The Bad and Good Vaccine Passports

On his blog this morning, my friend and fellow blogger Donald Boudreaux has given three cheers to Florida governor Ron DeSantis for his opposition to vaccine passports. I would give the governor at most two cheers.


Because one type of vaccine passport is horrendous and a huge violation of individual rights. Moreover, even aside from principle, it’s less and less effective as we get closer and closer to herd immunity. That type of vaccine passport is one that governments are considering requiring. That’s the issue on which I agree with DeSantis.

But the other type of vaccine passport is one that firms and businesses are thinking of requiring before letting people into their buildings. This raises no issue of individual liberty. Well, actually, it does, but not in the way that opponents of these vaccine passports argue. The issue of individual liberty is whether companies should be free to decide whom they get to deal with. I say they should. I have long been a supporter of freedom of association, even in cases where that view has been unpopular. I wouldn’t require someone to be vaccinated before dealing with that person because I had my second Moderna shot 20 days ago. But other people have different attitudes to risk. And a business needs to take into account the different attitudes people have. Some may decide that they can get more business by assuring the public that anyone who enters their business has been vaccinated. This is a great solution to a tricky problem. It also has the side benefit of giving people an incentive to be vaccinated. We still hear about people who are nervous or hesitant about, or even opposed to, getting vaccinated. They should be free not to be vaccinated. But other people should be free not to deal with them.


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Judith M. Hermis Letter to Governor Newsom


Earlier this month, Judith Hermis, one of my junior colleagues at the Naval Postgraduate School, wrote a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom and sent me a copy.

I edited it and she accepted my edits. So the letter you see below is not the same one she sent. But it is true to the spirit and argument of her original letter. We talked on the phone and agreed that people need to speak out against Newsom’s and other officials’ wholesale infringements on our freedom of association. That’s why Judith gave me permission to quote it here.

By the way, she sent this well before either of us knew that Newsom did not practice what he preached when he went to the French Laundry with a lot of people and dined indoors without masks–and then lied about it.

Here it is:

Dear Governor Newsom,

I hope this message finds you and your family well. I am writing in response to the November 13 statement issued by the California Department of Public Health in connection with private gatherings. I am opposed to these mandates on freedom grounds. The Declaration of Independence states that Americans have unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These rights are impossible to maintain under the conditions of a coercive nanny state masquerading as a free republic. Second, and as important, government derives its just powers from the governed, not the other way around.

If you think your office has the right to issue rules pertaining to the activities that go on within private individuals’ homes, you have sorely misestimated the bounds of your authority. I fail to find Constitutional grounds for your office or any administrative branch to whom legislative authority is delegated to issue mandates, proclamations, guidelines, or statements bearing the imprimatur of governmental authority to regulate the activity of individual citizens within private homes.

The Declaration of Independence assures life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It does not assure perfect physical safety from infectious agents. Moreover, as billions of humans from authoritarian societies, including members of my own immediate family, will willingly testify, perfect safety and perfect liberty are mutually exclusive goals. Many Americans, myself included, prefer liberty to safety because under liberty, those who wish to take additional precautions and private actions against, for example, contagious illness, are free to do so, while those who wish to live differently may also pursue their desires. Liberty maximizes the wellbeing of all citizens, including those who are more cautious and safety-oriented, and those who chose to live according to other priorities. Government mandates, by contrast, unreasonably deprive citizens of liberty under the guise of safety and force all citizens to comply with the desires of the most frightened members of society with no corresponding derivation of the government’s power from the governed. In plain English, the state government is attempting to coerce citizens to comply with the concerns of the most frightened individuals. This is antithetical to the conception of freedom America has long protected.

In closing, I would like to remind you of the wise words of Benjamin Franklin, who stated that, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Please defend our liberty by immediately denouncing the actions of the Department of Public Health. Are they free to make suggestions? Yes. Are they free to issue binding guidance? No. Sacrificing liberty for safety is an unacceptable arrogation of private rights by the government of our beautiful state.


Judith M. Hermis
Private citizen




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