Libertarianism and Compulsory Vaccinations

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Recently, a grateful (non-paying) student of mine asked me about the libertarian position on vaccinations:

Dr. Block,

I have been devouring many of your lectures on youtube lately, and I came across one you gave at the Mises institute back in 2011 on the fallacies of public finance.  

At the 23 minute mark, you quoted Murray Rothbard with the idea being that it is absurd for 3 neighbors to force the 4th to play the cello (or do any other action) .

Do you apply the same line of reasoning to the vaccination debate, and how does it hold up to the ‘herd immunity’ argument – or does herd immunity fall into the un-measurable space between actual economy and optimal economy when looking at this external economy?

It seems that more and more seemingly educated people are willing to mandate (force) vaccinations on others because of this idea of herd immunity.  Is this an exception to the rule (does herd immunity exist), and if so, why can’t we apply the same concepts to things like education?


Your grateful (non-paying) student,

Bob Brenton


To which I responded:

Dear  Bob:

Thanks for your kind words.

I’m not enough of a biologist to know the specifics about these sorts of things, so I’ll just make assumptions.

Assume that if you don’t get a vaccination, you’ll contract a dreadful disease and then become contagious. You’ll infect me and I’ll die. Then, I think, the libertarian law would force you to become inoculated, otherwise you would be violating the non aggression axiom. Your refusal to get vaccinated makes you, in effect, a murderer.

On the other hand, if you don’t get vaccinated, only you will be harmed, then it would be inappropriate for the law to force you to do this.

Now what this has got to do with taxes for education is way beyond me.

Best regards,


4:59 pm on January 19, 2013