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Individualism Negates “Pro-Life” Values; Beating Pandemic Requires Community Thinking

As coronavirus closes schools and swamps hospitals, “pro-life” Senator Lee Schoenbeck (R-5/Lake Kampeska) offers this fatalistic excuse for refusing to implement any coronavirus mitigation measures at the South Dakota Legislature:

“Every death is a tragedy,” Schoenbeck said. “There’s no disease that anybody thinks is a special disease that we’re happy to have. Unfortunately, this one looks like it’s going to be around a long time. I can’t quite imagine what good could come from crawling in a hole. My own thing is, I got all the shots. They come with more of them, I’m getting those, too. People have to decide how they’re going to keep themselves safe. That’s just the world we’re going to be living in for a while” [Lee Strubinger, “Lawmakers Reject Covid Mitigation Measures,” SDPB Radio, 2022.01.13].

On the good side, Lee has gotten his shots. On the bad side, Lee is speaking as stupidly as the rest of his party on epidemiology. Fighting a pandemic is not merely a matter of individuals deciding how (or whether) to keep themselves safe. Lee and I may decide that, since we both are fully vaccinated, we can keep ourselves safe by going out to see a ball game and have a few drinks. We don’t need masks or distance; with our Fauci shots, if we get omicron, we won’t get that sick anyway.

But multiply our personal safety protocols by a thousand or a hundred thousand, and we have a serious impact on the safety of others. We give the virus more paths to follow to reach more vulnerable people. We multiply the opportunity for the virus to put people in the hospital, to drain our medical resources, and, in the biggest picture, mutate again and again and subject the entire community and the entire human race to more infection and social and economic disruption.

This may be hard for a good capitalist like Lee Schoenbeck to believe, but in some cases, and especially in pandemics, the sum of individual choices focused entirely on individual costs and benefits, does not lead to optimal distribution of wealth and liberty. It leads to the mess we are in now, another long winter of suffering and death, much of which would have been avoided if not just Lee and I and 60% of the population but everyone else had gotten their shots last spring and slammed the door on covid’s mutations.

Fighting a pandemic requires community spirit. It requires deciding not just how to keep yourself safe, but how to keep your entire community safe. It requires valuing life, not just your life, but the life of everyone in the community—and by community, we now must mean the global community.

Alas, applying that truly pro-life thinking is beyond South Dakota’s selfish leaders.


  1. Susan Johannsen 2022-01-14 18:36

    Very well expressed! You understand science!

  2. larry kurtz 2022-01-14 18:57

    From the AP Stylebook: “use anti-abortion instead of pro-life and pro-abortion rights instead of pro-abortion or pro-choice.”

  3. John 2022-01-14 20:33

    Pro-life, my ass.
    Transgender folks are more than twice as likely to die as the general population. (So let the state intimidate, bully them to no end.)

    Sen Schoenbeck is a card carrying member of the selfish lawyer-prosecutor-judicial-politician anti-STEM industrial complex that every much brought the world the German judges.

    Two weeks ago DDS returned a child against recommendations. The child was murdered. Schoenbeck, NOem, and their repubs are pro-birth — not pro-life.

  4. sx123 2022-01-14 22:09

    An army of one don’t get much done. (I just made that up, bad grammar and all.)

    I like the spirit of people being as self-sufficient as possible so as to not be a bother to others much, but yes, many (most?) times, cooperation leads to better results.

  5. DaveFN 2022-01-14 22:45

    Ethics according to:

    1. Utilitarianism: Bentham and Mills “The greatest good for the greatest number.” The consequences to the many are what are utmost.

    2. Deontology, independent of consequences: Kant says “act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law,” in other words, act a certain way only if you’re willing to have everyone else act the same way too.

    Both perspectives particularly germane during a viral pandemic which has all of us at its mercy.

    But wait, a third way: Act only according to the what the monomaniac at Mar-a-Lago dictates. Cf Noem and her hydroxychloroquine promotional idiocy that went nowhere. Cf Schoenbeck and his wimpy statement as Cory details. What comes out of the Mar-a-Lago head shed goes, irrespective of any other considerations that philosophy might have to teach us. Dictatorship from Trump, promulgated by those looking for an authority for their pathetic lives, however megalomaniac that authority might be.

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-01-15 08:55

    Good point, DaveFN. In high school debate, Bentham and Kant were often cited as offering opposing philosophical frameworks. But in epidemiology, it seems we could argue that the achieve the greatest good for the greatest number, we must universalize our maxims—i.e., consider the consequences of everyone acting the same way we are acting.

    Lee says he can’t quite imagine what good would come from crawling in a hole. I can. If we universalized that maxim— if we all crawled in a hole, isolated for two weeks, came out only for essentials and masked up and kept our distance when we did—coronavirus would die. It would run out of hosts, and the pandemic would be done.

    And the hing is, in the 21st century, we have the most comfortable holes ever. We can hold meetings and Legislative hearings remotely. We can receive and send packages. We can get groceries and clothes. We could do school if we wanted, but if you want to insist that kids have to learn in person, fine, we can just declare January one big snow day and make it up in June when kids can learn in nicely ventilated classrooms with the windows open.

    Everyone, crawl in a hole. It’s how the Brits survived the Blitz. It’s the Kantian way to meet the Benthamite goal of having the greatest number outlive the pandemic and get hospitals, businessess and schools back to normal operations.

  7. mike from iowa 2022-01-15 09:20

    What hole is Schoenbeck talking about? The rabbit hole he and his kind dwell in or the grave the unvaccinated are heading for?

  8. JO 2022-01-15 09:20

    When the viral global pandemic started to spread around March 2020 I thought the advice to wear masks, socially distance, and hand hygiene were good starts. When the massive Trump rallies began and social distancing was impossible the rapid transmission of the virus was inevitable. The rapid path to Coronavirus vaccine development was incredible. Those who were vaccinated are definitely pro-life. The anti-vaxers are the exact opposite putting their “freedom” ahead of the protection of public health and concern for the survival of many lives. I’m thinking people who experienced the 1918 viral flu pandemic would have had a much higher vaccination rate without all the political bull crap.

  9. mike from iowa 2022-01-15 09:22

    On the bright side, if these assclowns die in rabbit holes we could cover the ground with toxic waste so no other magats would attempt to dig them up and declare the chosen was resurrected.

  10. Donald Pay 2022-01-15 09:41

    What does crawling in a hole mean in a pandemic? I’d say living in rural South Dakota. Real South Dakotans don’t have a problem with “living in a hole.” If you live on a farm or ranch, grow and consume your own food, work and recreate outside, have a small country school with neighbors who live like you, take your spirituality in nature walks and live simply without socializing in crowded places, I’d say you’re about 99.99% safe from covid. When you make that rare trip into town you wear a mask are physically distant, and you get vaccinated and boosted. You do that for your animals, and you and your family are at least as important as they are.

    The problems come when you “invite” the Trumps to Mt. Rushmore fireworks and the scum from other states to Sturgis and to take vacations spreading covid. Problems multiply when you fail to protect the workers you depend on for your largest industry. Problems continue when you think commonsense health protections don’t matter. They get worse when you elect a pornstar-lipped fluffer Governess who hates real South Dakotans, and spends most of her time on out of state booty calls. And they can only get worse yet if you have Schoenbeck who hates the South Dakota way of life so much that he wanted to bury it with New Jersey garbage.

  11. Edwin Arndt 2022-01-15 09:42

    Cory, stop and think carefully for a bit. If everyone were occupying their own
    comfortable hole, who would be delivering groceries. Who would be transporting
    the packages you were sending or receiving. How many families would still
    be talking to each other after being isolated for two weeks. The list goes
    on and on.
    On the greater good philosophy. The greater good argument can be used
    to justify all kinds of atrocities. The first problem is who gets to decide
    what constitutes the greater good. And it goes from there.

  12. Edwin A Arndt 2022-01-15 09:47

    Donald, you are describing a world that hasn’t existed for around
    forty years or so.

  13. Donald Pay 2022-01-15 10:00

    Edwin. Sure, I think you are probably right about the “real South Dakota” not existing anymore. I saw it changing when I lived there. I lived through the 1980s farm crisis and saw a huge shift in values. Now there are fake rural values, like those of the fluffer Governess with her porn-star lips dripping hate, rather than neighborliness. She hunts at pheasant farms with video crews along to show everyone what a bad shot she and spends most of her free time in her Fox TV studio, rather than walking the prairie in Stanley County.

  14. grudznick 2022-01-15 10:12

    It is bogus science to think, as many libbies did back when the covid bugs first started flying, that if we all just crawled in a hole for 2 weeks it would all go away. #4Science has proven that be be bogus.

    Mr. Pay has a good idea, having more porn-star lipped young ladies out walking the prairie, and maybe the woods too.

  15. mike from iowa 2022-01-15 10:41

    I’m pretty sure Grudzilla has drumpf and libbies confused in his uh, mind. No surprise there.

  16. grudznick 2022-01-15 10:57

    Mr. Bentham wasn’t such a bad fellow, really, especially for being a mummy. grudznick and he agree on quite a few things.

  17. O 2022-01-15 11:38

    If we could poll those who died from COVID, would the answers be quite so caviler about the span of precautions society ought to take/have taken to stem the spread of the pandemic?

  18. Porter Lansing 2022-01-15 12:59

    “People have to decide how they’re going to keep themselves safe. That’s just the world we’re going to be living in for a while.”
    – Lee Schoenbeck R – Kampeska Lowground
    Lung cancer’s a deadly disease and you don’t get to decide to blow cigarette smoke in my face in public places, Schoenie.
    You sound like you’re the tobacco companies, fifty years ago, making up excuses and calling smoking in public a personal choice.

  19. Donald Pay 2022-01-15 13:26

    Grudz, the real scientists didn’t say a 2 week vacation was all that was going to be necessary to control covid. I remember on this blog there were links to various models showing this pandemic would come in waves over 18 months to two years. Of course, those were models that assumed very little in the way of interventions (masks, shutdowns or vaccination levels that approached herd immunity, etc.) or evolution of variants. The thing about science, especially the science around evolving viruses is that science takes in new facts and comes to new conclusions. You can’t be stuck in information that is two years old. In China, the government’s zero tolerance policy for covid resulted in extremely low numbers of infections, far, far lower than in the US. That’s with a far poorer vaccine than our mRNA vaccines. Of course, no vaccine does any good in keeping down the community spread of disease unless most of the people are vaccinated. The Chinese did it through masking, mass testing, contact tracing isolation of positive cases and contacts, and rare two week to four week shutdowns of communities where positive cases were in the initial stages of spreading. Had we adopted that approach, we would have many fewer dead and much less economic disruption. Now Omicron has hit China in several cities. Beijing has its first case today. The lunar New Year is coming. And the Olympics in Beijing. This is going to be a big test of zero tolerance. We’ll see if the government there can hold the line.

  20. Porter Lansing 2022-01-15 13:43

    I just reviewed the Covid policies and procedures for the upcoming winter Olympics in China. Now that’s a powerful government at work.

  21. mike from iowa 2022-01-15 13:51

    Noem and drumpf followers developed their own science and called it mag-nutizing..

  22. mike from iowa 2022-01-15 13:53

    South Dakota breaks four-day record for active COVID-19 cases; 15 more people die
    Shelly Conlon
    Sioux Falls Argus Leader

  23. O 2022-01-15 16:08

    Edwin, I’m willing to put the atrocities caused by serving the greater good against those caused by selfishness any day. I’m not willing to concede your premise that because there have been misapplications of the greater good, this is also a misapplication.

    Vaccinations/containment/mask mandates boil down to a partisan division that pushes the GOP/Right/MAGA ever toward death cult status.

  24. Mark Anderson 2022-01-15 16:41

    Well all you have to do is compare Australia and Florida. 2,500 deaths compared to over 64,000. DeSantis declares victory and says Australia isn’t free. DeSantis has killed over 60,000 people as plainly as if he shot them. The only reason there are so many deaths in America is refusal to vaccinate. DeSantis has embraced them and their ideas.
    It’s really hard to believe that all the pubs have embraced the anti vaxxers too. Are all the school shots going away? Are all the military shots going away?
    People like Lee Schoenbeck really don’t believe the deaths, THEY aren’t causing them is the thought. Wear a mask and social distance why, why not burn the flag. From now on just call them KILLER, its so easy to prove and they can adopt it into t shirts and hats. If one is your friend just wear an I’m with stupid shirt.

  25. DaveFN 2022-01-15 21:21

    Edwin Arndt

    JS Mill may be ahead of you. He criticized Bentham’s philosophy, indicating that Bentham’s hedonic calculus where utility is simply tallied up must instead take into account that some goods are better than others. Different qualities of pleasure do exist.

    “It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied. Better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool or the pig are of a different opinion, it is because they only know their side of the question.” —John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism, 1863

  26. DaveFN 2022-01-15 21:54


    I don’t see Kant’s categorical imperative as saying we should crawl in a hole. Rather, it would appear to translate as a “good will” to be vaccinated on the part of an individual in order that this particular behavior would effectively be “the law” for everyone, which is in agreement with universalizing the individual good will, extending it and its consequences to everyone in times of a pandemic if we are to have any purchase against this virus. This would, IMHO, accord with the greatest good that utilitarianism in its finest sense also would endorse.

    Or am I missing something here as to what you are writing?

    Kant and Bentham present differing but not necessarily opposed perspectives. Kant is considering what would constitute the “good will” of an ethical individual prior to consideration of any consequences whatsoever, while the consequentialists (Mill and Bentham) approach the ethical from the standpoint of consequences and outcomes rather than individual motivation.

    Wonder Schoenbeck’s response, assuming he has one and the megalomanic from the head shed of Mar-a-Lago hasn’t shackled his brain like so many others.

  27. Edwin Arndt 2022-01-15 22:55

    This philosophical hair splitting is indeed interesting but inconsequential.
    I agree with Schoenbeck that we can’t crawl in a hole. As far as I’m concerned
    whether or not to crawl in a hole is not realistically even debatable. We have
    to keep the country running. Those are my thoughts.
    Those of you who think the Chinese response to covid is best should
    consider moving to China with its all powerful government.
    Now, it’s time to call it a day and maybe have a beer.

  28. 96Tears 2022-01-16 12:36

    Normally, Lee S. is on the mark, but the “just the world we live in” remark is pandering to the stupid and simple-minded base of his party. He knows better. Actually, most folks in Pierre know better. Freedom from dying from a preventable disease is on the line. Not “freedumb” from helping stop a known killer that has killed more than 850,000 Americans and maimed untold hundreds of thousands long haulers — and shows no sign of stopping, largely because freedumb gets construed as freedom. However, if Lee and the Republican snowflakes prefer freedumb that brushes off community responsibility to cooperate, then they should stop the hypocrisy that Noem’s state health department requires for all children entering public schools. Copied and pasted from the DOH website:

    South Dakota Codified Law 13-28-7.1 (Rev. 2016) requires that any pupil entering school or an early childhood program in this state shall, prior to admission, be required to present to school authorities certification from a licensed physician that the child has received, or is in the process of receiving, adequate immunization against poliomyelitis, diphtheria, pertussis, rubeola (measles), rubella, mumps, tetanus, meningitis and varicella (chickenpox), according to the recommendations of the State Department of Health.

    This law applies to ALL children entering a South Dakota school district for the first time. This would include children in early intervention programs, preschool, as well as kindergarten through twelfth grade. Children under 4 need to be age-appropriately immunized.

    Minimum immunization requirements for kindergarten through twelfth grade are defined as receiving at least:

    Four or more doses of diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus containing vaccine, with at least one dose administered on or after age 4. Children 7 years or older needing the primary series only need three doses. Children receiving six doses before age 4 do not require any additional doses for kindergarten entry. The maximum a child should receive is six doses. If a child 7 years or older has an incomplete DTaP primary series, please contact the Department of Health for assistance.

    Four or more doses of poliovirus vaccine, at least one dose on or after age 4. (Although not the recommended schedule – If a child has three doses of polio with the third dose administered on or after the age of 4 and at least 6 months after the second dose, no other doses are required.)

    Two doses of a measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR or MMRV). The minimum age for the first dose is 12 months. Administer the second dose routinely at age 4 through 6 years. The second dose may be administered prior to age 4 provided at least 28 days have elapsed since the first dose.

    Two doses of varicella vaccine (Varicella or MMRV). The minimum age for the first dose of varicella (chickenpox) vaccine is 12 months. History of disease is acceptable with parent/guardian signature. Administer the second dose routinely at age 4 through 6 years. The second dose may be administered prior to age 4 provided the minimum interval between the two doses is 3 months.


    One dose of Tdap is required for 6th-grade entry IF the child is 11 years old. If the child is 10 years old when entering 6th-grade they have 45 days after their 11th birthday to receive the Tdap vaccination. If a child has a contraindication to Tdap, Td is acceptable. If a child aged 7 through 9 years receives a dose of Tdap as part of a catch-up series, an adolescent Tdap vaccine dose must be administered by the 45th day following the child’s 11th birthday. A dose given at age 10 will count for the 6th grade Tdap requirement. If a child 7 years or older has an incomplete DTaP primary series, please contact the Department of Health for assistance.

    One dose of meningococcal vaccine (MCV4) is required for 6th-grade entry IF the child is 11 years old. If the child is 10 years old when entering 6th grade they have 45 days after their 11th birthday to receive the meningococcal vaccine. If a child receives a dose at age 10 or after, the dose does not need to be repeated.

    NOTE: Hib, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, HPV, annual Influenza, and Pneumococcal vaccines are recommended but not required.

    Legal alternatives to minimum immunization requirements are defined, and the means for appropriate certification is provided for, on the face of this document. There are no other exemptions.

    Contact the South Dakota Department of Health, Immunization Program, at 1-800-592-1861 (in SD only), or email with your questions. Check this schedule from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a complete listing of recommended immunizations.

  29. Mark Anderson 2022-01-16 16:38

    Edwin Arendt, America or China? Why not Norway or Sweden? Fits the state better, you can have Sweden, I’ll take Norway. Satisfied?

  30. Mark Anderson 2022-01-16 16:51

    Sorry I misspelled your last name Edwin, shouldn’t have. Aloysius Arendt was my roommate in my freshman year of college. Got it screwed up.

  31. Mark Anderson 2022-01-16 17:02

    You have it down perfect 96Tears, better get those iron lungs ready red staters.

  32. Richard Schriever 2022-01-18 17:29

    JO – It’s astounding to me how many times people make this sort of statement; “The rapid path to Coronavirus vaccine development was incredible.” somehow hinting that Trump deserves some credit for at least a little something. Thing is – there was no “rapid development”. MRNA vaccine research had been an ongoing effort since the first SARS-COV-1 virus event (commonly referred to simply as SARS) in 2002. The Obama administration grant-funded much of that research. What happened in 2020, was trump threw money at PRODUCTION (not development) and the first and most widely used MRNA vaccine was produced by the one manufacturer who REFUSED Trump’s $$.

  33. Richard Schriever 2022-01-18 17:45

    I am currently avoiding the anti-vax idiocy in the US by spending 60 days in Ecuador, where every resident is required to be vaccinated. In addition, while out and about here I am discovering that every business has hand sanitizer at their door. Everyone (with the exception of a couple arrogant Americans I’ve seen) wears a mask whenever they are out in public at all. Indoors, outdoors, everywhere. Some hogh traffic stores (grocery for ex:) require proof of vaccination before allowing entry and control the number of customers allowed in the facility at one time. Restaurants are allowed no more to 50% occupancy. Almost everyone offers home delivery. The rate of infection here the day I came was 1/25th that of the US. the place has not shut down and people crawled in holes. It has addressed the situation rationally and collaboratively for the greater good of the country.

  34. John 2022-01-20 16:42

    Sewing what they reaped. Taking out the trump voters one family at a time.

    We cannot only blame the simpletons for their affliction and demise. The US Public Health Service and their state and county affiliates had a FLAT LEARNING CURVE from the mask deniers of Spanish Flu. People are herd animals. Social media was their trumpet, as it was for the Faux News idiot watchers caught up in the stop the steal Jan 6 nonsense.

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