My apologies to my many millions of followers for my having gone silent for over a month now. Such are the wages – well, at least sometimes – of still having a job. But I promise henceforth to put my students last, at least when there’s something to say, even if only for what it’s worth. To wit:
Just when we thought we’d caught a glimpse of the end of the tunnel, the new Omicron variant boasts both a rapidity of spread and a breakthrough capacity that’s dwarfing previous variants by orders of magnitude. And yet – or so the preliminary data suggests – though we’re probably all going to get it, fewer of us are going to be laid low by it. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, though not necessarily in that order.
So returning to my earlier entry on “Counting the Cost”, I suppose there’s yet a new cost/benefit analysis to be done. I’m over seventy, but I’m triple vaxxed. I could continue to cower in my home – not that there’s much open outside of it anyhow – or I could damn the torpedoes and try to resume having a life – not that there’s much life out there to be had.
And it’s this latter point I want to reflect on here. What kind of life we can have is in large measure a function of what other people will let us have, where by ‘let’ I don’t mean allow, but rather facilitate. That is, I don’t have a right to eat at your restaurant. Whether I can is entirely up to you.
Well, counters the libertarian, it’s not up to you if it’s the government that’s closing you down. Skin off whose ass is it if you and I are both willing to “takes our chances”? Unless it can be shown that our private brinkmanship imposes serious negative externalities on others, government-imposed shut-downs are paternalism pure and simple. And paternalism is incompatible not just with Nozickian libertarianism but likewise with our own mainstream Millian liberalism.
Some people aren’t okay with this incompatibility. I’m not among them. I’m happy to have others make decisions about my welfare. If I were in charge of what goes into my body – pace my wife’s ‘input’ to the contrary – I’d be dead by now. And I’m guessing the same would be true of exposure to Covid.
But there are plenty of people who feel otherwise. And, much to the disapproval of my fellow submissives, I respect them. I respect them because cost counting is an indexical. It’s an indexical because even if they’re in possession of identical information, no two people share the identical set of values for their own lives. Something to keep in mind when passing judgment on others’ irresponsibility.