A Brief Word With My Past Self

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Back in 2015, I said this, and it has recently been drawn to my attention by a few of you. For examples of that, see today’s Letters section. In addition, Warren Throckmorton has speculated that I changed my mind because I saw a golden opportunity to ride a wave of conservative discontent.

Here is the offensive quote, and it is the part of that post that I would like to file under Retractions.

The claim I am making here is very limited. If a person has decided personal convictions about the contagious disease he is carrying, the society in which he lives has an equal right to have decided and contrary convictions about that same contagious disease he has. And if there is an outbreak of such a disease, and the government quarantines everyone who is not vaccinated, requiring them to stay at home, the name for this is prudence, not tyranny.

A younger and more callow me

And here is the reason this is badly put. I started by referring to someone who was contagious (“that same contagious disease he has”), and moved seamlessly to someone who is “not vaccinated.” Those are not the same things at all. So strike that, and go to the file cabinet and look for Retractions under R. And do so with my regrets and apologies in mind.

My basic conviction from 2015 remains unchanged. I do believe that the civil magistrate has the responsibility to protect public health, and that the civil magistrate has authority commensurate with that responsibility. That is the basic point I was trying to make (poorly) in 2015, and I wrote something similar at the outbreak of COVID.

I believe that our default assumption should be that those who have responsibility for public safety should have our cooperation and respect. If an official shows up at your house and tells you the dam is going to break and to evacuate now, you don’t need to do your own independent research, and you don’t need to ascertain of the officials making the decision have avowed the Lordship of Jesus Christ. You load up the car, and hit the road. Don’t be difficult.

But if it is six months later, and the dam is fine, and the government handed over your property to some casino developers, you might be justified in thinking something like waitaminute to yourself.

In a health crisis, I believe that the magistrate has the right to quarantine for cause. If we are talking about a deadly disease, this would include quarantining the contagious and/or likely carriers. It would not include quarantining entire populations of healthy people, and it would not include quarantining people with the sniffles.

So there you go—this retraction is now officially registered.