Volume 20
Issue 1
Winter '22

The Choice Between Persuading and Coercing Americans to Get Vaccinated Against COVID-19

Written By: Paul J. Larkin

Abstract

Throughout history, organized societies have demanded that inhabitants make sacrifices—such as serving in the military or receiving a vaccine that protects against a contagious and potentially fatal disease—in a time of national emergency to help ensure the nation’s survival. President Joe Biden believes that COVID-19 creates such an emergency. After initially trying to persuade Americans to get vaccinated, he recently decided to order that outcome by direct-ing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to mandate that employees be vaccinated. That decision was mistaken and ironic. Mistaken, because OSHA lacks such authority. Ironic, because he has endorsed a moral and constitutional right to make such decisions free from government directive. He could and should have sought to convince Congress to enact a vaccination mandate and persuade the nation that the problem of SARS-CoV-2 was not a matter fit for political debate and that, just as politics once stopped at the water’s edge, politics should play no part in the nation’s response to the pandemic on this side of those shores. To prove his commitment to save lives, he could have demonstrated that he was willing to risk his political future and the judgment of history by embracing compromise and working with people outside his party to negotiate a nationwide vaccination mandate, even if he had to trade away policies that his party wanted to see enacted into law. He chose not to make the sacrifices necessary to take this issue out of politics. As a result, it is poetic justice to see so many people object to entreaties to make a personal sacrifice for the pub-lic benefit offered by a politician who refused to make his own.

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