Monday, December 31, 2012

Something for libertarians to love and hate at the same time

In South Dakota, a state senator, Jeff Monroe (R-Pierre), has introduced a bill making it easier for parents to refuse to get their children vaccinated thus guaranteeing an increase in deaths from preventable causes. Monroe says it's all about religious freedom. South Dakota is already one of the states that allows parents to opt out of vaccinations if that is part of the doctrine of their sect. That's not good enough for Monroe. He believes parents should be allowed to opt out if they have a "sincere, verifiable religious belief," even if it's at odds with the teaching of their sect. According to Monroe, the basis of his bill is, "Any time you give parents more freedom, that's a good thing." Ah. "Freedom." One of the most abused words in American politics.

First, the liberal position. Monroe could not have thought that last sentence through before it came out of his mouth. More freedom to parents is not always a good thing. The state has a legitimate role in stepping in very specific and limited cases. Does he really think it's better to give parents the "freedom" to abuse their children, to starve, rape, or severely beat them? I hope not. I think most liberals and conservatives agree that stopping abuse is a legitimate function of the government. The main difference we have is over the definition of abuse. Should physical discipline be allowed, and if so, where is the line to be drawn between spanking and beating? Where vaccinations are concerned, the liberal position is that exposing children to potentially fatal, preventable diseases is wrong and the state has a duty step in.

[Troll Prophylactic. Yes, I am aware that some liberal individuals like Jenny McCarthy are anti-vaccination. She does not speak for liberalism as a whole and she is a dangerous idiot.]

Now the libertarian conundrum. Less government, more freedom, that's got to be good. Besides, libertarians don't think the public school system should exist in the first place. Go back and look at Monroe's statement. Parents should be allowed to opt out if they have a "sincere, verifiable religious belief." How does  the government go about verifying you religious beliefs? Doesn't that put the government in business of monitoring your religious beliefs? Doesn't this sound like he wants to exchange policing behavior for policing thought?

Maybe that's going to far, but look at the precedent. How many other laws will people be allowed to opt out of just by saying it's their personal religious belief not to obey? And why is religion privileged over other belief systems? Why can't everyone get "Get Out of Jail Free" cards just for saying "I don't believe in that"? This thing would be a legal nightmare and colossal waste of money for the state of South Dakota. They're not as rich as the other Dakota

Monroe's bill has zero chance of passing and probably won't even get out of committee. But before libertarians shout "freedom, wooo" or Republicans "he's one of us; we're for it" they need to question this guy and think about the consequences of his idiocy.

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