bearers, and detaining those citizens who are actively spreading dangerous and deadly plagues (see the case of Typhoid Mary).

    On the whole, ensuring that those infected with dangerous and deadly plagues are separated from society for a reasonable period of time so as to ensure that they pose no threat to the body politic is an entirely legitimate function of a government operating by libertarian principles.

    That is to say that it’s a matter of balancing rights: The collective right to life of the body politic outweighs the temporary limitations on the right to liberty of those who should rightfully be quarantined.

    Still, the entire process should be subject to strict judicial review: the scope of a mandatory quarantine should be subject to review, as should the length of detention. In cases where unlawful detentions are deemed to have occurred, the agents/agencies responsible for the unreasonable/unjustified deprecation of liberty should be held liable on a personal basis. Similarly, those who break quarantine should be subject to judicial review for such breaches.

    Furthermore, since we’re all effectively demanding that certain people be effectively cut off from their lives and livelihoods, it becomes our collective responsibility to replace their incomes for the length of their detention.

  20. Richard Says:

    Epidemic prevention/control is a classic example of a public good and thus a legitimate sphere for government action.

  21. Chiburbian Says:

    Good discussion but I’d like to add: anarchist means no rulers, not necessarily no rules. The difference is in who enforces said rules.

  22. Chris from AK Says:

    “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.” – Thomas Jefferson

    TJ was a strong proponent of smallpox vaccination (to the extent of requiring his entire estate to do so), which often came with a quarantine period.

    Then again, in a letter in 1807, TJ wrote, “Not himself a friend to quarantines, nor having confidence in their efficacy, he sees with pleasure every effort to lessen their credit.”

    Then again, the next sentence basically says “…because the science is still out on this!” I suspect that if TJ knew what we now know about disease transmission he would have a different opinion. We can now prove beyond a reasonable doubt the mechanism of germ theory and the efficacy of quarantines. TJ was a rational science-driven kind of guy who was willing to temper extreme libertarianism with rational compromises if a case was proven adequately.

    So going back to the original philosophy — you don’t have a right to spread infectious disease. Such conduct infringes on the equal rights of others.

  23. Kristophr Says:

    Libertopian response:

    Patient zero infects someone, and is identified. One of his victims files an immediate tort, and his 911 response provider will notify other responders and the militia.

    The second patient zero behaves in a manner that threatens others, they will use countervailing force to prevent him from using his disease as a weapon on others, after politely asking him to quarantine himself.

    ( note: I’m a Republican, but used to be a severe wookie-suiter )

  24. CaptDMO Says:

    I seem to remember old movies depicting (so called) settlers in their wagons, going where no man has gone before, to seek out their chances to live a life where there was no “gub’mint” enforcement, licensing regulations, “commerce clause” abominations, “Church” edicts, etc.
    Sometimes they were stricken with plague. From where-pffft who knows, but they would fly a black flag from their “camp”, and/or wagons, warning potential friend and foe alike.
    Similar thing at sea with a black/yellow checkered flag.
    Mind you, I only actually saw this in movies.

  25. Bram Says:

    People above got it. A legitimate function of government, unlike… just about everything else they do.

  26. Patrick Says:

    What I tell kids about the limits of Liberty: “You do your thing and I’ll do mine. We’ll each not try to stop each other from doing our own thing, until one of us does something that can – and will – harm me and mine. At that point, society steps in and does what it must – and no more – to keep the peace.”

    Quarantine fits this, easily.

    Why do discussions on libertarianism somehow always start with the strawman position that libertarians are really anarchists – people who hate all rules and limits on humanity, regardless of outcome?

    We don’t. Government is there “by the people and for the people” to do the the necessary things we cannot do alone, and to rarely and hesitantly provide a social tune-up to those who don’t play along with others. Government does not become evil until it does unnecessary things frequently and without hesitation, using acts that impinge Liberty.

    But while we have unquestionably passed that point, I still like to keep in mind what we lost.

  27. Geodkyt Says:

    Even minarchist philosophy (which makes your average Libertarian Party member look like a totalitarian) accepts quarantine (with protections to avoid its abuse) of people with probable exposure to deadly diseases.