“Please show your ticket, ID, and proof of vaccination or a negative test.” These are the requirements you may be given at the next concert, baseball game, or comedy show you try to attend if the push to implement the so-called Covid passport is successful. If those advocating for this Orwellian idea, that we should have a national tracking system to trace the vaccination status of all citizens, get their way, Americans will be prevented from doing the most basic everyday activities, such as going to the grocery store or shopping at the mall, without displaying their personal medical records and proving that they have received one of Big Pharma’s novel shots or are constantly running to their doctor or local Walgreens to have swabs shoved up their noses.
To this point, we are still a ways away from seeing this dystopian nightmare fully implemented. As we know, the government, and in particular the U.S. Federal government, is highly incompetent, and the idea of it being able to implement a functional national tracking system that can be effectively mandated upon and used by local businesses seems dubious. Still, our government doesn’t have to be efficient in order to be exceptionally destructive. Just look at pretty much every federal program in existence. The U.S. Government has tried to remake nearly every country in the Middle East, and while they’ve failed miserably to achieve most of their stated goals, they’ve killed a heck of a lot of people and ruined countless lives. Or how about their so-called “War on Drugs”. After decades of fighting to clean the streets of drugs, the opioid problem in this country is as bad as ever, meanwhile the police brutality and mass incarceration resulting from this policy have wreaked havoc on the very communities the War on Drugs was supposed to help. Just because the government isn’t efficient at accomplishing its own stated goals doesn’t mean it isn’t extremely efficient at causing mass chaos and harm, so government ineptitude is no reason to dismiss the dangers of a Covid passport.
Even if a national vaccine passport system controlled by the federal government is never implemented, there are many variations of this idea that are highly concerning, including mandates by state and local governments. In fact, we are already seeing a form of this in New York, where they are using the Excelsior Pass to allow businesses to check vaccination status or test results. The New York Mets and Rangers are already requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test result to attend games.
The problems with state implemented vaccine and medical trackers are obvious from a liberty perspective. They are a massive violation of every American’s right to privacy, shattering the constitutional protections granted by the Fourth Amendment. As Edward Snowden revealed in his NSA leaks in 2013, the government already spies on all of its citizens regularly and collects huge amounts of our personal data with essentially no oversight. Still, in the past they’ve at least felt the need to try and hide their mass unconstitutional surveillance from the people. The vaccine passport is now an attempt to conduct a similar and arguably much more egregious form of espionage against the American people, but openly in broad daylight. Even with the vast governmental overreach into our private lives that we’ve seen expand over the years, there has always been a certain level of respect for medical privacy. The vaccine passport obliterates the fundamental principle that someone’s personal medical background and decisions are theirs to disclose only as they see fit.
The dangers of allowing the government unfettered access to this type of personal medical information are incalculable. It allows them the ability to extend the era of draconian Covid restrictions that we’ve lived through for over a year indefinitely. By having the capacity to track this type of personal information on every American, they would be able to limit behavior and crackdown on basic freedoms based on your willingness to conform to whatever obligations they decide are necessary to satisfy the ever-undefined goal of “public health”. Today it may just be requiring a vaccine (not that that’s a small deal), but once this precedent is established, who knows tomorrow what else they might decide you need to do in order to live freely.
Additionally, it’s hard to find a logical reason why someone not having gotten a vaccine, who has no Covid symptoms, should be a danger to those around him. For starters, there is still no definitive scientific evidence that asymptomatic carriers of the virus are driving or contributing substantially at all to the spread of it. This is a position that has been taken at various points by the public health establishment and at best, the evidence is inconclusive on what role asymptomatic spread plays. So there is no clear scientific reason to fear contact with asymptomatic individuals, vaccinated or not.
The vaccine works by creating a type of immunity to Covid infection in the person who received it. If the vaccine is as effective as its proponents suggest, then the vaccinated individual should be safe from infection, even if they are in close proximity to someone who is not immune or to someone who has the virus, even assuming asymptomatic spread is a real risk. Some may retort that the vaccine does not offer 100% immunity, therefore a vaccinated person is still at some risk and could be in greater danger if they are near people who are more likely to have the virus. But if the vaccine cannot even be reliably counted on to prevent infection, its primary purpose, then how could we possibly justify requiring that everyone get it. If a vaccine can only be trusted to protect you from fully healthy people, but not those who may be carrying the virus, then it is essentially pointless, marginally beneficial at best.
It seems pretty clear that from the perspective of liberty we should strongly oppose government imposed or government mandated vaccine passport requirements. They are an obvious infringement on personal liberty, privacy, and freedom of association and have all kinds of terrifying implications about the type of society we could be heading for in the future. But how about privately administered vaccine requirements. If a private entity wants to ensure the safety of their place of business and they think prohibiting unvaccinated people will achieve this, it’s their prerogative to demand of their customers whatever they want, right?
Fundamentally, yes, private citizens should have the right to freedom of association, which means a business owner has every authority to discriminate against whoever he chooses without being coerced into associating with anyone he does want to for any reason. This means that if a store owner does choose to reject entry to someone because they don’t have proof of vaccination, we should not support the use of violence against him. However, just because someone should be legally allowed to do something does not necessarily mean we should support, or even refrain from criticizing and opposing their doing so.
Demanding that a customer display his medical records to you and whether or not he’s had some biological preparation shot into his arm is an abhorrent and ridiculous business practice. Put simply, it is a discriminatory exercise, whereby those who have made a certain private medical decision are treated as inferior. There are many reasons why one may choose not to get one of the Covid vaccines. Maybe they have a medical condition that makes the vaccine more risky or they were advised against getting the vaccine by their doctor because of any number of personal medical reasons. Maybe they are afraid of the potential side effects from the vaccine. Maybe they are young and healthy, have weighed the benefits and risks of getting the vaccine versus not getting it, and have made a decision that it doesn’t make sense for them to get it. Maybe they have a religious or other objection to the idea of vaccination. Whether you agree with someone’s decision on whether or not it makes sense for them to get the vaccine, it is eventually theirs to make according to their own judgement.
If we as libertarians assume that we can’t criticize or even strongly condemn decisions made by private actors, simply because they are not the state or they are not technically violating the non-aggression principle, we unnecessarily force ourselves into all kinds of crazy positions. By this logic, we should have no problem with a business selling only to white people or a private bus company deciding blacks should have to sit in the back. We should have no problem with big tech censoring opinions on their platforms that go against the status quo on the most important issues such as those that are anti-war, pro-market, and anti-lockdown. Since libertarians’ own views in many cases directly oppose the establishment view and are therefore top candidates for censorship by large corporations that are closely associated or aligned with the state, this view presumes that we should support censorship of ourselves because hey, they’re a private company and can do what they want.
Instead, we should reject this idea that libertarianism requires us to support or even tacitly condone any and all private actions that do not directly initiate aggression against peaceful people or their property. Our goal should be to promote maximal liberty in our society. Yes, that means we oppose the initiation of violence against peaceful people or their property, bar none. But opposing all forms of aggression does not imply support for all forms of non-aggression.
Discrimination against blacks in the south, and other parts of the country during the 1960s, for example, did not always represent direct acts of aggression. Of course, many of the discriminatory policies against blacks during this era were state sanctioned, but certainly there were many acts of discrimination by private businesses or people that were not mandated by law. In this type of case, where let’s say, a racist business owner decided he didn’t want to allow blacks into his store, despite there being no law mandating this kind of discrimination, it is not incumbent upon libertarians to support this practice based on some sort of requirement to champion all free market activity. Discrimination against individuals based on the color of their skin is detestable and not supportive of a free society. Without advocating state violence against this store owner, we can still condemn his actions and peacefully but strongly push for this racist practice to be abandoned throughout society.
While some actions may appear to be those of private individuals making voluntary decisions as part of the free market system, it often takes a deeper look at the overall context to see the underhanded state influence guiding these actions. For example, in recent years we have seen many conservative and libertarian leaning voices banned from various social media platforms by large tech companies like Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter. The simple-minded libertarian response is to just say, well they’re private companies who are free to do what they want with their own platforms, so we can’t complain because this is just a natural manifestation of the free market. But take a second to look at the big picture and what is really driving these decisions. Did Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey just wake up one day and decide that mass censorship of politically dissident voices was a good business decision and that certain anti-establishment and anti-lockdown voices or individual posts were too dangerous to be seen? Of course not. The state has been behind this push all along. All you needed was to see the multiple congressional hearings that have been held recently, where clueless congressmen badgered big tech executives on why they weren’t doing more to protect against “hate speech” or “Russian disinformation”, to see the true state origins of this censorship movement. You can also look at examples like the Atlantic Council, the powerful U.S. government, NATO-aligned think tank, advising Facebook on how to prevent election interference, i.e. content that opposes the American empire, to see the extent of state influence on the decisions being made by these “private” mega corporations. So while individual censorship decisions, like kicking Alex Jones off of all major social media platforms, were technically made by private actors without direct state coercion, the overall movement is far from being simply the product of a liberty-based free market. Instead, it is the byproduct of nefarious state influence that is intended to quash liberty by using large corporations to suppress pro-liberty or anti-establishment speech.
Similarly, the push for Covid vaccine passports is not a natural manifestation of private businesses in a free society deciding what they think is best. It is the result of a year-plus long campaign, led by megalomaniacal state officials and their cronies in the so-called “public health” establishment like Dr. Fauci, to push mass hysteria and drum up as much fear as possible in order to maximize their continued exercise of power and control. The Covid passport would be the ultimate consolidation of the incredible amount of rule and authority that they have accumulated throughout the Covid era. The passport being ultimately controlled and administered by large corporations and not the state itself does not detract from the benefits the state will gain from having these onerous restrictions on everyday activity become a regularly accepted part of American life. Similar to how the establishment benefits from having big tech corporations censor its political opponents on its behalf because it allows them greater control over public discourse and the prevailing political narratives in society, privately controlled vaccine passports would give the state untold advantages in being able to justify and garner public support for further and more draconian restrictions going forward in all areas of life.
Vaccine passports, or any type of tracking system designed to create a type of Caste system where certain people are systematically discriminated against because of medical choices, or any other reason, should be wholeheartedly and categorically denounced, regardless of whether they are being directly implemented by the state itself or by private corporations acting on behalf of state advice or desires. The implementation of this type of system would be profoundly dangerous to the prospects of freedom and liberty. It would create a dystopian environment where medical discrimination is normalized, and open the door for boundless future state incursions on civil liberties. Libertarians should not be so ideologically closed-minded as to think that we can only oppose actions directly carried out by the state. We must oppose and fight to prevent anything that threatens the freedom and liberty in our society that we care so deeply about preserving and expanding. Instead of throwing our hands up and accepting vaccine passports because “the market” chose them, let’s use our own market force to fight back against this appalling idea. In the same way that we would boycott, protest, and otherwise work to challenge a store that put up a “Whites Only” sign or giant tech corporations who work to silence pro-liberty speech, we should use any peaceful means necessary to object to corporations and businesses who choose to promulgate vaccine passports and do everything we can to ensure that they do not become normalized in our society.