Private Property the Only Solution to Vaccine Controversy

Private Property the Only Solution to Vaccine Controversy
Profile photo of Robert P. Murphy

A measles outbreak in the U.S. has prompted a national debate over vaccinations, a debate that quickly turned ugly baby vaccinebecause both sides think they are protecting their children from harm. Some parents say that they should have the right to refuse vaccines if they think it is in their children’s best interest, while others argue that ill-informed parental views can be overridden by the State if the public health is at stake. When argued on the traditional battleground, the problem has no solution. As with school prayer, immigration policies, parade permits for controversial groups, or allowing the homeless in “public” libraries, here too there is no way to solve the problem except by letting private property owners set the rules on their land.

When couched in the standard statist framework, there are contradictory principles in the vaccination debate. For example, many parents have read research showing the potential dangers from various vaccines, and they think all things considered their kids will be safer without getting them. They recoil at the idea that the State can forcibly inject substances into their kids’ bodies in the name of the public welfare.

That’s fine, but I’m betting many of those same “anti-vaxx” parents agree with the principle of taxation, and some of them might even be willing to accept the military draft in cases of extreme national emergency. At least for these parents, it seems they don’t actually believe in the principle of the individual rejecting State encroachment. They just happen to disagree with most people on the balancing of the pros and cons of vaccines.

On the other hand, consider the parents (and others) who are outraged at the (allegedly) unscientific, selfish, and anti-social behavior of the anti-vaxxers. For those of this group who think the State should be able to compel vaccinations against the wishes of a child’s parents, I wonder: How far are they willing to push this principle? Should the State mandate diet and exercise routines for the nation’s children? What about religious or political views? After all, parents from religious households might not want their kids’ minds to be “infected” with the horrible ideas of atheism brought into the schools from other children, while skeptical parents might not want their children hearing on the playground that they’re bound for hell unless they repent. Likewise, parents who believe in democracy wouldn’t want their children hearing about fascism from other kids on the soccer team. Certain ideas are far more dangerous than the measles. But most Americans (at least) agree that in a free society, the State can’t mandate particular religious and political views, no matter how harmful those views might be when put into operation.

The only way to address these fundamental conflicts is to take the State out of the equation. Let private property owners set the relevant rules on their land. Privately run schools, daycare centers, youth clubs, and pediatricians can set their individual policies regarding vaccination requirements for participating children. Health insurance companies can decide if they will insist on vaccination in order for a newborn to remain on a parent’s plan.

Private property doesn’t eliminate conflict, but it is a necessary foundation for the peaceful resolution of very heated disagreements. Bringing the State into the picture will hurt all children.

  • hebgb

    …and where the hell did you get that avatar next to my name? I've used it in the past, but not here and not through my email… so how does it end up on my post?

  • hebgb

    The premise is ridiculous. Will I need to bring in my vaccination records to get an appointment with my dentist, will my kids need theirs to attend class…?
    I thought medical information was supposed to be private. Nobody should even have the right to ask whether we've been vaccinated or not. Problem solved.
    Agreee with fazsha (Goldmember?lol)_ Paine said it best: "Immediate necessity makes many things convenient, which if continued would grow into oppressions. Expedience and right are different things."

  • Robert Woodwrad

    I'm sorry but on this one< I have to think the property question is secondary.
    I have to ask why there is any dispute at all here? What is a vaccine anyway? The definition from Dictionary.comis : "any preparation used as a preventive inoculation to confer immunity against a specific disease, usually employing an innocuous form of the disease agent, as killed or weakened bacteria or viruses, to stimulate antibody production".
    The key to this is you are IMMUNE when you are vaccinated. IF you and your children have been IMMUNIZED why in the world should it matter if anyone else in the room has, unless you really aren't? If that's your problem, then fire your Congressman and the FDA. Don't complain about "negligent parents".
    Exercise some common sense people!!!!

    • hebgb

      I think the point they try to make is that the people who cannot be immunized (very young or very old because they're already sick) are in some way protected by the 'herd'. This, however, is a false notion, but that's what they will argue.
      From Dr. Russell Blaylock: "Herd immunity is mostly a myth and applies only to natural immunity – that is, contracting the infection itself."

  • coral smith

    I totally disagree. We are one of the families that have experienced adverse reactions to an immunization, but we are not into homeschooling, and controlling our child's every move. Just because we have seen ( and live with) the devastating effects of immunization; our children should not be ostercized!

  • fazsha

    My point was, would these same people that say that public health can be improved by mandatory vaccination, and thus it should be mandatory, be in agreement if the government was to insist that everyone have an ID # tattooed onto their arm because it would improve administration of public health? Of course not. There were zero deaths in the US from measles in 2012 WITHOUT mandatory vaccinations.

  • rob

    the same can be said about this whole "secure our borders" bullshit.

    "The only way to address these fundamental conflicts is to take the State out of the equation. Let private property owners set the relevant rules on their land."

    and BINGO was the name-o. what if everyone living on the border owned their own piece of land? the incentive to protect said land is undeniable. WHY THE HELL is this not being realized on the border, this very minute? let each and every individual act in their own interest, and good things happen. let them protect themselves. how is this so hard to understand?

  • rob

    i really like this, and it *should* awaken some folks, hopefully. thank you. well written.

Profile photo of Robert P. Murphy

Robert P. Murphy is the Senior Economist at the Institute for Energy Research, and a Senior Fellow with the Fraser Institute. He holds a PhD in economics from New York University. Murphy is the author of Choice: Cooperation, Enterprise, and Human Action (Independent Institute, 2015) as well as numerous other books and hundreds of articles.

More in Blog


Bank of Canada Raises Interest Rates… Again

Caleb McMillanSeptember 6, 2017

Free the Arctic!

Patrick BarronAugust 29, 2017

Preposterous Bubble Predictions and the Madness of Crowds

Doug FrenchAugust 21, 2017

The Bond Bubble

Caleb McMillanAugust 16, 2017

The Reason for Statist Immigration

Caleb McMillanAugust 15, 2017

Is Bitcoin a Bubble?

Caleb McMillanAugust 14, 2017

Why Obamacare Repeal Failed

Taylor LewisAugust 2, 2017
Screen Shot 2017-07-25 at 12.27.53 PM

GDP, GPS, & Growth Without Well-Being

Caleb McMillanJuly 25, 2017

The Real EU Aim in Brexit Talks and Why It Will Fail

Patrick BarronJuly 19, 2017