The New Clarion

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Quick Bites

January 28th, 2009 by Bill Brown · 11 Comments · Link Cavalcade

1. “Piloting the Plane of State” is an excellent example of media slobbering over Barack Obama. It’s got it all: leftist tastelessness, check—calling the Hudson River emergency landing “the anti-9/11” is spectacularly bad form; breathless adoration, check—he is that heroic pilot to the author; and audience castigation, check—we the people that Obama is trying to rescue, need to keep calm or he won’t be able to help us “however heroic.” (There is a weird part where she actually realizes that “people entrusted with public money are overwhelmingly inclined to waste it, steal it, or simply misuse it” but that moment of clarity was an obvious interruption in this stream of consciousness article.)

2. “Book is Rallying Resistance to the Antivaccine Crusade” also appears to be rallying the antivaccine crusade itself, if the Amazon page is any indication. I’m tempted to say that natural selection will take care of this crowd over time, but it is a moral travesty that children are being denied needed immunizations. I have met several mothers who subscribe to this garbage and they are the most fad-conscious, secondhand people I have encountered. Post hoc ergo propter hoc is at work since the likelihood that any child will be autistic is fairly minimal.

3. The Huffington Post is decidedly in the tank for global warming, this bout of sense notwithstanding. From Huffington herself: “It was an error in judgment. I would not have posted it. Although HuffPost welcomes a vigorous debate on many subjects, I am a firm believer that there are not two sides to every issue, and that on some issues the jury is no longer out. The climate crisis is one of these issues.” This is yet another salvo in the left’s war on dissent and it is very much akin to religion’s fervent desire to squelch doubt in any form. The introduction of doubt cannot be tolerated by either for it gives the lie to their purported (and coveted) legitimacy. Without that, the coming government repression in the name of “doing something” to stop the irreversible climate change.

4. US Government Spending is a handy little site for data mining federal budgets. For example, federal spending declined every year from 1920 to 1929. Strangely, we think of the decade as the “Roaring Twenties” and a time of unalloyed prosperity. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence. Or maybe that’s the real way (as opposed to this one) to stimulate the economy—by removing the drain that the federal budget represents.

5. This report from the Pacific Research Institute on the benefits of economic freedom is just the thing that would persuade a politician who wants to do whatever works. Right? Oh, he’s just saying that to disarm his critics.

6. “Health Care Reform: Why So Much Talk and So Little Action?” {via} attempts to outline the roadblocks that traditionally have stood in the way of meaningful health care reform. The real obstacle to reform has been the American people’s shaky hesitation to tamper with something that is literally a matter of life and death. Everyone agrees that there’s something wrong with the system, but no one dares to change things up in a significant way. And they certainly don’t trust the federal government to do it right. For all of Michael Moore’s posturing, the average American can see that the rest of the world flocks here when serious medical problems arise. Sadly, this makes the likelihood of a radical restoration of individual rights in medicine similarly low.

7. James Hansen’s former supervisor has publicly castigated Hansen as an embarrassment to NASA. I think that’s probably as close as we’re going to get to Mike’s dream headline.

11 Comments so far ↓

  • monica

    “I’m tempted to say that natural selection will take care of this crowd over time”

    Doubtful, since there isn’t a single case of polio in the US that hasn’t been caused by a vaccine since the 70s, and roughly 20 % of the population that has been vaccinated for it doesn’t even have immunity anymore. Strange how people aren’t dying from polio everywhere in the US even though they don’t have immunity. It’s a disease spread through the water supply and I think it’s pretty much gone in the US now, so I suspect vaccination for it is mostly useless now unless you’re going to travel to the near east.

    “but it is a moral travesty that children are being denied needed immunizations.”

    It’s more of a travesty, I think, that special permission has to be gained from the government to not vaccinate your child. (Immunization is an interesting term, since it’s well-documented that shots don’t always result in immunity.)

    “I have met several mothers who subscribe to this garbage and they are the most fad-conscious, secondhand people I have encountered.”

    In my experience they have not been. They can think for themselves and perhaps realize that no individual ever in human history would have been exposed to up to five pathogens at once directly in the bloodstream (they would have been encountered through the mucous membranes), along with other adjuvants like formaldehyde and mercury…

    Personally I don’t think vaccines cause autism nor do I think the vaccine industry is evil. (I actually knew Steve Wang personally, one of the people who developed the Salk vaccine and went on to work as a virologist at SUNY Upstate in Syracuse, NY.) However, I do think people should be able to make their own decisions about which risks to take in life, rather than be subject to a collectivist government program that treats people as members of a herd, with a few that should be sacrificed for the health of the whole.

    This is a good piece on the matter of individual rights, I think:

    And here is a good piece from a scientist I respect:

  • Bill Brown

    Regarding polio, did I say anything about polio? From my experience, the anti-vaccine crowd is anti-vaccine not anti-(polio)vaccine. I think vaccines are pretty well understood scientifically and medically—opposition to them as such is beyond reason.

    As far as travesties go, not having your child vaccinated (or immunized) because you’re worried about the possibility of autism strikes me as pretty serious. Chances are, your child could go his entire life without coming across one of the diseases since he lives in the United States. But if he did contract one of the diseases that could have easily been prevented with little to no deleterious effects, it’s fairly monstrous to have sentenced him to that based on such flimsy evidence.

    I’m not firmly settled as to the propriety of such governmental action as public health. On the one hand, parents should be able to make decisions about their child’s care free of government interference. I would not want my child forcibly immunized against chicken pox, for example. But I could see some bureaucrat ordering that everyone should receive the chicken pox vaccine given some utilitarian analysis that defended it.

    But where does that right end? Children are not property; they are human beings and parents have a responsibility to care for them until adulthood. If you would rather pray to cure your child’s cancer than seek medical treatment (or pray to repair a critical injury instead of consenting to an operation), aren’t you defaulting on your responsibilities and shouldn’t you be prosecuted for negligence (or manslaughter if the child dies)? I think that is so. So I may be open to requiring vaccines for life-threatening illnesses where the risks of vaccination are minimal.

    But there are benefits to living in a disease-free environment. If a widespread vaccine would prevent the possibility of smallpox (as it, indeed, has) and a smallpox epidemic could kill me, then maybe it would be rights-protecting to require immunization. The law should be reactive rather than preventative, to be sure, but what about situations where reaction would have zero effect? In a pandemic, there is no reaction—only containment.

    I really hadn’t thought about it much, but it is peripheral to the anti-vaccination issue. I am glad that you’ve only met anti-vaccine people who dutifully read up on all of the side effects of all the vaccines that their children were offered and looked into the volumes of scientific studies linking vaccination to autism and then made the informed decision to decline any and all vaccines. The people I’ve encountered saw an episode of Oprah and chatted with other women in their circle of friends—luckily one of them had “done all kinds of research”—before making such a weighty decision. They eat only organic, pesticide-free foods, avoid anything with BPA in it, and crow and preen relentlessly about all of those subjects.

    I too think people should generally be left to their own devices to figure out what risks are acceptable to them. When children are involved, I’m willing to allow a little more leeway since they are the principal victims when decisions go bad. (So I don’t have a problem with mandatory car seat laws because allowing parents to decide not to restrain their children could easily result in those children’s death.) But I’m not sure where I’d draw the line, at least regarding vaccination.

    So, legally, these anti-vaccination people are within their rights. And if they’re making informed decisions about which vaccines are appropriate for their children, then more power to them. But if they’re not and just taking the words of Jenny McCarthy or other cranks at face value, then they are immoral and should be ashamed.

  • Madmax

    The vaccination issue gets into one of those confusing areas where you try to figure out if mandating certain vaccinations is a legitimate form of protecting against initiatory force. I guess the argument would be that not getting certain vaccinations would constitute gross negligence and endanger the lives of others. This would be a case of initiatory force and thus the province of rational government.

    But this ultimately comes down to science to determine. And as Monica will tell you, today science has been so undermined by government interference inherent in the welfare/regulatory state that it is not irrational to distrust government/academic/corporate/medical association information as they are all corrupted to some degree. This is certainly true with food and nutrition. The country’s health is being destroyed by the lipid hypothesis and the USDA interventions in the food industry. So I really see this as a technical issue.

    But I would like it ultimately tied to the initiatory force principle and non-preventative law and non-utilitarian premises. Do that and whatever the outcome is – mandatory or non-mandatory vaccinations – and I will accept it.

  • Bill Brown

    I will gladly concede that government meddling in science has produced many distortions and corruptions. And it is not irrational to be skeptical of claims by anyone in the medical arena.

    But, and this is where the line can be drawn, that fact does not mean that one can downplay any particular information as corrupt. In other words, one cannot use the general as an indictment of the specific. Such wholesale skepticism would be irrational.

    When we were confronted with vaccination for our four kids, we carefully evaluated the vaccines and their potential complications and discussed it at length with our trusted family doctor. We delayed getting some inoculations and declined others. We treated it as a technical issue rather than an attempt to snooker us.

  • Diana Hsieh

    Bill, I disagree with much of your analysis, as I think it would justify massive government intervention in the lives of children and their parents for the sake of eliminating risks to the child. For example, the risks associated with failure to vaccinate are trivial compared to the risks I endured as a child by riding horses. (I was seriously injured on multiple occasions, even though my family took all reasonable precautions.) So should the government also mandate safety standards for children riding horses — just as you think they perhaps ought to mandate safety standards for children riding in cars? What about mandating bike helmets? Or skateboard pads? Or allowing kids to run around a neighborhood or play on a jungle gym without parental supervision? Or allowing toddlers to descend stairs unaided? Or feeding them hamburgers cooked medium? If the government can mandate seat belts in cars for children, then it can legislate on all those matters — as they pose potentially serious risks too.

    In my view, the government ought not mandate the acceptable risks and required safety procedures for children — not in the form of regulations. Rather, if the government has reason to believe that a parent is exposing his/her child to unacceptable risks, then the government has grounds to remove the child from the home. It does not have grounds to impose rigid laws on all parents — thereby preventing them from using their best judgment in raising their kids.

    On the issue of vaccines, there’s a significant difference between a parent refusing to give a kind of preventative medication for a very rare event based on his assessment of the risks thereof — versus refusing to give antibiotics to a child sick with pneumonia. Mere statistical risk is not necessarily grounds for action — and it’s particularly not grounds for forcing anyone to do anything.

    When a child is actually in danger — and some medication is known as a reliable cure — then for a parent to refuse to administer it would be criminal, particularly if his opposition is based on total fantasy (e.g. claims about God’s will). But to refuse a vaccine is something very different: the child is not sick now, and the parent might reasonably think that the potential cost of the vaccine is not worth the potential benefit. Of course, the parent might be wrong about that, but the parent might also be wrong in supposing his child capable of descending the stairs safely. The possibility of an error in judgment regarding the safety of a child is not grounds for government decrees. Instead, the government of a free society presumes that parents have the best interests of their child at heart — until they prove otherwise.

  • Diana Hsieh

    Just one point of clarification. I said: “Rather, if the government has reason to believe that a parent is exposing his/her child to unacceptable risks, then the government has grounds to remove the child from the home.”

    By “unacceptable risks,” I mean that the parent is behaving in a grossly negligent fashion, e.g. leaving a toddler alone to wander the house while he/she goes to work. The ordinary risks of an enjoyable childhood do not qualify.

  • Bill Brown

    I’m not sure where I suggested that vaccination in general should be mandatory. I’m not sure even if any particular vaccine should be mandatory but I could see a case being made for eradicating an epidemic by universal inoculation. I don’t know what form such a public health circumstance would take in a free society namely because I am pretty sure there’s never been a free society with no government intervention in health care that has faced an epidemic. I have never read any objective legal treatises about this matter, but I’d be open to further pondering if I came across one.

    The closest I came to advocating the nanny state that you seem to think I’m arguing for is the requiring of car seats for children under a certain height and weight. To my mind, this is akin to drunk driving laws. In that case, the state can arrest you without your having killed anyone or crashed into anything. The thinking behind the law, I believe, is that drunk drivers pose an imminent threat to anyone on the road and must be stopped before they become an actual threat. With car seats, riding in a car unrestrained—given the random possibility of an accident—will eventually result in serious injury or death of some child at some time. A particular intoxicated driver may make it home safely one time or even the vast majority of the time, but allowing them unfettered access would be ludicrous.

    Further, ex post facto holding of the parent accountable for not taking proper precautions isn’t going to bring that child back. And removal of the child from the negligent parent’s care is not possible at that point. The car seat requirement isn’t onerous and there are no negative effects on the child in placing him in one.

    But I do believe that parents should vaccinate their children as recommended by their doctors after careful consideration of the risks. Parents who refuse to vaccinate are putting their kids lives in jeopardy and I think that is an abdication of their responsibility. As I said in another comment, I’ve declined a vaccination and delayed several others. But vaccines as such are an unmitigated medical blessing and reviling them is indicative of irrationality.

  • Monica

    Bill, declining a flu vaccination does not put your kids’ lives in jeopardy. (That’s the point of the article you linked to in the last paragraph.) Not even close. Even in the article you cite at the end of your last comment, 2/3 of the unvaccinated children that got the flu in question lived (one died), and the mortality from the flu wasn’t confined to unvaccinated individuals!

    If you wanted to prove that *in this particular disease* a refusal to vaccinate is dangerous, you would need to show that influenza-caused mortality rates in children unvaccinated for flu is higher than that in vaccinated children. There is nothing remotely resembling that type of information available in a scientific publication. The only situations where I expect such information might be available is in older publications on other more serious diseases, but even then the studies would be observational, with the individuals not randomized.

    As for the idea that vaccinations are always of benefit, well, which ones? Sure, there’s some remote chance my kid could catch the flu but the chances of either catching it or dying from it are definitely minimized if he has enhanced acquired immunity from touching dirt now and then and not using antibacterial soaps. And of course, as I previously said polio is pretty much extinct in the US. If you are going to get it, it’s almost a surety that you’re going to get it from a vaccine. How many people died from MM or R? I don’t even know the answer to that question. until I know, I’m not prepared to make any broad statements about the benefits, particularly in light of the current epidemological situation.

    There’s also a big, outdated assumption on the part of government officials that everyone is somehow similarly susceptible to disease. That’s just demonstrably wrong. In fact, if animals respond positively to a TB test in agricultural situations, without having even developed the disease itself, the entire herd is destroyed — depopulated, as the government euphemistically puts its killing sprees. Many such animals testing positive, even if it found to be a true positive with repeated tests, would probably never develop the disease. What this means is that many individuals are exposed to a pathogen, develop antibodies, but never develop the disease. (In fact, a very high proportion of people exposed to polio in the early to mid 1900s did not even develop symptoms.) As Pasteur said on his deathbed, “Look to the host.” He also said, “The germ is nothing. The terrain is everything.”

    Drunk driving laws are reasonable, I think, in their current context — public roads. On private roads, it would be to the owner of the road, I think. However, I think most Objectivists agree that children should only be removed from their parents’ care in cases of severe neglect or abuse. It’s not abuse or even severe neglect to not put your child in a carseat. It’s far more neglectful to a child to feed them boxed macaroni and cheese, in my opinion. But I’m willing to live and let live, and I hope no parent would EVER be found negligent in a court of law for feeding their kids boxed mac and cheese.

    “With car seats, riding in a car unrestrained—given the random possibility of an accident—will eventually result in serious injury or death of some child at some time.”

    Not really. Your chances of dying in a car accident are about 1 in 80 over an entire lifetime. That’s a pretty high risk, I admit, but it’s not a surety that every child will die or even be seriously injured without a car seat. In fact, the vast majority will not.

    I’m sure many people would think that the rather hands-off way in which I was raised might have constituted neglect, being allowed to walk on foot for miles in the middle of nowhere with a few friends, outside all day long at a time at age 8 or so. In my opinion, that did not even remotely approach being a violation of my rights though the chances are much higher than other indoor kids that I could have gotten hurt careening down steep hills on my bike, always without a helmet. We don’t need pre-emptive government laws about such things. Is riding without a helmet dangerous? Probably, in light of what we know today. Should there be a law about it? Hell no!

    The car seat requirement is an enormous pain in ass, actually, in my experience. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t use a car seat if I had kids. It means that if I had a five year old and was flying to see someone who didn’t have one, that person shouldn’t be required to spend at least $50 and an hours’ time on installation hassle for a 10 minute drive to and from the airport when the chances are slim to none that any kind of car accident would occur. Most of things I did as a kid were far more dangerous than driving around without a car seat. I haven’t reviewed the moving target of car seat regulations going on within the past 20 years in the US, so I can’t really say whether they’re rational or not. Nevertheless, the risk is completely blown out of proportion. Car seats weren’t required for people of age 6 when I was a kid, nor were there any inane regulations about how much you have to weight to ride in the front seat. It was assumed at the time that a seat belt for a six year old in the front seat was perfectly fine. Somehow I survived.

    Even in what might seem like extreme or obvious cases of child neglect, it’s wise to think seriously about the premises we hold: let me offer an example.

    Let’s say that a child is being denied cancer “treatment” in its typical form: chemotherapy. “Neglect!” a doctor cries. Is that doctor even aware that a low carbohydrate diet can stem the growth of cancer? And that this is published in the medical literature? (Described here:

    How would you feel about a parent using this type of alternative therapy on their child? Is the reviling of chemotherapy “indicative of irrationality”? I’m sure there are doctors who would sue parents over this issue, claiming it was neglect or child abuse. But it really depends on the particulars of the case and this should be determined in a court of law — not with some sort of pre-emptive blanket regulation on chemotherapy in children over what MIGHT happen to a kid without chemo treatment. Harm or intent to harm has to be proven. And there are plenty of cases of early stage cancer where I can imagine a child might improve , not get worse, without chemo.

    At the very least, before an automatic fine or removal by Child Protective Services takes place, a fair trial should be held that offers evidence to determine whether any rights violations have actually taken place. That’s critical, I think. (And I think we all agree that our courts ought to be a hell of a lot more objective than they are, not relying on authorities like the FDA for scientific “evidence” and allowing them to set “scientific” precedent.)

    One of the problems with advocating pre-emptive government rules about anything is that it’s simply not possible for the one person writing the rules to even hold complete knowledge about the topic at hand — besides the fact that it’s an inappropriate use of initiatory force. I’m inclined to say that only when a certain non-action ALWAYS violates a child’s rights should that action be illegal. But that’s most certainly not the case with withholding vaccines — or even car seats!!

    Ponder the implications of a forced vaccination program of smallpox on the American public to stem some terrorist threat. Well, what about the people that have a very high probability of reacting to smallpox vaccine if they have atopic dermatitis (documented in the medical literature as eczema vaccinatum)? There are 27 million such individuals in the United States, and eczema vaccinatum is an extremely debilitating condition. They should have the right to decide for themselves, and parents should have the right to decide for their children based on their own judgment, not the decision of a self-appointed dictator in the form of a “public health” health official.

    Death from gunshot wounds — including accidental ones — is higher in the US than other countries, but that’s the price we pay as a society for freedom. People aren’t abdicating their parental responsibilities by taking their kids out hunting or teaching them to shoot a gun, and pre-emptive laws are an extremely slippery slope. Should a 12 year old be able to learn to shoot a gun, as I did when I was a kid? I’m sure the government and a majority of the American public would say no. Presumably, lots of things that parents do with their kids, or allow their kids to do while outside, would be banned. But accidents happen. Sure, you can’t get your kid back and it’s a tragedy, but that doesn’t mean there needs to be a law to attempt to pre-empt such events.

    I assume that more kids might catch fatal infections if parents were to be allowed to forego vaccines (though even that is not completely obvious to me, given what I know about immunity, the current epidemiological situation in the US, the lack of efficacy of certain vaccines (especially flu shots!!), and the type of parenting behaviors in people foregoing vaccines).

    I guess what irked me about this particular portion of your post, Bill, is not the confusion about individual rights that we all have from time to time. Wondering what a free society would look like is completely understandable, I think. It’s that your view that anyone is a moron if they don’t vaccinate at all came across quite strongly, and I simply don’t agree. In fact, I think a laissez-faire system would have promoted a much more rational approach to vaccination already. The current guidelines are based on herd immunity, not individual protection. If individual protection were the goal, we’d probably see vitamin D tests or antibody titres before vaccinations (more below).

    I’m not going to go into the scientific evidence on BPA, organic, or pesticide-free foods because that’s not the issue here. But what you’re trying to do now in your comment above is to equivocate between something you see as harmful or at the very least, annoying (avoiding BPA, organic food) and choosing not to vaccinate. Though you’re entitled to this opinion, I don’t find that a compelling argument at all.

    You’ve presented the situation as if it’s a sort of no-brainer that these parents must be morons for thinking vaccines cause autism. But it’s not really any surprise that parents of autistic children think vaccinations cause autism. Usually the child deteriorates around the time they get their 12–18 month vaccinations. That’s the same time they usually start juice and stop infant formula/breast feeding. Coupled with ridiculous government-advice re: sunscreen and the very low RDA of vitamin D offered by the FDA for the past 30 years, this deprives the child’s brain of any meaningful and critical sources of vitamin D in the diet. That’s probably why autism rates (and a lot of other D-deficiency related diseases) have gone up since the 80s. Serious illness or deterioration of a child’s behavior often happens directly after the vaccines are given, as in this case:

    A piece from the vitamin D council explains in further detail why vaccines might be linked to thimerosal given the widespread deficiency of D in American society. It appears the two problems are linked. (

    “Vitamin D’s role in increasing glutathione levels may explain the link between mercury and other heavy metals, oxidative stress, and autism. For example, activated vitamin D lessens heavy metal induced oxidative injuries in rat brain. The primary route for brain toxicity of most heavy metals is through depletion of glutathione. Besides its function as a master antioxidant, glutathione acts as a chelating (binding) agent to remove heavy metals, like mercury. Autistic individuals have difficulty excreting heavy metals, like mercury. If brain levels of activated vitamin D are too low to employ glutathione properly, and thus unable to remove heavy metals, they may be damaged by heavy metal loads normal children easily excrete. That is, the mercury in Thimerosal vaccines may have injured vitamin D deficient children while normal children would have easily bound the mercury and excreted it. These studies offer further hope that sun-exposure or vitamin D supplements may help autistic children by increasing glutathione and removing heavy metals.”

    Of course there’s no proof that vaccines cause autism, and I accept that. But that’s not an encouraging or even relevant point, because there is never going to be any proof. What would be required for proof? A randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial — and ideally several of them. Has such a trial ever been done on vaccines? No. And there probably never will be for a variety of reasons — with or without current government regulations on clinical trials or mandated vaccine use.

    At the very least, if vaccines are to be required by the government or a public school (and I don’t even accept that premise), the parents should be able to have full knowledge of what is being put into their child’s body. (By the way, the whole premise of vaccination programs is that you are violating someone else’s rights by spreading disease. The focus is completely taken off the individual’s right to protect themselves, and the evidence for that would be an antibody titer, not a vaccination certificate.) That’s not the case. Along with thimerosal, aluminum, and formaldehyde, most vaccines also contain “proprietary” protein adjuvants to stimulate the immune system to respond (even if those vaccines lack thimerosal, as many childhood vaccines now do). The companies aren’t required to reveal the presence or structure of these proteins since they’re proprietary. While I don’t have a problem with that, I most certainly do have a problem with the government making a purchase of a unknown product mandatory., i.e. forced. It really should be at the discretion of the parent, as so many other important decisions about a child’s well-being are. If a person is harmed by a vaccine (and it happens), the individuals are compensated through a government program. That’s not even remotely the approach that would be taken under capitalism, of course.

    This entire situation of forced vaccination is not informed consent or anything even remotely resembling an individual rights-based approach. Parents shouldn’t have to grovel in front of a government agent to get a religious, philosophical, or medical excuse to a vaccine. Some excuses aren’t even allowed in some states, and all states have vaccination requirements. It is an incredible and scary level of bureaucracy and an unconscionable violation of individual rights.

  • madmax


    Thanks for your post. What I’ve come to understand is that most Objectivists will tend to be very deferential to business and science experts because of our philosophy. But my experience with the food and drug industries as a result of my exposure to the Paleo/Primal diet (and Dr. Eades eye-opening expose of what he calls the “Statinators”; ie the doctors obsessed with cholesterol levels due to their belief in the lipid hypothesis) has forced me to realize that many of our business and science “experts” are corrupted and what we think is the result of capitalism is really *Not* and is instead the consequence of the welfare/regulatory state.

    This applies with almost everything associated with government or academia or corporations in the realm of diet. The lipid hypothesis dominates our culture the way altruism and egalitarianism dominates our culture, and with similar deadly results. My guess is that so much of the advice on vaccinations is also wrong.

    You say this:

    “the whole premise of vaccination programs is that you are violating someone else’s rights by spreading disease. The focus is completely taken off the individual’s right to protect themselves, and the evidence for that would be an antibody titer, not a vaccination certificate.”

    This is really interesting although to be honest I don’t really understand what an antibody titer is. But I really like how you are focused on an individual-right’s based approach. This needs to be done with food, medicine and exercise. A free market is really radical. Free market solutions will therefore really challenge many people’s assumptions on these questions; even Objectivists.

    One last thing Monica, I used that same line of argumentation regarding seat belts with Stephen Speicher when he was alive and he argued that a person without a seat belt could be viewed as a projectile weapon and therefore represents a dangerous threat to motorists. On those grounds, the government could pass mandatory seat belt laws whether the roads were privately owned or not. To this day, I’m hesitant to sign on to that.

  • Monica

    “Stephen Speicher when he was alive and he argued that a person without a seat belt could be viewed as a projectile weapon and therefore represents a dangerous threat to motorists.”

    Oh lordy. What can I say, Madmax. I suppose we could reduce speed limits to 10 mph. It would save a lot of lives. 😉

    Madmax, an antibody titer is a test done to determine whether a person has antibodies to a certain pathogen. The reason I say that vaccinations shouldn’t be considered immunizations is because in a minority of cases, usually between 10-20%, vaccination doesn’t actually confer immunity as based on antibody titer.

    Re: vaccines, I had a few more thoughts today re: their utility. Frankly — and it might surprise people to hear me say this — I really don’t think in the context of a proper diet that smoking is at all harmful. What does this have to do with vaccines? I’m getting to it. Smoke is absolutely loaded with dioxins. A number of tribes with very heavy fat soluble vitamin intake (including vitamin D) seemed to suffer no harm whatsoever from smoking like chimneys. Even in the US, only 15% of people get COPD. While I don’t think it’s particularly wise to smoke, I think there’s far more behind this disease than our public health authorities let on. Smoking is only really problematic, I think, in the context of a diet since WWII that has been very deficient in animal fat and fat soluble vitamins. If you look at COPD rates, they’ve skyrocketed in the US in the past 40 or so years. Yes, COPD onsets late in life, but I think smoking was far more prevalent in the 30sto 50s than it was in the 60s to 80s — therefore, COPD should be going down slightly but it’s not. Why is this? I think it’s diet because that’s how long (around 40 years) the US has been deviating from a more standard dietary course.

    I think the same might be true of vaccines. If you look at the dietary changes the US has undergone in the past 40 years, it’s not particularly surprising to me that people think vaccines cause autism. First, omega 6 content has gone way way up in our diet, which is bad for the brain. Add the insult of more carbohydrate which causes faster rates of D depletion that help detox heavy metals, and along with lower D intake in the diet or exposure from the sun, a ramped up vax schedule vaxing for 13 things now (not 7 like when we were kids) and wham — I think it might be enough to send some kids over the edge. Of course, it’s easy for them to claim now that vaccines aren’t a problem since they’ve recently taken thimerosal out of some of the vaccines.

    In short, though, I’m skeptical that vaccines would be damaging at all in the context of a good, protective diet. In the context of today’s diet, though, which is way different than the diet of the 1940s and before, I’m not so sure. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think vaccines are the primary cause of any health problem.

    As for pandemics I’m honestly not sure the government should play any role whatsoever. I also don’t think they should control access to the remaining vestiges of smallpox. They should let some company develop a vaccine and allow those who want to be voluntarily vaccinated to do so. I’m pretty sure many people in the US would volunteer for this under the possibility of a terrorist attack someday — if the government would allow it. Nevertheless, it would be silly, I think, for someone to claim that someone else violated their rights by spreading smallpox if they decided not to try to immunize themselves. With a drunk driver, there’s a high likelihood of inflicted harm but there’s really nothing another driver can do in most instances to protect him or herself from someone like that. That’s not really true in the context of most diseases today.

    However, Bill, I think you may be right that there is some government role in regulating “importation” of diseases. Does it depend on whether Americans have the right to defend themselves against something potentially threatening their life? I don’t know but I think that may be an important factor. For instance, I don’t believe the govt. should have any role in denying immigration to those with AIDS. AIDS is already here and people can protect themselves against it. Same for someone with polio or any other disease that we can prevent through vaccination. I do believe there is a rational role for customs officials in determining in some objective way whether foreign people or other organisms pose a threat (I think this includes animal and plant diseases, too, as a protection to our farmers’ and landowners’ property.) However, I’m very nervous about any domestic agency regulating any disease organism once it’s within US borders, for this reason:

    Re: BPA, Bill. I agree that it is annoying when people yammer on about their health regimes as if everyone else should adopt their lifestyle. But from what I can see, there’s ample reason to avoid BPA. A study in 2006 found, using fresh human fat tissue, that BPA suppresses a key human hormone (adiponectin) that’s responsible for helping to regulate insulin sensitivity, and thus there’s a good probability that this chemical is related to metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Lo and behold an observational study in JAMA in 2008 discovered that people with elevated levels of BPA in their bodies had higher rates of type II diabetes. Correlation isn’t causation, but in this case we appear to know the mechanisms of how BPA works, and these aren’t mere animal studies. In short, very small amounts of this chemical, in both experimental and observational studies, seem to have the power of a steroid hormone. That’s disturbing. While I think more research needs to be done, avoiding BPA isn’t really quackery, I don’t think.

    Again, in the context of a proper diet I’m not sure how much of an issue BPA would be. But I’m not taking my chances. Unfortunately, the plastics industry would have us believe that it’s a complete coincidence that with the onset of plastic baby bottles around a generation ago, that’s had nothing to do with the highest rates of obesity and type II diabetes our nation has ever seen. The FDA never met a lobbyist it didn’t like. I’m not buying it.

  • Rational Jenn

    But if they’re not [making informed decisions] and just taking the words of Jenny McCarthy or other cranks at face value, then they are immoral and should be ashamed.

    Yes. And parents who follow the recommendations of their doctors and the government without thinking about it are just as morally culpable.

    All pro- and anti-vax parents are not created equal.

    The government creates the vaccines and mandates their use. Children can’t enter government school without compliance to the government schedule. The information about the vaccines–their safety, efficacy, etc.–is provided to parents by the government. Across the country, pediatric practices are compensated for maintaining certain vax compliance rates. Companies that manufacture new vaccines actively lobby state governments to get their products on the list of required vaccines, as was the case of Merck with their HPV vaccine called Gardasil. The government has established a program called the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program–to the tune of $1 Billion.

    I smell a conflict of interest here.

    But I do believe that parents should vaccinate their children as recommended by their doctors after careful consideration of the risks.

    Sometimes, a careful consideration of the risks means a choice to vax or not to vax or to delay a vax–as you’ve stated you’ve done with your kids. A rational society would take such an rights-based stance on this issue. Personal and family medical histories, the advice of a trusted physician, personal research, a serious evaluation of the benefits and real risks–all of these things need to be considered by the parent. No one in government has the right to substitute his judgment about what is best for my children for my own.

    My brother-in-law was severely and irrevocably damaged by a vaccine. He is mentally retarded, unable to live independently. The risks are REAL, and they are devastating. (Or else, why the existence of the NVICP?) Because of what happened to their uncle, the vaccine risks to MY children are higher than the risks to many, if not most, children.

    I can’t imagine what I would do if the government and/or our doctors REQUIRED my kids to take this risk against our will and better judgment.

    That said–my kids have had most of their shots. Because my husband and I researched and discussed options with their doctor and soul-searched with my mother-in-law and evaluated our own comfortableness with risk.

    I see the enormous benefit that vaccines have provided to our country. My own father contracted polio at the age of 7, and spent months in an iron lung. He very nearly died. His cousin, who contracted polio at the same time, spent her life in a wheelchair. They got polio the summer BEFORE the Salk vaccine. It’s a truly wonderful thing that so many kids–myself included–were spared the possibility of getting such a horrible illness. I’m glad my parents chose to get the polio vax for me.

    But never, never, never would I presume to make such a decision on anyone else’s part. And to have the decision rest in the hands of the government is directly contrary to the principles upon which this country was founded.