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Conservatives and Kristi Noem Used to Think Government Should Require Vaccines

A conservative Twitter pal notes that back in 2015, before the conservative movement lost its mind, conservative writer Ben Domenech, writing for the really conservative Federalist, called it “insane” that vaccine mandates would stir any controversy:

Fundamentally, the protection against life-threatening plague is one of the original reasons government exists. We’ve had mandatory vaccines for schoolchildren in America since before the Emancipation Proclamation. The Supreme Court has upheld that practice as constitutional for over a century, and only the political fringes believe there ought to be a debate about such matters. This is one of the few areas where government necessarily exercises power [Ben Domenech, “The Insane Vaccine Debate,” Reason, 2015.02.03].

Domenech expressed sympathy for parents who wanted to delay shots for their kids but not for people who wanted to avoid vaccination without consequences:

It’s the failure to deal with those consequences that frustrates me about this debate. If you choose to not vaccinate your children, that is your choice. In the absence of an immediate threat, such as a life-threatening plague or outbreak, the state doesn’t have a compelling reason to administer that vaccination by force or to infringe on your rights. But that doesn’t mean there are no tradeoffs for such a decision. If you choose not to vaccinate, private and public institutions should be able to discriminate on that basis. Disneyland should be able to require proof of vaccination as a condition of entry, and so should public schools. You shouldn’t be compelled to vaccinate your child, but neither should the rest of us be compelled to pretend like you did [Domenech, 2015.02.03].

Domenech cited libertarian science writer Ronald Bailey, who expressed this very libertarian argument for vaccine mandates in a 2014 debate:

Vaccines are like fences. Fences keep your neighbor’s livestock out of your pastures and yours out of his. Similarly, vaccines separate people’s microbes. Anti-vaccination folks are taking advantage of the fact that most people around them have chosen differently, thus acting as a firewall protecting them from disease. But if enough people refuse, that firewall comes down, and innocent people get hurt.

Oliver Wendell Holmes articulated a good libertarian principle when he said, “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.”

…Some people object to applying Holmes’ aphorism by arguing that aggression can only occur when someone intends to hit someone else; microbes just happen. However, being intentionally unvaccinated against highly contagious airborne diseases is, to extend the metaphor, like walking down a street randomly swinging your fists without warning. You may not hit an innocent bystander, but you’ve substantially increased the chances. Those harmed by the irresponsibility of the unvaccinated are not being accorded the inherent equal dignity and rights every individual possesses. The autonomy of the unvaccinated is trumping the autonomy of those they put at risk.

As central to libertarian thinking as the non-aggression principle is, there are other tenets that also inform the philosophy. One such is the harm principle, as outlined by John Stuart Mill. In On Liberty, Mill argued that “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” Vaccination clearly prevents harm to others [Ronald Bailey, “Refusing Vaccination Puts Others at Risk,” Reason, April 2014].

Libertarians advocate maximum freedom, not absolute freedom. Maximum freedom results from imposing minimal restrictions on individuals to prevent harm to others. Vaccines are minimal restrictions that maximize freedom: they stop individuals from conducting their normal business for maybe twenty minutes and then allow everyone to go about all of their regular business with far less fear of infection, hospitalization, and death, all of which egregiously restrict freedom.

Even Kristi Noem used to believe mandatory vaccines were a good idea:

Gov. Kristi Noem says she opposes a bill eliminating the vaccination requirement for students.

“Vaccinations have literally saved millions of lives over the years. That is not something that I can support,” she said during her weekly press conference [Lisa Kaczke, “Gov. Kristi Noem Opposes Bill to Drop Vaccination Requirements for Students,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2020.02.21].

Ah, the good old days, when conservatives had a sane, practical commitment to protecting our freedom from real threats, like disease and death.


  1. kurtz 2021-09-10 09:58

    These are Governor Noem’s peeps.

    Jenny Beth Martin has gone on to attack Biden nominations and policies without missing a beat. Martin’s front woman, Dr. Simone Gold, has expanded the hydroxychloroquine hoax into an anti-vaccine crusade, labelling COVID-19 vaccines “an experimental biological agent deceptively named a vaccine.” Equally worrisome, the CNP has regrouped to assert its influence on a state level. Working through Republican-controlled state legislatures, ALEC has renewed its attempt to restrict voting rights in time for the 2022 midterm elections. [Moyers

  2. Guy 2021-09-10 10:22

    It’s because everything has to be a political game these days from both sides and both sides actually like playing these ridiculous political games.

  3. Eve Fisher 2021-09-10 11:11

    I really do understand why the whole MAGA crowd can’t / won’t admit that Covid is real. If there really is a deadly pandemic spreading across the globe that has already killed over 650,000 Americans, that could be mitigated and even stopped by something simple like mask wearing & social distancing, and there’s even a vaccine that can keep themselves and others from getting this deadly disease and THEY DIDN’T DO IT, ANY OF IT- well, that would mean they’re monsters of selfishness. Right? And they’re not. In their mind, they’re FREEDOM FIGHTERS! And Freedom Fighters are always heroes, never support the bad guys, and always do the right thing, right? So it must be a hoax – or their whole self image is going to wash away in a tsunami of horror and regret. Maybe.

  4. Jake 2021-09-10 12:50

    Eve, your last sentence so “hits the nail on the ‘head’! They simply are not able to admit and can not admit potentially being wrong, because their “God-head” trump was ‘never wrong’ or would never admit it….

  5. John Dale 2021-09-10 13:00

    I have never thought this. I am a conservative.

  6. John C 2021-09-10 13:05

    And the Kovid Kristi Kares Kampaign for Freedumb rolls on and on.
    It’s all about politics, not public health, policy, or people.

  7. kurtz 2021-09-10 13:16

    GenX is a disease.

    As a military brat my immunization record is two pages because President Eisenhower and President Kennedy believed in science. I was in fourth grade when LBJ made the polio vaccine available for school kids.

  8. RJS 2021-09-10 13:45

    I can’t help but notice that the author has failed to note the probability that perhaps some people aren’t interested in taking fancy gene therapy from the same federal executives that told us about imaginary WMDs in Iraq. I would very much doubt that the vaccine would be such a hot debate if the institutions pushing them weren’t also playing chicken with each other. Surely there is no ulterior motivation to any if this. In fact I’ve completely forgotten about the Patriot Act already

  9. Donald Pay 2021-09-10 14:17

    I don’t understand the point of Guy’s post, particularly the “both sides” contention. I don’t and never have liked playing political games over issues like vaccinations and health care policy generally, environmental policy, education, and other issues that are important to the health and well-being of people and society. People, I think, hate arguing over issues that should be pretty self-evident. It’s not as if there has been much scientific dispute about vaccinations and mask wearing, the cause of the ozone hole or other matters that science settled long ago, but you might think there has been to listen to the caterwauling from certain parts of the political spectrum.

    The reason these arguments go on and on is not because people get a lot out of the argument. It’s because, we have a broken political system beholden to money, not people, and a doubt industry designed to protect wealthy interests. As long as our political system is beholden to the billionaire class, we won’t make progress on anything. We are becoming a third world nation, while the billionaires rob us blind. The billionaire class funds, “doubt” in order to keep us befuddled, split and unable to unite. “Doubt” is a well-known money game by political consultants, special interests, and right-leaning and libertarian foundations, and has been documented in various books, such as “Merchants of Doubt.” A PBS series by the same name looked at various issues and how these folks manufacture doubt.

  10. Guy 2021-09-10 14:18

    Donald Pay, if you don’t understand, I can not help you. I’ve made it clear as I can. I can’t get any clearer, sorry.

  11. Donald Pay 2021-09-10 16:13

    Guy, you made a blanket statement that is patently false. The “both sides” argument is BS. You supported Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, while progressives decided they had had enough of her political games on health care. SHS played these games on numerous issues, and progressives didn’t abandon her. But when you try to tank a bill that, while imperfect, helped millions of people with health care and you present no viable alternative that do the same, that’s when we stop playing the politics game, and we start telling the truth. SHS didn’t deserve to be re-elected. Period. Now move on.

  12. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-09-10 16:39

    What gene therapy? My vaccine didn’t change my genes. Neither has anyone else’s. People who think the coronavirus vaccines are “gene therapy” are mistaken.

    Read fact checks at Reuters and WebMD.

    The conservative authors of the articles discussed above offered a libertarian case to justify vaccine requirements that stands completely independently of and undamaged by RJS’s red herrings. Ignore and carry on.

  13. sx123 2021-09-10 16:44

    Vermont GOP gov is about the only GOP gov with his head on straight with regards to handling covid. There might be others, but he stands out.

  14. Mark Anderson 2021-09-10 17:23

    Sx123. You are absolutely correct, He’s done very well 284 deaths, 29,000 some infected. Compared to 136,000 in South Dakota and yet who is one of the people running for advancement in the horse dewormer party? It sad how low the Republican party has settled isn’t it. It just astounding. Who knew the internet would result in more idiocy and not less. People were better informed when their were three major networks than they are now. I’d better quit I’m sounding like an old fuddy duddy.

  15. Guy 2021-09-10 23:04

    Donald, I believe the Affordable Care Act, in its present form, is bad policy. I also believe Stephanie sincerely believed the ACA was bad policy. It continues to be a gravy train of IRS mandated-fees that feed corrupt insurance companies. Stephanie was correct to vote against the ACA. Stephanie was the closest representative we had to the moderate voting public of South Dakota. We are worse off without her. Stephanie warned us in a 2010 PBS interview about hyper-polarization in politics. Now, we are paying a heavy price in both U.S. and South Dakota politics over the fight between far-left versus far-right politics where no common sense and decency exist among many in our political class and their supporters. By all means, if you want the same sad results, keep holding on to a grudge, not willing to compromise and continue to blame Stephanie for everything. It’s like a car stuck in mud going around in circles.

  16. grudznick 2021-09-10 23:21

    Mr. Guy, you are right about the Obamacare and Ms. Herseth-Sandlin’s position on it. She was righter than right. And also very pretty.

  17. jerry 2021-09-11 00:31

    SHS didn’t want to be elected, she lost the fire in her belly. As for “IRS mandates” kindly describe them. Who do you think is paying the bills for this pandemic? The ACA. Even in Medicare, the ACA is absorbing the 1 Billion per month since June with this Delta wave. SHS is doing a great job in school, that is where she belongs.

    “In the 111th Congress (2009–2011), she voted for the major stimulus bill—the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act—but voted against the American Clean Energy and Security Act, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.17 During the debate in the House on the major health insurance bill, Herseth Sandlin said, “I believe Congress has a responsibility to pass health care reform legislation that is deficit neutral, that ensures access, fairness and affordability of coverage for South Dakotans, and that takes a responsible approach to long-term costs with a focus on achieving higher quality health care outcomes. This bill meets some of these goals but not all, and I can’t support it.”18” What a cop out for health care.

    Blue Dog Democrats are just republican lite.

  18. grudznick 2021-09-11 07:33

    Young Ms. Herseth Sandlin is an honorary member of the Conservatives with Common Sense, Mr. jerry, so show a little respect.

    And on this fine 11 of September, 2021, may all you fellows remind yourselfs how America came together 20 years ago, how we unified instead of calling names and divided with the rage and hate that permeates today’s blogging worlds. No matter what you say, grudznick loves you all.

  19. LCJ 2021-09-11 09:36

    Both the President and VP early on were reluctant about taking the shot.
    Maybe that’s why the black community has such dismal vaccination rates.

  20. Donald Pay 2021-09-11 09:46

    Guy, jerry has some very important information for you to read. Please see his post. SHS voted like a Republican. As a Democrat, I’m in the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, so pardon me if I vote for Democratic candidates. She lost because she wasn’t a Democrat, and she didn’t stand up for Democratic Party values. If I have a choice between a fake Democrat, who votes Republican, and a real Republican, give me the real deal. And that’s why she was beat by Noem. SHS was too cowardly to stand up for her real values, as her father used to do.

  21. John 2021-09-11 23:55

    The anti-vaccine mandate nuts: noem, thune, johnson . . . and their ilk need to remember back to when they went to school. They need to remember all their school classmates who suffered from small pox, from polio – they need to remem . . .

  22. John 2021-09-12 10:43

    Clown’s like neom, and her “freedom” shrieking ilk aren’t for freedom (freedom from disease, etc.) — they are instead for CONTROL.
    They want the state to decide who gets family planning. They want the states to ban masks in schools and businesses. They want the states to ban schools from teaching about America’s racist past. The states want to make it harder for people to vote. The states want parents of transgender kids to pay for their participation in sports.

  23. John 2021-09-12 12:40

    Nothing to see here folks, move along, move along.
    After motorcycle rally SD leads US in COVID.

    The packed college & pro football stadiums will likewise be super spreader events. People are short-sighted and selfish. It requires the medical community & government mandates to save us from the selfish nitwits, like noem, in our midst.

  24. M 2021-09-13 07:44

    What would an anti vaxer do if they contracted leprosy?

    And do anti Covid vaxers take any prescription medications?

  25. Ryan 2021-09-13 11:28

    Luv you, too, grudz.

  26. Mark Anderson 2021-09-13 17:30

    Grudz, 20 years ago, Bush wasn’t doing that well, but he wrapped himself in the flag and went to war, took out his daddies nemesis, got us so wonderfully transfixed in Afghanistan. The attack saved him. War has a way of bringing us together, now we’re finally out. Remember after Vietnam, Ford bombed the heck out of someone, I forget who. At least Biden just got us out and hasn’t blown anyone else up. Somehow Republicans blame Biden for Afghanistan, he had a time for leaving, the Afghanistan army was 308,000 people, fully armed. The Taliban was listed at 52,000 to 100,000 so let’s say 75,000 people. The Taliban just walked in everywhere, as fast as they could move. A nation of 34 million people let that small bunch of people overrun them. We took out more Afgans on airplanes than the incoming invading army. Not to say we could have just given all those people who left Kabul more weapons and said good luck. Afghanistan isn’t much of a country and we weren’t the good guys to most of the people. Glad to be out.

  27. Mark Anderson 2021-09-13 17:43

    By the way South Dakotans, get your shots. My brother is home in Rapid recovering from Covid, but he had both his shots so he will be OK. Don’t be a stupid political idiot and kill yourself. You know all the pointing out of required shots won’t change the minds of the stupid so brace yourself for battles on polio, diphtheria, measles, chickenpox, hepatitis and others, right? Or is it just a political ploy?

  28. Mark Anderson 2021-09-13 17:50

    LCJ, both President Biden and Harris got their shots publicly and immediately. You weren’t typing about the con man and his underling were you? They are no longer President and Vice President.

  29. jerry 2021-09-13 19:26

    Black folks work while LCJ mooches. “The early data we have on vaccination rates is incomplete, but one fact is particularly alarming: Black Americans are getting vaccinated at a much slower rate than their white counterparts. This is troubling given how hard the pandemic has hit Black Americans.

    But it’s also concerning because people often misunderstand why the rate is lower. Many are quick to point to a distrust of the medical community, as Black people do have a long history of being ignored or actively mistreated by health care professionals in the U.S. — most notably, in the infamous 40-year-long Tuskegee study, which denied Black men treatment for syphilis so researchers could track the natural progression of the disease. But a recent Pew survey challenges the idea that Black Americans are hesitant to get vaccinated: A majority of Black adults (61 percent) told Pew that they either planned to get a COVID-19 vaccine or have already gotten one, a sharp uptick from the 42 percent who said in November that they planned to get vaccinated.”

    I guess it’s better to get the racist dog whistle out than to look for actual facts. Blaming Vice President Harris because she is a woman (strike one), a Black woman (strike two) and from immigrant families, oh the humanity. No wonder this putz is clearly no lady’s man.

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